Softchoice and Microsoft: A Partnership for Customer Success

As we announced last Monday, Softchoice has been recognized as the Microsoft’s Canada Partner of the Year for 2020.

We are honored to have been ranked among Microsoft’s best commercial channel partners in Canada and to be recognized for excellence in delivering enterprise-grade solutions and services across the entire Microsoft technology stack.

“Being named Microsoft’s Canada Partner of The Year is a recognition of Softchoice’s leadership in delivering innovative solutions and services that accelerate our customers’ digital journeys,” said Andrew Caprara, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Business Development at Softchoice.

“We are excited about the positive impact Microsoft and Softchoice have together on our customers’ business as they adapt to a new working environment.”

This award wasn’t just the culmination of a fantastic year together, but also the natural outcome of a longstanding partnership that continues to help Softchoice and Microsoft deliver success with digital transformation for our customers across the US and Canada.

A Commitment to Continuing Innovation

For the last several years, Softchoice has dedicated significant effort and investment into building foundational capabilities across Microsoft’s cloud, productivity, collaboration, and security technologies.

With this award, Microsoft has recognized the transformation the Softchoice team has undergone to enhance our capabilities and cover an end-to-end solution. Today we are not only equipped to help our customers select and manage the right Microsoft subscriptions for their needs but also tap into the advanced services capabilities of a global system integrator to ensure successful implementation and adoption of Microsoft technology.

We have 142 Microsoft-certified experts with 13 Gold competencies. We were also Canada’s first accredited Microsoft Azure Expert managed service provider (MSP), the highest accreditation available for the Azure cloud platform.

As a member of Microsoft’s exclusive global partner group, our team has deep connections to the Microsoft engineering team, allowing us to field some of the best-informed professionals in the industry to help customers implement and adopt Microsoft technology. This connectivity has also allowed us to continue to stay at the forefront of Microsoft product development and quickly deploy new features to help the organizations we work with to respond and adapt to new challenges.

This capability has been more important than ever in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business-as-usual for organizations everywhere. In response, some of the services we launched this year include enhanced Adoption Services for Microsoft 365 and Teams to increase end-user usage, the EMS Accelerator to expand mobile access and security, and the Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solutions to enable remote work in a short timeframe.

What makes the Softchoice team proudest about this award, however, is the validation of our view that successful digital transformation happens with people, not just technology. To this end, we maintain a focus on driving successful adoption that in turn leads to customer success.

Dedication to Customer Success in the Cloud

An essential part of our continued success in partnership with Microsoft stems from our dedication to technical excellence across the full spectrum of Microsoft solutions and services.

This advanced expertise has helped us guide organizations in their journey to adopt Azure infrastructure and services to differentiate their offerings and modernize the backend infrastructure their businesses run on.

For example, over the last year, Softchoice worked with an LED lighting solutions company in Canada to upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP). The underlying infrastructure was based on legacy Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, which would go end-of-life (EOL) in January 2020.

As a result of a workload assessment, the Softchoice team determined a migration to Azure would best meet the customer’s needs for superior, scalable infrastructure supporting its ERP systems.

Our deep bench strength in Azure helped Softchoice not only recommend and implement a suite of Azure services that would modernize its operations but also take advantage of extended security updates to protect its environment throughout the transition.

Today, the organization has a foundation on which to transform its core business and support growth on a global scale, supported 24/7/365 by certified Softchoice engineers.

Supporting Better Communication and Collaboration

Another essential aspect of our strong partnership with Microsoft is our focus on understanding customer challenges. As a rule, we aim to design solutions and services to drive adoption of new technology through robust planning, training, and management support to empower digital transformation.

This approach goes beyond just implementing Microsoft services to ensuring that the technology implemented meets the needs of users and that organizations get the most value from their investment by achieving full adoption.

We applied this approach this past year when working with a direct bank in Canada to replace its aging unified communications (UC) infrastructure with a new solution incorporating Skype for Business for voice and Microsoft Teams for collaboration.

The customer worked directly with a professional services architect from Softchoice to design a full implementation plan based on the organization’s unique user needs and profiles.  As a result, the organization was able to remove unnecessary software from their environment while maximizing their return on investment (ROI) by implementing tools and features that their users would adopt and use.

Meanwhile, because of the global health crisis, the rapid adoption of technologies for secure remote access and collaboration became mission-critical for our customers in 2020. In response, Softchoice developed and delivered a Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solution to provide 12 organizations with a stable and secure means to continue operating while keeping employees safe within a 3-month period.

One such organization was a Canadian university that needed a remote learning solution that would allow remote students to use applications requiring high compute power from any PC deployed as quickly as possible. The Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solution allowed Softchoice to integrate virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with the institution’s on-premise networks and existing Azure AD and Office 365 solutions.

The resulting implementation supported remote access to lab applications on any device or browser for 1,000 students while delivering superior performance over application streaming solutions.

Here’s to Many More Years!

