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Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth for Uncertain End-Users

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The cloud is now a mature technology, but despite the successful adoption of the cloud by many large and vital organizations — even US intelligence and law enforcement agencies — many small- to medium-sized businesses still approach the cloud with caution. A lot of myths about the cloud persist, and for many IT decision-makers within prospective client companies, there remains a level of fear, uncertainty and confusion.

So how do you get around these obstacles if your clients just don’t get the cloud?

The answer is to be proactive. As an MSP, it’s up to you to drive the cloud conversation with your clients who prefer to rely on a hardware-centric approach to their systems. One of the best ways to control the fear, uncertainty and confusion is to start small, with a cloud concept that is simple to explain and easy to digest, and draw upon a reality your client sees everyday in the news: disaster recovery.

By explaining the cloud via a DR strategy, you can set expectations for how your clients can use the cloud to solve an identifiable problem—massive data loss due to error, sabotage, or catastrophic event—one that could cost their business everything. The disaster doesn’t even have to be a catastrophic one; in fact, most typical “disasters” are not something big but something relatively mundane. It could be just a single server going down, or an absent-minded employee clicking an email link and downloading a ransomware virus. These things happen all the time, even to big companies with robust IT protocols.

Once your clients understand that they can use the cloud to prevent a doomsday incident by moving their data to a secure off-site server and making it fully recoverable in a short amount of time, then the discussion about other cloud services becomes much easier. Once the disaster recovery solution is in place, the client is now ready for a full migration to the cloud, even if they didn’t intend to be. If they end up needing to use the disaster recovery solution after a data loss, then the cloud has proven its value and the conversation becomes self-fulfilling.

Functionally, the cloud as we know it is nearly two decades old; commercially, a decade and change. Despite that, we’re still forced to deal with an unfortunate truth about the cloud: Many end-users aren’t quite there. To them, the cloud still seems like a new and exotic technology that they just don’t need (yet). Couple that with the daunting array of solutions and providers out there, and a full-blown move to the cloud might seem too much for them to risk. A subtler approach that addresses a very real-world problem like disaster recovery can be key to opening the door to a much broader opportunity with these clients.

Your Success is Our Success – and That’s Different

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In a previous post, I discussed how we compare with the hyper-scalers like Amazon and Microsoft. In this post I’d like to discuss how we compare with other mid-tier providers or datacenter providers with cloud offerings.

The answer is simple. Our focus. We focus on cloud infrastructure products and only sell those products through the channel. We do not compete with our partners. We do not have competing products and priorities in our portfolio. We have only one way to grow and that’s via the growth of our partners. This focus creates a different philosophy than the others. Making our channel partners successful and supporting them as an extension of their team is the driving force behind everything we do.

In fact, we are one of the only (if not the only) provider in the IaaS space that is channel-only. Others have channel programs or were channel-only at one point, but also have a direct sales force as well. Others are software companies, VoIP providers, colocation focused, DR focused, etc. We have never strayed from our focus of providing cloud products that our partners want and only providing them in a cooperative way. In fact, we dabbled in cloud VoIP in our early years, but realized it was a distraction to our focus on infrastructure and removed the product from our line up (even though our growth numbers were impressive.)

To sum it up: supporting our partners isn’t just part of what we do – it’s all that we do. This focus comes through in our sales process, our service delivery process, our support process, our product management process and basically every interaction our partners have with us. You won’t find another cloud provider that truly partners with it’s customers like Green Cloud does. Period. We don’t go away after the sell; we are always there, just like another member of your team, when you need us.

We are honest and transparent to the core. We will be right beside you when selling, but also when something goes wrong. We give you the facts so you can be there for your customers. Go to our status page. You will see the level of transparency. We share every maintenance, every bump in the night. We have nothing to hide, and everything to lose by not sharing the facts with our partners.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask around. You will hear this from our current partners. You probably already know one today amongst your peers. You will likely also find those that we are pursuing who say we are relentless in recruiting new partners. That’s true, and we don’t hide from that reputation. We won’t give up on you before or after the sell. We want and need your business, and we will work tirelessly to earn your trust and keep it. We don’t take that lightly.

