Considering Migrating to the Cloud? Here are Three Questions to Ask in 2020.

Considering Migrating to the Cloud? Here are Three Questions to Ask in 2020.

By Tyler Doerner, VP, Sales
March 3, 2020
Today, the number of cloud technologies available are practically endless. At the same time, the pace of cloud innovation and development from global giants like Microsoft and Google is truly unprecedented. Together, this poses challenging dilemmas as well as exciting opportunities for companies thinking about making the move to the cloud.
 
If you’re considering moving to the cloud in 2020, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

Will You Tackle Your Cloud Migration and Management Internally or Outsource it?

As we move into 2020, many companies are feeling the pressure to undergo digital transformation – or be left behind. This is further complicated by the fact that internal IT teams rarely have the skillset or bandwidth to support such fundamental change.  So, the question becomes: should you invest in the right people to manage your cloud internally, or outsource the tasks to a company specializing in cloud migrations and management?

More and more, we’re seeing companies choose the outsourcing route. They’ve seen that success most often occurs when internal IT teams shift their focus from maintaining systems to adding value to the business. In fact, many feel the future role of IT will be to work with internal stakeholders to identify business challenges and then seek out technology solutions to solve those challenges. As an alternative to having internal IT teams focus on maintaining network connectivity, patching servers, supporting desktops and so on, businesses are finding that when they outsource these activities, it frees up time to focus on core value-add capabilities.

What Does Your Ideal Cloud Scenario Look Like?

While cloud-based technologies and infrastructure are critical to the future success of most businesses, each use case should be evaluated for economic and business advantages. In highly regulated industries with data residency or sovereignty requirements – or where businesses operate in remote areas where internet connectivity is not reliable – the cloud may not be the right option for certain applications.

To solve for these issues, many organizations are turning to a hybrid cloud deployment. Most companies, whether they know it or not, are already in a hybrid cloud scenario for certain functions – think Salesforce.com for a CRM, Exchange Online by Microsoft for email or an on-premise ERP. These independent technologies may require integration but are deployed in different clouds by different providers.

Determining the right application and deployment scenario is critical to adding value to your business. Choosing the right option will shorten your path to success and deliver critical economic and technical benefits.

What Strategies Will You Use to Get to the Cloud?

There are numerous strategies that can be used when evaluating the future of your existing applications. However, there are three approaches that are often recommended:

  • Re-hosting – This is usually the first and most logical step for organizations looking to migrate to the cloud, especially if there are other external factors creating pressures like a datacenter contract expiring or datacenter issues. Re-hosting involves taking an existing application, and simply moving it to the cloud. The workloads being migrated are generally kept on premise or in a partner-hosted data center. By moving existing business applications to the cloud, you minimize disruption for end users, since they don’t have to learn a new application, while also getting the benefits of a modern cloud infrastructure. Once existing applications have been migrated, it’s easier to start an optimization project, since the applications, data and networking are already in the cloud.
  • Re-platforming – Once an application has been rehosted, the next natural step is to look at re-platforming. (You could also, of course, bypass re-hosting and go straight to re-platforming.) Re-platforming involves taking an existing application to the cloud and then modernizing the underlying technology. It looks to take advantage of the new platform to improve performance, reliability and reduce costs. Cloud service providers like Azure, AWS and Google have a suite of technology available for re-platforming databases, storage, backups, disaster recovery and so on.
  • Repurchasing – This involves looking at the business fit of an existing technology and deciding if it will continue to fit going forward. Sometimes applications can be made to fit and other times they need to be replaced with modern cloud-based applications. Think: moving a legacy CRM system to Dynamics 365 or Salesforce versus custom developing a CRM solution.

When an organization doesn’t have the internal IT capabilities or capacity to handle these activities, working with a knowledgeable provider can ensure a successful outcome.

Looking Ahead to 2020 and Beyond

Cloud innovation is moving at the speed of light. IT teams have much to think about. In addition, the role of IT is changing, and companies are expecting their internal teams to deliver on digital transformation mandates. For each cloud opportunity that’s created, challenges emerge. By understanding cloud options and engaging with the right experts to support internal capacity or bridge knowledge gaps, successful organizations will not only keep up, they can outperform.

Want to continue the conversation? Get in touch with our team of cloud experts today.

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

Top 6 Most-Asked Questions About WatServ’s Partnership Program

Top 6 Most-Asked Questions About WatServ’s Partnership Program

By Jeff Ng, Director, Partnerships
February 25, 2020

2019 was an exciting year for WatServ, made even more so thanks to our incredible partners.

In fact, we have numerous partners to thank for helping us acquire new clients, including but not limited to:

We deeply value your support and appreciate you choosing us as your partner.

Last year, we were also able to attend several industry events to connect with potential partners and spread the word about cloud technologies and digital transformation. We enjoyed meeting new people and seeing familiar faces at Directions North America in Las Vegas, the IWLA Tech and Ops Conference in Columbus, the User Group Summit in Orlando and many more.

Throughout the year, we had several potential partners reach out to us with questions about our Partnership Program. As a result, we’ve put together this list of FAQs.

If your organization is interested in partnering with us, we hope the following information will provide you with valuable insight.