We would once again like to thank Microsoft for this honor and we look forward to continuing to build on our partnership over the years to come.

With over 30 years of experience helping customers embrace technology to unleash their potential, Softchoice has continued to invest in our partnership as well as our people. Whether it’s adopting cloud services and infrastructure, onboarding new productivity and collaboration tools, or differentiating your business with modern applications, Softchoice is positioned to help you select, deploy and manage the right solutions to accelerate your digital transformation.

 

Explore the Microsoft partner page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Start with Microsoft Azure

Cloud migration often comes across as an immediate win for organizations, making infrastructure simpler and less expensive to manage. In truth, making the move to a public cloud provider like Microsoft Azure can be a complex, protracted process.

In many cases, expert guidance makes the difference between success and failure.

Cloud transitions often don’t succeed — at least not right away. Many run into problems like spiraling costs, misconfigurations and challenges surrounding shared security responsibilities.

None of this is to say that migrating to the public cloud is a bad idea. On the contrary: Moving the right workloads into Azure will yield considerable operational benefits. Nonetheless, your success depends on taking an approach that accounts for all relevant infrastructure, dependencies and possible risks along the way.

For example, Azure can provide the scalability, security and deep integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem to modernize existing IT environment and address evolving business requirements. Of course, this only works with proper planning and management.

Let’s look at some of the common roadblocks to a successful Azure deployment and how to overcome them.

Common Cloud Challenges

Every Azure migration needs a detailed plan that accounts for:

  • The technical feasibility of migrating the workload in questions
  • All associated risks and costs
  • Any relevant application dependencies
  • Formal management and governance policies

While building such plans, you will likely flag one or more of these concerns. In some cases, moving and supporting a given workload in Azure may require a skill set your organization doesn’t have on staff.

The Skills Gap in the Cloud

The early 2019 edition of the Emerging Risks Survey from Gartner found that “talent shortage” had become the top concern for IT decision-makers, up from third place in the previous quarter.

Public cloud infrastructure requires skills, like scalable architecture, cloud security and cloud-specific technologies such as microservices or containerization. In today’s tech talent marketplace, all of these are in short supply.

The services within Azure are undergoing continuous updates and improvements. This means Azure consumers need to dedicate time and resources to keeping up with these changes and mitigating the impact on their IT environments.

In response to the need for specialized expertise and practices like DevOps, many organizations have built strategic partnerships with managed service providers (MSPs). As overall public cloud consumption continues to grow, the need for specialized assistance with cloud migration and management will likely grow in tandem.

Budgetary Pressure During Cloud Migrations

Cost savings are perhaps the most well-publicized benefits to cloud adoption and migration. Moving from capital expenditure (CAPEX) model of procurement in the data center to operating expense (OPEX) in the cloud has a certain appeal.

But shifting workloads into the public cloud is far from guaranteed to save organizations money. In fact, in the following situations,  migrating to the cloud increases costs:

  • Limited or no accountability for commissioning and decommissioning workloads, resulting in unnecessary or redundant cloud resources.
  • Inadequate visibility into existing cloud resources, some of which may no longer be needed (such as instances spun up for testing or now-defunct projects).
  • Over-provisioning resources to accommodate peak capacity, a practice held over from the on-premise data center that’s often unnecessary.

A survey of decision-makers in enterprise IT found that many were disappointed with the level of savings they realized in the cloud. This was especially true for “lift-and-shift” transitions, where few if any modifications are made to a given workload prior to migration. These results highlight the need for rightsizing of cloud resources, i.e. ensuring that the services being used match the customer’s actual needs.

Misconfigurations and Security Vulnerabilities

Data breaches have only grown more expensive, as organizations place more strategic assets and operations into complex cloud architectures. These often require precise management by both the cloud service provider and the customer. Misconfigurations are a common cause of these breaches because they can leak data or expose resources to direct attack.

The 2020 Cloud Misconfigurations Report estimated that organizations worldwide collectively lost about $5 trillion across 2018 and 2019 due to configuration errors in the cloud.

Ensuring the right configurations and mapping the relevant application dependencies is complex work. A shortage of specialized skills, combined with fluctuating IT budgets and the growth of remote work, make it tough to coordinate in-house efforts to find and address every vulnerability. Working with a managed IT service and solutions provider is often a necessary step for mitigating risk in the cloud.

How Softchoice Will Help Guide Your Azure Journey

Many of the challenges above are relevant to organizations moving into Azure for the first time.

However, even organizations with one or more workloads running in Azure today can benefit from reassessing their current status, internal skill sets, cloud budgets and security practices. In our experience, there’s always room for improvement.

Softchoice is a certified Azure Expert MSP (Microsoft’s highest designation for cloud MSPs) with 500+ cloud migrations under our belt. We have designed solutions, including the Softchoice Public Cloud Accelerator and Cloud Workload Assessment, to provide the full breadth of support you need for a successful Azure migration, from technical support to ongoing technology mentorship.

