Unpacking containerization, its benefits and use cases

Containerization has gained considerable steam in recent years. The cloud computing methodology, which involves storing applications in self-contained server slots, is no longer just some unconventional idea batted around in software development forums or tested within small-scale, low-risk environments. Large technology firms are now buying up startup-made container-based technologies and deploying enterprise-level offerings. However, few companies are as passionate about the burgeoning technology as Microsoft.

In recent months, the Redwood, Washington-based hardware and software giant has invested serious resources in developing a container-centric cloud solution capable of supporting heavy mission-critical workloads. In April, Microsoft acquired the container startup Deis, which specializes in cloud technologies developed in the open-source platform Kubernetes, according to an internal blog post. This move followed the public release of a Windows-compatible container solution via Docker, ZDNet reported. On July 21, the company publicized a formal Azure product based on Kubernetes.  

Microsoft's push for container technology culminated one week later with the debut of the company's first official proprietary offering: Azure Container Instances. Now, users can spin up complete containers within their Azure instances and use the Kubernetes connector to manage the container orchestration, according to TechCrunch. The product now supports Linux containers and will soon facilitate the use of Windows-based alternatives.

"For those beginning their container journey, Azure Container Instances provide a simple experience to get started with containers in the cloud, enabling you to quickly create and deploy new containers with only a few simple parameters," Corey Sanders, director of compute for Microsoft's Azure division, explained in a press release.

For those unfamiliar with containerization, Microsoft's strenuous effort to roll out multiple products supporting the methodology might seem odd. However, these decisions appear less unusual with a little insight into containers and what makes them special.

Understanding the technology
Containers are self-enclosed cloud computing environments that leverage isolation boundaries at the application level to create distance between the virtual machine and the live product, according to TechTarget. In traditional cloud infrastructure, applications and related files reside within a single virtual machine with isolation boundaries at the server level. Why does this distinction matter? For one, containerization reduces the likelihood of integration issues, as applications can run on separate operating systems – connected to a host OS – within a single server. Additionally, in the event that an application suddenly malfunctions, there is no ripple effect throughout the rest of the server – the damage is contained. On top of that, cloud infrastructure managers do not have to install an entire OS within each separate container, nor integrate them with server hardware. These computational pockets require minimal software and libraries to run.

Containers are gaining ground on virtual machines.Containers are gaining ground on virtual machines.

Understanding the benefits
The above traits offer a variety of substantial benefits. For one, containers are immensely portable, CIO reported. Developers can easily move containerized applications throughout one or multiple servers without having to worry about OS integration issues or the other possible inconsistencies that normally slow down such activities in a traditional cloud computing setup.

"You're going to test using Python 2.7, and then it's going to run on Python 3 in production and something weird will happen. Or you'll rely on the behavior of a certain version of an SSL library and another one will be installed," Docker creator Solomon Hykes explained to the magazine. "You'll run your tests on Debian and production is on Red Hat and all sorts of weird things happen."

Additionally, because containers run scaled-down versions of larger OSs, they save space. For example, one OS instance stored on a virtual machine might may constitute several gigabytes, while the OS features within a single container may only consume a couple dozen megabytes. On top of that, containers take literally seconds to deploy while virtual machines come with considerable boot periods. This allows companies to set aside new server space at a moment's notice, increasing productivity within the information technology department and leading to faster application deployment times. Finally, containers facilitate modularity at the application level, meaning cloud administrators can break a single digital product into multiple parts, making it possible to apply updates without completely rearchitecting an entire application.

Understanding the drawbacks
From a computational perspective, there are few drawbacks to containerization. However, security is a major concern for most, as containers are still relatively new. Most IT professionals are weary of vulnerabilities in the host OS, as a hacker with access to this kernel could, theoretically enter the containers using the scaled-down versions of the OS, according to TechTarget. Of course, container software makers such as Docker addressed this possibility long ago with user namespace features, which allow administrators to assign containers to specific users. In addition to this, hackers could gain access to containers by downloading security images, or small pieces of software. Again, firms have offered a solution: security image scanning technology.

Understanding the use cases
While containerization does trump the virtual machine method on multiple fronts, it may not work for every business. For instance, enterprises with particularly large workloads that multiple users must be able to access may get more mileage out of virtual machines, TechRepublic reported. Of course, those that simply want to adopt predictable cloud technology with a long track record of success might also be particularly drawn to these classic servers spaces.

