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How IT Automation Can Benefit Your School: Build Efficiency While Staying in Budget

IT departments in elementary and secondary schools have many challenges unique to their environments. One fundamental issue is that these districts are locally funded, and budgets rarely increase by more than a meager percentage point or two.

Despite that, changes in educational approaches and the demands of parents and tech-savvy students mean that schools are constantly pressed to adopt cutting-edge technologies.

Technology has transformed learning, and nowhere is this more evident than in the work that students produce. Even primary school students create papers in Word, craft PowerPoint presentations, Photoshop pictures, and edit videos using Final Cut. Continue Reading…

Kaseya Customer Q&A Series: Virginia Tech Taps Kaseya VSA to Streamline Operations, Tackle Tough IT Problems

Richard “Billy” Wesley, IT manager for the Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech has been relying on Kaseya VSA for over 5 years to help manage IT operations for his group.

This division oversees IT support for housing and dining and facilities and student services. Kaseya spoke with the 14-year university veteran about IT issues and the role that VSA plays in making things run smoother. Continue Reading…

Vertical Strategies and Top Vertical Markets

vertical-market-blog-big

Vertical markets are a great way to expand your business. Going after more and more clients no matter their industry is also a great way to expand your business. And doing both at once isn’t a bad approach either.

So how do you figure out what to do? As an MSP professional that is really your call. Rather than telling you what to do, we’ll talk about the value, and the protective value, of being a vertical MSP.

A big reason to go vertical is that you aren’t just selling your expertise in managing and securing general-purpose systems. Instead you can make these systems shine in particular industries, such as finance, public companies and healthcare – all three of which require compliance expertise. Continue Reading…

Using Marketing and IT Automation with the Cloud to build really cool marketing campaigns

IT Automation

Marketing and IT are moving closer and closer in this current era of digital marketing. The amount of IT systems a marketer has to work with has grown exponentially. This also means the job of a marketer involves more and more close collaboration with the IT department. In this blog I’d like to share a bit of my experience as marketing automation expert for Kaseya and hopefully interest more people in joining the marketing automation movement.

Marketing automation leverages IT systems for marketing efforts in a similar way as Kaseya does for IT systems management. The idea is to automate process with the goal of reducing the manual efforts required to run marketing campaigns. There are many levels at which this can be achieved and I am proud to say that here at Kaseya, we have made immense steps over the past years in achieving higher levels of marketing automation.

It seems like ages ago (but actually isn’t) that marketing methodology was to send out manually printed batches of letters. Nowadays we have completely automated our marketing efforts. A good example of this is that we at Kaseya are constantly nurturing our customer database in our Netsuite CRM system (yes there is the first bit of cloud based IT) with our marketing automation solution, Marketo (and there is another one). Some of these marketing activities involve inviting customers for online webinars (another cloud based IT solution) or promoting the fact that we have a free cloud trial of our products available. I think that an important point to make here is that we believe that the future is in the cloud-based solutions and Kaseya is leading the industry in offering IT management cloud solutions. So we are not just promoting cloud-based IT solutions, we are also implementing them.

One of the interesting things is that this digital invasion into the marketing department has shown us that we cannot do without good IT support. Our jobs rely on the systems to be running, whether they are cloud based offerings that need to be online 24/7 or personal devices such as laptops and tablets that are used to create even more interesting campaigns. Also strong automation is making our lives much easier and as marketing automation expert, I always feel there is nothing cooler than a completely automated campaign that actually starts to live its one life and actually improves our service offering to prospects and customers. Also aspects of IT systems management such as reporting are things we as a marketing department also run into. Because just as IT wants to know what assets are being managed and how they are performing, so does marketing want insight into the running of campaigns and performance of these. Also, as with IT departments, we as marketers are also continuing to improve our process and to adapt to the changing business environment and resulting new opportunities.

Overall, the link between automated marketing, IT and the new cloud services can help marketing drive really cool marketing campaigns.

If you have any questions or would like to share your personal experiences either as a marketer or as an IT manager about marketing automation I’d love to read your comments.

3 Keys to Managing Today’s Complex IT Infrastructures

IT Management

Many factors contribute to the increasing complexity of business IT environments today; the rapid adoption of cloud computing, big data and mobile device proliferation to name a few. These and other key trends are tho’ are making it harder for organizations to effectively and efficiently manage and secure the environment and to assure IT service levels and business success.