Career Opportunities at Green Cloud Are Limitless

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We have a team culture at Green Cloud that really grew out of necessity as an emerging company. From the beginning, everyone at Green Cloud has had to wear multiple hats to deal with the many ups and downs of a (relatively) new business, especially one that has experienced the kind of rapid growth that we have over the last few years.

Those early trials and tribulations made us aware of the importance of team flexibility and the value of letting those with initiative develop a career for themselves within the company. These were critical lessons that we carry with us today, and our commitment to that philosophy is how we sustain our growth and why our team members rank us so high in a survey of SC’s Top Places to Work.

The career opportunities at Green Cloud are exemplified by the many team members who started out in entry-level positions and rapidly carved out a career path by setting goals, working hard, and learning the business. Here are some of their stories…

Michael Bradberry came to us in October 2015 as a Sales Development Rep on the Partner Recruitment team, calling on MSPs and VARs. Green Cloud was experiencing a burst of growth and he was able to move up quickly within the team. Soon, our rapid growth created a need for a position to assist the channel managers, who were working hard to keep up with the increased business. Michael saw an opportunity to help develop the position, and he pivoted to a new role in technical and sales support for channel manager Mac McClenathan, who was building a network in Houston.

Michael began working alongside partners, helping them with quotes, research and technical questions. Knowing that Green Cloud values high levels of direct contact with our partners, Michael decided to make the physical move to Houston, where he could take a stronger hand in helping our partners and increase the amount of face-to-face collaboration. His flexibility and willingness to adapt to evolving needs has allowed him to carve out a role for himself, on his terms.

Green Cloud gave me the liberty and autonomy—and the time—to expand my career,” says Michael of the experience. “It all goes back to the founders’ philosophy of getting our folks into strategic markets to build the business. When I showed interest in that, they helped me move into the position.”

It was during this same growth period that Paul Lee started his move up the ladder. Like Michael, he began as a Sales Development Rep, communicating with Green Cloud partners about their cloud practices and needs, and making sure our relationship with them stayed on solid ground. When Green Cloud purchased Atlanta-based Cirrity in late 2016, it soon became apparent that we needed someone on the ground to meet the increased demand. Paul stepped up to the plate and expressed interest in taking on the role, so we promoted him to Account Manager and he moved to Atlanta to be a local presence and better serve our partners in the area.

As Paul tells it: “When I first started, I was amazed at how the senior-level managers interacted with the team, how they spoke to them. They were always helpful and provided lots of guidance and support. It became clear to me almost immediately that Green Cloud took care of their own… that if I worked as hard as I could and helped others around me, then there was nowhere to go but up.”

Green Cloud’s growth sometimes involves acquiring smaller cloud providers and integrating their businesses into ours. Often, this means bringing the employees of the previous company into Green Cloud’s team. When Green Cloud purchased Akron, Ohio-based ANS, one of their employees, Vicki Zelesnik, decided to move to our Greenville, SC headquarters to be a Cloud Support Specialist, helping our partners provide servers, DaaS Desktops and other services to their customers. But she ultimately came to Green Cloud pursuing goals in management.

I knew that Green Cloud likes to move team members up from within rather than hire outside people for management positions,” Vicki relates, “So, I decided that my career path would be to learn Green Cloud’s offerings and move up to management that way instead of sticking with the track I was on.”

These are just a couple of examples of Green Cloud’s dedication to employee growth and advancement. More than anything, it’s up to our team members to build the career they want. We respond to those who see a need within the company and have the desire to fulfill it. In the end, our primary concern lies in helping our partners; if a team member sees an opportunity to do that, then we are all about letting them.

To capitalize even further on our career empowerment, Green Cloud also fully vests each team member in the company. Knowing that each and every one of us has a stake in what happens gives us a lot of pride when we succeed, and it generates a huge amount of commitment to our partners and their needs. We work for a unique company with a different philosophy about what it takes to be a leader in this industry.

If you’re looking for a hands-on, customer-centric career path that is limited only by your desire to grow and expand your skills, then we’re looking for you. Contact us today to learn more about joining the Green Cloud team.

Meet Green Cloud’s Product Management Team!

