20 year-old MSP Sagiss is no stick in the mud and is always looking for new opportunities. These days the company is helping clients move to the cloud with its new Office 365 management service, made possible by Kaseya’s 365 Command.
We reached out to Sagiss CTO Jim Lancaster and service desk leader Javier Caporal to find out how 365 Command eases cloud transitions and helps clients exploit the full benefits of the Microsoft cloud suite.
(Questions from Kaseya have been bolded and italicized)
Why is Office 365 taking off with clients? I understand email is a big driver.
Lancaster: It’s very easy to access your email from anywhere on any device. For a couple bucks more you get an Office 365 license you can install on five devices.
I would guess in the last ten years half of our calls have been related to email servers or some problem with email.
By moving that Exchange server off-premises and up to Microsoft, the MSP removes himself from the line of fire. If Microsoft is having a problem the MSP can say – “everything is working on your end. Microsoft is having a problem” and the MSP doesn’t have to take a bullet for an email problem that’s beyond their control. So, it’s cool for the MSP from that standpoint, a stress reliever.
It’s also of benefit to the client in other ways. For example, it straightens out their licensing. That was something we never had to talk about until Microsoft really started auditing everybody. They’ve really “released the hounds” in that respect. Even small businesses have to pay attention because they get called by Microsoft and they have to do self-audits and stuff.
Instead of us being the bad guy and saying you really should be doing this, we’re saying: “Look, why don’t you move everything to Office 365 and get Microsoft out of your hair?”
What are the management issues of Office 365?
Lancaster: As I said, when there’s a problem structurally with the product, Office 365 removes the MSP from troubleshooting; but it does not take away the management burden. In fact, it increases the management burden because Exchange was relatively easy to administer. It was easy to set up. For users, it was easy to set up quotas and mailboxes and much easier in general to administer when it’s local. The problem with moving it to Office 365 is that all these buttons and knobs and dials that we were used to having down on the local Exchange server are all buried within this labyrinth of administration interface that is the server administrator, the Office 365 Administration Console. Things that used to be easy, archiving an email to a PST are not easy on Office 365 if you have to do it in bulk. Things like setting mailbox permissions ― there’s just a lot of things that just don’t work the same way, if at all. They’re doable but they’re just not intuitive on that Office 365 console.
Before we had 365 Command, we didn’t recommend people moving to Office 365 because it was such a pain. 365 Command removed the entire management intimidation headache. It gives us a much easier interface to get in and do the things we need to do. That was the missing ingredient for Office 365 for us.
Caporal: Jim takes advantage of one of the coolest things about the product, which is the reporting, including licensing reporting. We are able to use that report when we take on a new client with Office 365 and wonder how healthy is their infrastructure.
Lancaster: We had one oil and gas client. They had 57 employees and 110 mailboxes they were paying for and they didn’t really know what they had. We discovered that they had set up a bunch of mailboxes for relaying alerts using SMTP. It was a mess. We were able to get in and straighten all that out and save them a lot of money. This is a company that had embraced the cloud but had done it, or the previous provider had done it, in a sloppy way and they were overspending. We were able to use 365 Command reporting tools to give us snapshot reports that we could suck into Excel and manipulate and present to the client and help them see what they were actually spending their money on.
We understand that you first saw the product demoed at the Kaseya Connect 2015 Conference.
Caporal: I had to go see it right away. The thing that hit the sweet spot is the ability to export mailboxes to PST (which stands for Personal Storage Table, and is how Outlook data is stored and transferred). Part of the off-boarding process is you have to archive email…
Lancaster: I’m going to interject a little. We’re a 20-year MSP. We’ve been around a long time so we’ve got processes, really regimented, standardized processes, for onboarding our customers’ new employees, creating new user accounts, that sort of thing, and also off-boarding them when they leave. When a customer terminates one of their employees, we have a checklist of things that need to be done. One of those steps for one of our big clients was they wanted — before we turned off the Office 365 account—they wanted us to archive those emails. I’ll let Javier continue now because that was a huge pain for us…
Caporal: That’s right. There’s no way to do that except through Outlook. Even with PowerShell, that wasn’t possible. When we were at the Kaseya conference, I noticed that 365 Command had the ability to export Office 365 mailboxes to PST files, and I had to try it. Within the same week I tried it, built it into the procedure that I had for one of my clients, and I haven’t changed it. It’s been like that since.
Is it true that it used to take an hour or two to off-board a single Office 365 user?
Caporal: Yeah, yeah. We would have to configure the account on the terminal server because sometimes the ex-employee’s computer was already back in circulation. So we had to configure the account, sync it to Office 365, then manually export the email to a PST file. Depending on the size of the mailbox, it was an additional hour, hour-and-a-half of work.
We’ve now reduced that time to 15 minutes—and that’s only because we track our time in 15 minute increments. The actual time is less than that. We just pick the mailbox to be exported in 365 Command, kick off the export, then wait to get notified through the email when it’s done. Then it’s just a matter of downloading it to where we want to store it.
I couldn’t even imagine doing that through Outlook. My head would start to hurt if I think of how work it would have took to just get that done without 365 Command.
How else has the solution justified its use?
Lancaster: For every tool an MSP takes on, it has to do one of two things: It has to add enough value to his service stack that he can upcharge for it. In other words, allow him to raise his prices because what he’s able to do with the addition of the new tool is now so cool that he can raise his price to cover the cost of it. Or it’s got to save enough time to justify the expenditure and keep his price the same. This tool fell into that latter category. The ROI for us was almost immediate just based on the time savings that we were able to achieve archiving mail, believe it or not. It was worth it for that by itself.
What was the implementation process like?
Caporal: Just logged in and created a console, loaded our first client in and we were off to the races.
Can you tell us more about how you use reporting?
Caporal: The reporting and the newly added executive report, that is great. I used to send a report monthly. I would send four reports of things I thought the account manager would want to see. Now I only send one.
Sometimes we have field techs that go onsite, they get questioned by clients. Now they have a report on the licensing, the users, which mailbox or the size of the mailbox, the password expiration date, anything.
Let’s talk more about ROI. Have you seen any business improvements that have helped your clients, less churn, scalability, higher margins or anything like that as a result of using 365 Command?
Lancaster: Ours has been internal. The ROI for was almost immediate by just the time savings that we were able to achieve in just archiving email when we were in the off-boarding process. It’s allowed us to embrace Office 365 a lot more wholeheartedly.
Our customers don’t know anything about 365 Command. As long as their mail works, they don’t really care how it works.
We would not have 1,000 seats on Office 365 if we didn’t have this particular tool to manage it. It would be so labor-intensive that our clients would be struggling to justify their expenditures with us.
It is a much simpler, easier to use interface to the world of Office 365. It presents a much friendlier window into Office 365 that makes it easier to train the staff and keep them up to speed.
What was your biggest 365 Command surprise?
Caporal: I encountered a scenario that applies to passwords changes. You can apply password policy on the tenant to multiple users or to a group of users. With 365 Command, you just log in, you pick the user and you tell it to exclude from password policy. It’s a couple of clicks. I no longer have to connect to my PowerShell and copy and paste my script into the screen and do it that way.