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Businessperson’s Guide to the IT Service Provider Landscape

(This is a shortened version of part 2 of the Businessperson’s Guide to IT Service Providers; full guide can be downloaded here)

A great aspect of our market economy is that one company’s challenges become another company’s opportunities. That’s why numerous IT service providers offer businesses the ability to offload their technology headaches so they can focus on scaling and innovating.

However, IT service providers have very different business models and very different capabilities, so you have to carefully consider a variety of factors in selecting an IT management partner.

It’s important to choose a service provider whose business model best aligns with your objectives. These IT service provider business models can be classified into six categories:

1. Staff augmentation

You are provided with additional staff on a temporary (but usually full-time) basis from a company that maintains an ongoing inventory of trained, qualified IT professionals.

Pros

  • Spares you the time and effort of recruiting and hiring the IT talent you need
  • Eliminates HR issues such as on-boarding, benefits administration, and termination

Cons

  • Can be the most expensive model – You pay a premium on personnel costs and still have costs of management, tools, software, and process development
  • Limited coverage of skillsets – Similar to hiring internally, you have to pick the most important skillsets for general coverage. Usually not able to fund resources across all requirements.

2. Managed hosting

Your IT infrastructure is hosted at a service provider’s facility and the service provider offers management of that infrastructure as a value-add.

Pros

  • Management costs can be reduced in the short term due to the hosting provider’s economies of scale
  • Better physical security and operating environment for IT equipment

Cons

  • Incomplete solution when looking for outsourced IT help. Limited management and support scope (for example, does not typically include end-user support or end-to-end troubleshooting)
  • Focus is on upselling additional rack space

3. Consulting/SI firms with managed services offerings

A firm primarily focused on technology-based business innovation provides you with IT management services as part of a broader engagement.

Pros

  • Steady stream of forward-looking ideas for potentially high impact IT projects
  • Often strong competency for project work, ranging from infrastructure implementations with specific vendors’ products to specialized industry niches

Cons

  • Managed services are not their primary focus as a business model, so offerings are generally not highly resourced
  • Usually your first call /contact is with a dispatch service versus an actual engineer

4. Local value-added resellers (VARs) with managed services offerings

A firm primarily focused on sales of technology solutions from selected vendors (HP, Microsoft, Citrix, etc.) provides you with IT management services as part of a broader engagement.

Pros

  • Strong competency with selected vendors’ technology products
  • Onsite technical assistance may be available when necessary

Cons

  • Despite marketing material, managed services is not their primary business model. Profits come from infrastructure project work and hardware or cloud sales (typically tied to a limited number of vendors). As such, managed services is not their key focus and offerings may be under-resourced.
  • Not vendor-neutral; tend to have weaker competency in products other than those of their selected partners

5. National/global managed services provider (MSP)

Your IT management needs are addressed by a large company providing services across a broad geographic footprint, often using off-shore employees for day-to-day delivery.

Pros

  • Strong technical competencies for common, widely used technologies
  • On-site support in multiple cities around the world can be available (depending on contract negotiated)

Cons

  • Off shoring is widely used in this model;end-user experience, especially for first level call support, is often not high quality
  • Outsourcing engagement follows their methodology and covers only general technologies; will likely not be customized to

your environment or cover specific and unique technologies in detail

6. Local managed services provider (MSP)

Your IT management services are addressed by a specialized company that focuses exclusively on your local or regional market.

Pros

  • Focus on managed services as core business, resulting in all resources (personnel, financial, investment in tools/technology) focused on Managed Services, not other practice areas
  • End-user experience is usually much higher in this model

Cons

  • Significant variation between different providers’ service levels and process maturity
  • Little or no on-site support for geographically remote facilities

There are many other factors that distinguish the categories of service providers from each other. Narrowing in on the right category before you begin your search for your specific IT partner will save you a lot of time and unnecessary headaches.

Click here to download the full guide or contact us directly and learn how to find the IT provider that best meets your company’s needs today!

i.c.stars Capitalize 2019

Entara was honored to participate in the i.c.stars Capitalize 2019 event, bringing together over 200 C-Level IT executives, sponsors, i.c.stars alumni ​and ​board ​members. At this event, attendees ​shared ​and ​learned ​about a variety of technology related topics that are immediately relevant to professionals who have their finger on the future of IT.

