SMB Cloud Services: Why All Roads Lead Back to MSPs

SMB Cloud Services: Why All Roads Lead Back to MSPs

I moderated a cloud computing panel at the Intermedia Partner Summit yesterday in New York. But here's the interesting part: For the most part, the panelists referred to themselves as managed services providers. Not cloud integrators. Not cloud service providers. But established, growing MSPs. Here's why.

A prime example involves Ettore Dragone, president of IntelliTech Solutions. Throughout the cloud-centric panel, Dragone said his business starts with managed services. Sure, he uses PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) solutions. And IntelliTech leverages white label hosted Exchange services from Intermedia. But Dragone didn't dwell on technology. Rather, Dragone pulled the cloud conversation backed to managed services -- essentially describing his managed services as virtual CIO services. And of course, the term Trusted Advisor came up over and over during the panel.

I confess: I'm not a fan of the Trusted Advisor term. I think it's one of the most abused terms in the channel. But as Dragone described IntelliTech, it was clear that he truly advises SMB customers on a range of business and technology issues. And he used managed services as a stepping stone toward cloud opportunities -- hosted email, online backup, archiving, etc.

Meanwhile, Intermedia Senior VP Bob Leibholz confessed that his biggest mistake over the past year was trying to build a direct sales team that focused on customers with 500 or more seats. Within a few weeks of launching that effort, Leibholz said, he realized that the upper portion of the SMB market was best left MSPs that had local relationships with customers. Today, Intermedia's direct sales efforts are limited to inbound inquiries from customers, and they mostly involve larger engagements rather than SMB opportunities.

What's In a Name?

No doubt, some MSPs will truly become cloud integrators and cloud services providers over the next few months and years.  We'll be watching the evolution here and on TalkinCloud, MSPmentor's sister site. But Dragone's comments reinforced the role of MSPs as Trusted Advisors. And Intermedia, a cloud company if ever there was one, seems intent on building stronger MSP relations in the SMB channel.

The situation was similar at last month's Parallels Summit in Orlando, Fla. Throughout the conference, Parallels executives said cloud computing enterprise hype has largely overshadowed another lucrative opportunity: SMB customers that need cloud services. And much like Intermedia, Parallels is making its cloud and SaaS pitch to MSPs.

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