Back in 2013, I posted an electronic Pilot Logbook Template for others to use as I had trouble finding a good version for myself.
As a UAS pilot, I also found the same problem… so, here is a digital UAS/Drone Pilot Logbook Template. I also included sections for recording your UAS Information as well as a Maintenance Logbook.
Back in 2013, I posted about Cloud Security and the importance of strong passwords and multi-factor authentication. This has been increasingly important and if you have not enabled multi-factor authentication on your online accounts, please get this done! There is a site available to you to check to see if your email or passwords have been compromised; https://haveibeenpwned.com. There is also an updated list of compromised sites.
';—have i been pwned? is a free resource for anyone to quickly assess if they may have been put at risk due to an online account of theirs having been compromised or "pwned" in a data breach.
Thanks to Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director and Most Valuable Professional awardee for Developer Security, blogger at troyhunt.com, international speaker on web security and the author of many top-rating security courses for web developers on Pluralsight.
The purpose of Client Tell is to spotlight the groundbreaking work of our clients, and to help businesses learn from and connect with each other. This time we talked with Raleigh entrepreneur Van Murray to hear how his business, AppSmart, is leading the industry and providing best-in-class tailored IT solutions for businesses.
Entrepreneur Van Murray may have launched a new company this fall, but he’s no stranger to providing management services to businesses. The Raleigh born and raised CEO has started and run rapidly growing IT companies around the Triangle for years. As a North Carolina State University graduate, Van chose Raleigh as his business’ home because of the vast talent pool from surrounding universities and tech companies and the reasonable cost of living. “When folks move here, they want to stay,” said Van. “Attending NC State gave me the opportunity to explore different IT opportunities around the Triangle, and the experience really shaped my path and helped me figure out what I wanted to do.”
Passion in Practice
AppSmart was conceived out of Van’s passion for IT and his desire to help businesses compete and win in the marketplace. “We work with more than 60 providers to help companies figure out which apps and services would be most beneficial to their business, and then we give them a marketplace to buy and manage their IT services,” he explained. “Think Amazon for Business Technology.”
Solid partnerships are foundational to AppSmart’s operations. A big focus is put toward training and recruiting new partners who can offer the cloud and its apps to their customers, making it easier to sell software and technology. “We offer on-boarding, support services and consolidated billing along with our products, and of course we handle all the migrations for our customers,” Van said.
AppSmart’s target partners are technology firms selling anything from internet bandwidth to cabling, marketing and consulting services. Today the company serves about 1,500 organizations in the United States and around 150,000 people under management. It’s quickly becoming the world’s leading marketplace in powering the digital economy.
Taking the Plunge
Van says that for him, the biggest risk in starting a company is leaving the security and stability of a full-time job. “Overcoming that fear is the biggest step,” he explained. “My wife was pregnant with our first child when I made the decision to step out on my own nearly 10 years ago, and that drove me even more. I encourage and challenge entrepreneurs to think about what they want to build or what problems they want to solve, and then take the risk to go out and make it happen.”
A Strong Alliance
When it comes to the legal aspects of starting and running a business, Van encourages other entrepreneurs to bring in a trusted partner, rather than just hiring someone to come in and do the work for you. He recalled:
“I partnered with the Fourscore Business Law team because they understand startups, their challenges and how they work. Fourscore provides me with valuable counsel and resources, so I can make the smartest and most efficient decisions for the good of the company.”
To learn more about AppSmart, visit appsmart.com.
About the Company
NeoCloud is a leading Microsoft managed cloud services provider based in Raleigh, North Carolina with over 1,500 customers. The company provides licensing, deployment, and support services for software and infrastructure solutions to help businesses be more secure, reliable, and efficient. As a CSP tier 1 direct partner with Microsoft, NeoCloud offers customized solution bundles through a national reseller network of dealers.
NeoCloud works with 1,000 dealers representing a large, diverse, and growing group of value-added resellers, business consultants, infrastructure technology and solution partners, telecom agents, and freelance sales people. The sheer number of people NeoCloud works with made it impossible to communicate and engage effectively with all of their constituents.
Add to that the challenge of customizing solution bundles for each target audience– with 55 vendors and over 300 solutions. You can begin to understand the scope of the company’s complex operations and communications challenges.