That said, businesses should expect containerization to evolve further into the go-to cloud computing strategy – especially now that Microsoft has officially joined the container bandwagon.

Is your organization interested in exploring this burgeoning new technology today? Connect with B2B Technologies. Our Azure experts can help you understand how Microsoft's new container-based offering can help your business.

B2B Technologies bolsters product performance at data security firm

The market for data security services and software is expected to increase more than 7 percent this year to $90 billion, according to research from Gartner. Why? Organizations across myriad industries are grappling with hackers and cybercriminals on the hunt for easy-to-exploit enterprise network vulnerabilities. In fact, hackers conducted more than 42,000 separate attacks last year, according to the data security division at Verizon Wireless. This growing threat has companies scrambling to adopt cutting-edge digital defenses.

This development certainly excites the data security firms with enterprise-level product offerings. However, while this increased customer volume creates new revenue-building opportunities, it can also lead to technical complications. B2B Technologies recently partnered with a mid-market data security company struggling to deal with these growing pains. In the end, B2B developers managed to leverage their vast technical expertise and industry experience to address the business' pain points and develop customized infrastructure that put it in a position to better take advantage of the market. Here is how the project unfolded:

A botched cloud transition
In November 2016, the data security company connected with B2B on advice from Microsoft. The firm and one of its external partners had recently attempted to transition an experimental on-premises product into the Software-as-a-Service format via Microsoft Azure. This move ended in failure. The company asked B2B to revive the non-functioning application and move it into an Azure-based cloud environment. The development team at B2B soon realized the project went far beyond a simple migration.

"We essentially rebuilt the front end," B2B Senior Account Executive Tonya Smith explained. 

On top of that, the data security firm had asked Smith and her team to update the application source code. This process involved adding automated data- and user-maintenance portals, along with several new reports and a customized data-export features resembling Microsoft Power BI.

B2B recoded the application and moved into an Azure environment within 30 days of the initial service request. The team delivered the updated features soon after.

Data security on the mind
On the surface, the prospect of working with data security clients may seem scary. These firms often market digital impenetrability and, therefore, hold business partners to the same standard. However, this was not a concern for the developers at B2B, as they code every application and conduct every cloud migration with data security in mind.

"We regularly work in the sensitive spaces like data security, financial services and health care," Smith said. "So we use all of those data security best practices across the board."

Understanding cloud migration 
This project underscored the importance of thoughtful planning as it relates to cloud migration. Services like Azure are immensely user friendly, but in some cases seasoned professionals like the developers at B2B might need to step in and offer the hard-won wisdom earned over thousands of cloud implementations.

"Companies developing SaaS applications cannot find the answers on Google," Smith explained. "The insights needed here come from experience and our developers have it."

Is your organization interested in migrating to the cloud or launching an external cloud-based application? Connect with B2B Technologies today. Skilled professionals like Tonya Smith can help you reap the business benefits that come along with leading cloud services like Microsoft Azure. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Microsoft releases on-premises Azure option [Video]

Businesses with on-premises servers will soon be able to reap the benefits of Microsoft Azure. Earlier this month, the Redwood, Washington-based technology giant debuted Azure Stack, a cutting-edge cloud computing service that allows enterprise users to run the celebrated platform on local machines.

Microsoft is collaborating with hardware providers Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard to provide the product offering, which is expected to hit the market in September.

This development will certainly garner attention from the many organizations employing hybrid-cloud configurations. An estimated 67 percent of enterprise cloud users maintain hybrid setups. Of course, competitors such as Amazon Web Services and Google are likely also watching closely, as Microsoft continues to expand its product catalog and consume cloud market share.

Microsoft expands Azure cloud storage offerings with Box partnership

Microsoft is collaborating with a one-time competitor to bolster its cloud-based data storage offerings. The Redmond, Washington-based technology company has announced plans to partner with the cloud content management firm Box on an initiative that would allow Azure enterprise users to access Box services, according to a Microsoft press release. This represents a fairly significant market shift, as Box has long challenged major cloud providers such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services via its established file storage and sharing system, which boasts 41 million users and sees use at more than half of the companies listed on the Fortune 500, including high-profile enterprises such as Coca-Cola and Spotify.