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One of our chief priorities at Green Cloud is partner enablement, and as we’ve grown, we’ve upgraded our enablement resources to meet demand. Until now, we’ve shared this responsibility among the entire team, each of us wearing multiple hats as needed to resolve whatever situation comes up, whether it be a partner need, a vendor inquiry or even a simple question from another team member. But as with any growing business, there comes a time when resources must be allocated to improve results.

So, after much careful planning and searching for the right candidates, we are proud to introduce our new, dedicated Product Management team. We’ve recently brought John McBride and Frank Shepherd onboard to oversee our product lines and collaborate with vendors on product development.

John comes to us from CCI Systems where he worked as a Senior Account Manager. Previously, he was a sales engineer and product sales specialist at Cisco Systems for ten years, and prior to that was an network engineer for Nuvox, XO Communications and WorldCom.

Frank has a strong background as a certified infrastructure engineer and cloud services architect for firms such as Peak 10, SunGard and Insight Global. Most recently, he was a Principal Systems Engineer for Tintri.

John and Frank have solid experience on both the engineering side and the sales side of IT solutions, which lets them easily deal with questions and deliver the right answers. But the job still involves multiple hats…

As Product Managers, they play an integral role in developing and implementing solutions for our partners. This involves clearly communicating the features and benefits of our product lines and ensuring that the custom solution we design for a partner’s client fits the project scope and budget requirements. In this role, they serve as the principal contact point for all technical questions a partner might have.

Another critical function they perform is as a technical support hub for both internal and external customers. As Green Cloud’s go-to product experts, they not only know our current product roadmap (and our competitors’) inside and out, but they also work with our vendors to explore new products and ensure that they are streamlined and documented to Green Cloud standards. In addition to conducting competitive research, the team will keep an eye on emerging technologies as well, to help our engineers develop new solutions as the industry evolves.

These responsibilities put the team in the unique position of communicating with all levels of the company and our partner network. They must be able to speak to every situation and every audience, be it an engineer, a sales associate, a partner, a vendor rep or an end-user.

The key to success in this role—and something both new Product Managers bring to the table—is the ability to ingest incredibly detailed and complex data about the products, and then communicate what the data means to someone else in layman’s terms. The team adds this critical asset to our toolbox, one that will help us expand our capabilities and drive better business outcomes for our partners.

Green Cloud’s priorities and differences are simple: People, partners and products have contributed to our growth. The Product Management team reinforces our high level of partner commitment because we succeed when our partners succeed.

          Frank Shepherd                           John McBride

        

The Other Side of Meltdown and Spectre Defense

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I have been very surprised by how there has been so much talk about resolving the Intel speculative execution bugs (aka ‘meltdown’ and ‘spectre’), but so little talk about detection and prevention of the actual attack vectors.

Patches have had issues, been rolled back, blocked from being applied, and evaluated as outright useless, yet no one has advocated a strong protection strategy in the meantime. I continue to hear from vendors that there are no exploits in the wild so the threat is low. At the time I believed that to be true as well, and stated the same in my communications to our partners.

However, while that statement was understandable in early January, it is becoming more negligent to continue with that rhetoric with every day that goes by with explanations of the exploit path and proof of concept in the wild. It’s almost certain that by now attacks are developed, planned and most likely being launched silently. It’s important to remember that while this vulnerability requires local execution to exploit, local access is not necessarily required. This means not only protecting at the OS and application level with real time application scanning virus or behavioral tools, but protecting remote code execution vectors such as JavaScript browser based attacks, or preventing the piggybacking on an open remote code execution vulnerability are becoming more critical.

So what am I getting at? Simple: other than its scale, this vulnerability is no different than any other. As always, it is just as important (if not more) to detect and protect as it is to remediate. The bigger the vulnerability the longer it takes to fully resolve, and the more important it is to watch the wall while you are exposed.

You cannot depend solely on OEMs and providers to save the day because their hands are tied by the complexity of solving the problem without rushing and causing further issues. All IT professionals have the responsibility of not only applying OS and firmware patches, but also ensuring that IDS platform signatures are up to date and working, firewalls and WAFs are isolating systems that need not be exposed externally, OS level agents are updated with signatures, browser protections are updated, SIEM rules and views are current, etc. The bottom line? A strong, actively maintained defensive posture is always required. There is ALWAYS an imminent threat, so if you operate with vigilance during a perceived time of peace you are ready for war time when it comes.