Newer requirements include controlling mobile devices, maintaining visibility into virtualized resources and services, and achieving increasingly demanding SLAs for critical business applications. Effective IT service management becomes more challenging when services are reliant on dynamically shared resources and when some resources are on-premise and some are in a public cloud.

Meeting these challenges has often been labor intensive and costly because the available IT management tools have been narrowly focused and poorly integrated. This post outlines key management concerns and identifies what IT professionals should look for when determining the best approach to addressing management complexity.

Factors Driving Change

Cloud computing, mobility and big data are being adopted by enterprises of all sizes. However delivering the benefits reliably and consistently across a distributed organization often requires a complex combination of infrastructure and support technologies.

Cloud Computing – The cloud is growing in popularity because it provides organizations with faster access to applications and services while reducing the development cost. However, as these applications and services get integrated into existing processes and with existing applications, both the new and the old need to be managed together. New tools are needed to manage cloud infrastructures and applications, but these cannot be separate from the tools managing legacy applications and the existing infrastructure. More tools equal more complexity, increased staffing requirements and lower efficiency.

Mobility – Employees today need to be able to work remotely – from home and from the road. Sometimes they use company owned and provided devices and sometimes they prefer to use their own devices (commonly called Bring Your Own Device – BYOD. Who wants to carry two smart phones these days, supporting separate contact lists and email accounts?) As a result companies have to provide management solutions that address both of these scenarios. For company owned devices, secure access, data back-up and loss prevention are critical issues. For BYOD, the same things are important but it’s also necessary to distinguish between personal files – contact, photo’s, calendar – and business information, so that the loss of the device doesn’t necessarily mean loss of personal information.

Big Data – For most small and mid-sized businesses, refers to working with and obtaining results from the analysis of large and complex data sets provided by Saas companies, third party vendors and service providers. For example, utilizing social media data to identify market opportunities and target prospects. The issue is that big data fosters changes in company operational approaches and increases the number and type of users who need information access. This increases the number of users, the types of devices, the network traffic, the importance of data integrity, the need for system reliability and performance, the volume of stored data, the number of application interactions…. the infrastructure becomes more complex and now carries more information vital to business success. Accordingly system management and the maintenance of service levels become increasingly important too.

Management Impact

The management implication is that the new capabilities need to be managed along with legacy infrastructures and applications in an integrated, automated fashion. Integration is important because new and legacy resources together deliver services to the business. Understanding relationships, dependencies, security, and performance is vital to meeting business service commitments. Automation is important because of the increasing complexity and growing number of management tasks which can no longer be managed with manual approaches.

In fact, IT management can itself become a big a data problem. The scale of data created from IT management systems – the collection of frequently polled device management data, events, logs, etc. is very significant. Real-time analysis and reporting on this data are required to make the actionable decisions necessary to keep the new “hybrid” IT environments performing and meeting needs of the business.

What to look for in an IT management solution

What’s needed is an integrated, comprehensive and cloud-based management tool, with extensive automation capabilities. Tools should meet the following three requirements. Be able to:

  1. Manage cloud infrastructure and application services along with legacy on-premise services with an integrated management system, all within a single command center.
  2. Manage company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices, along with traditional end user clients, as part of an integrated management solution, including the ability to remotely access devices anytime, anywhere.
  3. Automate every manual, repetitive task possible to maximize IT efficiency and reduce human error.

Kaseya’s IT management solution integrates a wide range of management capabilities to enable IT organizations and MSPs to command everything within IT centrally, to manage remote and distributed environments with ease, and to automate all aspects of IT management, delivering higher service quality and greater IT efficiency. Kaseya enables IT professionals to manage all aspects of the IT environment – including on-premise, cloud, hybrid-cloud, virtualized, distributed and mobile components. And Kaseya’s solution itself is delivered via the Kaseya IT management cloud or as on-premise software.

Author: Ray Wright

Remote Desktop Management – Overcoming Browser Plugin Issues

Remote Plugin

The ability to efficiently manage remotely is a primary driver selecting an IT Management solution. For the last few years, we have relied heavily on browser-side plugins to deliver real-time remote control and behind the scenes remote desktop management tools via our Live Connect platform. Browser-side plugins have long provided us with an efficient way to deliver feature rich web applications that work across all major browser platforms. This efficiency is now in jeopardy due to changing attitudes on enabling plugins.