To solve their operational challenges, NeoCloud began looking for a CRM solution that would allow them to scale sales operations to address its growing audiences, while building and managing those relationships to drive business growth.
NeoCloud became a Nimble reseller to provide a simple, powerful, yet affordable CRM for Office 365 and G Suite to its channel and their customers. Impressed by the popularity of Nimble, the company evaluated the solution for themselves. They were familiar with its capabilities, and knew Nimble offered the robust contact management, data enrichment, and social insights necessary to easily scale their network and operate more effectively.
Without the bandwidth to handle customer engagement on a one-to-one basis, the ability to communicate effectively at scale by segmenting a large group of people was very appealing to NeoCloud. Now, with Nimble, the team can easily use custom fields to create lists based on tag profile information, segment contacts based on custom tags as well as social and business data, and use group messaging to send customized emails to targeted contacts.
Another important factor in the company’s decision was the ability to access Nimble anywhere; from directly inside their inbox, web browser, and from their mobile device. NeoCloud considered this as revolutionary and crucial to increasing their efficiency.
Deep integration with Office 365 and Gmail was also key in the selection of Nimble; not only for the company’s own use, but to enable their resellers to sell it more effectively. Users can adopt it without much behavior change.
“We wanted a solution that would fit into our existing suite of products and solutions in place, and Nimble has done that very well. There are hundreds of CRM products out in the marketplace, but the level of integration and ease of use is really the differentiating factor,” explains Steve Slaughter, Channel Manager.
The Nimble Experience
NeoCloud now uses Nimble to leverage the vast amount of information available to them in a central repository for more effective outreach and development of enduring relationships with their resellers.
Using Nimble to walk in the social footprints of their partners and resellers is extremely valuable to NeoCloud. By accessing their history of conversations and social media insights, the team can send more personalized outreach, allowing them to have meaningful conversations that are key to growing those relationships quickly and effectively at scale.
“A typical CRM system gives you the basics – contact title, what they sell, where they live. I wanted more than that. I wanted critical relationship-building information that would allow me to understand the reseller’s needs, priorities, and what drives them. Nimble gives me that,” notes Steve.
Nimble has also been instrumental in the introduction and recruitment of new partners. As a result of the personalized group messages the team has sent thus far, partners have introduced other people from their own networks that NeoCloud has since started working with. NeoCloud has also seen these messages drive engagement with previously unengaged partners.
The team also appreciates the ability to remain productive while on the road with Nimble mobile. They can prep for a meeting with all of the background information at their fingertips, and send follow up emails right from their mobile device so they never miss a beat.
“Nimble was a significant supplement to our existing systems in the back office. It helps us manage relationships and have better conversations with partners versus simply managing transactions. Nimble has been vital to our success and made what was once an inefficient process exceedingly simple, which enables us to reach that high level of engagement quickly and effectively,” concludes Steve.
NeoCloud has plans to expand the team that will be using Nimble to continue to automate processes, collaborate and share information, and manage their pipelines–all in one place. Steve is also configuring their onboarding process into Nimble to centrally track and manage the data collection around those workflows. This will help to improve management and team visibility into each customer’s onboarding status and results.
Here’s how NeoCloud CEO Van Murray and his team streamline their billing with the help of a simple cloud accounting solution.
NeoCloud is a young tech company that businesses go to for custom cloud strategies.
Just five years ago, the brand was born out of a larger organization. And since then, Van has seen his company grow by leaps and bounds.
Today, the thriving business has more than 50 ISPs partners, including Google, Microsoft and FreshBooks.
The Challenge with Growth
NeoCloud’s business model relies on recurring revenue and automated efficiencies, so it was processing a large number of invoices from the get-go.
Consolidated billing was crucial to its success. This need would only grow with the company. Van knew he needed a solution that would scale with the needs of a growing customer base and efficiently process the rapidly growing number of bills and invoices.
When Van launched NeoCloud as a new brand, he turned to his trusted network and customers to shortlist his options for a suitable billing solution.
