Thought Leadership

From the Front Line of Tech: An IT Partner’s Perspective During COVID

by Mike Vencel, President Comport Consulting Corp.

Another huge year of change is coming full force at ALL of us—at a rate not seen in my 20+ years at Comport. This pandemic has really solidified and expedited action around digital transformation, agility, customer experience, worker mobility, and the security that must go with everything. We are very excited about our progress over the last 12 months at Comport.

When I think about what we see with clients across multiple industries, there are some common themes around what they are urgently trying to get done and how we make the biggest impact to support them.

 

1. We are in an era when many technology products can be similar, so the products themselves are now sometimes less important than the outcomes.

Customers we speak to are looking for help vetting new use-cases, brainstorming new workflows, and how to incorporate more digital business automation. What we see is that more than ever they are looking for specific, multi-outcomes—typically a combination of security, customer and user experience, and simplification.

So, our role as a Solutions Provider and MSP has expanded to accommodate. It’s still important for us to know product details, their real-world capabilities, and to invest in technical certifications. But it’s equally important that we help our customers develop strategies to minimize their time to value on these products and provide them with ‘consumption’ options based on how their organization wants to manage their cash.

Whether our clients want workshops, assessments, or services capabilities to augment their in-house staff, Comport’s role is to make available a holistic, multi-point, flexible and high value set of platforms, expertise, relationships, and resources coupled with creative approaches to achieve their desired outcomes.

2. I continue to hear the same thing—that it is not public cloud or private cloud–it is BOTH.

I am so proud of Comport’s unique position to help our clients do both hybrid AND “as a Service” – no trade-offs are necessary. We celebrate being named to the prestigious CRN List of “2021 Top Managed IT Services Companies” in the country again this year!

We’ve doubled down on our investments and resources in Everything-as-a-Service. We are also an Everything-as-a-Service integrator, because in the real world all these ‘as-a-Services’ need to be fused into a suite that can be more easily managed, secured, and billed flexibly.

By management beyond system performance, our customers are looking more at usage and financial management customized to their business objectives. In most cases it’s not just compute and storage, but software licenses are required, and we can often build our licenses into the monthly bill and save our customers extensive license expenses. We’re putting it all together with use-cases—such as Desktop-as-a-Service, where our clients get seamless, end-to-end experience from us.

3. Speaking of going to the Cloud…what about what’s left after you get there?

It turns out that by necessity many on-premises data centers have stayed alive and well! Clients still have applications there for good reasons around compliance, service to customers, legacy, or latency. And they still have to patch, update, manage, and secure those apps and infrastructure. This is an area in which we are really doing a lot of helpful work for our clients, such as offloading certain tasks and recommending how to get cloud-like benefits on-premises.

4. One thing that seems to have gotten worse for everyone is that there is way too much work to do, with fewer people to do it.

The IT staff shortage was real before, but it is clearly a limiting factor now. Our ComportSecure service catalogue includes a rich set of high-value services aimed at this very problem, including dedicated and managed hosting in one of our three state-of-the-art data center locations in NY, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. Our suite of Back-Up-as-a-Service and DRaaS offerings, Hyperscale offerings from AWS, Google, Wasabi and Azure, VDI, DaaS solutions, security assessments, managed services, and flexible consumption models for HW and SW make a big impact to free up our clients’ limited staff.

Plus, they only pay for what they need. Here’s a real-life example of this in action: We are working with a customer with over 100 locations, in a highly regulated business, who was looking to modernize their core IT infrastructure. They evaluated three options:

  • Purchase new hardware + software on-prem
  • Move their entire stack to the public cloud, or
  • Outsource to a dedicated/managed environment

After assessing all their options, they chose a hybrid approach through our ComportSecure Cloud & Managed Services team, leveraging two of our Tier 5 data center sites. Here’s how it works:

    • We provide dedicated, fully managed IaaS (compute, storage, and networking) at our Atlanta Data Center.
    • For backup and DRaaS they are leveraging our multi-tenant Cloud at our Las Vegas Data Center.
    • This includes a deep storage archive tier to a Hyperscaler.
    • The entire solution is wrapped in our managed services. On the financial side, our client secured predictable costs from day one of our agreement for additional memory, capacity, and software as they grow out their environment.

5. Let’s talk about the dark cloud that’s plaguing us these days–SECURITY.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, ransomware attacks have increased by 148%. While ransomware attacks are not new, they have become more sophisticated and expensive. We’ve all watched the painful attacks on Solar Winds, Colonial Pipeline, JBS Meatpacking and Peloton, to name a few.

