Xgility & AIS: Stronger Together

Recently, we announced that Xgility has been acquired by AIS (Applied Information Systems). We’re thrilled to join forces with a leading Microsoft cloud firm  – and will become stronger together with a broader solutions portfolio for cloud adoption, app modernization, and data insights capabilities.

As premier Microsoft Gold partners, our combined capabilities and deep Microsoft expertise will create a broader spectrum of opportunities to serve our clients in new ways and accelerate your cloud transformation.

We will continue our mission to help our clients move to the cloud, reimagine processes, modernize technologies and applications, and empower their employees with the right applications, insights, and guidance to work securely in today’s work anywhere environment.

Read the Executive Brief:
Learn more about our combined capabilities & solutions »

We remain committed to our clients and look forward to amplifying our capabilities to continue to help organizations harness the power of Microsoft Cloud platforms – and become more innovative, agile, and secure.

Our Team is Here to Help

Let’s talk about how Xgility – and now AIS – can help your organization be more innovative, agile, and secure while driving adoption and ROI for your Microsoft cloud investments including Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, and Azure.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner with vast experience under our belts, we are ready to help. Contact Us Now »

Microsoft 365 Strategy Pays Off: A Customer Transformation Success Story [Recorded Webinar]

Listen to our recent webinar to hear one of our clients – the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) – share their Microsoft 365 strategy transformation success story.

The speakers:

  • JoAnna Battin, Director of Strategy & Advisory Services at Xgility
  • Thomas Lyons, Chief Information Officer at ASM
  • Jerry Cruz, Manager, Network Operations & Support at ASM
  • Kevin Gauthier, IT Project Manager at ASM

JoAnna and the ASM team share how Xgility’s strategy-first methodology – along with critical planning, change management, culture change, and adoption activities – drove real change and transformation across their organization – while empowering both the IT department and employees along the way.

Let’s Dive into Key Highlights from the Discussion:

First, you’ll quickly find out that this isn’t your normal software implementation project.

JoAnna and the ASM team break down the three phases of their Microsoft 365 initiative – the strategic planning engagement, rollout stages, and ongoing adoption activities – to discuss the impact on the IT team and employees, lessons learned along the way, and how the power of critical planning paved the way for the future success.

Here are some of the key highlights from the inspiring discussion:

  • Upfront planning is critical for long-term success and keeps everyone – including the IT team, C-Suite, and employees – on the same page.
  • Look at how each department works and have employees explain how they store files, collaborate, and communicate.
  • The power of words and definitions can’t be underestimated when it comes to processes and how to use applications like Microsoft Teams and OneDrive for Business – especially since both do similar things.
  • Ongoing change management is key. Getting buy-in from employees is critical to help drive adoption and overcome resistance to new technologies.
  • Empower your employees to be part of the process including the Advisory Committee and Ambassador Program.
  • Ongoing communication is crucial.  Provide clear guidance around processes, expectations, deadlines, and drive excitement.
  • Providing onboarding and “How To” materials in the Knowledge Hub was a powerful way to help prepare employees to use Teams, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint in a consistent manner – empowering them to be self-sufficient while removing the burden from the IT team and Help Desk.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of FOMO to help drive adoption.

Listen to the webinar to learn more – especially how to get buy-in from leadership – and find out why now’s the time to ensure your workforce has the right mix of streamlined processes and applications to do their best work or risk having them leave.

Our Team is Here to Help

At Xgility, we know that rolling out new technologies – especially Microsoft 365 and its business applications – is no easy task for both the IT Team and end-users. And with new technologies comes change – and we all know change isn’t easy. When new technology initiatives aren’t done right, it can lead to low adoption, shadow IT, unsecured data, and frustration all around.

That’s why our team takes a different approach – fusing both technology and user-centric decisions – to help our clients truly change the way their employees collaborate and communicate with the right tools while setting their IT teams up for future success.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner with vast experience under our belts, we are ready to help. Contact Us Now »

Strategic Tips to Combat Collaboration Chaos & Employee Exhaustion [Recorded Webinar]

In case you missed our recent webinar, Xgility’s JoAnna Battin and Kai Benson, shared why many employees and IT Departments are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed after a year of disruption – often stemming from decentralized collaboration tools and processes plus remote work stressors.

Listen to the recorded webinar to learn why it is vital that you and your organization take a step back and address those challenges.

One way to combat the issues starts with ensuring your Microsoft 365 collaboration strategy is both human-centric and technical to drive employee productivity, efficiency, engagement, and satisfaction at scale. But the strategy might not be what you expect.

Let’s Dive into Key Highlights from the Webinar

Remember the Quick Pivot to Remote Work Environment?