Linda Maclachlan, Founder and CEO of Entara, participated on the keynote panel, which highlighted the story of the evolutionary partnership with Entara’s client, Golub Capital. Golub Capital is a market-leading, award-winning private debt platform that has leveraged Entara’s commitment to providing the best-in-class IT Service Management for businesses to scale and grow today, tomorrow, and beyond. Linda recognizes the responsibility of discovering and deploying the latest technologies and solutions that, working together with clients, will create successful futures.

“IT is a journey moving at an ever-increasing speed. The pace of digital change will never be this slow again,” said Linda Maclachlan. “We need to position the newest technologies and solutions quickly so our present days and futures are what we want/expect them to be.”

Widely recognized as a leader in the Chicago IT community, Entara is pleased to be associated with an admirable organization that is committed to finding, training, and putting talent to work in the IT field. i.c.stars provides a rigorous technology-based workforce development and leadership training program for low-income adults, developing Chicagoland’s most promising information technology talent with leadership goals and connecting them with career opportunities.

If you want to learn more about our latest technologies and solutions, contact us here.

3 Technology Trends Top Businesses Are Embracing in 2019

In every industry, companies need to be aware of foreseen changes in the technological world. This is the year that more widespread change is expected and top businesses, regardless of size, need to be prepared.

Studies show a high correlation between firms that have significantly invested in technology and those that are the top-ranking firms in each field. We have compiled 3 technology trends that leading businesses are embracing to help them drive efficiencies and gain a competitive edge in 2019.

  1. The Days of “Break/Fix” Are Over

There will always be systems that break and an internal staff or Managed Service Provider who will provide a quick fix. If you want your business to thrive, your IT service levels must extend beyond the simple realm of “break/fix.” Most leading companies already have a planned timeline with a full roadmap of IT projects that will lead them to future-focused solutions at a steady pace. At Entara, we derive our client IT roadmaps from the Gartner Business Model and divide them into four categories: Run, Grow, Transform, and our newest addition – Secure.

  1. A “Red Team, Blue Team” Approach to IT Security

Security is becoming an increasingly noticeable issue for all organizations. Despite an elevated focus on security projects, many companies lack confidence in their technology infrastructure. Originally, the “red team, blue team” approach was employed by the military to test-force readiness. As the military has long known, it is not smart to have the same people who manage systems also audit them for cybersecurity holes. Companies need to invest in this approach to IT security to better protect their employees and clients.

  1. Process Automation that Drives ROI

If you have not yet begun the journey toward automation, then 2019 is your year. Automation is one of the most transformational projects that companies are currently undertaking. The first step toward your future in automation is to identify your most basic and repetitive business processes. At Entara, we provide the capability to automate with EntaraWorks, a Service-Now based platform that leverages a fully-managed underlying platform for clients.

Key Takeaways: Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

Today – you need to ask the appropriate questions to prepare yourself for the future in IT. How is your company using technology to transform your business? Grow your businesses? Secure your data?

Tomorrow – Nail down your security strategy. This needs to include a partnership of internal and external resources.

Beyond – Once your timeline is planned and your IT roadmap is set, looking at your company’s future becomes even more clear and exciting.

Interested in learning more? Download Entara’s new guide: 3 Technology Trends Top Businesses Are Embracing in 2019

Entara Recognized as one of Chicago’s 2019 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For – 3rd Annual Recognition

Entara was named one of Chicago’s 2019 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For by the National Association for Business Resources (NABR). The award strives to recognize and honor companies displaying the most innovative and thoughtful human resource practices across the country.

Going 3 Years Strong

This is the third consecutive year that Entara (formerly YJT Solutions) has received this recognition because of its commitment to enhance employee engagement. The leaders at Entara focus on energizing and ‘enriching’ the lives of their employees, encouraging their team to grow in line with the company.

“Everything that happens within an organization happens because of its people, and Entara recognizes that. This award is a credit to the dedication of our employees and to the success of our company. Our team’s integrity will enable our ongoing evolution into the best place to have a technology infrastructure career in Chicago!”

-Linda Maclachlan, Founder and CEO of Entara

Supporting Our Team and Cultivating Friendships

In addition to Entara’s track record for internal promotion and performance incentives, it offers outstanding benefits and a career development program, all of which contributed to the company’s recognition as one of the Best and Brightest employers in the city. Entara arranges company-wide outings every three months for people to get out of the office and have fun with their coworkers and families. Office-sponsored lunches are catered every Monday to help make the transition back into the work week a little less stressful. The office also hosts a weekly happy hour, known as ‘Fridays @ 4,’ that lets its hard-working team relax and start the weekend on a positive note.