"Box shares our focus and commitment to empowering enterprises on their digital transformation journey," Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for the cloud and enterprise divisions at Microsoft, said in the press release. "With this new partnership, we ensure customers can take advantage of Box's platform on Azure, and look forward to future innovations using Azure's intelligent cloud services."

Leveraging machine learning
Indeed, the machine learning capabilities available through Azure lie at the center of the freshly-inked agreement. Box plans to deploy these services in some form or fashion, according to Fortune.

"Azure's machine learning capabilities lie at the center of the freshly-inked agreement."

However, while an ostensibly advantageous deal for both parties, this partnership does create some serious complications. To start, Microsoft competes with Box via OneDrive. Additionally, Box has a pre-existing agreement with AWS, which provides backup services to cloud users navigating the platform, Recode reported. On top of that, Google, the third largest cloud services provider behind AWS and Azure, is said to be a potential buyer for Box.

A mutually beneficial partnership
Despite this baffling web of connection, Box Co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie believes the partnership has the potential to catalyze growth for both enterprises, according to a company blog post.

"Our job is to ensure that customers can take advantage of the best that the cloud has to offer, from a variety of platforms, and integrate into all of the apps our customers use," Levie wrote. "The days of closed IT architectures and data lock-in are over, and we couldn't be happier that we're moving to a new era of enterprise software."

For Box, the agreement facilitates an expansion of its already extensive service network. The file sharing and storage company currently maintains data centers across the globe – a result of its pre-cloud beginnings. This allows the company to support unique service offerings, including zone-based storage plans that give users the power to file away their digital assets in specific data centers around the world so as to comply with local data storage laws. The partnership allows Box to access Microsoft's 100 data centers, including those located in Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong and Ireland.

The advantage is twofold for Microsoft. For one, the company can now support millions of new users, including deep-pocketed firms such as General Electric and Symantec. Additionally, Microsoft can add yet another third-party enterprise partner to its roster, matching competitors AWS and Google which have been on the hunt for similarly lucrative deals in recent months. It doesn't hurt that Box has given the technology giant the opportunity to test out its growing machine learning offerings – services that may soon become popular among both private users and business customers.     

The companies expect the joint service to be available later this year. Microsoft and Box plan to share pricing and availability information in the near future.

Microsoft acquires cloud analytics company [Video]

Microsoft has acquired the cloud analytics firm Cloudyn in an effort to expand cost-control offerings for Azure users. Cloudyn, which launched back in 2011, produces cloud monitoring software compatible with Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google.

Cost containment is a pressing issue for enterprise cloud users. In fact, one study showed that budgeting is the most important variable among businesses with mature cloud-based infrastructure. As the marketplace for the technology grows and deployment strategies such as the multi-cloud methodology gain steam, the demand for cloud monitoring tools is likely to grow.

With the Cloudyn acquisition, Microsoft has positioned itself well for this possible outcome.

Why it makes sense to outsource Azure management

 

The market for managed services is expected to grow more than 14 percent to $53.7 billion within the next five years, according to research from MarketsandMarkets. This figure most likely comes as no surprise to those following the information technology space. Managed service providers have steadily gained traction in recent years, as companies embrace more sophisticated backend solutions that require near-constant external support. Microsoft Azure certainly falls into the category. The sheer number of features that accompany the cloud computing platform make it a challenge for internal IT teams.

MSPs ease the burden by providing specialized services and other ancillary offerings, giving businesses the power to embrace the cloud without stirring up trouble in the IT department. How exactly do these organizations go about doing that? Here are a few key examples:

Time to spare
The first and most obvious benefit that comes with outsourcing Azure is the time savings. Like most large-scale infrastructure, the Microsoft Cloud requires consistent upkeep. Most IT staff members already deal with time crunches, rushing to respond to support tickets while juggling larger technology initiatives. MSPs save them from even more work, performing essential maintenance and platform management duties that would otherwise fall to these already overburdened employees, according to BizTech Magazine.

On top of that, organizations that make the switch from on-premises servers to the cloud see double the time-savings, as IT teams can relinquish their network oversight responsibilities and spend their time on transformative internal initiatives that might move the organization forward.