First, we need to first understand where the collaboration chaos and digital overload is coming from – and where we are today – in order to address it using a methodical and strategic approach to help your workforce thrive as we move forward into the next phases of all remote or hybrid work environments.

When we first went into lockdown due to the pandemic, it was a chaotic time for many organizations especially if they didn’t have a remote work environment strategy already in place or didn’t have online, connected applications for meeting, collaboration, and file storage. Let’s recap:

  • Quick Deployment of Online Meeting & Collaboration Applications:
    When the lockdown first started, organizations hastily rolled out different online meeting technology and communication tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams so their employees could continue to communicate and collaborate with people both inside and outside their organizations. Or they might have started using Slack along with other online tools.
  • Quick Deployment of Other Online Technologies File Storage or External Sharing:
    Next, organizations worried about providing their employees the technologies they needed to get their jobs done so they started using Box, SharePoint, or Microsoft Teams if they already had them – or employees themselves added Box or Google Docs to the mix because they were easy to deploy. Essentially, our employees found ways to do their jobs in the early time spent working remotely.
  • Lack of Guidance on How & When to Use the Online Technologies:
    But, when those applications or technologies were deployed, employees did not often receive the right guidance when it came to using them – and the lack the proficiency often led to creative workarounds, use of additional third-party apps, and unsecure external collaboration or file sharing.

As a result: employees have been using a myriad of disconnected tools and different ways to meet, collaborate, email, chat, share files, and store data throughout the day. And IT departments have been trying to support their staff with these technologies while keeping their networks and data safe.

Then remote work fatigue started setting in – stemming from three key sources: digital distractions, virtual overload, and an always-on mindset.

In a recent Gartner article, Alexia Cambon describes those stressors in real-world terms:

“Imagine driving a car and a squirrel jumps in front of your car every 40 seconds. That’s your digital distraction. Now add a passenger next to you who won’t stop talking. That’s your virtual overload. Finally, put this car on a highway with no exit signs. That’s your always-on mindset. So you’re in a car that’s start-stopping every 40 seconds, with a passenger who won’t stop talking and there’s no way to take it off the road. Wouldn’t that make you tired?”

It is no wonder our employees and IT teams overwhelmed and exhausted!

New Research Shows the Toll of Remote Work

And new research and studies show the toll that has had on our workforces. As JoAnna states, we need to pay attention to the findings of these reports to address the causes going forward. One such new study from Microsoft found that high productivity may be masking an exhausted workforce.

  • 1 in 5 global survey respondents say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance.
  • 54% feel overworked.
  • 39% feel exhausted.
  • The digital intensity of our employees’ days has increased substantially – with the average number of meetings and chats steadily increasing since last year. This barrage of communications is unstructured and mostly unplanned, with 62% of calls and meetings unscheduled or conducted ad hoc. And workers are feeling the pressure to keep up.

Other key findings from the survey are important to know:

  • Flexible work is here to stay:
    Employees want the best of both worlds: over 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams.
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call:
    Many business leaders are faring better than their employees. Sixty-one % of leaders say they are “thriving” right now — 23% points higher than those without decision-making authority. And workers feel the disconnect. 37% of the global workforce says their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this.

Now more than ever, organizations need to look at the data around employee exhaustion and digital overload – and address with a strategic mindset.

So, how does all this tie into a Microsoft 365 strategy?

Why You Need a Microsoft 365 Strategy – But It’s Not What You Think It Is

Deploying even more applications or tools to your workforce will not help reduce chaos or employee burnout. In fact, many strategies that organizations are employing to ensure productivity are actually exacerbating these fatigue drivers.

As we look to create a better future of work, addressing digital exhaustion must be a priority for leaders everywhere. It won’t be easy, but consider how to reduce employee workloads, embrace a balance of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, ensure employees are given the flexibility to work when and where they want, and give everyone in your workforce a consistent set of connected applications and tools they need to equally contribute from anywhere.

To put this idea in perspective, ask yourself:

  • Are your employees switching between multiple different applications throughout the day? For example, are they storing documents in Dropbox, sending emails via Outlook, meeting with internal teammates via Microsoft Teams calls but holding online video meetings with clients via Zoom? Are some using Slack to chat with clients but using Google Docs to share important documents because guest access isn’t turned on in Microsoft Teams?
  • Is everyone in your organization using the same Microsoft 365 applications consistently or different people using different applications to do the same thing? For example, are some departments using SharePoint Online to store and share documents while others are using OneDrive for Business or Dropbox, or Microsoft Teams?

Just imagine how much more efficient and productive your employees could if they used the same set of connected, online applications in a consistent and structured way. And Microsoft 365 business applications like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business have multiple and powerful functionalities that help your users streamline how they work throughout the day.