Companies are selected for The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® through an evaluation by an independent research firm using a variety of key metrics. Evaluation categories include Compensation, Benefits and Employee Solutions; Employee Enrichment, Engagement and Retention; Employee Education and Development; Recruitment, Selection and Orientation; Employee Achievement and Recognition; Communication and Shared Vision; Diversity and Inclusion; Work-Life Balance; Community Initiatives and Strategic Company Performance.

“Now with the war on talent hitting the doorsteps of the Best and Brightest, this achievement means even more than a year ago. As we continue to raise the bar, these companies rise to the challenge through their cultural innovation by maximizing their workforce potential.” 

-Jennifer Kluge, President and CEO, Best and Brightest Programs

The full Chicago’s 2019 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For list can be found online here.

About the Best and Brightest Programs

The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® is a program of the National Association For Business Resources that provides the business community with the opportunity to gain recognition, showcase their best practices and demonstrate why they are an ideal place for employees to work. This national program celebrates those companies that are making better business, creating richer lives and building a stronger community. It is presented annually in several markets including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Houston, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area and Nationally.

About Entara

Entara is a top-tier IT managed services provider that partners with strategic leaders in technology to bring traction to the future-focused IT journey. Entara leverages a customizable ServiceNow ITSM platform, 24×7 Help Desk and Infrastructure Management, SD-WAN solutions, AWS and Azure expertise, business process automation and a practical vision of the future of IT to help the mid-market innovate and scale. Located in downtown Chicago, Entara sets the new standard of IT managed services and future readiness. To learn more, visit www.entaracorp.com, or call 312-920- 1551.

A Businessperson’s Guide to IT Service Providers

As your company uses more and increasing varied technology—including desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, servers, storage, network infrastructure, on-premise applications, cloud applications, and more—the way you manage all that technology becomes more critical.

An exponentially increasing number of businesses are engaging with IT service providers to help them achieve their technology-related objectives. However, choosing the right IT service provider isn’t easy, and many businesses make a mistake the first time they choose an outsourced IT partner.

There are five main areas you need to understand before making your IT service choice. Below is a snapshot of the first area to tackle, “Clarifying Your Needs”. You can find all five in our guide, A Businessperson’s Guide to IT Service Providers.

Clarifying Your Needs

Before shopping for an IT service provider, it’s a good idea to clarify the needs of your business. Every business has different needs—but, generally speaking, your requirements will likely fit into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Help desk/User support

In today’s high-pressure, round-the-clock business environment, many businesses are finding that maintaining an internal help desk is a losing battle. Since few businesses can afford to staff a three-shift internal help desk, the demand for a true 24×7 help desk has made outsourcing IT help desk/user support increasingly popular.

A few of the factors to consider when looking for help desk/user support (full list of factors are available in the main guide):

  • How important is it that your service provider will be on site when needed?
  • What kind of response times do you expect for helpdesk calls?

 

  1. Infrastructure monitoring and management

These services focus on ensuring the health of your servers, storage and networking equipment. Your partner should monitor this equipment on a 24×7 basis and take immediate corrective action if a problem occurs. You also want a partner that can make recommendations about upgrading or evolving your infrastructure as your business grows.

A few of the factors to consider when looking for infrastructure monitoring and management include (full list available in main guide):

  • Will the service provider complement internal IT staff or take full responsibility for the health of your IT infrastructure?
  • If the latter, what is the technical depth of their engineers? Does the service provider have key man dependency of their own in certain technologies?

 

  1. Fixed-term IT projects

Businesses often need outside help with specific fixed-term projects. These can include infrastructure transformations such as cloud migrations, moving to virtual servers, deployment of new applications and databases, security overhauls, office moves, etc.

Factors to consider when choosing a partner to assist with fixed-term IT projects include:

  • Is your service provider competent in the areas in which you need help? Can you speak with multiple references for similar projects?
  • What is their track record for successful project completions?

Click here for the full guide to choosing the right outsourced IT partner for your company.

Entara Recognized for Excellence in Managed IT Services

Entara, a leading IT Managed Services Company in Chicago, announced that CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, has named Entara to its 2019 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list in the Security 100 category. This annual list recognizes North American providers with innovative approaches to managed services that help companies improve operational efficiencies, maximize return on IT investments, and navigate complex IT challenges.

In a rapidly changing tech environment, managed service providers are integral to the success of businesses everywhere. They empower companies to implement and operate complex technologies while staying within their budgets and keeping focus on their core business. CRN’s MSP 500 list identifies the most groundbreaking managed service organizations, with advanced solutions that have endless potential for growth.

