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MSPs understand the value of attending industry events and conferences. These professional gatherings allow MSPs to network with their colleagues and current clients and to discover new prospects. They also bring vendors, executives, and experts together for a few days to learn best practices. Companies often use conferences to introduce sales and marketing programs and launch new products.

While taking time away from your business is always a tough decision, conferences can provide the MSP with some downtime to share ideas among peers and contemplate new business opportunities. Sometimes, it takes stepping away from day-to-day business to clear the mind and rekindle your passion for the work.

Nobody can (or should) attend every single one of the hundreds of events and conferences out there. This article will help you narrow down the list and hopefully introduce you to a few events you had not considered.

MSPWorld

MSPWorld is one of the few vendor-agnostic events. A group of MSPs along with help from the MSPAlliance started this event about a decade ago, creating MSPWorld based on their real-world experiences. You will hear MSPs talk about their successes and failures. The planners designed MSPWorld with fewer keynotes but plenty of opportunities to network. Attendees will find analyists from Gartner and Forrester Research on hand, but the focus of the event is the MSP. If you can attend one event next year, consider MSPWorld.

MSPWorld is a 3-day event that takes place twice a year. It includes a general conference as well as workshops.

Cost: $399
Content focus: Networking, education, peer discussions

IT Nation

IT Nation is one of the largest and most popular MSP events in the United States. The conference brings together ConnectWise partners, executives, consultants, and experts to help grow your business. This is a traditional conference with keynotes, breakout sessions, and plenty of training opportunities.

IT Nation is a 3-day annual event with keynotes and over 190 breakouts sessions to choose from. If you are a ConnectWise partner, this is a must-attend event.

Cost: $995
Content focus: ConnectWise solutions, networking and training

HTG Peer Groups

If you are tired of the traditional conference and prefer something a bit more personal, you might like HTG Peer Groups. You must first join by application, but once accepted, HTG will pair you with a non-competing MSP. You will work together, discussing your business goals and learning from each other.

HTG brings everyone together four times a year to let you hear from business experts in your field. Networking and sharing ideas also play a crucial role at HTG. Unlike many events at which networking is a byproduct of the event, at HTG, networking and sharing ideas is the event. You will work one on one with a mentor who understands your business and be expected to share your knowledge with other MSPs. HTG offers both in-person and online communities. HTG Peer Groups is the one most MSPs join, but check out HTG Coaching and Consulting if the time commitment or cost exceeds what you can handle.

Cost: $5,000 per year
Content focus: Mentorship, networking, and best practices

Gartner Catalyst

Organized by the leading industry analyst firm, Catalyst offers six tracks based on your role and business. Gartner gears the conference toward the needs of technical professionals including MSPs, analysts, consultants, and sales professionals. As you might expect from a Gartner event, you will hear a lot of business strategy and advice to help you understand which markets are ready for expansion.

Gartner changes the six areas of focus each year. IoT, hybrid-cloud, blockchain, and AI were hot topics covered this past year.

Catalyst is an intense 2-day event, held annually. It includes over 150 technical breakout sessions.

Cost: $3,400
Content focus: Strategy, business opportunities, analytics

Microsoft Inspire

Inspire is Microsoft’s way of bringing together partners, Microsoft employees, and industry experts to network, learn, and play. Microsoft knows how to treat its partners, and it knows how to throw a party.

Microsoft events are known for large-scale keynotes, product demos, and lots of technical sessions. Inspire does not disappoint in these areas. Attendees can choose from several tracks based on business and role.

Inspire is an annual 5-day event. It includes keynotes, breakouts, and training sessions.

Cost: $1,995
Content focus: Microsoft products and services, networking, training

Managed Services and Hosting Summit

For MSPs doing business in Europe, this is an option closer to home. MSH Summit was held in London last year and draws a large number of attendees who come from all over Europe. MSH Summit offers breakout sessions that tackle the issues and challenges MSPs face today.

MSH Summit is an annual conference that offers many opportunities to network and learn from your peers.

Cost: Free for qualified delegates
Content focus: MSP strategy, business opportunities, networking

Conclusion

MSPs have dozens more events to choose from. Some MSPs might find it easier to attend certain events every couple of years instead of each year. When you evaluate events, don’t forget that some of the most valuable information and connections you bring home may not come from the formal program, but from the networking and conversations over dinner or in the hallways.

If spending in-person time at an event is not your thing or conflicts with other obligations, you can often purchase videos of the keynotes and training sessions once the event ends.

What events have you found to be the most valuable to your business?

View Comments

  • Hello,

    I'm just wondering if any of you have actually tested this scenario in the end and come to any conclusion since this article was published.

    Thank you!

    • Hello Octavian,

      Thank you for asking. To be honest I haven't tested this theory, though it's been on my "to do" list since the question first came up. Have any of our other readers tried storing backup images on a Server 2012 deduplicated volume? I would be interested in at least two qualities of this test: 1) how much storage can be freed using this process (as a percentage of the original data size), and 2) is their any discernible difference in I/O speed compared with a data volume that isn't managed? I'm interested in your comments.

      Cheers!

  • you missed so many important factors. just don't bother writing an article like this if you don't provide all the information, its far too dumbed down. you have probably lead astray some poor network/system admin who will choose to back up to disk and sacrifice his companies data retention for cost. you don't know the cost of the average company to lose recoverable data.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for your comments. Yep, there is so much to talk about with this topic. What information would you like to see in more detail? We're always looking to talk about the tech that interests our readers as well as what interests us.

      Cheers!

  • This appears to no longer work on their 6.1 and 6.1.1 versions. I tried FAT32 and NTFS partitions as well.

    It appears they switched to some sort of linux boot to do this.

