by Julian Martin
The 2013 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, Texas, is this week and Mimecast will be there in full force. Our massive booth (#1207) will have regular opportunities to win prizes and meet with the Mimecast leadership team who’ll be available throughout.
Mimecast’s Newly Opened U.S. HQ in Boston
Of course, heads will turn for presentations from Microsoft executives like Steve Ballmer, but first and foremost this event is for the Microsoft Partner ecosystem. We’re very proud that at last year’s WPC we were recognized for our part in that network, winning the 2012 Microsoft Innovative Customer Advocacy Partner of the Year. It marked the start of an excellent year of growth for Mimecast globally and in particular in the US. We’ve just opened up a new U.S. HQ in Boston and plan a 30% growth in local headcount in 2013. The next step in that growth is to develop our partner network quickly, which is why we’re so keen to meet potential partners next week in Texas.
Going into WPC this year, it strikes me that we’re finally seeing fruition of cloud technology after many years of expectation.
In March 2010, Steve Ballmer made a statement to the market – “for the cloud, we’re all in.” It rapidly became IT folklore and was a clear recognition from Microsoft that the shift from client server to cloud computing was an irresistible force, and that the company needed to get on the bus. And once the Redmond behemoth got on that bus, everyone started looking for a ticket.
Yet I’m surprised to still be reading a few comments in the IT press imploring readers to ‘embrace the cloud’ or to ‘make it a strategic part of your business’, three years later the jury is in – the cloud has won.
So why isn’t the channel grabbing this opportunity with both hands?
The IT channel ecosystem is still threatened by the cloud for two reasons. Either, they can’t figure out how they can ‘add value,’ i.e. build cloud services into a powerful value proposition for their customers or because they see their margins being eroded. But find the right partner, and the long term rewards are there.
How do you know if you have the right partner?
- Margins. Looking at vendors’ long term margins can give you a good indication of how committed they are to the relationship. It’s no good being paid a good percentage margin on closing a sale, only to see that drop off a cliff further down the line. Resellers have businesses to run. The whole attraction of the cloud business model is recurring revenue – if resellers can’t predict a flow of income after closing a deal, their business looks unsustainable. The key here is working with vendor partners who aren’t just selling a cloud service, but are fully committed to a cloud business model. From the outset Mimecast has designed a partner program that is hugely rewarding with high retained margins. These margins, especially when combined with Office 365, provide an extremely healthy annuity revenue stream. I encourage you to stop by the booth for the facts – I guarantee that you’ll be impressed.
- Revenue protection: when a deal is signed, what steps are taken to protect that opportunity? Ask about partner deal registration support, such as Mimecast’s unique ‘Poacher’s Penalty’ which means any partner attempting to steal an existing Mimecast customer from another partner only receives a maximum of 2% margin.
- Does the partner have products or services that compliment your – or your clients’ – area of expertise? The service aspect of your business is the only aspect you actually own. Product supply chains can be taken away at any time, so the ability to add value with additional services is vitally important and your reputation is based on it. Again, working with vendors who are cloud ‘from the ground up’ can help you build these services into a compelling and valuable proposition for customers.
- What is the partner’s customer retention rate? At Mimecast, for example, our 97% customer retention rate means we’re offering our partners a customer for life, thus securing reliable, recurring revenues for the long term.
- Will that partner offer to help you generate leads? Are the benefits of that vendor easily understood, tangible and demonstrable? What resources does the partner offer in terms of marketing training, technology or campaigns? From your first conversations, a good partner should be providing you with facts and figures about resources available, numbers of meetings and high quality leads provided.
The cloud needs to be profitable to the IT channel. And it can be. But only if partners work with vendors with who they can build a long term partnership that offers mutual rewards.
There is money to be made for partners, and we’ll be at booth number #1207 if you’d like to hear how we can help make it happen together!
by Barry Gill
If this title sounds familiar, you’re likely to be someone who reads the technology media.
I mean let’s face it, ever since Microsoft announced its new operating system it had more than its share of critics appearing from every corner of the globe offering up their opinions (much like I’m doing now).
