Champion and BitTitan’s Discussion about Exchange 2010 End of Support and Migrations

 

Champion Solutions Group was recently interviewed by BitTitan to discuss Exchange 2010 end of support and migrations, how migration services support the overall business strategy, and the business impacts of COVID-19.
Article originally posted here.

Champion Solutions Group and their cloud business unit, MessageOps, is a longstanding cloud and managed service provider headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. Over the last ten years, the company has migrated more than six million mailboxes into Office 365. In a recent interview, we picked the brain of Jim Canfield, Director of Online Services, to get his thoughts on Exchange 2010 migrations, how migration services support the overall business strategy, and the business impacts of COVID-19.

BitTitan: We know some of the consequences of running Exchange 2010 servers past the October deadline. What is the incentive for your clients to move off of 2010 to something different, whether that’s an upgraded on-premises instance or into Office 365?

Jim: Well, 2010 was the first serious, stable Exchange instance, and people don’t want to get rid of it. I’m dealing with clients who are afraid to change. Nine out of ten of them finally got the note that 2010 is no longer going to be supported. One was literally on Exchange 2010 service pack zero. They have 1,000 users. I told them, “Look, you’re running something that’s ten years old. The hardware it’s running on is probably out of date anyway. It’s time.”

We’re pushing 98% of our clients who are talking about email upgrades to Office 365. I think, in the last five years, I’ve done fewer than ten upgrades on-premise. The last big one I did was for a credit union, and I’m like, “Why?” Then I made them go through the pain of learning how to use on-premise load balancers. That was fun.

Clearly, Microsoft is incentivizing the move to Exchange Online. What kinds of factors do your clients, or you as the partner, weigh? Where do they go next and how do they get there? What does that conversation look like?

It’s rare for me to recommend on-premise. When I do get pushback, it’s from very large, 20,000-to-40,000 user organizations in financial or healthcare who have concerns around endpoints, security, or email conditioning. In those cases, I recommend that we maintain the best of breed third-party, whether it’s ProofPoint or whoever else, to deal with the specific concern. I tell them we’ll upgrade your email system from 2010 or whatever you’re on, to 2019. But your servers are going to be over there. At some point, they say “Ah, we understand. We’re not actually migrating an email system. We’re just replacing the backend mail servers.”

Organizations still say “I don’t trust the cloud,” but it’s becoming less and less a thing. When I get in a room with somebody who doesn’t believe in the cloud, I’d rather wait six months and have the conversation with them again because they’re probably going to change their mind.

We often talk about email being the gateway into the cloud. People put their email in the cloud and the files follow. Do you see that happening as well with these organizations that are running outdated Exchange servers? Does that email migration often lead to other business for you?

Yes, and one scenario that we’ve done extremely well with is GPO-based migration of \\server\userdrives into OneDrive for Business. I’ve moved 50 years’ worth of files in a week. I say “Bang, here it is. Test it. Work with it. Here’s the documentation. Here’s the training. Here you go.” They say, “Okay, that was stupid easy.”

One that takes a little bit longer, and that we’re focused on, is utilizing Teams as the interface versus SharePoint. Teams is a better-looking shade of lipstick and people like it. They like the interface. For our biggest client, I think we’ve moved almost 50 terabytes. I think we moved stuff from 28 different organizations into one.

Are these migration projects typically longtime CSG customers, or one-off projects that then lead to other things? What’s your customer base look like?

About 25% to 30% of the engagements we do are net-new clients and most of them go on to multiple transactions. That percentage would be higher, except that we also do a significant amount of migrations for a very large LAR and so to be honest, I have to count those as their clients. We do have a high percentage of repeat clients that we’ve been working with for years and years. Organizationally, our average tenure is north of ten years, which is really unique. We maintain clients for long periods of time. We have client managers who have been at Champion for 20+ years.

I can’t let you go without talking about the COVID situation. Have you had an influx of customers saying they have some version of Exchange and need to get into the cloud? Same thing with file shares or servers. What’s that situation been like for your business?

It’s interesting. I talked to a thousand-user insurance company for the first time March 23rd. I said, “Okay. This is how I’m going to do it. Bang-bang-bang.” They went, “Really?” Two weeks later we had a signed PO. A few days later we were migrating them.

I think we’ve started 25 migrations in the last 30 days. That’s a big number because of the timeframe. They ask, “Okay, when should we start?” and we say, “Now.” It simplifies things if everyone’s at home because we have the whole bandwidth to work with. It makes the whole process simpler, even with all the users at home.