But, as JoAnna explains, your organization’s Microsoft 365 strategy needs to focus on the EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE – not the technical solutions. With careful consideration, your organization’s managers and IT leaders need to set clear expectations and standardized collaboration processes that get everyone within your workforce on the same page – and provide opportunities for improved performance and employee wellbeing. And then the technologies will naturally fall into place.

As JoAnna points out, this new strategic mindset may feel uncomfortable – but it is not about control. It’s about setting expectations and communicating them to your organization. Be explicit in establishing what collaboration looks like for online or video meetings, chats, working together on documents, file sharing and storage, external communications, and more. But make sure you take a human-centric approach.

But what exactly does that look like in action?

  • Provide Guidance and Guardrails for Microsoft Teams, SharePoint & OneDrive for Business:
    This step is key. Get everyone on the same page for seamless collaboration and communications. How? Set expectations and define tool usage for Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business. Explain to your workforce how and when to use each application – and why.
  • Address 3rd Party Applications:
    We know change is hard. Taking away 3rd party apps like Dropbox or Google Docs may backfire. Instead, show the value in connected Microsoft 365 tools over 3rd party applications so your employees will want to use them. That can eliminate or reduce switching back and forth between multiple applications throughout the day. And bring back all that data from those 3rd party systems into the Microsoft 365 environment.
  • Enable Guest Access:
    Provide seamless collaboration and communication with external users. This will help keep your data and files secure – while eliminating 3rd party apps. But until you turn that guest access on, your employees are going to continue to use third-party apps. So, identify how and why your teams or departments are sharing files or need to have online chats with people outside your organization. Then enable the right types of guest access within your applications and tenants.
  • Encourage Consistent Processes:
    Once you have set clear expectations about which Microsoft 365 applications to use and when, addressed the 3rd party applications, and enabled guest access, then encourage your employees to think about how they can recreate the processes they were using before to collaborate – and map those processes within Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, or OneDrive for Business.
  • Protect Your Data – Governance is No Longer an Option:
    Developing an equitable governance plan will provide the right structure to keep your data safe giving the flexibility your workforce needs to be productive throughout the day.

Remember, the focus of your Microsoft 365 collaboration strategy is on helping your workforce do their best work throughout the day – and adding consistency will help eliminate the stresses that come from collaboration chaos.  By taking both a human-centric and technical approach, you can drive employee productivity, efficiency, engagement, and satisfaction at scale.

Whether you have already rolled out Microsoft 365 apps like Microsoft Team, SharePoint, and OneDrive or plan to do so soon, those tips will not only help reduce the chaos but will help build a solid foundation to help get everyone on the same page for seamless collaboration and communication with connected applications moving forward into a hybrid or all-remote work environment.

Our Team is Here to Help

At Xgility, we know that strategic planning is key to success. Our Strategy & Advisory team has been helping clients of all sizes successfully roll out the Microsoft 365 platform and key business applications including Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business with unprecedented adoption rates.

Please reach out to learn how we can help unravel the complexities and capabilities of the Microsoft 365 tools and applications to empower your employees and optimize operations. As a Microsoft Gold Partner with vast experience under our belts, we are ready to help. Contact Us Now »

Microsoft Ignite 2021 Announcement Roundup

Our team here at Xgility was excited to virtually attend Microsoft Ignite 2021 last week along with over 100,000 global attendees to watch the keynote addresses, attend the sessions, participate in training, and catch the latest announcements around Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, Power Platform, Security, and so much more.

Throughout the event, Microsoft showcased innovative and new ways they are helping organizations and people stay connected, secure, and thrive in the hybrid work world with cloud-powered solutions.

According to Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, people often think of 2020 as the year work moved home. But in reality, it’s the year work moved to the cloud.

And moving forward, the cloud will continue to play a critical role as organizations accelerate their digital transformation and adapt to the realities of a hybrid workforce that require flexibility to securely work from different locations and with different devices. Azure cloud services will be more important than ever to help companies survive and thrive in a constantly evolving world.

So Many Announcements: Here’s What Our Team is Excited to See Roll Out

Our team is excited about the announcements from the event – especially as we learned about the new features, functionalities, and products that we can leverage to help our clients increase both internal and external collaboration, enhance their meetings experiences, safeguard their workforce and data, improve processes and integrate them across applications, accelerate cloud adoption, and unlock the power of the cloud to help modernize and develop apps, build hybrid networking solutions, migrate data centers, and so much more.

I reached out to three of our directors here at Xgility to learn what announcements particularly caught their attention. Here’s what they had to say.

JoAnna Battin, Director of Strategy & Advisory Services

I’m excited about Microsoft Teams Connect. Over the past year, we’ve seen an increasing demand for external guest access for our customers.  But we’ve also seen ongoing challenges and confusion – due to gaps in functionality – when our clients set up Teams and try to implement the right controls and security to separate external users from internal information. With Microsoft Teams Connect, now we can help clients combine internal collaboration with external guest access sharing by separating Channels by audience, thus removing duplicative Teams while also maintaining the security around the data.  It’s a great new addition and I’m excited to be able to streamline the recommendations for users.