Six Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About WatServ’s Partnership Program

1. Who is WatServ’s Partnership Program Ideal for?

Our partners generally fall within one of two groups:

  1. Microsoft Dynamics partners seeking industry-leading hosted platforms for ERP and financial applications in either Azure or Hybrid-Cloud
  2. IT consultants helping clients with digital transformations. When cloud migration from on-premise or co-location facilities are part of the digital transformation, WatServ is positioned to deliver.

Partners choose us so they can remain focused on their core capabilities, while trusting us to deliver cloud-infrastructure and advanced managed service solutions. Working with WatServ means partners can leverage our deep experience with cloud migrations and be confident in our technical knowledge given the cloud’s rapid pace of change.

2. What models of engagement does WatServ offer?

We offer two engagement models:

  1. Direct Model – Under this model, we have a direct relationship with the end customer. The partner introduces WatServ to the end customer and we develop contracts, obligations and SLAs. After collecting payments, we remit a revenue-sharing amount back to the referring partner.
  2. White Label Model – Under this model, WatServ has no direct relationship with the end customer and instead acts as a sub-supplier for the partner. WatServ develops contractual obligations, including SLAs, and we bill and collect payments from the partner for the services we provide. Often, partners will “pass through” our benefits to the end customer. Additionally, the partner has flexibility over pricing and may choose to include a mark-up on WatServ’s services. WatServ provides partners with a discount on services, which is equivalent to the revenue-sharing amounts under the Direct model.

When evaluating alternative models, consider the following questions:

  • How would you like the end customer to view the WatServ-partner relationship? Under the white label model, some of our partners still choose to disclose to the end customer their sub-supplier relationship with us. In this case, they prefer the white label model to reduce billing complexity for the end customer.
  • Under the white label model, are you comfortable and able to assume payment obligations for the end customer?
  • How important is it to you to have access to the cloud environment without approval from the end customer (usually a consideration in terms of speed of access)? If it’s important, the white label model may be more appropriate, since you are contractually our customer.

Although the two aforementioned engagement models are the most common, WatServ is open to discussing other needs and requirements.

3. Who owns the relationship with the end customer?

This will depend on the engagement model chosen.

Under the white label model, where WatServ has no direct relationship with the end customer, the partner will own the relationship with the end customer.

On the other hand, under the direct model arrangement, WatServ will own the relationship with the end customer, but only as it relates to the services we provide.

 

4. How does revenue sharing work between WatServ and the partner?

In exchange for partner-referred deals, WatServ will share specified revenues or margins with partners for the following services:
  1. One-time advisory, consulting and professional services;
  2. Private cloud hosting, inclusive of consumption and managed services;
  3. Public cloud managed services;
  4. Software licenses, on-premises type and application-related; and
  5. Value-added services provided by third-party firms.
For more details on specific percentage splits for revenue sharing, please contact us. Please note that WatServ shares private cloud consumption revenue with partners. However, public cloud consumption revenue is excluded from revenue sharing. WatServ also offers special bonuses to reward partners for referring larger-sized opportunities and to celebrate the first five deals closed upon joining the WatServ Partnership Program.

5. How are responsibilities and accountabilities split between the partner and WatServ?

The division of responsibilities and accountabilities are, at a high-level, shown in the following diagram:

 
 
 
 
 
 

WatServ designs, manages and maintains cloud infrastructure that the application(s) runs on, which is inclusive of networking through to runtime. Partners are responsible for the application and data layers.

6. Can you describe a typical opportunity lifecycle when working with WatServ?

At WatServ, we begin working with partners as early as possible in the opportunity lifecycle. This helps ensure accuracy and timeliness of work. The diagram below illustrates a typical opportunity lifecycle:

 
 
  1. Requirements Gathering – Upon learning of an opportunity, the partner shares cloud infrastructure requirements and specifications with WatServ. To facilitate the process, WatServ often provides a requirements questionnaire.
  2. Cloud Planning – After cloud requirements are finalized, WatServ custom-designs the cloud architecture to meet the required specifications. At this stage, WatServ produces indicative pricing, which can be presented to the end customer by either the partner or WatServ.
  3. Proposal Delivery and Acceptance by End Customer – In receipt of WatServ’s cloud solution, and often following additional conversations to resolve any questions, the end customer proceeds with the solution.
  4. Cloud Deploy – Coordinating with the partner, WatServ implements the cloud solution and helps the partner drive the project to go live.
  5. Cloud Maintain – Once the project has gone live and is in the post-implementation phase, WatServ transitions into maintenance mode, where we monitor, manage and continuously optimize the end customer’s cloud environment.

There you have it. Six of the most-asked questions about WatServ’s Partnership Program.

 

Want to learn more? Please reach out to info@watserv.com and member of our team will be in touch.

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

It’s 2020. Do You Know What’s New in Azure Migrate?

It’s 2020. Do You Know What’s New in Azure Migrate?

By WatServ
February 18, 2020

Has your organization been hesitant to migrate to Microsoft Azure because of missing functionalities from Azure Migrate?

Are you considering using Azure Migrate, and wondering what’s new?

Over the course of 2019, Azure Migrate announced a series of updates to their services, adding a wide range of new and expanded tools and functionalities.

These changes strengthen the hub and provide additional capabilities to help organizations assess and migrate their on-premise infrastructure, applications and data to Azure.

If you were hesitant to use Azure Migrate before, it may be worth another look.

