Guest Column | March 27, 2014

Advising Your Cloud Customer: Public, Private, Or Hybrid

Advising Your Cloud Customer

By Eric Kiehn, President/CEO, C&W Technologies, ASCII Group Member Since 2000

Let’s face it, do your customers really know what the cloud is, let alone whether it’s public, private, or hybrid?

The simple answer is no — and that should excite you. The cloud brings to our industry a sense of excitement that I have not seen or felt in my 30 years in IT since those early days of computing. We are back to the days of explaining just what that box does — or in this case, the lack of a box. The first thing you need to do when advising that customer about cloud computing is show that excitement. If you don’t exhibit or feel it yourself — it’s going to be a tough sell.

So what do you start off with? We start off by ensuring that the customer knows what the cloud is and what it is not. The cloud does not solve world hunger, poor software selection, or a poorly run business. Once that is out of the way, we can actually speak to the customer about the right solution for them.

The private or “behind the firewall” cloud is often looked at and reserved for mid-sized business and above. A business might consider a private cloud for very large data set or proprietary and security reasons. In the most basic sense, many of us have been implementing private cloud for years in our standard networks. Every time we virtualize a server or have user’s access systems or software via an internal RDP connection, we are using the foundations of the cloud. A private cloud goes much further and introduces and layers specific cloud hardware and software. The reason you might consider private cloud for a customer is that newer technologies are being built around the cloud as opposed to standard networking. This could be a cost or flexibility benefit — just do the ROI calculation very carefully. Creating a cloud network within your network can make it hard to realize that return for the user.

The vast majority of cloud installations will be public or public/hybrid. These are simple numbers. By leveraging the public cloud, the SMB can offer similar if not the same services that mid-sized or larger business can offer. This is a key point, but not one that in and of itself will sell it to the client. You have to show the ROI (which is by them shedding their IT hat and letting someone else be responsible for it), that they will be more productive and make more money. By leveraging and “sharing” infrastructure those smaller businesses can see huge returns. They also can leverage the fixed cost of IT, they know what IT will cost every month day in and day out. This allows them to do what they do best, run their business. Public cloud, whether in your own data center or by one of the big guys, can do that for your customers and is the single key point in getting them to transition. 

This brings us to the hybrid. The hybrid is the perfect solution for those businesses that don’t trust the public cloud or have legacy software that just won’t run well in the cloud. This form of the cloud can still give the client that fixed monthly cost for IT — especially if coupled with managed services. With IT costs managed as well, the client still has the value proposition that the pure public cloud offers, but also solves these two objections or problems. The hybrid is your way to give your client options. It solves the problem and allows you to still show an ROI. It also serves as an entry to move them completely to the cloud at a later date, once they get over the initial fear and/or upgrade that old software.

The bottom line is that when working with a client, you need to show them the true value; knowing just where they might fit best can make all of the difference in moving them to the cloud.  With three basic forms to choose from, and armed with the benefits of each, you shouldn't have any problems showing your customers the rate of return and moving them to the cloud.

If you truly value your client you need to be moving them to the cloud in some form. If you don’t, their business is in jeopardy and ultimately so is yours. We are more than just IT advisors we are business advisors as well. Not being able to explain and move our clients to the cloud will guarantee missed opportunities to help move their businesses forward. It’s like the old PC days ... businesses that did not move to PCs soon lost out to those that did. Don’t let you clients not move to the cloud.