Managed service providers help businesses grapple with cutting-edge solutions like Microsoft Azure.Managed service providers help businesses grapple with cutting-edge solutions like Microsoft Azure.

The right skills
While cloud platforms are fairly ubiquitous today, many IT teams do not know the ins and outs of the technology. With this in mind, some adopters go so far as to hire new personnel to fill the gap. However, this is often easier said than done. In fact, more than one-third of businesses worldwide are struggling to find IT personnel with the required cloud competencies, according to research from Microsoft. Additional training is a viable alternative but this puts a dent in the budget. On top of that, many internal IT teams simply do not have the time to burnish their cloud credentials in a meaningful way.

MSPs are the only answer here. These firms staff expert Azure deployment, maintenance and security specialists who devote considerable time to exploring the platform and discovering new ways to generate return-on-investment for customers.

Optimal backup and security
Traditionally, internal IT teams have taken the lead on data security and disaster recovery matters, locking down on-premises systems and managing backup data repositories meant to maintain business continuity, even when disaster strikes. This is simply not possible with cloud solutions such as Azure. Around-the-clock monitoring is a must for organizations with cloud-based backend systems, as hackers of all stripes constantly search for ways to enter company networks and wreak havoc or steal sensitive material. Cyber-criminals executed more than 42,000 attacks last year, over 1,900 of which resulted in data loss, according to research from Verizon Wireless. This number will only rise as hacking technology becomes more effective and easier to deploy.

On the backup front, most organizations are simply not prepared to maintain continuity in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. In fact, an estimated 75 percent of American businesses do not have proper disaster recovery procedures in place, the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council found.

MSPs assist Azure adopters on both of these fronts. Dedicated security personnel monitor for system penetrations and use embedded data defense assets such as Azure Active Directory and Security Center to craft tailored protections. These firms also maintain extensive backups and leverage platform features like Azure Backup to create incremental offsite data caches that are available should inclement weather or some other force halt power to primary servers.

Organizations looking to adopt Microsoft Azure or some other state-of-the-art networking infrastructure would be wise to collaborate with a proven MSP with essential services that cannot be replicated in-house. Is your business ready to adopt Microsoft Azure and in need of a battle-tested deployment and maintenance partner? Contact B2B Technologies today. We offer a robust Azure managed services bundle that encompasses everything from infrastructure development to security management and support. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we can configure an Azure instance that can facilitate growth within your organization. Connect with B2B Technologies to learn more.

Microsoft acquisition signals cloud growth

 

Microsoft has acquired a San Francisco-based startup in hopes of besting cloud competitors Amazon and Google, according to Wired. The San Francisco-based firm, called Deis, specializes in open-source container-based solutions designed to facilitate large-scale enterprise application design and deployment via the cloud. With this acquisition, Microsoft expands its cloud capabilities, bolstering its current product offerings with proven, cutting-edge networking innovations.

Moving Microsoft forward
This came as no surprise to those familiar with the Redmond, Washington-based technology giant. Since former CEO Steve Ballmer departed in 2014, the company has worked quickly to develop cloud and open-source solutions fit for enterprise and personal use. Many attribute this sudden shift to current CEO Satya Nadella, who eschewed his predecessor’s hardware-based research and development efforts for more experimental projects.

“Satya is like the Pope Francis of software,” Alex Polvi, founder and CEO for the Linux-centered software firm CoreOS, told Wired. “He took this old institution and made it cool again.”

Indeed, Deis’ central products line up with Nadella’s more modern organizational goals. The startup builds custom cloud solutions that build off the Google creation Kubernetes, an open-source platform for managing containerized data caches. These bundles of information can be easily shifted throughout networks, making them ideal for individuals or organizations with large-scale applications, or hefty file systems that may need to be migrated.

“Microsoft has acquired a San Francisco-based startup in hopes of besting cloud competitors.”

Catching up with containers, open-source technology
Microsoft currently offers limited container-based cloud services, while its competitors Amazon and Google boast more robust options. The latter lags behind Microsoft. But the former controls roughly 40 percent of the cloud market, according to CNBC. Why? Developers universally prefer Amazon Web Services due to its easy-to-deploy containers. This, combined with myriad open-source options available via AWS, has catalyzed wide adoption.