Also, several of the new features and functionality announced at Ignite focus on their new approach to encouraging “employee experience.” Many of the technical features and functionality that just a year ago were attractive from a technical perspective have now been reimagined from the employee perspective. This is a direct result of the pandemic and how organizations must now think about their workforce – and attracting and retaining valuable employees.  For example, Microsoft Teams has accelerated the rollout of so many new features that enhance the employee experience – especially around meetings, chats and collaboration, security, and more.

What might not be as apparent is Microsoft’s introduction of Microsoft Viva. Microsoft has stated that Viva is a combination of AI features and technical functionality presented in a way to enhance the employee experience.  In fact, Project Cortex will no longer be called by name, but its features are integrated into Microsoft Viva. Microsoft Viva will provide employees with information, insights, and knowledge to increase productivity and gather information quicker, easier, and in a comprehensive way – thus enhancing the employee experience.

Learn More:
Flexible Work is Here to Stay: Microsoft 365 Solutions for the Hybrid Work World »

Greg Schneider, Solutions Factory Director

The new IT governance and security features in the Power Platform will be a game-changer for our clients. Microsoft is releasing a slew of new targeted capabilities that will allow admins to put up the right guardrails for governance and security to protect data within the Power Platform.

Admins will be able to enable environment – and tenant-wide data exfiltration governance, fine-grained data loss prevention rules for connector actions and endpoints, and Data Loss Prevention support for custom connectors. These will help address concerns for IT and security teams – especially when it comes to citizen developers – often preventing the organizations from using Power Apps.

I’m also glad to see they’re incorporating more monitoring capabilities and reports in the Power Platform. Now clients will be able to view new tenant-wide analytics, usage and maker activity reporting for Power Apps and Power Automate, and inventory reporting. These all give full visibility to what their employees or developers are building and how these apps and flows are getting used. Armed with those insights, we can help address low adoption rates or see where there are issues with apps – and make the right corrections to ensure their apps are helping – not preventing – their staff from using them to increase productivity and efficiency.

Learn More:
Solve IT Governance and Admin challenges with New Features for Power Platform »
Announcing New Power Platform Capabilities at Microsoft Ignite »

David Simsik, Cloud Infrastructure Architect

Over the past year, we’ve been helping our clients implement a Zero Trust model – a security strategy that combines maximum flexibility with maximum security. So, I was happy to see new features coming out to help manage identifies, address threat protection, and ensure compliance.

External access is a common requirement for our clients – and the new Azure AD External Identities will help meet those needs. A strong Zero Trust approach requires that we treat access requests from customers, partners, and vendors just like requests from employees: verify every request, allow users to access the data they need only when they need it, and don’t let guests overstay their welcome. With Azure AD, you can apply consistent access policies to all types of external users. Generally available starting this month, Azure AD External Identities is a set of capabilities for securing and managing identity and access for customers and partners. Self-service sign-up user flows in Azure AD apps make it easy to create, manage, and customize onboarding experiences for external users, with little to no application code.

There are also updates for Azure AD Conditional Access, the policy engine at the heart of Microsoft’s Zero Trust solution, now uses authentication context to enforce even more granular policies based on user actions within the app they are using or sensitivity of data they are trying to access. This helps appropriately protect important information without unduly restricting access to less sensitive content.

And several updates for Azure Security Center and Azure Defender are now available. Windows Server 2019 in Azure Defender has improved security alerts experiences as well as endpoint detection and response (EDR) support. Azure Security Center has improved the integration of network security and new reporting capabilities. The improved alerts experience includes an improved triaging experience with better performance for larger alert lists, alignment with Azure Sentinel’s incident experience, and additional alerts from the Azure Resource Graph.

Learn More: 
Identity at Microsoft Ignite: Strengthening Zero Trust Defenses in the Era of Hybrid Work »
Microsoft unifies SIEM and XDR to Help Stop Advanced Attacks »
4 Ways Microsoft is Delivering Security for all in a Zero Trust World »

And More Announcements

Microsoft Teams
We can’t overlook all the new features coming to Microsoft Teams. I’m excited to see the new Dynamic view in Meetings that intelligently arranges the elements of your meeting for an optimal viewing experience. As people join, turn on video, start to speak, or begin to present in a meeting, Teams auto-adjusts and personalizes your layout. The dynamic view is rolling out soon.

