Preparing for Cloudy Weather: Expanding into Cloud Services as an MSP

Scott Calonico

hand and cloudWhether you like them or not, cloud-based IT services are here to stay.

The momentum that cloud services have gathered has come as a surprise to many IT professionals, because many still believe that, for a typical SME, they don’t truly offer a viable alternative to an on-premise solution.

In many cases, it’s fair to say these doubts are valid. Outside of metropolitan areas, many companies still don’t have sufficient Internet bandwidth to make cloud-based file storage viable. Firms dealing with confidential material can run into various data-protection complications if data is stored online, and well-established businesses with years of historical data face a hellish migration if they are to push all of that data to the cloud.

Regardless of these practicalities, if your MSP has yet to embrace the cloud, and offer cloud-based services as part of its portfolio, it is now in serious danger of getting left behind.

The Cloud is Coming

Microsoft has now made its SME strategy pretty clear by announcing the discontinuation of the Small Business Server range. Although, in tandem, it has announced an “Essentials” version of Server 2012 (for up to 25 users), it will no longer offer a “one box” server solution that includes Exchange. IT consultants no longer have an inexpensive way of providing an SME with Windows Server, Exchange and SharePoint. This set up now needs multiple servers, expensive licences and a lot more expertise to configure.

Unless, of course, you provide hosted Exchange and SharePoint, which, we must assume, is exactly what Microsoft want you to do – after all, that’s exactly what you get with Office 365!

The fact that some of your clients are going to be determined to take the cloud route is a reality you should accept. The marketing spend going into cloud services is so substantial that if you aren’t in a position to help these clients with the transition, they are going to defect to an MSP who will.

The Cloud Isn't All Bad

Even if you’re a “cloud hater” it’s not all bad news. Cloud doesn’t have to mean Office 365 – you have numerous partners to choose from, or your could even provide your own infrastructure – and all the options mean guaranteed monthly income from your customers, be it commissions or subscription fees.

In reality, customers support requirements aren’t likely to drop that significantly either. They will still want a single point of contact for assistance with issues, and will still need help with client machines, mobile devices, backups and day-to-day issues. The only difference is that every server service that ends up in the cloud means one less potential reason for you to rush to an office at the weekend to swap a failed drive.

Obviously, it’s your duty to make sure your customers know what they’re getting into. Make sure they are fully aware of the disadvantages of the cloud (slower file access, less flexibility) as well as the advantages. But if they are still determined to migrate, smile, help them do it and make sure you make a profit!