None of this is meant to imply that Green Cloud, Intel or any other vendor has no responsibility to protect you as diligently as they can. It’s simply the case that a multi-layered, in depth defense is required in the modern world of complex vulnerabilities. A sieve approach where there are many opportunities to possibly catch an attack early in its lifespan while remediation steps are being developed is always the safest course of action.

Stay tuned for a follow up on exactly how to implement such an approach.

Cloud Services Provider Eric Hester

by Eric Hester, Green Cloud Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer

Looking Back, Looking Forward

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2017 was a big year for Green Cloud.

We kicked off the year by acquiring Cirrity and forming the largest 100% channel-focused, independent cloud service provider. We had our first annual partner summit, rolled out our new partner portal and were named to the INC 5000 list for the second consecutive year.

Now, we’re kicking 2018 off by being named one of the 20 Coolest Cloud Infrastructure Vendors and one of 10 Cloud Providers to Watch in 2018!

You’ll notice that we’re on these lists alongside some of the heavy hitters in the industry. We are beyond thrilled to be among such lofty company, and look forward to continue competing with them and making Green Cloud the premier place to change the face of IT for small and medium sized businesses across the nation.

None of this would be possible without our channel-only partner network. We can’t grow without them, and being recognized on these lists underscores just how fortunate we are to have a network that puts partnership above all else. Our success and ability to be placed on lists for growth or innovation is directly tied to the growth and empowerment of our channel partners.

2018 is off to a great start, and we can’t wait to see what’s yet to come!

Cloud Migrations: A Great Opportunity that Gets Even Better with Our Help

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A couple of weeks ago, we told you about why we compete with the big providers. Our reasoning was that we want to do what the big guys can’t, making cloud technology accessible to everyone and not trying to fit all businesses into a one-size-fits-all mold. When you’re talking about the big providers in the cloud space, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to talk about Amazon, specifically AWS.

Today, I want to tell you about a specific example of Green Cloud doing what the big guys (namely, Amazon) can’t: fully managed migration services.

Amazon believes that migration services will bring a “massive” opportunity over the next two years—one worth more than $146 billion. Granted, they made this claim while touting their software tools in the AWS marketplace, but we couldn’t agree more about the size of the migration services opportunity.

Where Green Cloud and Amazon disagree on this issue is the approach to getting partners in position to capitalize on adding migration services to their offering. Amazon will provide you with a list of software tools that may or may not fit your needs. You’ll need to vet them out, figure out how to implement them and manage your customers’ migration using them. If that’s not enough of a tall task, you’ll need to do all of this at the rapid pace the marketplace demands.

This is why Green Cloud provides managed migration services for our partners. Green Cloud doesn’t just give you the software tools to migrate your clients’ data, we take ownership of the process. Solid software tools are the start, but migration takes more than a few clicks in a program. A successful migration requires planning, communication, testing, and support-before, during and after the move. Learning how to manage a successful migration takes considerable training and experience, as well as hours of preparation, research and planning. This is all valuable, billable time that is better spent engaging with customers.

We are here to augment your staff, giving you the benefit of migration services without the loss of engineer time or the black eyes of learning the ropes. Our experienced team of service delivery engineers have performed countless migrations, big and small. They will be by your side at every stage of the process, performing as much of the work as your unique migration scenario requires.

Our pricing is reasonable, and our service is complete. You won’t have to vet out software solutions, learn how to use the software, and then guide the customer through the migration while you’re learning on the fly. We’ll make you look like a rock star, while giving you the ability to increase your monthly recurring revenue without increasing your workload.

Just like every facet of our business, Green Cloud’s migration services put the partner first.

-Eric Hester, Chief Innovation Officer

Cloud Services Provider Eric Hester

Why Does Green Cloud Compete with the Big Providers?

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We get asked all the time, “Why would you try to compete with huge companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM?” It’s an easy answer: We do it because this isn’t our first rodeo.

The executive team at Green Cloud has decades of experience in building strong technology companies that can compete with major industry players. For example, we started a long-distance company that went up against AT&T. We then started an ISP that was in direct competition with AOL, Prodigy, and Earthlink. We even started a phone company that went head-to-head with Ma Bell.

