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Offerings of a Managed Services Provider

Posted by Jeff Bolstad on May 6, 2016 10:00:00 AM

I get asked often what I do for a living.  Now, if I tell people I work for a Managed Service Provider (MSP), most who aren’t familiar with IT will smile and nod, and more often than not I fall back to “I work in IT”.  However, if you are reading this you probably have at least some in the details of what our company does, and how this can positively impact a company who utilizes an MSP.

Network Center, Inc. has become quite versatile in terms of outsourced technology services it provides. We are continuously revisiting and revamping the technologies we use and the methods we practice to ensure we’re providing the most useful service and products in an efficient manner.  NCI offers many mundane, day-to-day tasks that can either reduce the need for an in-house IT staff or free them up for more critical work.  These tasks include but are not limited to:  Network monitoring, patch management, Spam Filtering, Anti-virus management, and proactive work to ensure network security and stability.  This is in addition to the troubleshooting and problem resolution generally associated with IT support.  Now some companies have an internal IT staff, or maybe are looking at hiring internal resources versus going with an MSP.  So why does the latter make sense?

managed_services.jpgOutsourcing has a lot of negative connotations, especially when it comes to IT.  People think of call centers staffed overseas where the person may not know what state, much less city you are calling from.  However, when I talk about outsourcing, it simply means sharing some degree of responsibility for IT work with NCI.  Why does it make sense to do this though?

One of the biggest concerns with IT is always going to be cost. And what is going to get priority is constantly shifting.  For example, the 2017 federal budget is requesting $19 Billion dollars to help improve an area of major concern, cybersecurity.  That’s fine for one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but most companies don’t have that kind of room in their budgets. This is a good example of where it makes sense to outsource to an MSP like Network Center, Inc.  We've done the vetting of equipment, vendors, and security practices to have a good idea of what is going to do a company the most good, without have to start from scratch like an internal resource likely would. We also have more people doing more research which brings many new threats to our attention before they become a problem, allowing us to take precautions against them. Not only that, but with a vast group of experts with differing experiences and knowledge to draw upon. An MSP can put the right resources for a task in place to ensure it is done quickly and correctly, minimizing time and money spent on projects and fixing day to day issues.

Another benefit we gain by having so many IT professionals under one roof is our relationship with vendors is generally very good.  This is especially true where being certified in vendor products or technologies allows us access to quicker support and better internal tools.  We can in turn pass this along to any customers, and also act as in intermediary for end users or internal IT contacts.servers.jpg

Going with an MSP for addressing IT concerns can also help avoid some risks that come with hiring an internal resource or contracting with individuals for project work.  Primarily, the MSP assumes the risks normally associated with personnel, including the vetting and review process for any candidates. This extends beyond staff to hardware, software, and any other vendors that that may be sought, such as hosted applications or infrastructure as a service providers.  This helps shift sole responsibility for a company’s IT success from one individual or small group an entire company.

So what’s the bottom line of working with an MSP?  A quick Google search will give you a million results where companies provided a bulleted list of why you should go with their unique MSP offering.  I can’t speak for all of them, just in general terms and my personal experiences with NCI.  You can see service level agreements, staffing, security, and monitoring thrown out a lot.  I can tell you that trusting a MSP with a proven record of working with clients to improve their IT situation can pay off big, either through working with existing IT staff or becoming the de facto IT staff.  Many day-to-day IT concerns can be offloaded to external staff without interruption, and the input from many experts on larger projects and planning for the future is always available.

Follow the link below to learn more about Network Center, Inc. and our role as a trusted Managed Services Provider. 

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Topics: SharePoint, Outsourcing, Risk, Cost, MSP

A Simple Way to get Items from Lists Across Multiple Sites in SharePoint

Posted by Josh Nikle on Dec 9, 2014 3:10:00 PM

Recently I was tasked with creating a two-tiered announcement list system for a client running SharePoint Foundation 2013. They needed…

  1. to run approval workflows against some lists, but not on others
  2. to selectively aggregate items from a list on the home page and lists in departmental sites
  3. to display those items in a specific format
  4. and the ability for a local admin to be able to customize the pool of items returned without any special training

Here’s what we ended up with. Basic blog entry-type display that combines selected items from two lists (for this example) on two separate sites.

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Normally I might use the Content Query Web Part, but…

This is a Foundation install, so that’s ruled out. And frankly, setting up the query to return the specific results I want would be less than straight forward for my local admin, and I’d have to create a custom template to display the data as my client requires. XSL isn’t a common skill with most of my clients either, so any changes would have to be made by me. The CQWP then fails on requirements 2, 3 and 4 anyway.