Here is a recap of some of the changes Microsoft made to Azure Migrate in Q4 2019:

  1. Addition of a physical server assessment feature. This means Azure Migrate now supports the assessment of o n-premise physical servers.
  2. Addition of an import-based assessment feature. Unlike before, you can now conduct assessments of machines using meta data and performance data in a CSV file.
  3. Better dependency visualization features. Previously, you needed to install agents for dependency visualization, but now it can be accomplished using both an agentless and agent-based approach.
  4. New application discovery features. Are you using VMware VMs and wanting to undertake discovery? Azure Migrate now supports application-level discovery apps, roles and features with the Azure Migrate appliance.
  5. Improvements to Virtual Desktop. You can now assess and migrate on-premise virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to Windows Virtual Desktop in Azure using ISV tools.
  6. Better services for web apps. Assessing and migrating web apps? The Azure App Service Migration Assistant is now part of Azure Migrate.

If you’re still using the previous version of Azure Migrate, you will continue to have access to your projects, but you’ll no longer be able to create new projects or undertake new discoveries. With the current version, however, users can create projects, discover on-premise machines and manage assessments and migrations.

These changes expand on the version update that occurred in July 2019. To learn more about the functionalities of this version, visit Azure Migrate’s website.

Wondering if Azure Migrate can help your organization? Speak with WatServ’s cloud migration specialists today by contacting us.

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

Top 5 Announcements Revealed at Microsoft Ignite 2019

Top 5 Announcements Revealed at Microsoft Ignite 2019

By Abe Kifle, Cloud Solutions Architect
November 15, 2019

This article was written by Abe Kifle, a WatServ Cloud Solutions Architect.

For over 10 years, I’ve been attending Microsoft Ignite, and its predecessor TechEd, and every year I come back inspired by the plethora of announcements and advancements made by Microsoft. 

This year was no different, with more than 150 announcements made at Ignite 2019 over the course of 5 days. 

Looking back at the announcements, here are my top 5 picks:

1. Azure Arc

Out of the many announcements Satya Nadella made during his Vision keynote speech, the one that drew the loudest applause by far was Azure Arc – and for good reason. 

Imagine deploying Azure services and management anywhere – on-prem, Edge, or other Cloud – just as you would do inside Azure to Azure resources. Thats what Azure Arc does. Not only can you deploy services anywhere, but you can also manage, apply policiesand leverage services like Azure Security Center, Azure Sentinel, etc. With Azure Arc, enterprises will have a single glass pane to simplify the management of their complex and distributed environments. 

Microsoft’s Hybrid strategy (Azure Stack, ExpressRoute, AADConnect) was already well ahead of its competitors. With the addition of Azure Arc, as well as the new Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack HCI and Azure Stack Edge, Microsoft is solidifying its leadership in the hybrid space. In fact, in several sessions I attended, I kept hearing from Microsoft: Unlike others, we believe hybrid is a permanent, not temporary, state.” 

WatServ will be testing Azure Arc in our environment and then helping our customers implement and take advantage of it. 

 

2. Azure Synapse

Another crowd-pleaser was the announcement of Azure Synapse. 

Azure Synapse is the next evolution of Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Azure Synapse brings together enterprise data warehousing and Big Data analytics. It gives customers the freedom to query data on their terms, using serverless on-demand or provisioned resources by combining data warehouses, data lakes and pipelines. 

Adding to the buzz, Microsoft showed a demo of Azure Synapse and it was able to query Petabyte scale dataset in less than 10 seconds.  

3. Project Silica

Microsoft also showcased a new media-storage medium that can survive for hundreds of years with its data intact.  

In an announcement that caught everyone by surprise, Microsoft revealed that it had collaborated with Warner Brothers to store and retrieve the entire 1978 Superman movie on a piece of glass. 

This is a proof of concept for “Project Silica,” a project at Microsoft that aims to use laser optics and AI to store data in quartz glass. 

Microsoft sees this solution as a way to drive down storage costs in the future. “One big thing we wanted to eliminate is this expensive cycle of moving and rewriting data to the next generation,” said a Microsoft lab director. “We really want something you can put on the shelf for 50 or 100 or 1,000 years and forget about until you need it.” 

4. Project Cortex

My next pick is Project Cortex. Project Cortex utilizes the Microsoft graph and various MS machine learning/AI models to help users understand organizational content. The content can be structured or unstructured, and Cortex tries to understand it and put it into context. This enables users to click deeper into the content type and ecosystem – whether it’s conversations, tables or documents – and benefit from deeper context applied to the content. 

The intent is to allow employees to quickly find information that’s spread across documents in Microsoft’s various services and make it available both through searches and algorithms in the form of hover-links inside Microsoft products like Office apps, Outlook and Teams. 

Project Cortex not only aims to make connections within MS systems, but also offers connectors using “Microsoft search” to use third-party repositories. 

Three high-level areas of focus include: 

  • Availability of knowledge and expertise for users 
  • Collection and organization of knowledge in a meaningful and contextual way 
  • Classification, protection and management of content 

5. Azure Stack, Rebranded

Azure Stack, which was announced three years ago, is a product that extends Azure services and capabilities on-premise. Microsoft has since evolved it, and Azure Stack has become a portfolio of services and capabilities of choice—from the datacenter to edge locations and remote offices.

a) Azure Stack Edge:
This is a cloud-managed appliance for edge compute, ML at the edge, IoT and network bursting to the cloud. At Ignite 2019, Microsoft announced and showcased a small, backpack-sized, batteryoperated edge device that could be used to process data and drone video.

b) Azure Stack HCI:
Here we see Microsoft getting into Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI), scalable virtualization and storage, which is useful in modernizing branch office computing. 

c) Azure Stack Hub:
This is the classic Azure Stack – fully-integrated, cloud-native applications using consistent Azure Services on-premise to meet regulatory or technical requirements. 