And the new Presenter Modes are a meeting game changer. Use Presenter Mode to step up the production level of your presentations and customize how your video feed and content appear to your audience. Standout Mode shows your video feed as a silhouette in front of the shared content. And Reporter Mode places content as a visual aid above your shoulder just like a news story. Side-by-Side Mode displays your video feed next to your content. Presenter mode will be available soon.

Other new Microsoft Teams features rolling out include 1,000-person interactive webinars with moderation control, 20,000-person view-only broadcasts, meeting attendee reporting. Teams mobile experience enhancements, Teams device enhancements, security and compliance features, and much more.

Learn More:
What’s New in Microsoft Teams »

Dynamics 365
Microsoft Dynamics 365 was another hot topic throughout the event as they announced new capabilities that will help businesses adapt and evolve to elevate customer experiences. One announcement stood out in particular: A new powerful and seamless integration of Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365 that includes embedded Teams collaboration experiences in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service.

Learn More: 
Announcing new Dynamics 365 capabilities at Microsoft Ignite »

So, That’s a Wrap!

You can learn about other announcements for Azure, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, Microsoft Teams, Identify & Security, and other announcements in the Microsoft Ignite 2021 Book of News »

Please reach out to learn how we can help you and your organization empower your workforce to be more collaborative, productive, and secure with the Microsoft Teams, the Power Platform, Azure AD, and other Microsoft endpoint and security tools. As a Microsoft Gold Partner with vast experience under our belts, we are ready to help. Contact Us Now »

Xgility's CEO Chris Hornbecker and Chief Strategy Officer Joe Brown.

ShiftHappens Video: Chris Hornbecker and Joe Brown On Cloud Adoption

Last week, our CEO Chris Hornbecker and Chief Strategy Officer, Joe Brown, had a chance to sit down with Brad Sams at AvePoint’s #ShiftHappens Conference in Washington DC.

Watch as they discuss how Xgility’s federal and corporate clients are adopting Microsoft cloud technologies and the emergence of Microsoft Teams popularity.

Plus, Brad shares a bit of trivia about the origins of Microsoft Teams that you may not know.

Unlock the Power of Office 365 with a Strategic Approach.

Unlock the Power of Office 365 with Strategic Planning

It’s not uncommon for organizations to use Microsoft’s Office 365 for just email and SharePoint for document storage and/or their intranet. Yet, Office 365 has a whole suite of powerful collaboration and teamwork solutions and tools too – including SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Yammer. But rolling out the tools without a strategic plan can often result in low adoption rates – and lead to frustration for both IT departments and end-users.

Sound familiar? Let’s look at how we got here and how strategic planning can reduce Office 365 confusion and transform it into a powerful platform with widespread end-user adoption.

Why the Chaos? We’ve Opened a Firehose

The great news is that the tools in Office 365 are user-friendly and respond to end-user needs and wants. BUT the sheer volume of new apps and the updates can be overwhelming for both IT and end-users.

It’s Not Because We Aren’t Trying

Most user adoption issues are not for the absence of traditional implementation practices or methods. The tools are powerful, but users don’t know what to use and when. Without a strategy and plan for rollout and adoption, even IT has a hard time supporting end-user questions.

Tame the Office 365 Chaos with Strategic Planning

Experience has taught our team that strategic planning and execution are key for any Office 365 successful implementation, rollout, and higher end-user adoption.

Our Director of Strategy & Advisory Services, JoAnna Battin, recommends the following steps as part of an Office 365 strategy to help drive wide-spread adoption:

  • Start by Understanding the “Why”
    Determine what you want to achieve when rolling out new Office 365 applications, tools, and solutions. Do you need to increase collaboration between workers in multiple locations? Do you need a centralized document management system? Do you need to improve a business process? Once you have determined specific goals then you can move onto the toolset selection.
  • Define How Each Application Will Be Used in the Organization
    Most issues users face can be resolved by using their right tool for the right purpose at the right time. When you define the purpose of each tool and expectations for their use, the users don’t have to guess.
  • Define Governance for Each Tool & for the Tenant
    Put guardrails around the applications and use the tenant admin tools to govern their use.
  • Prepare Messaging & Story Planning – Then Communicate to Users
    Setting expectations for each application and communicating that message give users the information they need to know what tool to know when.
  • Demonstrate & Encourage Using the Tools Together to Improve Business Processes
    Each tool is powerful by itself. Using several tools together to build a business process is where the transformation takes place.
  • Build Excitement
    Engage your key stakeholders and end-users while building excitement around new changes.

JoAnna also advises organizations to start small – don’t try to roll out all the applications at once. Create a strategic roadmap for all Office 365 solutions you plan to implement but stagger the roll out in stages so both the IT departments and end-users won’t be overwhelmed with changes.

Do you need help unraveling the complexities and capabilities of the tools and applications within the Office 365 ecosystem including SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Yammer? With vast experience under our belt and a passion for transformation, we are ready to help.

