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June 21, 2011
Let’s assume you’re a VAR or MSP that has yet to embrace cloud computing. You’re looking for some basic first steps but there are hundreds of potential cloud services and cloud partner programs from which to choose. How can you begin to define and organize your cloud strategy? I recently heard some simple but compelling advice from TruMethods CEO Gary Pica, himself a former MSP.
During the recent Schnizzfest conference for MSPs, Pica organized cloud opportunities into four categories for VARs and MSPs. They included:
Tools (backup and recovery services, anti-virus services);
Applications (hosted Exchange, hosted SharePoint, etc.);
Infrastructure (servers, data storage, security, etc.); and
Virtual Desktops (basically, the entire end-user experience in the cloud).
Pica told attendees to start with item one (tools) before moving on to items 2, 3 and 4. I believe that advice is on the mark since cloud storage and cloud security services are in high demand. But I also think there isn’t much money to be made from basic storage and hosted email services. I think there needs to be a…
Step Five: Vertical Market SaaS — something that inspires MSPs and VARs to develop SaaS integration expertise in a specific vertical market. Once you’ve mastered a vertical (say, health care) you can charge a premium for the related storage fees that address compliance and regulatory issues.
Step Six: Mobile Access — Somewhere within the list VARs and MSPs also need to cover mobile cloud; that is, the ability to give customers anywhere, anytime access to applications and data. That any-to-any capability has to push beyond notebooks and PCs to include smart phones, tablets and emerging form factors.
Although Pica’s list is simple and concise, finding and testing the most ideal cloud platforms isn’t easy. And here’s where it gets extra complicated.
To effectively price and brand cloud services, Pica calls on VARs and MSPs to bundle cloud fees into an all-in-one per user monthly fee. Think of it this way: Instead of promoting line-item fees for backup, patch management, remote monitoring, anti-spam and more, Pica says just give the customer a single per user monthly price for everything — without disclosing the price for each component. Privately, you should know your costs and build in the appropriate margins. But publicly you should only disclose the total per-user price.
In other words, Pica wants you to sell customers chocolate cake rather than the individual ingredients that go into chocolate cake.
Sounds sweet. But here’s the hard part: You need to choose the best ingredients for your chocolate cake. Cloud storage providers are going to come and go. Cloud security providers are getting acquired each week. You’ve got to do a lot of homework to find the best ingredients for your cloud services.
Then, you need your own contingency plan that allows you to migrate to a new cloud service if your current provider implodes, gets acquired or fails to meet your needs.
I didn’t say this was going to be easy. But I do think Pica’s advice greatly simplifies the cloud conversation for VARs and MSPs.
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