Conclusion:
While Microsoft Ignite may be over for another year, the excitement that began on November 3-8, 2019 will continue for months to come. At WatServ, we’re looking forward to implementing many of these great Microsoft technologies in our environment first, and then in many of our enterprise customers’ environments. 

Have a question or want to chat about my top picks? Get in touch!

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

Migrating to the Cloud? Here’s Why You Should Choose a Cloud Solutions Provider that Takes Security Seriously

Migrating to the Cloud? Here’s Why You Should Choose a Cloud Solutions Provider that Takes Security Seriously

By WatServ
November 7, 2019

Is your business considering working with a cloud solutions company to provide cloud consulting, engineering or managed services? If so, you’ll be joining a rapidly expanding market. In fact, Gartner predicts the worldwide public cloud services market to increase by 17% this year, reaching $214.3 billion globally.

Migrating from conventional servers to the cloud can have many benefits for your business, including increased efficiency, scalability, resiliency and affordability. Cloud adoption can mean better flexibility, enhanced disaster recovery and accelerated digital transformation for businesses of all sizes.

However, before you take the plunge and choose a cloud solutions provider to engineer and/or maintain your cloud, it’s critical to ensure they take an important topic seriously: security.

In this article, we’re going to dig into this topic and look at 4 reasons why you should choose a cloud solutions provider that prioritizes your company’s security.

1. The public cloud introduces new security considerations.

As more companies move to the cloud – especially the public cloud – a host of new information security challenges are emerging. In fact, CSO recently put together a list of the top 12 cloud security threats, which include:

  1. Data breaches
  2. Insufficient identity, credential, and access management
  3. Insecure interfaces and APIs
  4. System vulnerabilities
  5. Account hijacking
  6. Malicious insiders
  7. Advanced persistent threats (APTs)
  8. Data loss
  9. Insufficient due diligence
  10. Abuse and nefarious use of cloud services
  11. Denial of service (DoS)
  12. Shared technology vulnerabilities

We’ve heard about many of these threats in the media – and we recently wrote about ransomware attacks on our blog – because these threats affect businesses of all sizes.

For instance, in the first half of 2019 alone, we heard about data breaches increasing by 54% from the previous year. And, with an estimated 3.4 billion phishing emails being sent out daily worldwide, almost all of us can say we’ve been on the receiving end of a phishing email.

Sure, not all of these cyberthreats target the cloud specifically, but with the cloud being accessible online, many of them do.

The takeaway: While security threats are a part of life regardless of where your data is stored, and the cloud introduces several new cybersecurity concerns, a good cloud solutions partner will understand these security threats and take them seriously. Most importantly, they will offer 360 insight on how to mitigate your risk – so your business can stay focused on leveraging the immense power of the cloud to benefit growth.

2. It’s up to the cloud customer (not the cloud service provider) to protect business data.

Did you know that cloud security is a shared responsibility? The best way to illustrate this is to take the example of a condo building. It’s up to the building owner to ensure adequate security is in place to protect the building – like having control over the front door and installing working smoke detectors in hallways and public spaces. However, what you do inside your condo is your own responsibility. If you leave a pot boiling on the stove and forget to replace your smoke detector battery, it’s at your own risk. Likewise, if you let someone into your unit and they steal your jewelry, that’s your mistake.

The same goes for the public cloud. Cloud service providers (like Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform) are responsible for the security of the cloud, but it’s the customers (you)  who are responsible for the security of what gets put into the cloud and how that information gets accessed.

This is an important distinction to remember, since the majority of security failures are a result of a customer not taking appropriate action to protect themselves or monitor for threats.

In fact, Gartner found that “through 2022, at least 95% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault.”

The takeaway: You have a shared security responsibility when using the public cloud, with you holding a good chunk of that responsibility. Rather than face this responsibility alone, a good cloud solutions partner that prioritizes security will help you engineer and maintain your cloud in a way that minimizes your risks and provides continuous threat monitoring, detection and mitigation.

 

3. Security challenges are changing all the time.

When speaking about the latest round of research on cloud security, Gartner’s VP of Research, Jay Heiser, notably said, “CIOs must change their line of questioning from ‘Is the cloud secure?’ to ‘Am I using the cloud securely?’”.

This is a great way to look at it. There have been countless articles written and debates had over the question “is the cloud secure?” and “will I be more at risk if I move to the cloud?”, with customers looking for definitive answers. The truth is, the cloud, like anything else, will always be vulnerable to a mix of changing threats.

For instance, we’ve recently been hearing more about the threat of container software vulnerabilitiescryptographic exploits and meltdown or spectre as cybercrime becomes increasingly complex and sophisticated. Plus, internal threats will always remain a concern. The truth is, threats will never go away, so how you approach and handle them is what matters.

