Recently, I talked about the first cloud services IT solution providers (ITSPs) typically start with (i.e. hosted Exchange or cloud backup) and focused on the importance of bundling managed cloud services with each subsequent cloud offering. One other point that ITSPs new to selling cloud should keep top of mind is how they’re going to manage their customers’ cloud services.
To put this point in perspective, consider the following research finding from Parallels, which found that the average SMB used five cloud services in 2013 and that number is projected to grow to nine cloud services by 2017.
CompTIA’s 5th Annual Trends in Cloud Computing report, which includes an analyses of the changes in cloud computing over the past five years, gives further insights into the challenges that are already being experienced with this increase in cloud services. For example, a company may move a number of applications to a public cloud provider in the early stages of adoption, then move some of those applications to a private cloud and then move some back on premise while leaving some with the original cloud provider. This creates a highly complex IT environment, and it makes future cloud projects that much more challenging and time-consuming to plan and implement.
ITSPs who don’t carefully think through their cloud sales and implementation strategies can unwittingly add to the chaos by selling piecemeal solutions from multiple cloud vendors that not only add more data silos, but become a nightmare to manage as well.
Coming Up With a Cloud Management Strategy
While I’m not suggesting that ITSPs need to build their cloud practices on just one vendor, I do think it’s imperative that before you add any new cloud services to your line card that you consider how you’re going to manage the new service — along with subsequent cloud services.
For example, does the cloud provider candidate offer integration with your PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) tools? If not, how are you supposed to manage their cloud solution? Do they expect you to call them or use a proprietary tool to monitor their service? Any cloud solution that requires you to log into an extra portal or add extra manual steps to calculate customers’ application or data usage or troubleshoot a problem raises a serious red flag.
Another critical factor when selecting a cloud provider is knowing where they stand with regard to security and privacy. Microsoft, for example, publishes a “Top 10 list” titled, “Top 10 security and privacy features of Office 365,” which highlights various ways Microsoft protects end users’ data. For example, number 7 on the list is “We host your customer data in-region.” If you have customers in regulated industries like banking and finance, for example, being able to guarantee that their data will be stored within the same country – and region — that the data was originated can mean the difference between making and losing a sale.
Failing to take the time to check details on the issues outlined above will inevitably throttle your growth potential and lengthen your sales cycle. Adding a couple of extra steps early on in the evaluation and selection process can save you real dollars down the road.