Why would we do this over and over? It’s simple: We want to provide services to people who need more than just the products that other companies produce. Our goal is to bring technology to people in a way that makes them happy to use it, rather than give them poor service and confusing procedures, and wish them good luck. We want to make cloud technology accessible to everyone by recognizing many businesses won’t fit in a one-size-fits-all model.

With that attitude driving us, why wouldn’t we start a cloud company that does what the big guys can’t?

We’re comfortable with this David vs. Goliath-style of competition because we know how to build partner networks that garner the support and loyalty of the resellers and MSPs who sign up. We only sell our cloud solutions through our partners, to help them deliver a product to their customers that is practical and reliable, and solves their real-world business problems.

We know our partners’ customers look to them to do more than just sell something and then disappear. In turn, our partners trust us to treat them the same way. That level of trust is what keeps us all operating with integrity, and it creates an environment that breeds superior service and drives focused product innovation. We have our partners not only on our side but by our side in our journey through the ever-shifting world of technology. This level of relationship with our partners simply does not exist in the high-volume world of the warehouse-scale providers.

Bottom line: we are much more than just another cloud company. We are partners, we are educators, we are problem-solvers, we are listeners, we are open to change and we are empathetic. We don’t sell cloud as a commodity; we enable growth through better use of technology for both our partners and their customers. Every person at Green Cloud strives to make the whole ecosystem better every single day. Whether you’re talking about our team, our technology, our support systems, or our products, we are never done evolving what we do, improving what we make and expanding what we’re capable of, on behalf of our partners and their customers.

At Green Cloud, we’re just getting started, and the big companies—as usual—aren’t thinking like us.

-Eric Hester, Chief Innovation Officer

Cloud Services Provider Eric Hester

Green Cloud at IT Nation 2017

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The Green Cloud crew headed down to Orlando at the beginning of November for IT Nation, the channel’s largest solution provider conference. It’s our favorite event of the year (other than our own partner conference, that is), and we always work hard to make it a fun and productive show. There’s a lot of serious discussion and learning that goes on, but the atmosphere is friendly and engaging, and everyone is excited to be there.

ConnectWise puts on the show, but it’s not just a ConnectWise event. There’s a broad range of subjects and presentations that speak to the entire industry, across many vendors. And while the target audience for all the content is the VAR/MSP channel, we always seem to learn something as a company, as well.

At the conference, we spoke to many vendors and providers, and the message that seems to be developing across the IT industry is one of “buy, don’t build”—a theme that fits nicely into Green Cloud’s core competencies. There also seems to be a big push toward DaaS which, again, is a big part of Green Cloud’s offering.

This year’s IT Nation conference had about 3,000 attendees. It’s always a great event for us because we get to engage with many of our current partners, but since IT Nation is MSP-focused, it has also become one of our prime opportunities for face-to-face partner recruitment. We met with MANY new potential partners and had a lot of great conversations. Our sales guys were even writing up quotes for potential new partners on the showroom floor.

It was a thrilling experience, and we returned to Greenville pumped up and ready to help our partners grow their cloud practice with customized, hosted solutions and services. We can’t wait until next year’s event (and we’re already thinking up ideas for our 2018 t-shirts).

Partner Summit 2017

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On October 9th, we welcomed 50 of our channel partners to Greenville for our inaugural Partner Summit. After arriving at the Embassy Suites for happy hour, we took the party to UP on the Roof with some live music and delicious food.
The next day, we got things started bright and early. Following welcome messages from Green Cloud executives and our amazing sponsors, we began with some panels featuring our partners. They covered topics like DaaS, DRaaS, Network & security, and compliance.
After a great lunch at Ruth’s Chris, we broke out into Sales and Technical tracks for the rest of the afternoon. Demos of our new partner provisioning portal, DR solutions and vCloud were highlights of those sessions.
Then, it was time for an experience none of us will forget anytime soon: Performance Driving School at BMW headquarters!
We want to thank all of our partners who were able to join us in Greenville. It was a truly special event, and hearing how much you all enjoyed yourselves makes us thrilled to top this summit in 2018! Thank you to our sponsors for making it all possible: Tintri, Veeam, Zerto, Cisco and Level 3. Want to find out how you can join us in 2018? Contact marketing@gogreencloud.com.