“With all of the open-source projects that are all the rage with developers, you have to have the offerings to cater to that if you want to attract them to your cloud,” John Vrionis, a partner with San Francisco venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners, told the news organization. “If developers start in AWS and get comfortable, they’re not going to even think about Azure.”

Nadella and the Azure team hope to counter this norm by integrating Deis’ open-source products into the Microsoft catalog, according to a company press release.

“Members of the Deis team are strong supporters of the open source community – developing tools, contributing code and organizing developer meet-ups,” Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise division, wrote in the release. “We expect Deis’ technology to make it even easier for customers to work with our existing container portfolio including Linux and Windows Server Containers, Hyper-V Containers and Azure Container Service, no matter what tools they choose to use.”

Prior to the Deis acquisition, Microsoft purchased another startup called Databricks, which offers an enterprise version of the open-source Apache Spark platform, according to Venture Beat. It also signed on as a platinum member within the Linux Foundation, a shocking move for an organization that once vilified the operating system. Together, these moves signal an astronomical companywide shift toward developing technologies within the cloud space.

This opens up new opportunities for companies looking for future-proof cloud solutions and the support of an established technology provider with decades of experience.

Is your organization interested in adopting Microsoft Azure? Contact B2B Technologies today to speak with our implementation experts.

Microsoft Azure gains spot atop Gartner Magic Quadrant for IaaS

 

Earlier in the year, technology analysts predicted that Microsoft Azure would soon ascend through the cloud computing ranks to challenge Amazon Web Services for supremacy in the space. However, it appears this climb is materializing faster than previously thought, according to new data from Gartner. The technology research firm recently ranked Microsoft Azure near the top of its Magic Quadrant for worldwide Infrastructure-as-a-Service technology, putting the platform just behind AWS, which scored slightly better on execution ability.

This research indicates that Microsoft is poised to increase its presence within the cloud computing industry and maybe gain enough traction to overtake AWS. In fact, the Redmond, Washington-based technology giant’s Intelligent Cloud division has logged impressive financial gains in recent months and appears to be growing twice as fast as its Seattle-centered competitor, CNBC reported. Azure and Microsoft’s other cloud services offerings netted $6.8 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2017, expanding an astounding 11 percent. Sales for Azure increased 93 percent in March. This and other gains in the division pushed its annualized run rate to more than $15.2 billion, slightly above the Amazon’s mark of $14.6 billion.

Why are so many organizations leaving behind AWS and flocking to Azure? Microsoft is actively encouraging the engineers behind the cloud services platform to innovate as quickly as possible. The recent Magic Quadrant research reveals as much. Gartner has Azure in lockstep with AWS when it comes to visionary product innovation, an arena Amazon’s cloud division once thoroughly dominated. Now, Microsoft is on the leading edge, producing new and exciting cloud computing products that can take the industry to the next level and, ultimately, bolster businesses along the way.

Microsoft Azure is gaining momentum in the marketplace due to recent internal shifts.Microsoft Azure is gaining momentum in the marketplace due to recent internal shifts.

An open-source embrace
Prior to 2014, Microsoft had a rocky history with open-source software. Former CEO Steve Ballmer once deemed the industry-leading open-source operating system Linux a “malignant cancer,” accusing its builders and users of stealing proprietary innovations from Microsoft and other companies with formalized product lines, according to Wired. This sentiment characterized the company’s outlook on the subject until February 2014 when Ballmer left Microsoft and current CEO Satya Nadella took over at the helm. His view on the open-source OS that Ballmer despised?

“Microsoft loves Linux,” he told Wired months after moving into the executive suite.

In the years since, Nadella has backed up that bold assertion, directing Microsoft engineers to produce cloud computing solutions that connect with Linux users and other open-source advocates. Last month, the first product stemming from this change in direction emerged, ZDNet reported. Microsoft debuted Draft, an Azure-based open-source development tool, at CoreOS Fest in San Francisco. The platform allows developers to craft applications via the container-based Kubernetes framework, a product of the open-source software vendor Deis, which Microsoft acquired in April.

In addition to developing products like Draft, the company has engaged the open-source community. In November of last year, Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation, according to an organizational news release. Earlier this month, it signed on as a gold partner at the Cloud Foundry Foundation, a community for open-source cloud development entities, according to ZDNet.