    • Hello Greg,

      Yes, there have been some updates to the process since I wrote this article in March of this year. We now have the StorageCraft Recovery Environment Builder for Windows which does most of the heavy lifting. This means I don't have to come up with creative solutions using unsupported third-party software to create a bootable USB, I can make a bootable USB natively with the Recovery Environment Builder.

      Some of the benefits of using the builder include the ability to add custom drivers to the recovery environment during the build process, faster boot times because each build is language specific, and the builder is able to leverage the latest Windows PE (currently Windows 8) with the latest Microsoft drivers and security fixes.

      The Recovery Environment Builder creates ISO's using the Windows ADK you have locally installed. These ISO files can be used to boot a virtual machine or they can be burned to CD/DVD or USB using the Recovery Environment Builder application. StorageCraft also provides an ISO Tool utility which comes free with StorageCraft ShadowProtect. This tool can rip, burn, author and mount/dismount ISO files and makes a handy addition to your IT toolkit. This ISO Tool can also be used to burn bootable CD/DVD drives using the ISO created by the Recovery Environment Builder.

      Basically we're trying to make your recovery process as easy and fast as possible, which is why the Recovery Environment Builder now creates customizable ISO's in several "flavors" of the recovery environment (e.g. IT Edition) and burns those ISO's to your available removable media. The builder application is your all-in-one solution for creating a bootable ShadowProtect recovery environment.

      If you want more about the ISO tool utility, check out this article: http://www.storagecraft.com/blog/the-best-things-in-life-are-free/

      Cheers!

  • I have a question with the following...your use of the Word "Host" in between the *stars* (see below)

    5. Regularly check the virtual machines’ event logs for VSS errors as they can indicate problems with the backup. This is good to do because when the *host* machine calls for a backup of the VM, the VM is asked to pause processes while ShadowProtect takes the snapshot

    Don't you mean "Guest"? As per you reasoning in the above statements, the "Host" is only backing up the OS drive. The ShadowProtect Client, that's installed on the VM "Guest" machine, calls for the backup itself, not the Hyper-V "Host".

    • You’re correct, we were referring to the guest. But, after further review, we noticed that the sentence you pointed out in step five doesn’t quite fit with the remainder of the post, so we’ve removed it. It is, however, still important to check the virtual machines’ event logs for VSS errors-- this is just a standard best practice to make sure everything is running smoothly.

  • The price of a microlized hypervisor is in case of Hyper-V, that it is to large to get fully loaded into the RAM. This could have backdraws if you lost the contact to the boot volume. I found an impressive demonstration about this topic @Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8ZF0ez0iH0
    In case of this, it seems VMware has still the better product.

  • Well done to Guy & Casey it's an excellent eBook, well worth reading and well worth keeping a copy close to hand!

  • I have no bone in this debate. However, I have used both agentless and agent based backup solutions in my 14 yr IT career. I am also a Certified Ethical Hacker and Certified Penetration Testet. That distinction is important to my comments below:

    1- The statement made above "It’s important to keep in mind that in order to take a true disk image for complete, fast bare metal recovery, something has to be installed on the machine." is false. This can be done by agentless, remote capability. I have done this myself.

    2- I have used the security holes proclaimed above to not exist to break into systems using the usually weak backup passwords. The machine was in fact running shadow protect. Yes the holes exist, yes it is up to the local IT folks to keep that in mind.

    • Hello David,

      Good points, and we respect your professional opinion. It's true that the perfect system has not been created yet, meaning that every system is imperfect in some way. With this in mind we are attempting to represent the "best" solution based upon the Microsoft Windows architecture and philosophy. Of course, this solution is limited to the underlying OS architecture and any of its inherent weaknesses. You have aptly pointed out one of those weaknesses yourself: that of weak backup passwords. If an administrator chooses not to implement the strongest passwords at their disposal then the administrator presents an opening for unethical and malicious behavior. It should be noted that this is not the fault of the software, but of the human managing the software. The software may be designed perfectly but implemented or secured in a manner which allows for errors or weaknesses.

      With regards to agent-based backups, it is Microsoft's intent that their Windows OS be managed (in this respect, backed up) using agents. They themselves use agents to manage Windows Server backup processes. We understand that it is still possible to create a disk image with an agent-less backup; however, Microsoft's propensity towards agents warrants the use of an agent-based solution. In addition, there are a number of advantages that an agent-based solution offers over an agent-less solution. For example, an agent-based solution (if implemented correctly) can operate at a low level of the OS not available to injected or remote procedure processes. In the case of StorageCraft's ShadowProtect agent this allows us to directly track changes to the disk and to function as a driver within the Windows OS resulting in fast and reliable backup images. Other systems which inject agents typically have to traverse the file system looking for changes first before they can begin processing a backup, resulting in added overhead and resources.

      As you've pointed out, both solutions can work. And to add to your comments I will point out that the effectiveness of either an agent-based or agent-less solution really depends on the underlying code and how it is implemented. So I guess we come full circle back to the beginning where we both agree that software is only as good as the person designing/using the software. We feel we've built a rock solid agent-based solution founded on Microsoft's platform but designed and implemented by our amazing developers to give our customers fast and reliable backup images which are easy to use and manage. Hopefully this message comes across in our products as well as our literature.

      I would like to personally thank you for taking the time to contribute to our forum. The life of a "white hat" has always intrigued me as you guys get to use operating systems in ways that many of us can only imagine. And I think we're grateful for your honest commentary.

      Cheers!

  • For a "lover of words", you sure missed this:

    "The brain is so complex that we’re a long way from discovering all of its mysteries, and we might never actually know how much space has."

    Read it slowly...

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