Top 11 Questions MSPs Ask About Cloud Partner Programs

Sure, the cloud computing industry is getting pretty darn sophisticated. But if you sit down and really listen to MSPs, you'll hear them asking some very basic -- but very important -- questions about cloud computing channel partner programs. For example, here are the 11 top cloud computing questions I heard VARs and MSPs raise the recent Synnex Varnex conference in Boston, Mass.

A little background: Roughly 30 VARs and MSPs attended a Synnex managed services workshop on April 10; the gathering was part of a larger Synnex Varnex conference. Within that workshop, Synnex discussed cloud-oriented managed services, online backup, anti-spam and NOC (network operations center) solutions. The attendees ranged from traditional resellers to advanced MSPs.

Their top cloud-related questions to Synnex included:

1. Where's the Data?: MSPs want to know where business and customer data will be stored -- down to the specific region or state. MSPs and VARs raise the question in order to address government compliance and corporate compliance questions that customers raise.

2. How are SLAs Defined?: Generally speaking, major cloud providers offer 99.9% (three-nines) uptime guarantees to partners and end-customers. But here's the fine print: Does the SLA included planned downtime? Be sure to double-check, because planned downtime can vastly impact end-user access to the cloud.

3. Who Manages End-customer Billing?: Generally speaking, most of the major cloud partner programs TalkinCloud has seen allow VARs and MSPs to manage end-customer cloud billing. Microsoft, however, does not offer such a capability.

4. What Security and Privacy Standards are In Place?: Encryption is the rage right now among VARs and MSPs shifting to the cloud. But solutions providers are also demanding compliance with service organization auditing standards such as SAS 70 Type II.

5. How Is End-customer Pricing Set?: VARs and MSPs want to know if they can set/adjust monthly pricing based on the added value they bring to the table.

6. How is Branding Managed?: Many -- though certainly not all -- VARs and MSPs want to promote their own brand to end-customers. As a result, those channel partners want to make sure cloud services have white label branding capabilities.

7. Is the Data Easily Portable?: If the VAR or MSPs decides to switch service providers or cloud providers, how long does it take to gather the customer data/business data from the current cloud, and move it to a new service provider?

8. Does Your NOC/Help Desk Speak American?: Notice how this question is worded. Throughout the Synnex gathering, VARs and MSPs politely -- but firmly -- noted that there's a difference between speaking English vs. speaking with an American dialect. The VARs and MSPs want to make sure that cloud help desks and outsourced NOCs (network operation center) support teams understand American dialect fluently.

9. How Are You Insured?: If the cloud provider's business implodes, what are the potential implications to VARs, MSPs and end-customers?

10. Will You Ever Go Direct?: How do you plan to use the customer data I've stored in your cloud? Will you ever directly contact my customers? If so, why? Can I get that in writing?

11. What Makes You Unique?: There are scores of cloud backup, online security and online storage companies. Why, ultimately, should a VAR or MSP work with you?

Did I miss a bunch of common questions? Absolutely. But the 11 items above cover most of the chatter I've heard during recent cloud-related workshops for VARs and MSPs.

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