Since then I've blogged sporadically, and the topics more or less match the evolution of the role of the SMB IT Consultant - Windows and hardware topics evolved to internet and virus protection and then to managed services and data recovery.
Today, as we begin the annual tradition of celebrating a new year I thought it was a good time to look at some of the key technologies I expect to be important for my MSP business in 2016:
1. NinjioI really like this concept. It was just launched by Zack Schuler, former owner of a large MSP in California, and they address cyber security through short, engaging, very high quality user education videos. It's something we've touched on with my own Bigger Brains and MSPpromos ventures, but based on the first set of video stories I think Zack and his team have a real winner on their hands.
2. Azure AD and Azure RemoteAppThere's a noticeable divide in how businesses have addressed "The Cloud". Young companies, particularly those started or managed by Millennials, tend to have little if any traditional infrastructure - no servers, no backups, etc. They run everything from SaaS apps and Google.
Older more traditional companies have been more hesitant to jump into "The Cloud", but even so in many cases their software vendors are leaving them little choice as many "must have" business apps become cloud-first (for example the competitive price of Xero and Freshbooks compared to traditional desktop Quickbooks, or the significant feature advantages of using Salesforce.com over Act!).
However it's increasingly hard to be entirely on-prem or entirely cloud-based, which is why I'm excited to see the evolution of Microsoft's Azure Active Directory and Azure RemoteApp tools. Both allow companies to bridge the gap between on-premise applications and cloud-based apps, something I think we'll see increasing demand for in the years to come.
In the small business market alone, the ability to show a client how to run Quickbooks Desktop from their iPad through Azure RemoteApp will be a game changer!
I would argue that taken collectively these newer tools give us insight into the future Microsoft sees in how work will be done in the future. They are also all opportunities for IT consultants to be ahead of the curve, educating clients on new ways to work that can save them time and make their life easier.
20 years ago we were pushing hardware upgrades (more memory, faster hard drives) to achieve better productivity. That era is over - the future of productivity boosting belongs to new applications and new workflow paradigms, which is where all these new tools from Microsoft will play key roles.
(And yes, we're in production on new training courses from Bigger Brains for all of these!)
4. Cloudberry's Cloud RestoreI remember when Austin McChord showed off Datto's first BDR with virtualization at a Computer Troubleshooters conference years ago. They had a no-frills booth with a sign, a couple of demo boxes, and one seriously game-changing piece of kit. It's no surprise Datto is now one of the most important vendors in the data backup marketplace.
But virtualized BDR solutions still require an expensive hardware purchase, and thus many small business clients will pinch their pennies and cross their fingers and hope they never have a server crash. (Because that always works, right?)
Enter Cloudberry's solution. We've been customers of Cloudberry for a while, and it's a standard part of our managed services offering to include unlimited data backup through a custom-branded Cloudberry app on all our customer machines.
Now with their new bare-metal restore to Amazon EC2 feature, we can (in theory) restore a down server into an online virtual machine, either as a permanent replacement or as a temporary workaround while we repair their physical box.
I love this idea and we're going to be testing it out in Q1.
5. TwoVie Mobile App developmentI saw Bob Nitrio demonstrate TwoVie's platform at the SMBnation conference last year, and it looks pretty good.
The market for mobile apps continues to grow, but like web development or online marketing it's an area that most IT consultants don't get into -usually because they lack the in-house expertise.
At my MSP we've dabbled in it over the years, trying DIY mobile app platforms like Como and Apps Builder, but we too lacked the in-house expertise so we gave it up.
Will TwoVie be the solution for us to jump back into the app dev market? We'll see.
6. Bigger Brains TechIs it too self-serving to say I want to learn more about my own product line? :)
Seriously though, one of the things I'm enjoying about Bigger Brains Tech (which is separate from our normal Bigger Brains end-user training, "BBT" is training FOR techs BY techs) is getting the opportunity to do deep dives into topics that I'm not too comfortable with.
Already I've found myself using things I learned from our Network Essentials course and HIPAA courses in client conversations.
And as we've started pre-production on the "Optimizing Wi-Fi" course I'm really enjoying learning how to get the most from something I used to take for granted - and I've actually improved the speed of our family's home wifi by about 30%!
What new technologies do YOU want to learn more about in 2016?