Driven by the promise of lower costs and greater flexibility, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are adopting SaaS-based products in droves--and that means big changes for managed service providers (MSPs) that want to continue thriving well into the future.
In the era of cloud computing, the MSP’s role will largely be defined by increased complexity and more numerous integration challenges. But the story doesn’t end there: The cloud is also presenting MSPs with new opportunities for success.
In the days before cloud-based applications exploded in popularity, the job of the MSP was far easier to manage than it is today. The typical SMB focused on a limited set of technologies that could be readily controlled from a centralized location by a single engineer, using conventional remote monitoring and management (RMM) platforms. There was a high level of uniformity in the tasks (and tools used for them) that MSPs completed on behalf of their SMB clients.
Fast-forward to today, and things have gotten quite a bit more complicated. SMBs are using multiple SaaS-based services like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Office 365, ADP, Concur ... The list goes on and on. Business data is scattered all over, and is more difficult to assess and manage. In addition, MSPs that are generalists now need to manage a broader set of products than ever before, and there is less emphasis on managing the customer’s infrastructure.
With multiple “clouds,” each with their own requirements, MSPs are faced with the need to handle a more diverse set of variables. It’s getting more difficult to ascertain the big picture as data transverses various cloud platforms. The need to put it all together and obtain a complete, aggregate view is one of the bigger challenges facing MSPs today.
The result? MSPs will either get more specialized in what they manage, or, as generalists, they will develop a broader set of technical knowledge and skills across many more platforms. Generalists will also find themselves relying more on tools that allow them to aggregate and report on information stored in various cloud platforms.
With new challenges come new opportunities, and the ongoing shift to cloud computing is no exception.
One of those opportunities falls under the category of integration: The most successful MSPs will be those that gain the additional product knowledge necessary to do important value-added integration work across a wide variety of different applications and platforms. These will likely be larger MSPs who can integrate and manage systems more cost-effectively at scale.
The cloud also presents a big opportunity for MSPs of all sizes to offer specialized services. It’s important to focus on specific areas of strength. For example, an MSP that provides value-added services based on Microsoft Office 365 for clients may want to specialize in offering complementary development services as a way to increase margins. Other areas of specialization might include security event monitoring and management, and cloud data protection services.
One final thought: It’s a somewhat confusing time, particularly for SMBs who view the cloud as a highly nebulous place. (Pun intended.) SMBs will find it challenging to sort out precisely what services they need, various MSPs' different offerings, and how those services fit into their broader world of cloud computing.
That’s why it’s important for MSPs to do some soul-searching and create clear messaging about the services they provide and whatever it is that they are great at. In today’s world, when it comes to marketing such services, a little goes a long way--and clarity is critical.
Chris Doggett is Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Carbonite, a provider of cloud and hybrid backup and recovery solutions. Learn about the benefits of partnering with Carbonite and apply to become a Carbonite Partner today. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of Talkin' Cloud's annual platinum sponsorship.