And now something a little different

Cloud, ExchangeDefender, Microsoft

Nearly three years ago I wrote series of articles that I called Lucy’s Sail (Google), about the change of OWN’s business direction and our focus and commitment to the cloud. It almost instantly made me the SMB community public enemy #1 but after thirty-something straight months of profit and revenue growth during the implosion of the US economy there are few people out there that doubt the cloud. That debate ended a while ago and even today the perennial powers of HP and Dell are both reporting lower demand for steel.

Imagine a crowded room full of people that love to talk and everyone has a microphone. Sometimes in order to get your message out you have to either be louder or just make the most extreme comment you possibly can in order to get people to start paying attention. I believe I went with “You have to redesign your business around the cloud or face career choices of a used car salesman or Geeksquad handy man dusting CPU and case fans by day, installing TVs at night.” I went on to hire Andy Goodman as my personal body guard and during one of the MVP meetings in Seattle sat down with Paul Fitzgerald and Kevin Beares to talk about their Aurora concept.

The-2-bobs1What I actually do for a living

I am in the business of making money. So while at times I may say stuff that makes you scratch your head, polar opinions rarely make it into contracts and into checks – there are no absolutes. So when it comes to the cloud – yes, it is and will grow as an even more dominant technology. But does that immediately or ultimately signify the death of all desktops, servers and client owned IT infrastructure? Only if you’re suicidal.

When I first spoke to Paul and Kevin about what I was working on, I explained that I have been doing the “hosting” business for a long time and actually worked with clients directly in the late 90’s on helping move things to the data center. One thing I learned early on is that in a utopian IT deployment, the client would retain all the control and data storage but outsourced all the nightmares: licensing, security, patching, upgrading, backing up, planning for capacity upgrades and general maintenance. Your typical small or medium business cares extremely little about their IT overall – but they care a lot about their data. Even the more IT strategic companies that buy the latest and the greatest will cringe and think about the TCO and costs associated with keeping everything moving. Here is what the SMB IT needs to look like:


Your small business owner does not want you to build a chicken coop, get bird feed, install a solar power array or a wind turbine to power the kitchen and then make them slaughter a bird every time they want a chicken. Ron said it right: “Set it and forget it.” –  they want you to set their IT up and they don’t want to think about it, hear about it, meet you to consider projects or plan to eat a roasted chicken 18 months from now.

Your typical small or medium sized business loves the cloud because it’s simple, efficient and easy. But if they knew the risk, they would take their data control a lot more seriously.

If you Google for “cloud downtime” or lost data you will see that cloud is far from bullet proof or immune from problems. Stuff goes down. And when it goes down it’s not like an eMachines box that comes back after a reboot – it’s arrays and arrays and arrays of clusters that need to be brought back up. Some cloud providers have even lost their clients data – permanently.

So what’s the competitive advantage to the IT Solution Provider who wants to fulfill their clients need for a simple and manageable IT but wants to give them control over their data? This is a long conversation Kevin, Paul and I had in ‘07/’08 and those guys delivered their vision in the form of Aurora aka Small Business Server 2011 Essentials. Here is mine:

ExchangeDefender for SBS Essentials

ExchangeDefender Hosted Exchange now directly integrates in SBS 2011 Essentials for account management, control and maintenance:


Built in directly into the SBS 2011 Dashboard, you can manage your ExchangeDefender cloud services and see any service alerts, service status, link to the documentation and all the relevant stuff without all the complex things your typical user does not care about.


It ties back elegantly into your Shockey Monkey portal which is already branded with your logo, company name, your pricing scheme and backed by a company that doesn’t compete with you. The authentication isolates accounts and change management to the accounts owned by this company and gives them the full management power without having to remember passwords or hop from service to service, site to site.


Account management is dead simple and gives the business control they want without the mess or complexity they don’t want, don’t need and can’t afford.


Tie that in with the Outlook 2007/2010 integration between ExchangeDefender and their desktop, Shockey Monkey backoffice management that gives you support and integration back to your PSA, ability to link in your existing business model with a cloud service provider that delivers seamless integration across Hosted Exchange/SharePoint, Offsite Backups, business continuity, hosting and everything else you need in the cloud where you call the shots, name the price and keep control of your client? How’s that business model looking now?

Oh, one more thing…

Wouldn’t it be cool if this thing also took all of the data your client stores in the cloud across Exchange, SharePoint, ExchangeDefender and so on… and created a local backup / snapshot / cache on your SBS 2011 Essentials box? Turning the local server into a secure storage locker for all your cloud stuff that you don’t want to build yourself? I hope that got your attention and I’ll get it to you later this year, but everything else you can have starting tomorrow after the TechEd launch. If you see my guys there, make them show it to you live.


Anyhow, my name is Vlad and I just built your business model and support tools for the next few years.  Click here and then give me a call.