Why has Nadella orchestrated such a sea change? AWS and other cloud competitors have long engaged with open-source advocates. Now, Microsoft is actively building relationships in the community it once shunned and melding its respected product suite with open-source infrastructure. If the latest Gartner data is any indication, this strategy is yielding results.

The serverless revolution
Cloud computing technology evolves daily, as innovators look for ways to further lighten virtual processing loads. Microsoft is at the forefront here, developing new services that bolster efficiency and cut costs. The company’s Azure Functions offering is a good example. This product is one of the first and finest serverless cloud computing products on the market. Solutions such as Functions do in fact rely on servers. However, these systems take the burden off physical processing units and their operating systems, and instead utilize application programming interfaces to automatically carve out space for cloud applications, according to the International Data Group.

This allows developers to build on the API rather than a virtual server and cut costs for cloud services users, as processing power is used only when needed. This innovation presents immense opportunities for businesses and speaks to Microsoft’s will to innovate, a push that has allowed them to capture more market share and move up the cloud computing ranks.

Microsoft Azure is quickly becoming the industry-standard cloud solution for organizations across a variety of sectors. Is your firm prepared to adopt Azure and take its networking infrastructure to the next level? Connect with B2B Technologies. We offer robust Azure implementation and managed services options, as well as Office 365 and SharePoint integration packages. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings.

 

Decisions, decisions: Developing a SharePoint workflow with Office 365

 

More than 60 million commercial users now access Microsoft Office 365 daily, according to data from Microsoft published in Windows Central. The platform has become a key tool within organizations across myriad sectors – an extremely versatile platform that meets the needs of professionals in every department. Office 365 subscribers can access as many as seven productivity applications, as well as six cloud-based services. Workflow options abound.

However, some adopters struggle with this state of affairs, as the sheer number of choices complicates the implementation process. Many are left wondering, “How should we actually use Office 365 in our operation?” Developing an effective workflow takes some planning, most of which centers on SharePoint usage. While Office 365 mainstays such as Excel, PowerPoint and Word facilitate the generation of work product, SharePoint allows these assets to flow throughout the organization and ultimately reach the application phase. The platform comes equipped with several pre-programmed workflows but users can design custom options that reflect the internal chain of command.

Defining the workflow
Before embarking on the workflow design journey, organizations must gain an understanding of how production paths work. The primary advantage of SharePoint is its ability to simplify internal processes. Employees can enter their work into standardized online approval systems via an intranet interface as opposed to hunting down superiors to review their progress. An automated notification system keeps users at every level engaged – individual contributors can keep track of their work as it navigates SharePoint and managers can easily monitor action items awaiting review. This saves time and improves output quality.

Available options
SharePoint allows users to automate five central internal processes: disposition approval, document approval, feedback collection, signature collection and three-state project execution.

“Developing an effective workflow takes some planning, most of which centers on SharePoint usage.”

The disposition approval workflow eases document management practices, allowing system stakeholders to review expired content and either retain it or slate it for removal. The document approval workflow is the most commonly employed SharePoint feature as it accelerates day-to-day interactions between superiors and their direct reports. The platform also supports feedback collection for group projects and other collaborative work products. Reviewers enter their insights into SharePoint, which keeps a historical record of these interactions – the perfect asset for professionals aiming to meet the expectations of multiple high-level stakeholders. Signature collection is an option, as well. Individuals offering final approval are routed directly to Excel, Word or Microsoft InfoPath forms, upon which they can apply their digital signatures. The three-state workflow template facilitates tracking for batch items that must flow through multiple departments. Users participating in this process receive automated email alerts when they need to complete tasks. SharePoint manages the entire process, negating complicated review schemes normally employed in these situations.

In addition to these stock workflows, organizations can create their own via Visual Studio, an advanced development program for in-house information technology staff.

Alternative tools
Microsoft offers other workflow development applications that can integrate with SharePoint. Flow is the most commonly used. This platform gives businesses the power to build digital product pathways around assets created using both Microsoft products and external software, further streamlining backend processes and bolstering productivity. For example, firms using Salesforce can easily pull customer insights into structured review procedures without having to access multiple portals and manually ferry data between them. This improves company-wide data flow, saving considerable time and bolstering work productivity.