The takeaway: A cloud solutions partner that takes cloud security seriously can help you navigate these threats as they change from month to month and year to year. Threats will never go away, so adopting a mindset of “am I using the cloud securely?” will help you engage effectively with a partner that’s focused on adaptive risk assessment and mitigation.

4. There are steps that can be taken to mitigate risk.

Just as threats change monthly, so do technologies, tools and procedures designed to mitigate risk. A knowledgeable and up-to-date cloud partner can help you identify and navigate your vulnerabilities, so you can make an educated decision about your cloud strategy.

Some of the solutions that can be put in place may include:

  • Engineering your cloud environment using security best practices
  • Implementing or maturing security operations centers (SOCs)
  • Strengthen your existing security and governance procedures
  • Providing advanced threat detection and automated threat mitigation
  • Setting up continuous security monitoring
  • Ensuring good API hygiene
  • Providing managed endpoint protection and DDoS protection
  • Offering training to employees on threats like phishing and account hijacking
  • Looking at ‘passwordless’ methods of access management
  • Setting up procedures to review security analytics
  • Responding to incidents quickly and effectively

The cloud offers a huge range of benefits for businesses large and small. With almost 50% of data worldwide expected to be stored in public cloud environments by 2025, the cloud has shaped the world of computing in a whole new way.

By working with a security-focused cloud solutions provider, you can put your energy into leveraging the incredible power of the cloud – while also making informed decisions about risk and enabling adaptive approaches to risk mitigation.

 

Need help protecting your cloud? WatServ is a security-focused cloud solutions provider that helps companies safeguard their cloud through CloudOps advanced managed services. Speak with one of WatServ team members today to learn more.

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

How to Minimize the Threat of a Ransomware Attack with Help from a Cloud Solution Provider

How to Minimize the Threat of a Ransomware Attack with Help from a Cloud Solution Provider

By Jeff Ng, Director, Partnerships
August 7, 2019

Ransomware. Hopefully, you haven’t experienced the predicament of being held hostage by it.

What is Ransomware?
First, let’s quickly define what ransomware is. CISA states:

“Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, designed to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid.”

Jason Gumpert, of MSDynamicsWorld.com and a friend of WatServ, recently brought to my attention an unfortunate story published on Rental Management Magazine: Dealing with a security nightmare.

In short, this article explains how the owners of Triangle Equipment, a Bobcat distributor dealer in North and South Carolina, were hacked. The hackers encrypted the company’s data and demanded them to deliver $2,500 in bitcoins in exchange for the key to decrypt the data.

Not a fun day.

When Jason brought this story to my attention, he also asked how a cloud solution provider (like us at WatServ) can protect their hosted clients from ransomware and incidents like this. Let’s take a look.

How a Cloud Solution Provider Can Help Protect Your Business from Ransomware

First, we need to accept that completely preventing cybersecurity threats is unrealistic. If we’ve learned anything from the constant stream of cybersecurity breaches, it’s that threats are inevitable. The best thing to do is reduce the chance of threats and have a response plan in place for when a threat does present itself.

For instance, at WatServ, we have a collection of services that work to safeguard our clients’ cloud environments.

Our standard services (included with WatServ’s CloudOps managed service) offer:


1. Foundational security pillars – based on CISA’s defense in depth concept

This approach begins with protection at the client connection. Additional layers of defense occur at the network, infrastructure, application and database levels. Each one of these layers is protected by access controls and segregation. Some examples of protective mechanisms at the layers are advanced malware protection, firewalls, multi-factor authentication, multi-tiered network segregation, password vault and access controls and reviews.

Layers of Defense

 
 
 
 
 
 

2. Managed detection and response (MDR) services on hosted environments

WatServ uses Alert Logic’s MDR services to proactively monitor the security of our cloud environments across public, private or hybrid. In the event that a threat is detected, or indicators of a compromise are present, WatServ can cut off the external threat midway. In the case of the Triangle Equipment ransomware attack, WatServ could have stopped the encryption of their data midway, saving part of it.


3. Backups on Azure or Google

In the unfortunate instance of a threat, the customer can restore their environment to a point prior to the threat. WatServ performs backups of our customers’ data for 30 days or longer. Restoring from backup is relatively painless, when compared to building a new environment from scratch.

At WatServ, we also offer optional add-on services (incident response and security awareness training) listed below.


4. Incident response

In addition to MDR, WatServ offers an Incident Response service in the event of a threat. In the Triangle Equipment situation, the story alludes to the owners having to scramble to find cybersecurity experts to help them manage the situation. To avoid this, WatServ clients can purchase our Incident Response service on retainer so that these services are secured and ready for immediate deployment upon threat detection. Clients get peace of mind that they have security specialists ready-to-go.


5. Security awareness training

As per Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, phishing – a form of social engineering – is the number one cause of data breaches. Security Awareness Training is an ongoing training program that teaches a company’s users to detect phishing emails and other types of social engineering threats. The security of a business’ computing environment (and data) must start with each individual user. By participating in Security Awareness Training, clients will see their employees become smarter to detecting social engineering instances. For example, some companies can expect to see an improvement from +60% click rates on phishing emails to sub-20% click rates over a 12-month period.

As painful as the journey was for Triangle Equipment, their story ended relatively well. Triangle paid the $2,500 ransom and, after 3 weeks, recovered their business operations. (Compare this to a recent story on two cities in Florida having to pay $1 million dollars to ransomware. Ouch!)