Microsoft has released screenshots confirming the return of a Start button to Windows 8
I don’t understand what the negativity is about.
I’m a Windows 8 professional user and I’ve been very happy with my upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.
Before I continue, I just want to clarify a few things about myself and my history with Operating Systems because I’m not like the average user.
Like most, my first OS was a Microsoft OS (DOS 3.1 to give you an idea of my age) and I stayed within the Microsoft ecosystem for many years until one day in 1998 I decided to run a test to see if Linux was ready for the desktop. That test failed miserably but it instilled a love of all things Linux in me which I still have today.
In 2000, I moved to a fulltime Linux desktop as all the work I was doing was consulting and working around Linux systems. This continued to 2004 when a consulting project I was involved in required documents to be created in Office 2003 (Project and Visio). At that point I migrated from SuSE Linux 9.1 to Windows XP with Office 2003. That project completed and in 2005 I started working at Mimecast. My machine stayed on XP as I didn’t have the time to dedicate to migrate my data again.
My work at Mimecast brought me closer to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook and when they released Windows Phone I was excited to see what their re-imagining of the user interface would be like. The change from my BlackBerry Bold 9000 to the HTC HD7 was remarkable. Never before had I handled a phone that was so intuitive, user friendly and functionally useful to me. Sometime later I got “upgraded” to an iPhone 4s and – in what my wife and many others thought was a backwards step – I returned the iPhone and went back to WP7, this time to a Nokia Lumia 800. The iPhone wasn’t anywhere near as user friendly and intuitive as the Windows Phone was for me.
So when Microsoft announced Windows 8 and that it would be a similar experience to the Windows Phone, I was intrigued. I soon had a Lenovo Twist, a nice little machine with a touch screen that folds over and turns the laptop into a tablet and I began using it and reporting back to the IT department any problems I had or things I thought might be problematic for us as an organization to support.
I love being a guinea pig.
Anyway, barring basic issues like desktop AV clients not yet properly supported and drivers for my obscure Boogie Board Rip not yet working properly, everything has worked pretty much perfectly from day 1.
Yes, I’m not a basic user, but I ‘m a person who uses a lot of applications and is constantly moving between them. I’m someone who should, if the people who cry about the lack of start buttons and booting to desktops are to be believed, be miserable with this new OS.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
All in all, my life hasn’t really changed. I use the machine almost exclusively in desktop mode. Not because I don’t like the apps in the new UI, but because the tools I use on a daily basis are all on my desktop. I use Outlook, not the mail app, I use Word, not some note app, I use Excel not some calculator that can be obtained from the marketplace.
When I start up, I get dropped into the new start screen. Shock and horror, in order to begin my day I do what I’ve ALWAYS done. I start my mail client, Outlook. This is done by clicking or tapping the Outlook tile that I’ve positioned neatly in my direct line of sight on the start screen. Outlook starts and takes me into desktop mode.
I don’t miss the start button at all and it amazes me how much attention this insignificant little feature is getting. The start screen easily replaces the start button but if I am too lazy to jump around, I just use shortcuts. My taskbar in desktop mode has shortcuts to all my frequently used apps on it. (Microsoft have just announced that Windows 8.1 will include a start button but no start menu, among other much more exciting features but more on that later).
Both in my home office and my work office I’m connected to external displays and in almost every instance of using the machine I’m working with my keyboard and mouse.
My son uses the touch interface to play games. I don’t play games on this, I prefer to save the battery for more boring things like connectivity and spreadsheets.
That’s not to say I don’t go into the new UI ever because I do. My password management app is in the new UI.
So let’s recap.
I can do everything I need to do.
I don’t care that I’ve no start button because it doesn’t impact me in any way.
I work in desktop mode all day and the start screen doesn’t magically stop me being able to do this.
I switch between new UI and desktop all the time and I haven’t gone crazy.