We take a strategic approach to Office 365 to connect your people and applications in a way that drives higher employee engagement, productivity, and innovation.

Ready to get started? Contact our team today »

Cloud Optimization and Management.

What Forrester and Customers Say About Cloud Cost Optimization and Management

This is Part 3 of our 3-Part series on Best Practices for Cloud Management.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Forrester Wave is a rigorous vendor evaluation conducted over several months by the Forrester Research team. It’s meant to help enterprises put together a short list of vendors for them to evaluate.

In Q2 2018, Forrester named CloudHealth as one of the leaders among the top nine vendors that made the cut for Cloud Monitoring and Optimization. This is significant because our Cloud Optimization Platform Service is powered by CloudHealth.

Xgility’s Cloud Optimization Platform Service

Our Cloud Optimization Platform Service enables control and optimization of your cloud from every angle. The service is designed to enhance visibility and reporting into your public cloud spend and usage, as well as streamline billing. Additionally, we can create rules and automate tasks for powerful active policy management and set up guardrails for your environment using our platform to send alerts and notifications for noncompliant policies and assets. The service is offered in three levels aligned to your infrastructure and requirements.

Xgility's Cloud Optimization Platform Service Levels.

Subscriptions are determined by the percentage of your cloud spend, and supplemental hours are available for configuration, support, and customization.

On average, customers see a reduction in cloud costs of 20%-30%, but sometimes much more. For example, reducing Reserved Instances (RIs) in Azure can quickly supply you with up to a 72% discount on your virtual machine and SQL database costs compared to pay-as-you-go.

Check out this chart below comparing Azure reserved virtual machine instances and SQL Database reserved capacity:

Chart comparing Azure reserved virtual machine instances and SQL Database reserved capacity.

The real key behind cloud cost optimization and management is to not treat different cost-saving tactics as one-time activities but rather ongoing best practices that are automated to ensure efficacy.

That’s why a single pane of glass into your Azure environment helps you gain visibility and actionable insight into cost, security, performance, and compliance of your data center and public cloud infrastructure is the best way to achieve your goals. Xgility’s Cloud Optimization Platform Service does this by:

  • Consolidating all cloud infrastructure and data in one place
  • Identifying opportunities to optimize costs, utilization, performance, and security
  • Manage cloud sprawl
  • Establish governance guidelines and rules with policies to manage your cloud as it scales
  • Align cost reports with business requirements

Real-life Examples of Customer Savings

Needless to say, putting in place an automated cloud cost management and optimization program can have a huge impact not only on your Azure spend but also on growing your business. As proof, here are some real-life examples of savings using the Azure cost-savings tips we provided in our infographic and previous blogs:

  • One large B2B SaaS company found that almost 60% of the instance hours they ran in the past 12 months were using older-generation instance types. Upgrading those instances to the latest generation saved them millions of dollars per year. By setting a target for weekly hours that non-production systems should run, one large publishing company set that target at less than 80 hours per week, which is saving them thousands of dollars a month.
  • By setting a target for weekly hours that non-production systems should run, one large publishing company set that target at less than 80 hours per week, which is saving them thousands of dollars a month. A mobile gaming company moved 600TB+ from S3 to S3 Infrequent Access, saving them more than $7k every month.
  • A mobile gaming company moved 600TB+ from S3 to S3 Infrequent Access, saving them more than $7k every month.

The road to cloud cost optimization and management is easier than you think. Contact Us to get started.

Learn how to optimize your cloud costs and usage.

Best Practices for Optimizing Cloud Usage and Costs: Part 2

This is Part 2 of our 3-Part series on Best Practices for Cloud Management.

Our last blog post provided detailed insight on five tips for reducing your overall Azure spend. What’s clear is that gaining visibility across your entire organization’s cloud spend is imperative to making sure you get the most out of your cloud investment. Ongoing management, governance, and automation best practices will then help you achieve true cost savings—on average twenty to thirty percent, and in some cases much more.

Here are five additional tips to help you in your journey to cloud cost optimization and management.

Rightsize Disk Storage

With Disk Storage, the critical factors to consider are capacity, IOPS, and throughput. Removing unattached disks is one way to reduce the cost associated with Disk Storage.

Another approach is to evaluate which disks are over-provisioned and can be modified for potential cost savings.

Microsoft offers two types of storage for VMs: a standard storage performance tier, which can be purchased in three different levels of redundancy, and a premium storage performance tier, which is offered in three different sizes. The price difference between standard and premium disks can be as high as 3x, so pick the right storage for each workload.

Xgility Pro TipPremium storage is billed based on the total disk size, regardless of consumption. Keep a close eye on utilization of Premium storage to minimize wasted cost.