Many of them were successfully using FreshBooks, but he also knew that moving systems involves a lot of pieces, especially when it comes to accounting and billing processes. That’s why several teams at NeoCloud were part of the decision-making: Accounting, Engineering & Support, Sales and Product.
“We evaluated multiple solutions to ensure a smooth roll out,” recalls Van. In the end, as a cloud provider of businesses, it was the recurring billing function that convinced the team to go with FreshBooks.
“Although familiarity, reputation and trust was a big part of why we chose FreshBooks, the recurring billing feature is very important to us and that’s where FreshBooks gave us the most value.”
Rolling Out a New System
NeoCloud was actively billing even as a smaller organization so when it decided to implement FreshBooks, Van knew that managing the change was as important as the new solution.
To make the transition easier, the FreshBooks team was busy spinning up instances for NeoCloud to test before launch, and make sure all of NeoCloud’s processes were successfully up and running.
“The biggest thing was having great support throughout the process. Multiple people within FreshBooks in different groups helped accomplish that.”
Ultimately it turned out to be a very easy experience for Van’s team. “They simplified a complex system without overly complicating the options, which made launching so much easier.”
Advancing Automation with Powerful APIs
In the earlier years as a smaller company, NeoCloud began using the solution with some manual processes. But as its billing needs grew, the company started leveraging FreshBooks’ powerful APIs to build more automation and billing efficiencies.
Van’s team loved the ability to create a billing profile and generate invoices automatically based on that recurring profile. Billing process got even easier and less involved. “FreshBooks doesn’t just provide traditional accounting functionality, it also provides components that typically aren’t found in pure billing systems,” explained Van.
Now as a larger organization, NeoCloud has a large amount of daily billing cycles, and FreshBooks is the core of its billing engine. What’s more, Van says its other systems also interface with FreshBooks.
When NeoCloud began integrating with the FreshBooks API, it had to look at several technical areas to nail down the best way to successfully get going.
Luckily, because FreshBooks’ focus is on simplifying the billing experience, the team wasn’t weighed down by a heavy load of customization tasks. There was no need for a professional services team to launch FreshBooks.
“With other complex billing systems, the story would have been quite different,” says Van. “We would have gone through a long and arduous implementation of multiple options and customizations.”
But with FreshBooks, Van could give his customers an easy experience that worked smoothly so they could successfully pay their bills.
“At the end of the day it’s about revenue and making sure customers can easily pay,” he points out. “Complicating it with things like sign-on credentials and portals and stuff they don’t remember or can’t access causes receivable issues.”
3X-less people hired to manage and administer billing and invoicing
Saved roughly $18,000 annually on credit card processing
The NeoCloud-FreshBooks partnership has been growing for over five years now. During this time, NeoCloud has expanded by over 40% year over year, using recurring billing to generate invoices on a regular basis, whether that’s monthly, quarterly or annually.
FreshBooks has also allowed Van to scale his company’s billing needs without having to hire multiple people. So with FreshBooks’ help, NeoCloud’s entire billing and collections is handled by just one person.
Today NeoCloud continues to leverage the efficiencies from FreshBooks into its ability to grow and launch its marketplace of over 50 vendors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.
Raleigh, North Carolina-based NeoCloud, which spun out of NeoNova in 2016, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary as a standalone company. Just last month, the young company, which provides management services for companies looking to transition business processes to the cloud, announced the acquisition of California-based cloud service business Bi101.
Crain’s Raleigh-Durham recently chatted with NeoCloud CEO Van Murray about Activate Good, an organization that works to connect volunteers to charitable causes in the local community, why Murray chose the Triangle for his business and what’s the next big thing in the cloud.
Q: How did your entrepreneurial path lead you to the Triangle area?
A: I grew up here in Raleigh. I love the area and my family is here. I actually only applied to one college and that was N.C. State. I was interested in computers and computer engineering, so N.C. State was the perfect fit for me. N.C. State has a great co-op program, and I got a full-time co-op at Glaxo, which was my first job in IT. I chose IT because it was something that I have always been passionate about.
My first real job out of school was with a startup, which was a small group that did big projects. I was in a space that was very new – mobile data collection. In 2004 it was very exciting technology. Then, I shifted back toward more traditional IT and ran IT for a private equity firm. I realized it’s too expensive for any traditional business to operate that way, which is what led me to the cloud business. I started Accent Plus, which was my first real business, where I helped businesses get rid of the legacy model and switch to the cloud.