So why’s everyone so anti this new operating system?
by Barry Gill
Having been at Mimecast for many years championing the benefits of the Software as a Service model to customers, prospects and partners alike, I am well versed in the benefits that this model poses to organizations of every shape and size. Also, having been
involved with hosted services and cloud services, I have seen how vendors, customers and partners have all worked hard to deliver simple solutions to end users while maintaining levels of integration that make many sysadmins lose sleep at night. In addition, having seen this landscape evolve over the past decade, it’s truly refreshing to see a traditionally on-premise software vendor like Microsoft not only shout about the cloud, but actually surface a strategy that makes broad-based cloud computing part of everyday software consumption.
With Steve Ballmer’s announcement yesterday, came the first real view of what Microsoft’s long term strategy is. We all know that Microsoft is a huge company with massive amounts of resource available to do just about anything they want, but yesterday we saw for the first time just how long it takes to change direction for a company of this size.
When Microsoft announced BPOS, it was generally regarded as a tentative attempt to show presence in the cloud/SaaS market and was
experience across devices and the touch user experience (and a secure environment).
more of an attempt to deflect much of the criticism that was levelled towards Redmond at the time. That evolved and became Office 365 which was a much better service offering but it had some poor choices in terms of its distribution model. Last week in Toronto, Microsoft announced that Office 365 Open licenses would be available for delivery through its vast channel and its partner ecosystem breathed a collective sigh of relief and committed to more active promotion of the service.
For me, all the build-up around Windows 8 has always been about two key (and one key but not promoted) things: Ubiquitous
With yesterday’s announcement of Office 2013 preview, we can now see how integral that ubiquitous experience is to the long term plan, which appears to be – “get everything, get it now!”
Ok, what do I mean by that?
Well it’s simple really, with Office 2013 defaulting to storing files on SkyDrive, apps written for Office being available to users no matter what device they are connecting from or even if they are using the web-based versions of the applications and Microsoft’s massively increased push to move users into the cloud for its three biggest server platforms (Office 365 for SharePoint and Exchange and Azure SQL for DB), it now makes more sense than ever to start sipping the Microsoft Kool-Aid.
I mean let’s face it, they may not have invented any of these wheels but they have done a damned fine job of moulding and shaping them to what people are looking for.
Back to my title – Microsoft moves to SaaS with Office 2013 – and a little more on the service side of things.
Microsoft has said quite clearly that it wants to make adoption and upgrades far simpler for its customers and partners. Buy an Office 2013 license and it will provide over the wire upgrades because you are effectively acquiring the software as a service, whether you choose to deploy the full rich client of use the web-based clients. This means that you will always be running the latest version of Office.
Add to this that it only requires a single license for a user, rather than forcing a license per device, and you have a winning success story for people to seriously consider moving their computing across to the Microsoft way.
Microsoft laptop, tablet and phone (X-Box too…?), all using a common authentication mechanism to ensure ubiquitous experience across all three devices as well as pure play internet-based access to all of your apps and docs when you don’t have one of your own devices handy? It’s a compelling mix of cloud and client side applications delivering service to users where and when they want it.
Sounds like utopia to me.
Well it would, for years Mimecast has been working on the premise that customer choice in cloud adoption was an important part of allowing them to make the move towards cloud without it ever having to be a binary decision of cloud vs. on-prem.
In the coming months we are sure to see more features surfacing that will extend on this message, particularly in the server space but it all boils down to Microsoft finally flexing its muscle and demanding that both business and consumers take notice of its offerings and stop settling for second best.
by Nicolas Blank
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the current trend of literally bringing your own devices to work. This may include a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Often the mere thought of BYOD can make an enterprise security officer nervous. How nervous? Data breach kind of nervous. Before we join the chorus of security officers and auditors crying out for the ubiquitous deployment of forced mobile management conditional network access, and more, let’s have a closer look at BYOD and Exchange.
Mobile device access to Exchange is not new. Exchange mobile protocols are designed to be secure out of the box, yet many of us have lived through the frustration of educating a customer about the self-signed certificates used to bootstrap an Exchange deployment. In fact, Exchange 2007 is known for being the version of Exchange that caused vast slews of ITPro’s to learn about various types of certificates, and the order of the names appearing on them. Point in case, Exchange mobile protocols are secured by design.