Rightsize SQL Databases

Like rightsizing your IaaS, you also need to rightsize your Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Azure SQL Database is a PaaS offering that is used by many developers to manage their applications.

Evaluate how well your SQL Databases are being utilized in terms of their workloads. The key factors to take into consideration are Database Transaction Units (DTU), Database Size, and Capacity.

SQL Databases are purchased through a DTU-based model, which combines compute, memory, and IO resources. There are three service tiers:  Basic, Standard, and Premium. The Basic tier is primarily used for development and testing. The Standard tier is suitable for applications with multiple real-time users. The Premium tier is for high-performance applications and many simultaneous requests. There is a price difference for the three tiers, and the database sizes within those tiers.

The key is to rightsize to the lowest cost SQL Database that meets your performance requirements.

Xgility Pro TipNormally you will not need to rightsize Basic SQL Databases because they are already competitively priced and mainly used for development or testing.

Stop and Start VMs on a Schedule – Park your VMs

Azure will bill for a VM as long as a VM is running. If a VM is in a stopped state, there is no charge. For VMs that are running 24/7, Microsoft will bill for 672 to 744 hours per VM, depending on the month. If a VM is turned off between 5pm and 9am on weekdays and stopped weekends and holidays, then total billable hours per month would range from 152 to 184 hours per VM. This would save 488 to 592 VM hours per month.

This is a bit of an extreme example, since flexible work weeks and global teams VMs aren’t powered down outside normal working hours. However, outside of production, you are still likely to find that many VMs that do not need to run 24/7/365.

The most cost-efficient environments stop and start VMs based on a set schedule. Each cluster of VMs can be treated a different way.

Xgility Pro TipSet a target for weekly hours that non-production systems should run.

Buy Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances and Optimize

Purchasing Microsoft’s Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances (RIs) is an effective cost-saving technique.

Azure RIs allow you to make a 1- or 3-year upfront commitment to Microsoft to utilize specific virtual machine instance types for a discount on your compute costs and prioritized capacity. RIs can save you up to 72% compared to pay-as-you-go pricing.

Microsoft allows customers to modify reservations in the following ways:

  • Changing the Scope from Single Subscription to Shared, or vice versa.
  • Exchanging Azure RIs across any region and series.
  • Canceling your Azure RIs at any time for an adjusted refund.

Purchasing Azure RIs and continuously modify them helps provide you the most value. If RI is idle or underutilized, modification means the RI can cover on-demand usage to a greater degree. This ensures that RIs are operating efficiently and that savings opportunities are being maximized.

Xgility Pro TipMicrosoft allows you to achieve a greater cost savings (up to 72%) by leveraging Azure RIs combined with the Azure Hybrid Benefit. The Azure Hybrid Benefit covers the cost of the Windows OS on up to two virtual machines per license.

Move Object Data to Lower-Cost Tiers

Microsoft offers several tiers of Storage at different price points and performance levels.

It’s best to move data between the tiers of storage depending on usage. There are two ways to adjust your Azure storage: by redundancy (how many copies are stored across how many locations), and by access tier (how often data is accessed).

Microsoft allows four redundancy options and three access tier options to create the right solution.  For example, Cold Locally Redundant Storage (LRS) is ideal for long term storage, backups, and disaster recovery content, while Cold Geographically Redundant Storage (GRS) is best suited for archival.

Any objects residing in a Hot tier that are older than 30 days should be converted to a Cool tier. Depending on redundancy levels, the Hot tier is based on the amount of content stored starting at $0.0184 per GB per month. The Cool tier prices are a flat price of $0.01 per GB per month and the Archive tier is available at $0.002 per GB per month.

Xgility Pro TipAny objects residing in a Hot tier that are older than 30 days should be converted to a Cool tier.

In the last of our blog series, we’ll explore some customer success and what analysts are saying about the best tools to tackle cloud sprawl.

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Source: CloudHealth, 10 Best Practices for Reducing Spend in Azure, 2018

Best Practices for Optimizing Cloud Usage and Costs: Part I

This is Part 1 of our 3-Part series on Best Practices for Cloud Management.

The funny thing about developers is that once they get ahold of fancy new toys, there can be a tendency to play with them as much as possible. This may sound familiar if you are using Microsoft Azure or another public cloud for application development and watched the costs go through the roof.

Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case.

While you don’t want to clip your developer’s wings, striking a balance between freedom and responsibility and making ‘cost consciousness’ a part of your company culture will go a long way to helping reduce your Azure spend and better manage your cloud infrastructure.

The decision to go beyond cost and focus on optimization is also an important step in moving towards a true cloud cost management and optimization (CCMO) program.

Start by asking yourself some key questions:

  • How much is my infrastructure costing me?
  • How much money am I wasting on idle infrastructure?
  • What guardrails do I have in place?

