By Mark Herbert
With more and more small to medium businesses turning to the cloud for their IT needs and the ever-increasing range of solutions available, cloud services have become an integral part of many resellers’ service offering. Not only do managed cloud services provide resellers the ability to offer a variety of services they may not have been able to do otherwise, but the cloud also provides new, regular revenue opportunities in an economically uncertain time.
What started out simply as software-as-a-service (Saas) a few years ago has now evolved to include offerings that go deeper into the network (NaaS) or have become more specific to meet a particular business need, such as unified communications (UCaaS). The cloud has helped managed services grow from being an SMB product to truly becoming enterprise class.
This presents the channel with an opportunity to compete on a much larger scale. With an integrated managed cloud services portfolio, further revenue opportunities now lie in a reseller’s "value add" — from applying vertical expertise to helping customers migrate from traditional on-site architectures, providing maintenance agreements, SLAs and other professional services.
For resellers, migrating to cloud so they can in turn migrate their customers to cloud — the ability to collaborate with a cloud provider or aggregator to help them deliver these core managed services — has become compelling. With a larger variety of products, services and support from the right channel cloud partner, resellers can target a wider marketplace knowing that they can meet the end user’s needs quickly and efficiently.
Today, the channel can also "white label" multiple products or applications from a single vendor to sell on to end customers. This engagement model not only brings in a regular revenue stream, but as resellers’ customers require more services, they can be in a position to simply add and scale solutions and request further applications from their cloud provider — all delivered in one bill and under one service level agreement to the customer.
However, with new opportunity also comes risk. One of the key issues facing provision of cloud-based services is convincing users to trust the location of their valuable data being held remotely. Today, many companies are nervous about placing their corporate intelligence with providers they know nothing about.
It is critical that resellers choose the right cloud provider to partner with to address these concerns. Financial stability, track record, location and support capability are all important factors to consider. Thorough evaluation of a potential cloud supplier is essential in terms of a reseller’s ability to assure customers on service delivery, from initial contract and planned migration through the entire life cycle of the project including data ownership, what will happen in the event of a contract termination and the substance behind the cloud provider’s service level and capability.
Resellers also need to be prepared to answer questions from their customers. As much as the cloud is changing the dynamics of the channel, it is disrupting their customer’s business models just the same. Resellers will have to reassure their customers on many different levels that the cloud is a good, sound business decision that will help them stop worrying about their IT infrastructure and allow them to focus on running their businesses. Concerns such as “Where is the data being held?", “How secure is it?", “Who is liable for the data?" are likely to be expressed. Resellers must be partnered with the right cloud provider that offers more than just the infrastructure and provides the service assurance, migration support and assistance that the end customers will need to help ease their concerns and make their transition to the cloud a smooth one.
Managed cloud services provide a great opportunity for both the channel and the end-user customers it supports. Being prepared, choosing the right partner and assessing the risks up front will help this transition be successful for both parties.
CTO, business development director and founder of intY Ltd , Mark Herbert is respected within the security sector community as a luminary with a clear vision of the evolving sector and best placed techniques to continue to combat the ever increasing threat levels to individuals and organizations. A graduate in micro electronics and robotics with a career in network consultancy for organizations such as Honeywell, CompuAdd and the Ford Motor Company, Herbert is the architect behind intY’s product strategy.