This annual list is divided into three categories: the MSP Pioneer 250, recognizing companies with business models weighted toward managed services and largely focused on the SMB market; the MSP Elite 150, recognizing large, data center-focused MSPs with a strong mix of on-premises and off-premises services; and the Managed Security 100, recognizing MSPs focused primarily on off-premises, cloud-based security services.

Cybersecurity threats are evolving and growing continuously for businesses across industries. Technologicial developments that drive efficiency and connectivity, such as remote access, cloud usage, and backup data storage, also create security vulnerabilities. Entara works collaboratively with clients to build a robust organizational culture of cybersecurity awareness and preparedness. Entara’s comprehensive cybersecurity solutions include 24-hour managed detection and response services, security awareness training, and cost-effective backup and data recovery solutions – safeguarding clients’ current and future business interests.

“Capable MSPs enable companies to take their cloud computing to the next level, streamline spending, effectively allocate limited resources and navigate the vast field of available technologies,” said Bob Skelley, CEO of The Channel Company. “The companies on CRN’s 2019 MSP 500 list stand out for their innovative services, excellence in adapting to customers’ changing needs and demonstrated ability to help businesses get the most out of their IT investments.”

“We are thrilled to earn a place on the MSP 500 list as an exceptional managed services provider,” said Linda Maclachlan, CEO of Entara. “We are constantly developing new solutions and making improvements to our current systems to better serve our clients, and it’s an honor to be recognized along with other outstanding industry leaders.”

The MSP 500 list is featured in the February 2019 issue of CRN and online at www.CRN.com/msp500.

What Cybersecurity Strategies Can We Take from Our Armed Forces?

As the military has long known, and as breached enterprises figured out, it is not smart to have the same people who manage systems also audit them for cybersecurity holes. That’s why businesses are turning to the tried and true “red team, blue team” security approach to provide a fully transparent breakdown of the areas they need to address to remain secure.

Originally, the “red team, blue team” approach was employed by the military to test force-readiness. The red team would attack something, and the blue team would defend it. In the 1990s, this tactic began to be used by security companies to test IT security systems. The aim of this exercise is to understand a business’ ability to detect and respond to a cyberattack. It is also a way to determine the level of security maturity the business has reached.

When this strategy is used for cybersecurity purposes, the red team is typically focused on assessing the security of either an application, an IT infrastructure, or in some cases even a physical environment. This often occurs in the form of penetration testing, assuming the role of a hacker that detects and exposes vulnerabilities that pose a threat to a company’s cybersecurity. Other techniques include phishing attempts aimed at employees, as well as social engineering that involves impersonating an employee to try to obtain access to protected information.

On the other hand, the blue team deploys and manages a company’s infrastructure and defenses. The blue team is typically tasked with finding ways to prevent the red team from accessing protected information and thwarting their attack. They often employ software like an intrusion detection system (IDS) that provides them with an ongoing analysis of unusual and suspicious activity.

This strategy addresses best practices when it comes to preventing a cyberattack. Simply “checking compliance boxes” for security and risk management is not enough to protect businesses from the day to day realities that are ever-evolving. As cybersecurity threats continue to grow and show no signs of stopping, businesses are rightfully looking to experienced security experts for help. No one person or organization should be expected to holistically protect the firm from ever-increasing complex threats.

In an era of ubiquitous managed services firms, where many advertise a “complete” cybersecurity offering, others choose to stand by the tried and true principle of “red team, blue team.” The danger of having one company handle all of your cybersecurity needs – from infrastructure to penetration testing – is that they may not be able to be truly transparent about their findings. A complete and effective security infrastructure is only possible when two teams, without bias, are working together to prepare for a cyber-attack.

Discover your ace “blue team” partner in Entara, as we collaborate with your “red team” to conduct detailed assessments, address findings, and provide input to policy discussions. Click here to start putting the military’s best insights into action to protect your business.

3 Technology Trends for Law Firms in 2019

It cannot be denied that technology is changing rapidly in every industry, including law firms. Many law firms continue to view their IT department as a reactive cost center, responsible for fixing what breaks instead of differentiating themselves from the competition and looking at IT solutions as a proactive force.

Recently, The American Lawyer magazine reported a high correlation between the firms who have significantly invested in technology and top-ranking firms in general. An increase in firms are understanding that better technology means happier associates and better served clients. We assembled 3 technology trends that will help law firms thrive and stay above their competition in 2019.