At WatServ, we help protect our clients from cybersecurity threats, like ransomware, by leveraging our advanced CloudOps tools and internal expertise to detect and remediate security issues.


Worried About Ransomware? Fight Back Today.

If you’re worried about ransomware, or would like to learn more about our services, contact us today at info@watserv.com or 1-866-531-2598.

 

Special thanks to Triangle Equipment for sharing their story!

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

Best Practices for a Smooth Office 365 Migration

Best Practices for a Smooth Office 365 Migration

By WatServ
July 27, 2018

So, you want to migrate to Office 365?

There are so many reasons why an organization would choose to migrate to the cloud. The most common reasons are based on some sort of organizational deficiency, such as communication, collaboration, business application performance, personal productivity, store/find/share data and mobility.

So, your decision is made and now you need to put all this new technology in front of your workforce and expect them to like it… because you care about them and it’s going to make their work life better! Well, getting from point A to point Z will most certainly disrupt their daily routine and cause angst among the masses. Here are some ideas on how to avoid the pitfalls of implementing Microsoft Office 365 and how to prepare your deployment team and end-users for the proverbial road ahead.

 

Choosing the Right Licensing Option!

This one is tricky. Only because as of July 2018, there are roughly 640 different licensing options to chose from! In all fairness, the total includes the different pricing for the Business, Government, Nonprofit, and Education SKU’s (Stock Keeping Unit), which multiplies each SKU by four. Each one has its own pricing model and discounts. The total also includes Dynamics 365, Office 365, Microsoft 365 and all the add-ons that are currently available with the online environment. There are about 280 available for Office 365 specifically. As you can imagine, it can be quite daunting to determine which SKU best fits your end-users.

I would suggest getting an overall snapshot of the different work-groups in your organization – Sales, IT, HR, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Production, etc. Once you’ve identified the different work-groups, you’ll need to break down the various work functions within each of those groups. Most users will need a license that includes Office 365 ProPlus to perform their work duties, but there may be some that don’t. For instance, does a temporary employee need Skype for Business or SharePoint if they’re just going to be doing spreadsheet work on a 6-month accounting project? Does a line worker in the plant need Outlook or can they get by with Outlook Online? Then there’s the add-in SKU’s to think about. You’ll need to determine who will need Project Pro, Visio Pro, Power BI Pro, and so on. There’s a lot that needs to go into figuring out the license pool.

 

Prepare Your Environment!

I think this is one of the most difficult tasks to complete prior to the migration, but quite possibly the most important task you can do to help the migration go swimmingly. This is true for small migrations too. You can never do enough pre-planning!

The types of issues that can pop-up due to lack of planning are plentiful. For instance, you need to make sure your on-premise Exchange server is running the correct version of Exchange depending on the type of migration you’re planning – Cut-Over, Staged or Hybrid. Here, you’ll need to spend some time cleaning up your local Active Directory to ensure you’re only bringing over the data/users you need and not all the lingering stuff you’ve been meaning to cleanup but haven’t dedicated the time to get rid of it. Now is the time to get that done! Likewise, if you’re planning on migrating a file share out to SharePoint, you’ll need to spend some time cleaning up the data and architecting the new folder structure, security access to the various Team Sites and overall access to the data by the end-users.

Another SharePoint gotcha is the proper migration of the meta-data associated with each file and folder. Simply copying the file is going to change the creation date, the change date, the author, the created by, etc., etc., etc.

One item that is overlooked, more often than not, are all the systems that rely on the Exchange server functionality. You think you’ve identified them all, but there’s always that old relic legacy system in finance that pops up and you get a call that says, “We have a problem!”. Some to look for are auto-invoicing customers from an ERP system, emails from alert systems, conference rooms and equipment, KPI reporting, HR connection to the AD, etc. Make sure to document and thoroughly test all systems that are integrated with your Exchange server prior to beginning the migration!

Microsoft provides a really good tool to help you determine if your environment is ready to go. Check out this Microsoft TechNet – Prepare for setup with health, readiness and connectivity checks.

 

Selecting the Right Team!

Without a doubt, the number one factor to ensure a successful Office 365 deployment is the team that’s going to support the decision to implement Office 365, deploy it, use it and support it! Without a committed project sponsor, a talented project manager, a smart migration team and a responsive training and support team, you’re doomed to fail. Choose wisely!

  • The Executive Sponsor(s) – the more the merrier! – The more top-level supporters within your organization that you can rely on when issues present themselves the better off you’ll be in the long run. More than one will not only make your life easier but, it will increase the user adoption rate and help with the business unit commitments across the organization.
  • Project Manager and Migration Team – These two groups will be working together throughout the migration project. The PM’s will be there to keep the project on task and minimize the chaos that will most definitely ensue. The migration team will be heads down making sure the migration batches are performing error free, all the scripts are running as expected, the Azure Active Directory (AAD) is fine and many, many other tasks simultaneously. These two groups will have their thumbs on the pulse of the project. They’ll know everything about everything – or close!
  • Champions – This is very important as these will be your frontline supporters. These are the individuals that are respected among their peers within their business units. These are the folks you’ll rely on to disseminate key project information and act as a buffer between your migration team and the end users. You’ll get to appreciate (and feel sorry for them) as you go through the deployment. Communication is key to a successful rollout and the Champions can help spread the word. Make sure the communications are short and concise. The last thing you want to do is spam out paragraphs and paragraphs of information that your users will not read. Think Twitter – you’ll probably need more than 280 characters to get your point across, but you know what I’m getting at.
  • Training and Support – I can never emphasize enough how important IT training is to everyone in your organization. It’s the core of how works gets done these days. So, it’s imperative that your user base understand, as much as possible, how the environment works. Not all users will accept innovation the exact same way or at the same pace. Your training group should understand that and create fun and interesting training modules that your organization can learn and have some fun at the same time. The approximate breakdown of users in a typical organization are Innovators (2.5%), Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (16%) and Laggards (16%). You should initially focus on the top 3 and the rest will follow eventually. The more training options you provide, the better your support team will be able to support your organization.