SharePoint is the key to deploying Office 365 in the workplace, as it promotes true web-based collaboration via automated workflows. Is your enterprise looking to adopt Office 365 and facilitate internal synergy via SharePoint? Connect with B2B Technologies. As a pioneering Microsoft Gold Partner, we offer unmatched Office 365 and SharePoint integration services. Our seasoned technical specialists can guide you through the entire process and help you develop workflows that move your business forward. Contact B2B Technologies today to learn more.

 

 

If you build it, will they come? 3 tips to driving user adoption

Technology and business are irrevocably entwined. Organizations of all sizes leverage cutting-edge tools to drive mission-critical processes, investing thousands, or in some cases millions, in software solutions. Enterprise information technology spending is expected to grow 2.7 percent to $3.5 trillion this year, according to research from Gartner. This signals the continued enthusiasm for advanced operational assets among businesses. However, simply signing a service agreement is only half the battle. Adopters must catalyze user buy-in to see real results.

This of course is no easy task. IT teams face resistance even when implementing proven, easy-to-navigate solutions such as Office 365. Just how can organizations gain user support and get the most out of their enterprise technology investments? The following strategies have proven effective.

Let employees in on the ground floor
During the initial stages of the adoption process, IT personnel and executive stakeholders collaborate to research and design systems that fit with overarching business goals and meet budgetary requirements. However, in the rush to get things off the ground, many of these cross-functional groups neglect the end user, moving into the implementation phase without ever consulting the employees who will use the new platform. This top-down approach damages user engagement and undermines system viability.

Prospective adopters would be wise to encourage employee participation from day one, according to Enterprise Apps Today. How? Distributing surveys or embedding with work groups to gain insight into what features might benefit productivity is a good start. While IT teams and business leaders have the power to implement new systems, most do not fully understand how they fit into existing workflows. However, the individuals tasked with navigating these processes do. Additionally, the simple act of communicating project plans can grease the skids and ease the entire adoption process.

"Prospective adopters would be wise to encourage employee participation from day one."

Consider the experience
IT staff members regularly navigate complex backend interfaces that would confound common computer users. Unfortunately, many forget this when evaluating enterprise applications and tend to focus more on key networking or processing features rather than platform usability. This can cause major problems down the line, as employees in less technical divisions are given access to powerful tools that are impossible to use without thumbing through training materials. in most cases, frustrated users abandon unwieldy systems altogether, torpedoing project goals.

To avoid this problem, adoption teams should consider the user experience when reviewing possible solutions, CIO reported. However, focusing on flashy visual features is not the way to go. Variables like ease of navigation are more important, as they correlate more directly to overall functionality.

Commit to long-term training
Businesses with fully completed platforms are often excited to go live and watch as productivity increases and margins widen. In reality, it takes time for new systems to meet expectations, as users must find their footing. Some adopters unwittingly stall progression by using the set-it-and-forget-it method, which usually involves sending out credentials and hoping for the best. To move things along and drive revenue-building change, adoption teams must offer assistance in the days and weeks following platform deployment. Training is the obvious solution here, according to Enterprise Apps Today.

Sessions should provide users with system knowledge and operational insights they need to integrate the new system into their everyday workflows. They should also have access to reference material that addresses potential pain points. How do organizations put together these resources? Most vendors offer training with their products. For example, Microsoft provides cost-free and paid instructional resources to companies adopting Office 365.

Organizations on the verge of implementing transformative enterprise technology must consider how users might react to the shift and give them the support they need to navigate change. After all, the health of the new platform is tied directly to those who log in and use it. 

Is your organization looking for a cutting-edge business solution that can bolster productivity and build revenue? Microsoft Office 365 features a variety of tools meant to streamline internal operations. Users can access robust collaborative components designed to break down internal silos and promote cross-functionality. They can also take advantage of secure file-sharing tools and business email services. Plus, Office 365 easily integrates with staple business software such as Excel, PowerPoint and Word. 

Administrators have access to robust backend features that ease system management activities, leaving them time to take on more important duties. On top of that, all Office 365 service-level agreements include 99.9 percent uptime guarantees.

Connect with B2B Technologies today to learn more about how Office 365 can empower your employees and transform your business.