Q: What was the biggest challenge when stepping out on your own?
A: The biggest fear of all is leaving secure employment, which not only did I have, but I had the opportunity to continue with those guys and continue being successful. At that time, I had recently bought a home and my wife was pregnant. The fear of leaving can be overwhelming, but it also drove me to succeed and grow the business. I sold the company, which was a success, in 2012. I closed on the deal a week after my son was born. From 2012 to 2016, we built a national sales channel. Ultimately, I saw the opportunity to buy the business back and spin it out with new investors. We closed on that deal in February 2016, so for the last year and a half or so, we’ve branded that company as NeoCloud.
Q: Why did you select Raleigh to grow your business?
A: That’s pretty easy. I had several previous roles traveling quite a bit, yet I would always want to come back home. It’s a great place to start a business because of the surrounding universities and talent pipeline. There’s a huge talent pool here and a relatively reasonable cost of living. And it’s not just the universities that are bringing talent here. Other companies – the big tech companies, pharmaceutical headquarters – are bringing talented people to the area. When folks move here, they want to stay. I think it’s a great place to be, and it’s great to see all the incubators and the entrepreneurial activity in Raleigh and in Durham.
Q: What’s next for you and NeoCloud in the short- and long-term?
A: We have grown exponentially and we’ve done more deals and grown more than I ever expected to see or do. I think I’ve accomplished a lot. From leading a great company to hiring great people – if my career ended today, I’d be happy. I just want to continue what we’re doing in this transformation to the cloud, helping businesses compete and win and, basically, do better. I just like to help people. I want to do that and continue to grow and employ a lot of people in Raleigh. I’d love to grow a big business and to have a building in the Raleigh skyline with my name on top, and I think that would be a huge success.
Q: When we talk about the cloud, where are we in its lifespan?
A: It’s very early. When I started in 2010, the foundations were there as was the ability to start a business focused on cloud. But I was out talking about it and nobody knew what it was. Now, you don’t have to explain it like you used to. Seven years is still very young for this sort of market. The numbers that are published predict the cloud will be a $300 billion-plus industry by 2020. Today, it’s obviously a fraction of that. I think, in general, it’s very young and I would say it’s in its infancy. We’re at a point now that by 2020, I don’t think any business should not be in the cloud.
Q: What motivated you to include a charitable component via Activate Good?
A: I’m interested in giving back to the community in Raleigh and around the Triangle. I was looking for ways to get involved and ended up finding Activate Good. The founder started about the same time I did, and I think what they’re doing is great. They’re making the Triangle and Raleigh the leader in volunteerism and corporate volunteerism. It’s really awesome to be able to give back and spend your time participating and volunteering with a nonprofit, especially when it’s supported and encouraged by your employer. We’re still only at 15 employees, so the best way I can think about helping the community is to provide our services to the nonprofits like Activate Good at no cost.
By: Caroline Curran, Published by Crain's Raleigh-Durham
August 24, 2017 - 10:23am
A Year After Spinout from NeoNova, NeoCloud Acquires a Competitor & Doubles its Team
by Shannon Cuthrell — July 27, 2017
An idea for a company seeded when Van Murray, an experienced IT and engineering professional in Raleigh, wanted to channel his background in technology into his own venture.
But what started in 2010 as an IT solutions business quickly spiraled into an emerging startup in the nascent cloud services market, a global industry Gartner projects will grow 18 percent in 2017 alone.
In the time since founding, Murray sold his company, bought it back, rebranded, made an acquisition and grew to servicing 1,500 customers. With a team of 15, doubled in size over the last year, the company now called NeoCloud is positioning itself as an expert in migrating data into the cloud, managing and integrating cloud services, training customers and ensuring compliance with company policy.
Relationships with more than 200 cloud service providers and more than a petabyte of data migrated on behalf of customers help validate that.
If the growth trajectory continues, Murray believes his company could be a leading global cloud service provider to companies of all sizes and disciplines.