The average cost of a data breach is now nearly $4M and growing. Despite all the warnings, and high-profile breaches, the state of readiness for many businesses remains dismal. And to pile on, the threat vectors continue to grow and get more sophisticated from what has been primarily phishing attacks. Now we need to protect a widely deployed mobile workforce, IoT devices at the network’s edge, hybrid cloud where we have both data and apps, both on-prem and in the cloud. It’s not easy. Businesses need proactive measures around training, testing, policy management and monitoring to catch unexpected behaviors fast.

Yet one of the things I see time and time again are organizations that do not have hardened back-ups. And more to the point—can you do an enterprise-wide restore from these back-ups? This is an area in which we have tremendous experience. We can help beginning with evaluating multiple options to design and all the way through to regular testing to ensure that our clients can recover in the event of a breach.

The goal must be to minimize the damage to our clients’ businesses from this tragic epidemic of attacks. Security remains at the top of the list for IT leaders, and ComportSecure can make a big difference in how our clients sleep at night.

6. Let’s switch gears to AI and computational modeling.

More and more of our clients are seeking advanced technologies to gain competitive advantage. Whether they are a quant fund looking for a trading edge, or a healthcare organization working on storing and analyzing large data sets, or its genetic sequencing, imaging, or microscopy–these all require a modern approach for faster insights. The storage architectures needed to handle these demanding workloads and latency-sensitive applications require the best technical expertise to help design and build these clusters. Our technical resources combined with strategic partners accelerate our clients’ journeys.

7. Networks are the foundation underlying everything else.

We are seeing our customers move to new facilities, add more remote and satellite locations, and deal with multi-site mergers and acquisitions. They are struggling to pull these disparate locations into simple, high-speed, secure, and low-cost wide area networks.

In the last few years Comport has helped our clients analyze millions of square feet for Wireless and Bluetooth to build high speed networks that support the most demanding requirements. In healthcare, like many industries, there is a need to move large amounts of data and big files from site to site. Latency is very important. Just throwing more bandwidth at the problem won’t solve it.

We can provide SD-WAN, routing, security, and WAN optimization on a single unified platform. We have a powerful assessment tool called ‘Aruba Value Advisor’ that shows what a client’s ROI would look like if they move to an SD-WAN solution. Our Aruba Wireless Networks Assessment is performed by Comport’s certified in-house technology consultants to help build the business case to get this high return project moving.

We are seeing a deluge of new IoT devices connecting to customers’ networks. Comport Healthcare Solutions has a new strategic partnership with Medigate specifically for our healthcare clients. They are a network traffic inspection tool, built to identify all devices on the network. The true value is providing deep visibility into unmanaged IoT devices, determining what risks they present, what actions can be taken to mitigate those risks, and how to define controls to limit these risks. Comport can help our clients with their IoT strategy and wrapping their arms around their security.

8. LASTLY: To make the changes our clients seek we are doing many Professional and Assessment services that run the gamut from testing, security posture and vulnerabilities, DR Readiness, VDI, Cloud and Wireless to reveal the true state of operations.

We even have a full “Technology Stack and Risk Assessment” service where we do a full inventory of our client’s IT including hardware, software, and processes to create a baseline of their current state. We evaluate areas of risk and opportunity. Then we help them build a technology roadmap to the future.

Our mission is straightforward: to drive business value, innovation, and security for our clients from the Datacenter to the Cloud to the Edge. We do this by providing the best people and resources, the best partnerships (with companies like HPE, Aruba, Palo Alto, Fortinet, Cohesity, Nutanix, Qumulo, VMware and many others) and make everything available to our clients in an Everything aaS model. This way, you can consume technology from us—the way you want to.

Let me wrap up with a few conclusions

  1. Comport is the right-size, right-expertise company to give personal attention and help, yet large enough to have deep technical expertise and relationships with industry leaders in technology.
  2. We start by discussing outcomes. We recognize that in many cases budget and staff limitations can crush our clients’ plans. We know how to deliver the best prices, and we have expertise in newer ways to accomplish their goals.
  3. No one can do it by themselves. Our clients do not need to be in this alone. Making changes takes patience—multiple designs, multiple explanations, a lot of listening and iterations.  We have the mindset to stick with our clients – to deliver on those outcomes.
  4. RELATIONSHIPS are everything. We are fortunate to have such close relationships with many of YOU!!! Thank you for your trust in us.

Sincerely,
Mike Vencel
President Comport Consulting Corp.

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