10 Responses to And now something a little different

  1. Jules says:

    …sweeeeeet 🙂

    Time to dog food it…

  2. Vlad Mazek says:

    I’ll send you the links to get it, it goes on PinPoint after the TechEd event wraps up here this week.


  3. HandyAndy says:

    You know Vlad, it’s funny that you used Ron in that example, I have a long history of going down the wrong fork in the road. I actually dated his daughter many many moons ago, I could have been in the son-in-law business. Hello Lisa where ever you are! Maybe it’s time to take another look at this cloud thing before it’s took late :>)

  4. Paulfi says:

    It was nice that someone understood what i was trying to achieve. It was not smooth sailing internally but i will not go there in such a public place. Vlad, I am not even slightly surprised that it was you who understand the vision and actually executed on it. Your track record is pretty clear.

    Hybrid will be the model for awhile and to help move the bulk, not just early adopters but the less willing, of the small business space, to the cloud we needed a hook. A really well integrated way to make the microsoft cloud, the microsoft partner channel, and the realities of small business IT to come together and create one of those rare win-win situations in the midst of the biggest transormation in computing since the browser.

    I always joked that aurora was like a really nice trojan horse that slipped in quietly with it’s low cost and easy installation, helped solve (with a partners help) the nagging real and perceived issues with small business IT networks. Lowering the TCO of windows client drives customer SAT, defends us against Google’s “no-IT cost pitch” but most importantly frees up the SB owner to think about what is next with their IT.

    Would investing in powerful collab tools, richer email, etc now be possible if the nagging and silly issues like backup, av, etc were taken off the table once and for all. this is the question i wanted the business owner to ask themselves.

    This forces the VAP community to continue to move up the stack from providing very basic services to the more expensive ones. But the money is better and the fire drills less frequent when you offer those kinds of services and you aren’t dealing with issues like viruses and client backup that should have been solved years ago.

    The entire world of IT is filled with pundits and analysts predicting cloud adoption. We all say it is inevitable. Maybe that is true but digging deep into the data and deeply into the customer responses to the research we did several years ago, it was very clear to me that we have no idea WHEN. ( i like to joke internally that it is august 12th 2014 around 5pm, it’s a sunny evening and i am barbecuing, steaks i think. mmm)

    Adoption is dependent on the vertical, the workload, the business owner, the timing of the last major investment they made in on-prem, how many times major companies screw up (see recent news) planet alignment and horoscopes. And most importantly it is based on when YOU tell the business owner it makes sense.

    The smartest bet was to create customer choice. Not the choice to choose a competitor to Microsoft but the choice to choose on-prem or cloud where it made sense to them. I wanted to speed the sales process up 100 fold. I wanted VAPs to show up with an arsenal of choice, acquire the customer, generate the revenue stream, rinse lather repeat.

    But most importantly i wanted to take the customer’s sales objections OFF the table. “don’t like cloud for customer list?” okey dokey, her is on-prem. “dont like on-prem for accounting?” okey dokey here is cloud. Either way, buy SOMETING SB owner because you need to import your IT to be competitive!!

    Well… I think this is the culmination of a 5 year long dream at the end of a 15 year long journey working in one of the most rewarding,remarkable and undeniably important market segmets there is. Thanks vlad, thanks everyone. Sell aurora!! (when it makes sense for you and your customer)!!

  5. HandyAndy says:

    Finally an official date for ubiquitous cloud adoption we can plan around. Thx Paul :>)
    ps I like mine medium rare.

  6. Vlad Mazek says:


    Glad to see things are moving swimmingly, your comment doesn’t reveal any frustration at all 🙂 Right there with you on the whole thing though!

    I learned A LOT while developing Shockey Monkey by myself and facing all the challenges of living up in the cloud and seeing first hand the hypocritical nature of your average IT Solution Provider. Their clients are even worse in that regard. So how do you plan around it and build a sustainable model that fits them both?

    This is something that I’ve been trying to figure out financially with my buddies Frank Gurnee and Brian Friestat and I think you’ll like what the different organizations have come up with.

    It feels good to ship, right? 🙂


  7. Dave OK says:

    This is very sweet! Can’t wait to see it… Perfect!!

  8. Joe Raby says:

    On a related note, ZDnet just put up a new “news” blog posting saying that the future is not in HTML – it’s in Internet-connected native mobile apps.

    I take such opinion-based articles with a grain of salt, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong to say that native apps are here to stay for a long time, and adding connected services is going to be where developers will put most of their focus for the time being while HTML5 is still being worked on.

    IMO HTML5 is nowhere near where it needs to be in order to match the capabilities of native development, and it’s not even a complete standard yet. Cross-platform compatibility for HTML5 is still many years off too.

  9. renu says:


  10. Lacy Moore says:

    So, how do you get this?

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