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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Scale Secure Remote Access with VDI in the Cloud

For organizations responding to the global health crisis, remote work is a direct and immediate requirement for business continuity.

In these last few weeks, IT departments have been striving toward this goal.

But for end users, lack of access to work applications may be impeding their return to full productivity after the shift to working from home full-time.

Deploying virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in the cloud provides organizations with the means to scale remote access capabilities and address a sudden spike in the number of remote workers.

Below, we’ll look at five main ways deploying VDI in the cloud provides you with a fast and secure way to succeed with remote work.

How VDI Helps Enable Remote Access

Because virtual desktops run on virtual machines in the cloud or on-premise data center environments and end users access these desktops through PC remoting technology, VDI makes it easier to provide access on-premise corporate and SaaS applications from anywhere on any device.

From a user perspective, performance is often as good as or better than on a local device, because the virtual desktop is adjacent to back-end resources, such as storage. Meanwhile, VDI technology optimizes network traffic to mimic the responsiveness a user might experience on a local desktop.

In addition, VDI makes day-to-day IT tasks like deploying and managing new desktops and supporting distributed workers much less labor-intensive. IT also maintains tight control over movement of data in and out of the business. Because this data isn’t stored on the local device, the risk of data loss if a device is lost or stolen is also much lower.

How VDI in the Cloud Can Help

Provisioning devices and remote access at scale can be complex and time-consuming in a physical data center – especially when IT departments may be required to operate with reduced staff. VDI in the cloud allows IT departments to streamline deployment and administration, improve security and offset the higher cost and complexity associated with on-premise lifecycle management.

Cost Efficiency

VDI in the cloud outsources the physical infrastructure components involved to a cloud service provider, exchanging an upfront CAPEX investment to a more controllable OPEX model. Here, IT departments also avoid the three-to-four-year deprecation cycle associated with on-premise infrastructure.

The result is a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) achieved at the outset of a cloud-hosted deployment, where an on-premise solution might yield a positive ROI after 18 to 24 months. Furthermore, IDC pegs the average cost per user of cloud hosted VDI at 55% lower than that of virtual desktops hosted on-premises [1].

This benefit becomes even more important as organizations look to cut costs in anticipation of economic uncertainty.

Scale Up or Down

In the cloud, the process of adding or removing virtual desktops and applications takes is simple and almost instant. This means an IT department could scale up a remote desktop environment to accommodate a dramatic spike, such as the current scenario, with minimal effort.

In some scenarios, deploying in the cloud also allows organizations to extend their existing on-premises infrastructure for additional scale while using a single pane of glass for management.

Ease of Deployment, Management & Support

Cloud hosted VDI also minimize the technical expertise required to deploy and administer virtual desktops. In fact, IDC estimates IT departments realize an average efficiency in staff time of 57% compared with VDI deployed in an on-premise data center [2].

Because desktops are delivered by a cloud service provider over a secure network and supported by a Service Level Agreement (SLA), end users can also expect higher availability than with physical PCs, which often require a desk-side visit when things go wrong.

By removing the need to maintain physical infrastructure or access devices directly for repair, cloud-hosted virtual desktops offset some of the inherent end-user support challenges in an all-remote scenario.

Improved Security

As with on-premise deployments, VDI in the cloud improves security by storing data with the cloud provider, rather than the individual device. However, organizations can also benefit from the cloud provider’s efforts to update and continuously improve their security measures, alleviating some of the need for in-house cybersecurity skills.

At the same time, by isolating the device OS from corporate applications and data, cloud hosted VDI prevents the spread of malware throughout the network. As malicious actors look to exploit the confusion around COVID-19 and remote work, this added protection is a key benefit.

Global Reach

All the leading cloud service providers operate in geographically dispersed locations, eliminating performance challenges around user proximity to the data center. As such, cloud-hosted desktops can be deployed and allow user access from anywhere. This advantage can be critical for organizations needing to support users working remotely far from the core office location.