To learn more,  download our guide, “The Essential Starter’s Guide to Microsoft Azure for IT Leaders” or connect with a member of our team.

 

Cloud Success Stories – Part 2

Cloud adoption has been on a trajectory of steady acceleration for several years.

At the end of 2019, our own cloud adoption research found that two-thirds of IT leaders surveyed intended to take a “cloud-first” posture for new applications and workloads.

Furthermore, while the global pandemic has disrupted technology plans and budgets, in many cases we’ve seen that organizations that had made progress toward cloud adoption were better positioned to pivot in their responses than those who hadn’t.

The pandemic has highlighted the business value of the cloud, helping organizations to sustain operations, support newly remote workers and pivot in response to new economic conditions.

In fact, we expect cloud adoption and migration to speed up as organizations rethink their workspaces and go-to-market strategies for post-pandemic recovery.

Sharing Customer Stories

Many of the organizations we work with at Softchoice have started or are moving forward faster with their cloud adoption journeys with the intent to build differentiated, next-generation product offerings on a modern infrastructure foundation.

However, each organization – and each application – is on a journey of its own. We wanted to share our experience helping 1,400+ organizations transition to the cloud and help others benefit from what they’ve learned.

This series will explore real-life stories on the journey to the cloud. In this article, we’ll look at two organizations and how Microsoft Azure helped them advance toward greater business agility.

Work Truck Solutions

The Challenge: Work Truck Solutions (WTS) wanted to refresh its technology stack to support an all-new online marketplace providing authoritative, up-to-date data on commercial trucks and vans.   

“Softchoice guided us toward the right Azure resources and helped us make a crucial upgrade that benefited our audiences” – Craig Vitt, Software Engineering Manager, Work Truck Solutions

The Journey:

  • Work Truck Solutions had deployed on Azure as early as 2012, but its new domain needed to reinforce its status as a source of industry knowledge
  • As the application needed to serve a national audience, unlike its earlier dealer-centric offerings, they needed a technology stack that combined scalability with manageable costs.
  • The company partnered with Softchoice to select and implement the right Azure resources to meet key KPIs, including site traffic, lead generation, and conversions.
  • Using the latest technologies, Softchoice ensured that the application could be deployed to numerous environments and aligned with DevOps workflows.
  • The initial launch exceeded expectations and as of April 2020, the marketplace had aggregated 160,000+ commercial vehicles, including data on customizable bodies, upfits and more.

Next Steps

  • WTS has embarked on a roadmap toward expanding capabilities, integrating duplicate continuous integration (C/I) and testing environments to run sprints in parallel.
  • With Softchoice, WTS is also focused on reducing technical debt related to legacy Azure resources, finding additional cost savings, and ensuring continued scalability and growth.

Read the full case study

Lumenpulse

The Challenge: Lumenpulse needed to replace legacy infrastructure supporting its ERP systems to support scalability and digital transformation without disrupting its 24/7/365 operations.

We’ve built a foundation for technological transformation at Lumenpulse. We’re anticipating many gains in productivity, efficiency and scalability.” – Alexandre Azevedo, IT Director, Lumenpulse

The Journey:

  • During a rapid expansion, Lumenpulse became concerned about the capacity of legacy ERP systems, including end-of-life Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 to scale.
  • They needed to transition to a future-proof ERP system, without interrupting ERP access for its fast-growing global manufacturing operations.
  • With Softchoice, they conducted a workload assessment of the existing environment and mapped its virtual machines to determine readiness for migration to the public cloud.
  • After making the decision to migrate to Microsoft Azure, Lumenpulse worked with Softchoice to implement an array of Azure resources to modernize its ERP and business operations.
  • The full deployment was completed on time after 10 months, after which Lumenpulse was onboarded to a fully managed cloud and end-user support arrangement with Softchoice.
  • Lumenpulse has since benefited from streamlining of routine tasks and lower costs resulting from tiering inactive data to low-cost storage and Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances.

Next Steps:

  • Through the Softchoice Keystone Operations Center, Lumenpulse has 24/7/365 access to Microsoft-certified technical engineers for cloud infrastructure monitoring and escalation.
  • Under the Softchoice Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, they also benefit from flexible monthly billing to keep the costs of their Azure deployments under control.

Read the full case study

What’s Next for You Cloud Journey? 

We’ve covered two stories where businesses have re-invented their business operations and product offerings through cloud adoption and migration.

But no cloud transition is ever fully complete. Working with a strategic managed services partner like Softchoice will help you:

  • Achieve the right mix of cloud services to meet your business needs
  • Take the risk out of cloud adoption and migration
  • Help you reduce and control costs in your cloud environment
  • Drive product and service innovation while maintaining security and compliance
  • Help you address cloud infrastructure skills gaps

Planning to migrate one or more workloads to the public cloud? 

Learn more about how we can help by exploring Softchoice Cloud Services.