SP Services does exactly what I needed

Luckily though we have SP Services in our tool kit! If you’re not familiar with it, SP Services is a JQuery library that exposes all the SharePoint Web Services, making them easier to access and use. It’s a very handy library and one you should familiarize yourself with.  

Having said that, SP Services is not a new tool, but I still find it useful for a number of tasks, particularly when working with Foundation’s limited features.

Anyway, using a little SOAP and SP Services, we can…

  1. easily access all of our lists across all sites
  2. combined with list views, easily aggregate selected items from those lists into departmental sites
  3. easily customize the display format
  4. and create a setup that allows for local site owners to easily change results without having to understand queries or XSL

We’ll implement this on the page by adding two Content Editor Web Parts (CEWP). To one we’ll add the script, while we’ll use the other to create the tag element to which we’ll pass the HTML we generate in the script.

How to do this step-by-step

Things you’ll need…

  • The three text files attached to this post. SOAPCallsToList.txt is the script. HTML.txt is the template for the element we want to create on the page. CSS.txt contains the styles used for the output.
  • A list view that sorts and filters items as you want them displayed in the aggregated feed.

Tools you might want…

  • The moment.js library which can be found here. This handy library allows you to easily manipulate dates and times.

Edit the script with your list, view ID, and fields.

We’ll use a simple SOAP script that queries a specified list using a view ID, and returns the items you want to display. We then use a little JavaScript to massage the results of the query to create the HTML to display on the page, and pass it to an element we’ll create with the second CEWP.

1. The [LIST NAME] is whatever is in the Name field in the list’s settings.

2. To get the [VIEW ID]…
  1. Go to the list and click on the appropriate view. 
  2. Modify the view and copy the URL. 
  3. Click Cancel. 
  4. Go to http://meyerweb.com/eric/tools/dencoder/, paste the URL in the gray box, and click Decode. 
  5. Copy everything inside the curly brackets after “view=”. You should end up with something akin to “BF40EFB6-C7CF-4AA2-8CAF-6E5EQE437C96”.
3. To get your field names…
  1. Go into the list’s settings and click on the field in question. 
  2. On the page you’re taken to, look at the end of the URL and note the name after “field=”. 
  3. If you’ve got any special characters in the name, copy the URL and head to http://meyerweb.com/eric/tools/dencoder/ again.

4. Find the “/_vti_bin/lists.asmx” URL and change it accordingly. If you’re running the script on a page in the site that holds the list, then leave it as is. Otherwise, change the URL to a format like “http://mydomain.com/sites/mysite/_vti_bin/lists.asmx”.

5. Change the JavaScript as necessary for your application.

6. Upload the two text files and the moment.js file (if you want to use it) to your Site Assets library.  Be sure to change the path to moment.js at the top of the script if you need to.

sharepoint_logo-746470Add the script and markup to a SharePoint page.

7. Add a CEWP and edit it. 

8. In the Content Link field, add a link to SOAPCallToLists.txt. In the Appearance section, set the Title to “SOAP Calls to Lists”, and set the Chrome Type to “None”.

9. Add another CEWP and edit it.

10. In the Content Link field, add a link to the HTML.txt file. In the Appearance section, set the Title to “HTML”, and set the Chrome Type to “None”.

11. Save the page.

Add our custom styles to your CSS file

12. Assuming you have a custom CSS file for your site, the final step is styling the list items you’re returning. We added styles to the HTML we generated with the script to make this easy.

And we’re done!

Depending on your styling, you should now see something more or less like the image at the top of this post. However, just in case that’s not what you’re seeing…

Troubleshooting

If you’re still seeing a blank page after adding the script and html, here are a few common things to look for.

  1. Are the links in the CEWPs correct? If you edit them again, click on “Test Link” to make sure you’re actually hitting the text files. If they’re correct, you’ll see the text of your file displayed in the browser.
  1. Is the View ID correct? Follow step 2 above again and make sure you’ve copied the correct ID.
  1. Is the lists.asmx URL correct? Copy your URL and paste it in the browser to make sure the page loads. You should see a page with a list of services on it.

For more information on SharePoint or for any SharePoint questions you may have, please contact us at NetWork Center, Inc. 

Contact Us Today!

Topics: SharePoint, SharePoint Items, SharePoint Lists

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