ORIGINAL VENTURE RESTRUCTURED OVER THE YEARS
Murray’s story begins with Accent Plus, the startup he originally launched in 2010. His mission was to help connect businesses to IT solutions through software, a passion built through his previous work in IT and engineering leadership roles at Cherokee Investment Partners, Mi-Corporation and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
But just as Accent Plus started a hunt for capital in 2012, Murray got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
A fellow Raleigh startup called NeoNova wanted to buy the business to manage its internal technical operations as it focused on scaling network management and help desk assistance for rural broadband service providers. The size of NeoNova’s business was a reason Murray was drawn to the deal.
After the acquisition, Murray stayed on at NeoNova as director of cloud services and eventually vice president. And over time, his department began to see growth as customers moved data and other operations into the cloud. It started to make sense to spin the business services side out of the company. And the best person to lead the effort was the man who started it all.
Along with the spin off, Murray decided to rebrand to NeoCloud to better reflect its focus on cloud services. The company retained partnerships with more than 100 cloud providers, notably Google and Microsoft.
Then-NeoNova CEO Ray Carey wrote in a blog post that the reorganization was to accommodate for the growth of the company’s business outside rural markets, where cloud services are in more demand. The spin off would help meet the new need.
Since then, NeoCloud has doubled the team headcount to 15 and spent the last year growing the customer base to 1,500 businesses and organizations, representing 150,000 total users.
The fast revenue growth gave the company leverage to acquire Business Intelligence 101, or Bi101, earlier this month.
The California-based cloud consultancy has a national presence, with its 350 customers increasing the NeoCloud customer base by 30 percent.
They’ll have access to NeoCloud’s software suite, which includes servers, security offerings, voice solutions, data migration services, as well as email and website hosting. They also bring 50 additional IT and cloud providers into NeoCloud’s partner network.
“Our goal is to live through this cloud journey with these customers, and provide better services as well as product,” says Murray.
PARTNERING WITH NONPROFITS
The company’s growth has also inspired Murray to give back. This week, he’s unveiling a new partnership with Raleigh volunteer network Activate Good to provide free cloud services to local nonprofits.
NeoCloud has tailored its cloud services suite to nonprofits, offering a bundle that includes hosted email services, anti-virus programs, support and management for Google’s G products, Microsoft Office 365 Nonprofit, as well as cloud data backup and security training to ensure organizations protect their data. It typically costs $15/month per user.
In a statement, Activate Good Executive Director Amber Smith notes that nonprofits often spend time making sure the money they receive is going directly to serving their cause, but “the reality is that many of these organizations can benefit tremendously from cloud services, but they can’t even afford to think about it.”
The partnership is fueled by a larger effort by NeoCloud to not only work with the nonprofit community as a service provider, but to support its growth as well. NeoCloud’s presence is grounded in the Triangle with 180 local businesses and nonprofits as clients, including Band Together and the Wake County Habitat for Humanity.
Murray, a winner of Triangle Business Journal’s 2017 40 Under 40 awards, is excited about the future of NeoCloud, citing the “opportunities in this market to help customers and businesses better take advantage of the cloud.”
The long game for his company is planning for multiple year-over-year growth. And to do that, NeoCloud will continue to grow the team—so far, that means job postings for engineers, sales managers and a marketing specialist.
NeoCloud, a Raleigh-based firm that provides management of cloud computing services for a growing number of customers, is getting bigger through an acquisition.
The emerging entrepreneurial company on Thursday disclosed that it had acquired Business Intelligence 101, or Bi101, which is based in Livermore, Calif.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The deal means an immediate boost for NeoCloud. The acquisition, which closed earlier this month, adds “more than 350 of Bi101’s customers to its client portfolio, growing [NeoCloud’s] customer base by approximately 30 percent,” a spokesperson for the company says.
Bi101 will continue to offer financial consulting servies as a standalone entity.
“This acquisition represents a significant achievement in NeoCloud’s growth strategy as we seek to bring our cloud management expertise to users across the country,” said Van Murray, CEO of NeoCloud, in a statement. “Bi101’s evolving business and strong customer base made them an ideal choice to complement our own innovative solutions.”
NeoCloud offers identity management, servers, voice solutions, data migration, email, security, website hosting and 24/7 support.