Improving the Management of Your SharePoint Farm

IMG_6625On Thursday, October 30th at 11am Pacific, I will be hosting a webinar for my new company, GTconsult, with co-founder and CEO Bradley Geldenhuys (@bradgcoza) on the topic "What is the Value of Keeping Your SharePoint Farm Healthy?"

The session will discuss some of the common issues surrounding SharePoint environmental health and maintenance, especially when your team is understaffed and under-skilled, and will showcase the Umlindi managed services offering from GTconsult. Umlindi is the Zulu word for “protector,” and is an appropriate name for our software+services offering that monitors the health and performance of SharePoint, allowing organizations to focus on the business rather than worrying about their infrastructure.

If you’re interested in participating in this brief webinar and demonstration nest Thursday at 11am PT, you can register here.

On a recent visit to the Seattle area in support of the SharePoint Saturday event in Bend, Oregon and locally on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, I talked with Brad about the growth of GTconsult and how the company’s experiences have evolved into the Umlindi platform:

[Christian] How has GTconsult evolved as a partner with the maturity of the SharePoint platform?

[Brad] We started 3 years ago out of our homes servicing SharePoint requirements and clients.  Our methodology was to understand our customer’s business first, and then define what role SharePoint could play in assisting with the requirements — without code.  We very much believe in our philosophy of ‘Everything SharePoint’ and build solutions that are scalable and as out-of-the-box as possible. We have grown organically since that day to 4 branches worldwide, and don’t plan on changing the winning formula just yet.

[Christian] How, specifically, did Umlindi come into existence? Was it always part of the GTconsult vision?

[Brad] While assisting our clients, we could see that SharePoint was becoming more and more business-critical, and that in-house staff were already burdened with so many other technologies that SharePoint took a back seat. As a result, most implementations failed because organizations knew the business side, but just didn’t have the skills to manage the infrastructure side. So as we grew, we started to provide a very simple and straight-forward service-level agreement (SLA) around farm management. It was easy to manage at first, but after so much uptake on the service, we needed to come up with something more robust, versatile, and flexible to assist us in managing these customer environments. We branded it Umlindi.

[Christian] When you talk to customers about Umlindi, what aspect of the service seems to most resonate?

[Brad] Three things, really: affordable SharePoint support, performance, and redundancy.  When you have put your heart and soul into a collaboration platform, the last thing you need is for that to disappear through poor management.  We provide that layer of confidence that SharePoint will always be up and running.

[Christian] With a focus on out-of-the-box SharePoint, don’t you hear customers asking “Can’t I do this kind of monitoring myself?” How do you respond to that?

[Brad] Yes, of course you can, and we do provide that option with Umlindi Server Management, which is our baseline service that provides a management dashboard, monitoring, and alerts. But what we also provide is a team of experts that take action on that data, acting on your behalf. We are just better at figuring out what is wrong and how to fix it because this is what we do day-in and day-out. While we have created a powerful platform for identifying and alerting us to what is wrong, and what may go wrong, there is still always the human element. We can help you to better support your own environment, or we can provide that level of service on your behalf.

[Christian] What is a typical customer scenario with Umlindi support? Can you share an experience (without naming the customer) where Umlindi saved a customer?

[Brad] We do have a few case studies where our clients have gone on camera to talk about their success. You can find some of these examples on our company website at www.GTconsult.com. However, I would like to point out that we have a 100% renewal rate on our Umlindi contracts, which speaks for itself. Customers see the value, which is why we are growing so rapidly, including our expansion into the US.

[Christian] Another area in which I’m sure you get a lot of questions is the cloud. Microsoft is moving rapidly to the cloud with their Office365 platform. Where is Umlindi going in the future? What is the difference in what GTconsult provides for on prem versus dedicated cloud versus Office365?

[Brad] Sure, we get asked that a lot, and we have helped many of our customers make the move into the cloud with our full-service consulting offerings, the A-Team. But from a platform perspective, we are always evolving Umlindi, and especially for Office365 are focusing on a fully-automated trend analysis “crystal ball” to help our customers understand what is happening within SharePoint Online.  We want Umlindi to be as smart as we are, and tell us what we should do to proactively solve problems and address performance issues before they impact the end user.  We will also go deeper than just page load times, and start looking at items on the page that could be causing issues, which will be a great assistance to Office 365 users and give them insight into page and site analytics. We’re excited about what is coming very soon to the Umlindi platform, all of which will be automatically available to customers using the service.

[Christian] Final question: How is Umlindi impacting company growth?

[Brad] Umlindi is the reason GTconsult is expanding in the US, with our new office being announced within the next few days. Umlindi is the cornerstone of the company, and a massive part of our success. I’m looking forward to talking more about it, and, specifically, showing it to people at our upcoming webcast.

In the coming months, I’ll be writing more about some of the management issues impacting SharePoint teams – all relevant to the Umlindi story. Hopefully some of you can join our webinar next week. More details on the webinar are available here, and you can also download a copy of our brochure from the GTconsult website.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.