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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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Why Buying Direct From Cloud Providers Doesn’t Make Sense for SMB’s

Posted August 14, 2014by Doug O'Flaherty

Buying-cloud-direct

Your customers are talking about The Cloud. The power of marketing has turned ‘the cloud’ into a bulldozer of a phenomenon that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The Cloud promises easy deployment and infinite utility.

As a result, businesses are scrambling to take advantage of this sudden need to be ‘in the cloud’. The big names are well known, and SMB’s are starting to make cloud decisions on their own.

In most cases, SMBs going direct to a large Cloud provider does more harm than good. They increase their business risk, over-pay, and under-deliver. Here’s Why.

By definition, SMB’s run lean. They are small businesses and often can’t afford to have the full time depth and breadth of knowledge in certain areas of their business, especially when it comes to IT. This can lead to decisions that are well-intended, but poorly executed and with real consequences for their business.

MSPs typically help in this regard so that their clients can make informed decisions when it comes to their IT needs.

Clouds are easy, quick and lower cost.

What is “The Cloud”?

The first part where most SMBs go wrong is that they don’t fully grasp what the cloud is.

The cloud isn’t a tangible object or piece of software. In fact, it’s not even a solution! It’s not like buying a new laptop for your employees so that they become more efficient.

“The Cloud” is a delivery mechanism and a business strategy. No two strategies are ever the same. Just because one company is using the cloud one way, doesn’t mean their competitor should be using it the same way.

In order to effectively use the cloud, businesses need to strategize on how to use it. It’s not something you can just plug in to your company and it makes you more efficient. There are many cloud services, platforms and technologies. What matters is how the cloud enhances business operations, improves customer service and integrates into the other business technologies.

Moving to the cloud may appear to be simple, but every IT change has complexity. For example, customer records may be linked across accounting, billing and contact systems. Moving any one of those to the cloud may slow all of them down. Moving all of them may result in exposing customer records or total failure – or it might be easy, flexible and less expensive if properly planned and tested. Managing migration of existing systems to any platform requires a strategic approach and tactical expertise.

If you don’t fully understand the benefits and trade-offs of cloud computing and cloud infrastructure, you shouldn’t be the one buying it. Period.

The Role of the MSP in Cloud Strategy

With the number of cloud offerings coming from trusted names, the opportunity for an SMB to make an uninformed decision has never been greater. MSPs should take this opportunity to be truly consultative business partners that can vet cloud offerings.

Help explain the potential pitfalls of stepping into that nice, fluffy-looking offering only to find it’s a long way to the ground.

Recommended Content: 16 Sweet Stats Every MSP Should Know About the Cloud

So what can an MSP to help their clients regarding cloud options? Let’s take a look.

1. Cut Through the Clutter

With cloud computing running rampant these days, it seems like everyone is heading straight to Amazon to purchase a new cloud server.

Amazon has done a great job at making cloud infrastructures affordable and accessible. However, it takes a great deal of “know-how” to effectively spin up an AWS server. There are A TON of options to choose from and it’s hard to know how these options will affect your bottom line or increase risk.

Most SMBs don’t have the knowledge needed to effectively leverage the cloud. That’s where they need an MSP. As their MSP, you’re the bridge between their business goals and IT.

It’s your responsibility to inform, and oftentimes make their decisions as it relates to cloud technologies. By doing so, your clients will actually benefit from purchasing cloud services, instead of wasting their time and money.

2. Monitoring

Many business owners think that the cloud is something that you simply get off of your plate. By purchasing cloud services, you’re checking a check box to say that you’re technologically current.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cloud instances still need to be monitored and maintained by a trained professional. There are costs associated with maintaining a cloud instance / infrastructure. Is bandwidth fluctuating from month to month? Will there be unanticipated overages that could destroy a budget? Who will apply security patches or update the instance to reduce risk? These aren’t questions that most SMB business owners understand and/or can do themselves.

As an MSP, it’s your job to monitor your clients’ cloud instances and make sure they’re optimizing their usage of the cloud. Don’t let them use a set-it-and-forget-it mentality.

3. Lack of Vision and Guidance

The big players in the space have done a masterful job of selling the cloud as the next big thing. Here’s the catch. You have to make all of the choices with little or no guidance from the provider.

The big three are not staffed to help SMB’s with every cloud question most small businesses have and that’s just pre-sale. Support after the purchase is likely to be a hit or miss endeavor at best. The largest providers require customers to spend at least 5 figures per month to get a dedicated account manager. That does not bode well for the little guy.

Some offer “cloud managed services” but they assume a knowledgeable IT professional as their customer. Historically, large technology providers can’t provide the same level of customer services as MSPs, VARs and ITSPs, which is why they began selling through the channel in the first place.

Just like any business decision you make, SMBs should be asking themselves, why am I purchasing cloud instances? What is it doing to my bottom line?

If they can’t answer that question, they shouldn’t be buying cloud services without the help of an MSP.

Conclusion

Bottom line – SMBs simply don’t have the knowledge and/or time in-house to directly purchase cloud technologies. Trying to save money by buying direct will ultimately just cost their business more.

Helping your customers navigate the purchase and maintenance of their cloud environments could be the linchpin of a stronger relationship in the future. MSPs are the perfect partner for the SMB to help represent them in the increasingly confusing world of cloud services.

 

Want to learn more about providing cloud solutions to your clients?

Cutting-Through-the-Fog [eBook]

RMM 101: Must-haves for Your IT Management Solution
MSP Guide to Managed Services SLAs  [white paper]
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