Another good source of information regarding success scenarios are on Microsoft’s FastTrack Center site – http://fasttrack.microsoft.com

Reference the “Microsoft Office 365 Adoption Guide” for more information regarding team selection and understand the various team members needed to be successful.

 

Select your Migration Strategy!

There’s a lot that will determine the appropriate migration option for your organization. The two biggest considerations are the Exchange server version and the number of users you’ll be deploying. If you have an Exchange 2013 server and less than 150-200 users, a cutover migration would probably work fine. A Staged migration can be used if you only want to migrate a batch of users, groups, offices or locations over at a time. Staged migration has Exchange versioning limitations too and should be used for a 200+ users or more. If you wanted to keep your on-prem Exchange server, but sync it with Office 365 in the cloud, then a Hybrid migration would be used. There are plenty more gotcha’s when trying to determine which option makes sense.

 

Cutover Migration

The most common migration used when moving your organization to Office 365 is the cutover migration. It’s the most straightforward and less complicated of the 3 options – Cutover, Staged and Hybrid. A Cutover migration is just like the name implies, you cutover every user to the new Office 365 tenant at the same time. One day they’re accessing their mailboxes on the old on-prem server, the next they’re accessing the new tenant. It requires everyone to be ready and to make the necessary changes all at once. It can get quite chaotic making everyone switch together.

 

Staged Migration

The Staged migration is ideal for bulk migrations selecting a group of individuals that will be migrated at specific time intervals. This type of migration is somewhat more complex as it requires your local Active Directory (AD) to be synced with the Office 365 Azure Active Directory (AAD) using Azure AD Connect. The two AD’s will coexist throughout the completion of the Staged migration. Once the last batch of users have been migrated, the on-prem Exchange server can be decommissioned and the Azure AD Connect can be uninstalled. The new Office 365 tenant can be managed using the AAD through the Admin portal online.

 

Hybrid Migration

The Hybrid migration is similar to the Staged migration because it too requires that the on-prem AD and the Office 365 AAD be synced via the Azure AD Connect tool. The Hybrid migration is meant to allow for both on-prem Exchange activity for a subset of your user base as well as options to place another set of users out on the Office 365 tenant. It’s a coexistence configuration where you can manage both on-prem Exchange servers and Exchange Online simultaneously.

 

How to Measure Success!

User Adoption is key. You can determine a successful implementation by measuring the adoption rate (Mailbox, Teams and SharePoint usage, Skype for Business IMs and conferences and minutes of Skype for Business). All of these reports are easily generated using the Office 365 Reporting site.

  • Training effectiveness – You should determine a baseline of your user’s knowledge on using the Microsoft Suite of products. Then after your deployment, you can generate reports using the O365 Reporting tool to compare pre and post migration rates. It’s also a good idea to continue providing the adoption metrics to the project sponsor and champions to determine the effectiveness of training and to determine where your training focus needs to be directed for various user groups. You should also build an FAQ database on Yammer to put basic questions like, “Where to start a conversation – Yammer, Skype for Business, Teams or Outlook?” “Where should I store a file – Teams, SharePoint or OneDrive?” And constantly promote the FAQ so new employees know where to go to find help.
  • Reduced operating costs – This information is key to the Executive Sponsor because everyone wants to know they’ve made the best possible decision to save the company some money – especially when it’s costing the company initially. You can combine the user adoption reports with the financial/accounting reports, Help Desk reports and travel expenses to get an idea of how Office 365 has affected your organization financially.
  • Increase productivity – This one is a hard metric to determine and even harder to present in a meaningful fashion. The increased adoption correlates to faster communication internally and externally, faster decision making and shorter time to complete certain tasks like customer order processing, automated invoicing, proposal generation. The goal is to provide metrics that show an increase in productivity and a decrease in time to complete tasks month over month.

Once you’ve let the dust settle from the deployment, it’s always a good idea to consistently check in on your workforce. I mean after all, you have just disrupted a major part of their work environment (for the better of course, they just don’t know it yet!). You can conduct end user surveys using Yammer groups and discussions to get immediate feedback to determine employee satisfaction. And, you get users using all the new technology that’s available to them with an Office 365 subscription.

Reference the “Microsoft Office 365 Adoption Guide” for more information regarding success measurement.

So that’s it in a nutshell! This isn’t meant to be a complete, in-depth guide to performing a migration in your organization. There’s plenty of geeky migration materials provided by Microsoft to accomplish what you’re looking to do. There are no shortcuts to managing a complex migration, but there is help if you need it. Let us know if we can be of assistance to your organization.