Once you have made an honest evaluation of where you think you are, start implementing these best practices to put you on the road to immediate Azure cost savings.

Delete Unattached Disk Storage

It’s not uncommon to see thousands of dollars in unattached Disk Storage (Page Blobs) within Azure accounts.

That’s because when you delete a Virtual Machine, by default, any disks that are attached to the VMs aren’t deleted. This features helps you prevent data loss from an unintentional VM deletion. However, after a VM is deleted the Disk Storage remains active and you will continue to pay the full price of the disk.

Because of the dynamic nature of cloud computing, it’s easy for users to quickly spin up and spin down workloads, but that means the risk of leaving behind unattached storage is high. Check for unattached Disk Storage in your infrastructure to cut thousands of dollars from your monthly Azure bill.

Xgility Pro TipDelete your Disk Storage if it has been unattached for two weeks. It’s unlikely the same storage will be utilized again.

Delete Aged Snapshots

Many organizations use Snapshots on Blob and Disk Storage to create point-in-time recovery points in case of data loss or disaster.  However, Snapshot can grow quickly if not closely monitored. Individual Snapshots are not costly, but the cost can grow quickly when several are provisioned.

Additionally, users can configure settings to automatically create subsequent snapshots without scheduling older snapshots for deletion. Monitoring Snapshot cost and usage per VM will help ensure Snapshots do not get out of control.

Xgility Pro TipSet a baseline number of snapshots that should be retained per object. Most of the time a recovery will occur from the most recent snapshot.

Terminate Zombie Assets

Zombie assets are infrastructure components that are running in your cloud environment but not being used. For example, they could be former VMs that have not been turned off. Zombie VMs may also occur when VMs fail during the launch process or because of script errors that fail to deprovision VMs. Additionally, zombie assets can also come in the form of idle Load Balancers that aren’t being used effectively, or an idle SQL Database.

Microsoft charges for these assets when they’re in a running state. They should be isolated, evaluated, and terminated if not needed. Take a backup of the asset before terminating or stopping it to ensure recovery if necessary.

Xgility Pro TipIdentify VMs that have a Max CPU <5% over the past 30 days as a starting point for finding zombie assets.

Upgrade VMs to the Latest Generation

In 2014, Microsoft introduced the next generation of Azure deployment, called Azure Resource Manager (ARM), or sometimes v2. This update offers functionality like resource grouping, advanced tagging, role-based access control, and templates. While the prices for ARM and Azure Classic (Azure v1) are the same, the management improvements help save time.

For example, using ARM, you can easily batch deploy new VMs from a JSON template, rather than deploying them one at a time. You can tag assets so they are more easily viewable by Line of Business.

In addition, for some VM types there is the option to upgrade to the latest version. While the VM price points are the same, the performance improvements that may enable you to run fewer VMs.

For example, upgrading a D-series VM gives you 35% faster processing and greater scalability for the same price.

Xgility Pro TipMigrate from Azure Classic to ARM for improved performance, additional features and better manageability. Since both Classic and ARM assets can now be managed in the same console, you can migrate workloads at your own pace.

Rightsize VMs

Rightsizing an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering such as VMs is the cost reduction initiative with the potential for the biggest impact.

Over-provisioning a VM can lead to exponentially higher costs.  Without performance monitoring or cloud management tools, it’s hard to tell when assets are over- or under-provisioned.

Be sure to consider CPU, memory, disk, and network in/out utilization. Reviewing these trended metrics over time, can help you reduce the size of the VM without affecting VM application performance. Because it’s common for VMs to be underutilized, you can reduce costs by assuring that all VMs are the right size.

Xgility Pro TipLook for VMs that have an Avg CPU < 5% and Max CPU < 20% for 30 days as viable candidates for rightsizing or termination.

It’s important to remember these tips are not meant to be one-time activities but ongoing processes.

Read Part 2 of our blog series to learn five more tips that can help you save costs in Azure.


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Learn how our Cloud Optimization Platform Service can reduce your Azure costs by an average of 20%-30%. Contact Us Now »

Source: CloudHealth, 10 Best Practices for Reducing Spend in Azure, 2018


[Infographic] 10 Ways to Reduce Your Azure Spend

Microsoft Azure adoption is on the rise. But many organizations have learned the hard way that moving to the public cloud doesn’t always guarantee cost savings. In fact, many have noticed cloud bills that are two to three times higher than expectations.

Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case. The first step to combatting rising Microsoft Azure costs is to gain visibility across your entire organization’s cloud spend. Then, use the 10 best practices outlined in our infographic –  including deleting unattached storage, deleting aged snapshots, and terminating zombie assets – to reduce your spend.

Download PDF Version

Infographic: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Azure Spend.


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