The cloud is a business model that is gaining traction, but that’s not to say that it’s right for every business.

Channel Partners

May 27, 2014

5 Min Read
The Cloud Is an Evolution, Not a Revolution

By Paiman Nodoushani

In the last couple of Continuum blog installments, we have discussed why it makes sense for telco providers to add an MSP model, as well as making the actual transition to an MSP. This month we touch on another area that is often the next step, once you have moved to a managed IT services model — the cloud.  

Upon hearing those two words, “the cloud,” many experience a sense of the unknown or feel a bit overwhelmed by what some have dubbed as a “revolution.” However, I look at the cloud as more of an evolution that can provide new opportunities for MSPs, at different levels and at different paces. In speaking with various MSPs, I have found that many have questions about the cloud, such as:

  • How do I remain relevant?

  • Should I be excited about the cloud?

  • How is the cloud going to affect my business model?

Below are the responses to these (and other questions) that will help to ease your mind as the cloud model continues to move ahead in our industry.

How do I remain relevant? First, examine the complete technology package the SMB needs to run their business; you will find components such as servers, voice communications, desktops, storage, access points and network devices. The next step is to understand how you can easily bring the cloud into the conversation with your SMB customers. Many of the technologies they are using, like the ones listed above, are already going to intersect with the cloud. Look at each opportunity, how each of these devices fits in and what it means for the SMB when you move to the cloud. 

For example, when you discuss storage, discuss BDR technology that you can actually provide directly into the cloud, as well as file sync and share. Is that something you can provide to your SMB customers? Even when everything moves to the cloud, you are still going to have routers and switches that provide your connectivity to the cloud, and there is an opportunity to monitor those devices.

Should I be excited about the cloud? Is it just another “buzzword?” Like many evolutions that occur in our space, let’s say VoIP for example, you must believe in it. When VoIP was first introduced, both MSPs and SMBs alike might have thought this technology wouldn’t have caught on. But now, look where we are with VoIP. Similarly, the cloud is a market trend that’s happening. In 2011, analyst firm Forester projected that from 2011-2020, the market for cloud computing will grow from 40 billion to 240 billion. That’s a change all MSPs need to be thinking about. Bottom line: “How do I work with this market trend so that I continue to remain relevant?” More importantly, “What does the cloud mean for me — personally and as a business owner?”

Cloud is a business model (not technology) change. Cloud is really not about a technology; cloud is a business model change. Different MSPs have different business reasons that they look for when it comes to the cloud. Some are looking to change the way that they’re spending their money, and they want to get away from buying infrastructure and spending the capex dollar; they want to get the infrastructure in an opex model, and they obtain that from the cloud.

When it comes to cloud adoption, I have found there are three types of MSPs. I call them optimizers, transformers and pioneers.

Optimizers are looking for ways to lower costs and drive efficiencies — they want to drive the cost out of the IT infrastructure for their SMB partners. They are looking to improve performance and optimize organization. They want to make things easier for their customers, but they don’t want to change the customer experience.

• Transformers are looking to adopt or move to a managed or hosted cloud. They truly want to “transform” the customer experience. This includes moving from a capex to opex model, as well as time to service and integration of apps. As a result, the MSP can optimize and simplify the overall cost that the SMB is looking for in the way that they are delivering the solution to them. 

• Pioneers are looking to create a new customer experience. They are embracing many different ways to create these new experiences of adopting social and mobile applications. With these few technologies and reasons that I discussed — remaining relevant and the growth of cloud computing over the next several years — the cloud offers additional opportunities, as well as your ability to further position yourself as the trusted adviser to your customers. As my colleague Raymond Vrabel, Continuum’s director of Technical Account Management, has said in previous installments of this blog, “If you don’t, then someone from your competition will further their position as your client’s trusted adviser.”

When it comes to adopting a cloud business model, each MSP will move at their own pace, and will do what is best based on the different needs of their customers — it’s not an all-or-nothing situation. As a result, some will be quicker to adopt than others. Furthermore, making a complete transition to the cloud may not be the right fit for every MSP. There are also hybrid environments to consider and a need for on-premises and/or private infrastructures. Therefore, it’s important to consider that some SMBs might want to leverage the cloud for a specific portion of their business, but not for others.

It’s true that the cloud is a business model that is gaining traction. However, it is not to say that it is for every single SMB out there — cloud is an evolution, not a revolution.

Paiman Nodoushani is CTO/vice president of engineering at Continuum Managed IT Services. He has more than 20 years of experience in engineering management. He was senior director of cloud products for Avaya and director of engineering for Cisco.
Twitter: @nodoushp

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