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

The Silicon Review Names WatServ as One of the 30 Fastest Growing Microsoft Solution Providers 2016

The Silicon Review Names WatServ as One of the 30 Fastest Growing Microsoft Solution Providers 2016

By WatServ
December 6, 2016
WatServ is happy to announce that it has earned a place in The Silicon Review’s 30 Fastest Growing Microsoft Solution Providers of 2016. Read more on their report here: http://thesiliconreview.com/magazines/watserv-the-worlds-largest-provider-of-hosted-microsoft-dynamics About The Silicon Review The Silicon Review is the world’s most trusted online and print community for business & technology professionals. Our community members include thought-provoking CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, IT VPs and managers, along with a multitude of diverse IT professionals. The Silicon Review encompasses nine technology and vertical communities: Software, IT Services, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Security, Telecommunications, Hot Start-ups and The Best Companies to work for. Each community leader is a proven subject matter expert who collaborates with industry gurus, technology managers, researchers, top technology journalists, consultants and industry analysts. Our team strictly focuses on accurate, timely delivery of informative articles that enhances spirited discussions in the future.

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through proven technology and customer commitment.​

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.

Top Five Cloud Computing Predictions 2013

Top Five Cloud Computing Predictions 2013

By WatServ
January 17, 2013
There has been a lot of talk regarding predictions of what cloud computing will bring in 2013. After reading through many predictions from multiple sources, we’ve gathered the ones that we believe are the most likely to happen. We also provided our insights on how to stay ahead of the game for each prediction. 1. We’ll start taking the Cloud Seriously when it comes to backup & DR – from CloudTimes Xath Cruz predicts organizations will prefer a cloud pay-per- use model instead of purchasing resources as disasters happens, due to greater cost efficiency and speed. The cloud will become the focus of business operations but won’t replace BCDR resources completely. We believe that cloud storage will provide the safety needed to avoid information loss if your operations somehow fail. As your information is safely in the cloud, you wouldn’t need to worry about hardware failure. Also, pay-per-use models provide the flexibility and speed needed for companies to reduce costs. We recommend that if you’re not already using a cloud based ERP system; you should at least make the investment to securely back-up information. 2. Enterprise realize that cloud computing means, well, cloud computing – from cio.com Bernard Golden predicts that we will see a lot more news articles in 2013 about organizational change and how to successfully implement private cloud computing. Golden believes organizations must thoroughly plan on integrating cloud computing from end-to-end before actual implementing. Thorough planning is the key for properly switching to a cloud computing system. We wouldn’t be surprised if we see many articles teaching IT users about successful cloud computing implementation. We recommend that you take into consideration every part of your business when planning cloud system integration. Experience has taught us that getting effective alignment of roles and responsibilities is the key. You can read Golden’s full article here. 3. Cloud wins confidence – from communities.intel.com Alan Priestley predicts that in 2013, companies will continue to adopt cloud computing even after a declining IT marketing in 2012. He also predicts that usage models will expand and broadening the type of cloud applications used. We strongly believe in the expanding use of cloud applications and the growth of cloud computing. Companies will begin to take the time to try to understand the applications of cloud, and eventually take a step forward in adopting it. You can read Priestley’s full article here. 4. More hosted private clouds – from forbes.com Joe McKendrick predicts that there will be an increase in hosted private clouds managed by someone else, off premise. It quotes, from IDC’s Chris Morris, For critical applications, only secure, non-shared private cloud will pass all compliance requirements Hosted cloud services provide the type of resources needed for maximum security for your most important applications. Hosted cloud services specialize in information security and are compliant with many certifications. The benefits of hiring a hosted cloud service are substantial as they provide many resources than one may not be able to invest in such as security. At WatServ, we have many security certifications such as SSAE16, HIPPAA, and PCI. You can read McKendrick’s full article here. 5. Hybrid IT – from canadait.com SoftCom predicts companies will continue to shift from on-premise IT to cloud computing in order to stay up to date with the latest software. Cloud will be expensed as a cost of business operation instead of expenditure needed for software and hardware. With the speed of technology advancements today, major software updates coming out more frequently. Already with a huge investment in software, are you still willing to spend another fortune to upgrade to the newest software, hardware, integration, and training? Cloud computing allows companies to upgrade their software more easily compared to on-premise IT. You can read SoftCom’s full article here. We’re sure to get back to you to see how these predictions do throughout the year. We hope our recommendations will provide insight into the benefits of cloud computing.

WatServ demonstrates best-in-class capability and market leadership through demonstrated technology success and customer commitment.

About

WatServ is an IT solutions provider that helps clients digitally transform their business through cloud technologies and  services. Founded in 2006, WatServ specializes in providing hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and hosting complex, high-availability environments for enterprise-level applications. WatServ’s unique approach to planning, migrating and managing multi-cloud environments, plus premium 24x7x365 support, enables its global customers to focus on their core business. Relying on Microsoft and Google’s public clouds, in addition to its own private cloud, the company offers an ideal managed cloud environment engineered for security, reliability and performance. With offices in Canada and the United States, and with more than 10,000 users connecting from 30+ countries, WatServ is always on. For more information, please visit www.watserv.com.

WatServ is an affiliate of Brookfield Business Partners (BBU), a public company with majority ownership by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. More information about BBU is available at www.brookfield.com.