What’s your long-term take on how this affects how people work from home and use systems like Office 365 to get things done?

I honestly believe that those people who believed that this cloud thing was a fad have just gotten their proverbial butts handed to them. The cloud has just been 100% proven to deliver what’s needed. I still think there’s going to be that percentage of people that have to be in the office, but remote working leveraging the cloud is going to become more and more the thing.

One of my personal sayings has always been, “My job is to allow users to work on anything, anywhere, on any device securely.” With Office 365, Azure, and all the other cool pieces, we can create identity-based access to everything, control versioning, control who is doing what, and control files as they leave the realm. It’s all a matter of doing it correctly.

Look at me. Previous to this, I was working remote two or three days a week, on average. But now, I’ve been home for five or six weeks — I don’t remember when they kicked us out of the office. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. My utilization of video has gone up significantly. About the only real change is my dry-cleaning bill went down.

Speaking specifically about Champion Solutions Group, what benefits do you bring to the table for a business who realizes that they’re at Exchange end-of-support and need to make a decision? Why come to you?

It’s really a matter of experience. Over the last 10+ years of Office 365, we’ve migrated north of 6 million mailboxes into 365 — a lot of those with MigrationWiz. We have the experience to do it securely and with minimal disruption of the daily business.

Long-term, though, it’s the value-add. We’re heavy CSP (Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider partner). We have a whole boatload of intellectual property that we make available to CSP clients. Customers come to us for that. They come for our 7×24 support team. The training stuff, like how to use SharePoint. For our CSP boss, which is the management tool that we’ve put together in what’s called Inscape. It allows our clients to manage utilization of 365, license utilization, check for security holds, all kinds of cool stuff.

That’s the long elevator pitch. If we’re in the Empire State Building, there you go.

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WRITTEN BY:

Erick Bacallao joined Champion Solutions Group in 2015 after a career of Software Development in Cuba at the National Cancer Care Institute of Cuba, followed by moving to the States with allAware.

 

Champion acquired allAware and its properties and Erick has utilized his extensive background and expertise in IT and Software Development to rise to VP of Product Development in less than 5 years. During this time, Erick has been involved with key projects that led to the launch of numerous products including CSP Boss, Inscape platform and 365 Productivity Insights.

 

Erick has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Havana. He won Gold Medals for Programming from the Ministry of Education in Cuba, and he is certainly still a Gold Medalist for Champion!

 

As President and CEO, Chris is responsible for the development of key strategic alliances and solution portfolio. He leads Champion’s go-to market and execution strategies for integrated offerings in the cloud, in security, and in digital infrastructure, always focusing on improving the customer experience and driving transformative business outcomes.

 

He also aligns key partner initiatives with company strategy and oversees corporate marketing and messaging to gain mindshare with customers and partners. It’s his vision and innovativeness that have catapulted Champion up the ranks to become a $100M+ organization—and one of the most respected solution providers in the industry.

 

Over the past two decades, Chris has also focused on mergers and acquisitions, as well as innovative product development. He is the original founder and an active member on the Board of Managed Maintenance, Inc., a SAAS provider and consulting firm that utilizes their award-winning One-View Portal to help the IT Channel and its customers manage their IT Maintenance.

 

Chris is also the original founder and chief strategist behind one of the original storage cloud providers, Storage Access / BluePoint. During the course of a few short years, he had raised $20M and took that company public on the Toronto Stock Exchange. It has since been acquired by Pomeroy.

 

In 2012, Chris led the acquisition of MessageOps and continued the product development and worldwide launch of its premier SAAS, 365 Command. Built on Microsoft Azure, 365 Command is currently managing over 1 million seats of Microsoft’s Office 365. After achieving this phenomenal milestone, 365 Command and other MessageOps O365 utilities were sold to Kaseya.

 

Over the past 35 years, Chris as worked tirelessly to not only advance his own career, but those of his employees. In addition to leading a $100M organization, Chris can also be found sitting with sales teams, cold calling and coaching, and validating why Champion has been listed on Best Places to Work by both South Florida Business Journal and Computerworld.

Ultimately, the success garnered by Champion Solutions Group, its associated companies, and their employees is due in large part to the leadership of its President and CEO. Perhaps the most fitting award Chris has earned is South Florida Business Journal’s 2013 Ultimate CEO Award.