Moving on from the protocol stack and onto the physical access method. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this point, except to point out, that BYOD tend to use wireless access methods of varying degrees of security. If this layer of physical security is breached, then the attacker is still required to break the encrypted protocol tunnel between the device and Exchange. This is no different to monitoring traffic on a physical Ethernet switch, the result is still encrypted garbage.
Our next point of examination is storage. If the BYOD device is a laptop, the data store tends to be the offline cache file created by Outlook, i.e the OST file. This file is encrypted and useless without the user authenticating onto the device using the correct mail profile. Other devices, including tablets and mobile phones implementing the Active Sync protocol implement similar storage mechanisms, secured by the user authenticating onto the device such as a Pin Lock and then the email account in question.
Exchange 2010 Features a number of remote management tools, including the ability to wipe devices remotely, however remote wipe is just the tip of the management iceberg.
Active sync management policies and the built-in management features allow an organization to structure mobile security granularly, such that different users receive different security policies.
Mobile device management tools augment the security which we’ve discussed so far, by adding a layer of auditability, remote management, tracking and wiping amongst other features, which can help mitigate the risk of data loss, if the device is lost or stolen and the users passwords (device and Exchange) are known.
I’d like to argue that BYOD is often no less secure than the average corporate laptop, due to the security features built into Exchange and the devices themselves. Exchange is designed to be implemented securely, and features mobile management features in the platform. While those features may not be enough to fill every compliance or security requirement under the sun, they are a massive part of ensuring that BYOD security fears, may be overrated.
by Orlando Scott-Cowley
The future… if we actually had an endless supply of dilithium crystals or flux capacitors, gadgets like floating skateboards and Tricoders might be more common. But sadly they’re not; so the only real prediction I can make for the future (that’s relevant to this blog post anyway) is that Microsoft are planning to release a new version of their Exchange Server software every three years. We should be seeing the next version towards the end of next year, currently being called Exchange 15.
Like Christmas, it feels like new versions of core server software come round far too quickly, especially such valuable services like Microsoft Exchange. We’ve previously mentioned the lengthy procurement cycles that keep such services a constant version behind before, which generated some good feedback and discussion; many Exchange admins told me those delays adversely impact their own deployment plans, which is intensely frustrating for them and often forces their migration project into the red.
So, rather than roll out the ubiquitous predictions for 2012; I’m going to suggest that in the absence of 1.21 Gigawatts you can take a stab at future-proofing your Exchange environment now, so you’re not left thinking in future -
“I’m migrating again. Surely not? Didn’t I just finish the last upgrade?”
However the last migration or upgrade you performed was probably a little easier; the requirements were different then, and there was dramatically less data than today. The move from Exchange 2003 to 2007 was mostly about the new 64 bit hardware required, but the move to Exchange 2010 is often about the volume of data instead.
As your users make merry with the disk space allocated to the Exchange Stores, their mailboxes have grown and grown, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to move several Terabytes of data to the new Exchange platform; but, more importantly wondering when you might have to do this again. The short-term nature of IT and the constant cycle of upgrades and migrations means you may have to answer those question sooner than you expected.
One simple solution that future-proofs your migration and upgrade strategy is to deal with the data now by augmenting your on-premise Exchange with a Cloud based email management solution. Using this Cloud based email management solution is simple; the elastic and scalable nature of the Cloud lets you ‘dump’ your oversize email stores into a secure, scalable, flexible and resilient solution that will grow with you, but at the same time allow the users to have direct access to that email data through Outlook as though it was still on Exchange.
Now here’s the part of plan we don’t talk about very much, but one that provides a great degree of flexibility. When the next migration or upgrade comes around, or if you want to move from one platform to another, having already dealt with the data means your core email service i.e. Exchange, can be anywhere or anything. Upgrade, downgrade, move to Office 365 and back again, migrate some users or all users, the choice is yours; Augmenting Exchange with the cloud means you’re not tied to any one solution or version, both today and next year when it’s time to upgrade again.