Despite its advantages, deploying virtual desktops in the cloud may not be the best way forward in every scenario. For example, because VDI is limited by WAN performance and latency, performance varies depending on the user’s proximity to a cloud or on-premise data center.

In situations where end users are widely dispersed or live a great distance from a cloud provider data center, the resulting performance degradation could create a frustrating end-user experience.

Where to Go Next

Enabling employees to stay productive and secure while working from home full-time is a high priority for many IT departments responding to the challenges posed by the global pandemic.

Nonetheless, investments made now out of necessity today also have the potential to lay the groundwork for a more agile workforce in the future.

Whatever stage of crisis response and business continuity you find your organization in today, our team of experts is ready to help you enable your employees.

 

Watch our virtual workshop “Virtual Desktop Solutions to Enable Your Remote Workforce” on-demand.

Explore Softchoice Business Continuity and Rapid Response Services.

 

 

 

[1] “Assessing the Business Value of VDI in the Public Cloud,” IDC, March 2018.

[2] “Assessing the Business Value of VDI in the Public Cloud,” IDC, March 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Address the Top 5 Remote Work Challenges for IT

 

When “business as usual” is disrupted, organizations must address these priorities:

  • Keeping employees and customers safe while sustaining operations  
  • Enabling a remote workforce for the short and long term  
  • Ensuring the business continuity plan is ready for this or any situation 

To address the human and business impact, IT leaders are being called upon to answer key questions for the following five challenges: 

Collaboration 

The Challenge: Keeping employees engaged and productive while working from home.  

  • What are the best collaboration tools for your users and workflows? 
  • Should you enable video calling and meetings for everyone? 
  • Does your current setup support these fast-evolving needs? 

Remote Access  

The Challenge: Providing secure access to applications and data from anywhere.  

  • Do you have the capacity to enable remote work for everyone?  
  • Do your users have the right equipment to work from home?  
  • How can you set up and manage work devices remotely? 

Security 

The Challenge: Protecting users and data within a decentralized environment.   

  • Are virtual private networks (VPNs) necessary for every use case?  
  • Do your cloud-based applications need additional security controls? 
  • How do you achieve visibility and protection for all-remote users? 

Network 

 The Challenge: Ensuring your infrastructure is ready to handle increased traffic. 

  • Can your network architecture support an increase in video calling?  
  • How do you assess traffic patterns and network readiness?  
  • Is a network upgrade necessary to support remote work long-term? 

Change Management & Communication  

The Challenge: Guiding employees, customers and partners through rapid change. 

  • What are the right messages to share when and with whom?  
  • Are your leaders ready to train and manage remote teams?  
  • Do your users have the tools and skills to adapt to all-remote work?

Recommendations 

Ensuring Collaboration 

  • Begin with timely end-user adoption in mind.  
  • Select the platform that’s easiest to deploy and adopt.  
  • Educate users on new tools and best practices to drive adoption and prevent shadow IT.    
  • Test your network for collaboration readiness.  

Enabling Remote Access 

  • Use desktop and application virtualization to extend and secure the digital workspace. 
  • Ensure coverage for managed, virtual and personal devices. 
  • Develop and test a mobility plan for your specific use cases. 
  • Optimize performance for cloud or on-prem. 

Preparing Your Network 

  • Assess your current identity and access, endpoint and email security solutions for a remote work scenario.  
  • Consider VPN for business apps and alternate secure options for cloud or SaaS apps.  
  • Remember short-term solutions can impact long-term security and performance.  

Helping People Through the Change 

  • Encourage senior leaders to communicate the shift and what it means to the organization.  
  • Provide success guidelines and best practices for using collaboration tools to work from home.
  • Ensure users have adequate training on new functionality, know where to find resource materials and have easy access to the support they need.

Are You Ready?  

Preparing to pursue business-as-usual, maintain the same level of real-time, person-to-person interaction while keeping users and data safe is a significant challenge facing IT leaders today.  

If you’re looking for help navigating the complex challenges around enabling a remote workforce, explore Softchoice Rapid Response services.