  1. The Days of Break/Fix Are OverBig things are coming in the world of technology, too big for an internal staff or Managed Service Provider to continue to support. Law firms need to be prepared for the emerging technologies of tomorrow and have a thoughtful plan in place to get to their best future.

    At Entara, our client IT roadmaps are separated into four categories based on the Gartner model of Run, Grow, Transform – and our newest addition, Secure. Whatever your roadmap looks like, it is essential to have one that will help drive efficiencies and give you a competitive edge.

  2. A “Red Team, Blue Team” Approach to IT Security Security is becoming an increasingly visible for all organizations, especially law firms and the security of their client’s data. The “red team, blue team” approach, a tactic employed by the military to test force-readiness, is a way to determine the level of security maturity that business has reached. Law firms are beginning to realize that they need to invest in IT security to protect their employees and clients.

    At Entara, we are one of the few vendors saying that one vendor isn’t enough. Law firms are now turning to multiple partners to help support and provide a breakdown of the areas they need secured.

  3. Process Automation that Drive ROIAt the top of the list for most transformational project that law firms are currently undertaking – automation. Simplifying and streamlining basic processes (new employee onboarding, approving billing adjustments, etc.) will drive efficiency, allowing your staff to focus on what matters.

    At Entara, all of our managed services are provided through EntaraWorks, a Service-Now based platform that leverages clients fully-managed underlying platform.

Key Takeaways: Tomorrow, Today, and Beyond

Today, we are challenging clients to demand more from their IT firm. Tomorrow is the time that you nail down your security strategy with an enterprise-grade solution and begin your journey towards automation. Beyond, is where you will be in the future once all the building blocks are in place, giving you the ability to take change and turn it into opportunities for growth. We refer to the brightly covered dots in our logo as “the horizon,” representing the journey from today, tomorrow and beyond.

 

Interested in learning more? Download Entara’s new guide: 3 Technology Trends for Law Firms in 2019.

Celebrating Female Entrepreneurs at the Learning from Ladies Who Launch Event

“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” – Estée Lauder

Hard working women are at the core of some of Chicago’s most successful startups. On January 31, 2019, a panel of female entrepreneurs gathered to share their experiences and challenges starting businesses as part of the Learning from Ladies Who Launch Event organized by the Kellogg Executive Women’s Network (KEWN). The event took place at EvolveHer, Chicago’s first coworking space for women.

Panelists included Linda Maclachlan, Founder and CEO of Entara, Katy Lynch, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Codeverse, and Sonali Lamba, Founder of Brideside. The discussion was moderated by Linda Darragh, The Larry Levy Executive Director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

“All three of us come from diverse backgrounds,” commented Lynch. “Our entrepreneurial stories and our journeys could not be more different. Some of us have bootstrapped, some of us have raised capital, some of us run small teams, some of us have scaled large businesses. I think that dynamic on stage was really incredible. I learned a lot about the other women.”

“I thought this group of panelists was especially fascinating because these women came from such diverse backgrounds and started really different businesses,” said Dee Slaughter, Co-President of the Kellogg Executive Women’s Network. “That made it especially interesting to hear what challenges they faced when they were starting out. We were able to learn how they got off of the ground and grew three very different companies to success.”

“I feel so fortunate to be able to collaborate with other strong and resilient female leaders,” said Maclachlan, who got her start at Accenture before launching Entara. “We all came to the event with diverse perspectives that provided every attendee with a message they could connect to and bring with them when they left.”

Having launched her company and guided it through 17 years of growth (and counting!), Maclachlan knows what it takes to succeed in business. “We started as a technology managed services firm for the electronic trading industry, but we’ve evolved so far beyond our original roots. Today, we are a full-service IT Managed Services firm. Guiding our growth, together with my executive team, has been the work of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

A graduate of Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Maclachlan welcomes the opportunity to connect with women leaders. “It is great to share our experiences running our own businesses – including balancing the juggle and struggle of home life, accessing capital, recruiting stellar teams, and nurturing the right culture. I always walk away from events like this energized and with a renewed appreciation for my peers.”

And according to Slaughter, others shared Maclachlan’s sentiment, too.

“The group got along famously. They laughed with each other,” said Slaughter. “Often times I find that people in the C-suite are not always relatable to the everyday person, where I felt the panelists at this event were so relatable to a lot of different women of all age ranges. As the event came to a close, I got the sense that no one wanted to leave.”

Learn more about the incredible Entara leadership team by clicking here.