The fast-growing managed services market is predicted to expand from $138 billion in 2016 to $256 billion by 2022. That's the upside. The downside, if you're a managed services provider, is that this growth is creating competition as new players try to gain a foothold.
To distinguish yourself as an MSP, you must be creative in the services and value you deliver. One way to do this is by offering cloud-based storage-as-a-service (STaaS), which solves a variety of challenges for customers, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses.
Data storage already is a major pain for organizations and it will get much worse. By 2025, data volume is expected to be close to 1,000 percent higher than it is today. This is especially a problem for SMBs, which are being drowned in the tsunami of information they gather. Yes, data is relentlessly flowing to organizations of all sizes, but SMBs are finding it extraordinarily difficult to keep their heads above water.
Once upon a time, SMBs could simply buy more hardware to meet their data storage needs, but that's no longer an option. The volume of data has outstripped their capacity to purchase new hardware and disks. They just can't afford it. What's more, these companies are typically understaffed in their IT departments, if they have one in the first place.
The bottom line is that SMBs have reached a point where it is extremely challenging and expensive for them to deal with their information overload. MSPs can help in several ways:
- Lower costs. That's where a value-added STaaS offering comes in, because it can help SMBs meet their storage needs and grow their business. SMBs can reap benefits from a robust, scalable storage solution that eases the management headaches that come with traditional storage.
- Scalable capacity: As an MSP, you can deliver this to your SMB customers. With storage-as-a-service, you can offer SMBs the opportunity to access high-quality, scalable storage. Better still, you can offer SMBs the flexibility to pay only for what they need, when they need it, without incurring any up-front costs. With STaaS, SMBs can easily throttle their storage requirements up or down as their capacity needs change. It's a very attractive proposition for a growing business: storage at a price that is significantly lower than the cost of owning and maintaining an in-house storage infrastructure.
- Better data storage and management capabilities: Low cost and flexibility aren't the only reasons STaaS is increasingly appealing to SMBs. New data privacy laws, such as Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and other nation-specific regulations that prevent data leaving the country, are putting stringent data storage requirements on businesses. Even the smallest businesses must now comply or face stiff penalties. Thus, a third value that MSPs can offer is to help SMBs better store and manage their data and remain in compliance with rules like the GDPR.
So, clearly, the market for STaaS is strong. But if you're a typical MSP, you have a rapidly growing business that offers a variety of different services to customers. At this point, it's probably not practical to build out your own sophisticated storage infrastructure.
This means that if you want to offer the very best storage service to customers, you have to choose the right storage vendor for your business. Here's what you should look for in a vendor:
- Ease of use. This factor is crucial. If you're an MSP, you're probably already stretched to capacity and you don't have spare resources to allocate to deploy and manage your storage service. With the right storage solution, such as scale-out storage appliances, you can plug-and-play with the ability to "bring your own disks." Scale-out storage allows you to mix-and-match drives of different capacities and types (SAS, SATA) in the same bays and with zero configuration. This means no RAID, volume or logical unit numbers (LUNs) to configure. These scale-out storage solutions give you the power to manage the storage needs of your customers in any location, from any browser, so you spend less time managing storage and more time driving strategic initiatives.
- High scalability. There are MSPs that get engaged in data projects that, suddenly, require a much larger team and a new budget because they didn't realize the customers' data needs were going to grow so fast and become so unwieldy. There is a better way. Choose a highly-scalable data storage solution that keeps pace with customers' data growth, which is often more than 100 percent per year. The right storage solution will allow you to cost-effectively add any number of drives, anytime and in any granularity, to meet the storage requirements of your customers. And you can grow your global storage pool with zero configuration and no application downtime.
- Intelligent analytics. Look for a self-organizing storage solution that applies analytics and machine learning to the management of information. Ideally, such a storage system will use analytics to identify the data that should be backed up and data that needn't be, giving you an intelligent, tiered data architecture that provides rapid access to mission-critical information. This is the only way that MSPs and their customers are going to keep up with the explosion of data, especially now that the data deluge is coming bigger and faster than humans can handle.
- Strong data protection. Finally, you need to always keep your customers' data safe and available. If you don't, you will quickly lose their business, not to mention place them (and you) at risk of regulatory trouble. That's why it's important to ensure that your data storage offerings also include the ability to protect business data wherever it lives and guarantee that it's always available no matter what happens. The best solutions use snapshot, replication and encryption technologies and can also recover individual files, entire systems, or fail over a whole data center very quickly.
Increasingly, you need to differentiate yourself in the market. Standing out isn't about what you can do—it's about what else you can do. By offering a smart, cost-effective and highly scalable storage solution, you can rise above the crowd, attract more customers and build long-lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships with them.
Shridar Subramanian is vice president of marketing and product management at StorageCraft. He has more than 23 years of experience in information technology. Shridar joined StorageCraft with the acquisition of Exablox in January 2017. Prior to StorageCraft, Shridar was the VP of marketing at Virident Systems, a leading provider of PCI SSDs, and he also was the senior director of marketing at Monosphere Inc., a storage virtualization software company. Follow StorageCraft on Twitter @StorageCraft or follow Shridar on LinkedIn.