Browser manufacturers are releasing updated versions of their platforms on a more rapid cadence (Chrome and Firefox release new versions every 6 weeks). Over the last year, these updates have introduced new restrictions on plugins that have resulted in unplanned code changes and prolonged loss of functionality in some circumstances.

Installing and uninstalling plugins reliably has also increased in complexity. This aspect alone has made supporting plugin applications more difficult for software companies and even more frustrating for our users. In the case of Remote Control here at Kaseya, this is an important reliability issue that can no longer be compromised.

Browser manufacturers are becoming more like lightweight operating systems and are beginning to move in different directions. For example, Firefox is starting to move away from plugins altogether. Chrome is developing a proprietary plugin API which locks all plugin-based apps within their browser sandbox. This is primarily a security move by Google. Internet Explorer and Safari have not yet made a move on their plugin support, but we anticipate that this will happen soon.

So, the reports of the death of browser plugins may be an exaggeration, but not by very much. It doesn’t matter which browser you prefer, by the end of this year there are going to be very few opportunities for consistent plugin-based applications such as remote control.

So, if we can’t leverage browser plugins to deliver a great remote control experience where do we go next? The answer, oddly enough, is to return to an installed native application. An installed application provides us the ability to deliver a high performance solution with the ability capture and operate any aspect of a graphical operating system remotely.

You may be thinking that an installed app can solve these problems, but it brings back a host of headaches around distribution, installation, and communications that drove us to use browser plugins in first place. In addition, we want to continue to deliver an integrated management solution that includes remote control and the full breadth of other management capabilities for flexibility and efficiency.

Happily, Kaseya is in the position to help you succeed with remote desktop management in the post-plugin world. We are delivering a browser-free, highly performant installed application that connects in under six seconds to machines anywhere in the world. We can even do this over high latency, low bandwidth connections. We simplify the client-side deployment challenge by efficiently deploying the installed application with our agent so all the software you need to manage the endpoint, including remote control, is already there. Then finally we leverage a URI handler to seamlessly invoke the remote control capabilities from the comfort of the same browser the technical team uses to manage the rest of your environment.

Seem hard to believe? The coming out party for these capabilities will be at Kaseya Connect on April 14th. Stay tuned for more information, or better yet, register today for Kaseya Connect and come see it for yourself!

BYOD #1 on Educause’s Top 10 IT Issues in Higher Education for 2013

Educause convenes its IT issues panel every year for a wide ranging discussion of the most important issues facing education IT professionals at colleges and universities. This year, BYOD tops its list and appears again as a key part of #8:

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Higher Education IT: Governor Perry’s Path to a $10,000 4-Year Degree?

IT management in education: $10K college degrees

photo credit: Getty Images

You may be asking, what do rising college tuition and fees have to do with education IT. Well, in response to rising college tuition and fees, Texas Governor Rick Perry again called for public colleges and universities in his state to deliver 4-year degrees for $10,000 or less.

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Reliable Remote Data Backup Crucial to Institutes of Higher Learning

Given the public nature of higher education, and a culture that values open access to information, providing secure IT services to colleges and universities is a challenge. Educational organizations depend upon on-demand data backup systems as the lifeblood of operations, from student and faculty records to professional research, to administrative applications and more. IT is integral to higher education’s teaching and research missions, and to the smooth operation of its administrative functions. Whether the data resides on personal devices, laptops, desktops, or in database servers containing records, exams, or research – colleges and universities must ensure that the information is safe and retrievable 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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Transform K-12 Schools through Virtualization

Today’s students are growing up in the digital age – they need to prepare for college and pursue careers in the 21st century. School districts across the country continually operate in an environment of constrained budgets and increasing complexity – students and school staff carry smart phones, laptops and other portable devices. This complexity puts more pressure on IT professionals as they attempt to provide the infrastructure for a 21st century learning environment.

School boards and administrators want to transform schools to a more efficient staffing model that reduces the total number of faculty while improving the quality of education. In a grass roots kind of way, virtualization can help serve all these needs by helping deliver the right learning and operation resources to students and faculty alike, anytime, anwhere.

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