Cloud opportunities are multiplying, and if your MSP organization doesn’t make moves to introduce your customer base to the cloud, they’re going to find someone else to do it. That doesn’t necessarily mean all cloud, all the time. Instead, focus on finding the right services to fit your client needs.
E-mail, productivity apps, and server resources are already reaching a cloud-first mentality even among SMBs, while the migration of CRM, ERP, and retail applications to the cloud is increasing in popularity. Cloud disaster recovery also remains a great first step into the cloud.
Here are three strategic ways to focus your cloud efforts and start selling more managed cloud services.
While many of your customers are probably already using some kind of cloud service — most likely Software as a Service like Google Docs or Salesforce — many of them likely do not have a clear idea of what the “cloud” really is and how it functions. Start with outreach and education about cloud computing and how workloads are shifting to an off-premise model.
Describe the advantages of this, like scalability and resiliency, but don’t oversell. Every application isn’t a good fit for the cloud. Ask about business goals for the next few years. Inquire about any hardware that may be reaching the end of its lifecycle, or any major upgrades coming to applications.
If you’ve been working with a customer for a number of years, you may have these insights already. A major application or hardware upgrade is the perfect time to examine the cloud. A business initiative like reducing downtime for a critical application is a great reason to consider the cloud.
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The biggest advantages of the cloud —its ease of deployment, agility, and simplified administration — are also ways for you to sell orchestration services. While your previous solutions may have focused on procuring a hardware, software, or converged solution, installing it, ensuring compatibility with other infrastructure, and then maybe billing for maintenance and administration on top of it, the cloud paradigm forces some adjustments.
You still must procure the resources from cloud providers on behalf of your clients, so a vendor relationship remains. You still must ensure it plays nicely with existing infrastructure. And you may even need to work with on-premise hardware. But much more of selling the cloud is focused on building and integrating services on top of the IaaS layer. Your clients need a working solution, whether it is a custom or licensed application placed on a virtual machine or a combination of existing SaaS products.
In other words, you must become a hybrid cloud master, able to link various environments and services so they become a single IT ecosystem that is easy to consume. Can you attach marketing automation to the CRM? What about connecting sales user e-mails on hosted Exchange to Salesforce? Or using APIs to send inventory information to an expense system?
This is also one area in which MSPs can differentiate themselves from the cloud service providers, who may offer many overlapping managed services to end users, like Disaster Recovery or Virtual Desktops. You might need to hire some developers, but it should be worth your while to make the shift.
Many smaller companies might lack the IT resources to manage a cloud environment at a large scale, so even if their test environment goes smoothly, they struggle to manage once they have migrated their systems to a public cloud environment. Others may have the staff and knowledge needed to manage these environments, but still struggle with cloud sprawl, letting costs get out of control.
Develop a product offering for cloud streamlining or cloud optimization, where you locate instances that can be deleted or consolidated, storage that can be freed up, or bandwidth sucking applications that can be optimized to reduce associated costs. You may also be able to find virtualized applications that might be better suited on-premise, or licensing issues that could result in thousands of dollars worth of cost savings down the line.
All three of these methods are inter-related, but not quite the same. You may not perform ongoing administration of an environment which you have identified areas of optimization, for example. You might be a cloud guide who decides a customer doesn’t need anything from the cloud at this point in time. Or your ongoing administration may in turn lead to a more sprawling cloud, but one that is expanding while adding business value.
As the MSP sphere continues to blend software, hardware, and managed IT, shifting to a cloud administration focused organization can be one way to broaden opportunities and find new ones.