Guest Column | June 6, 2013

Cloud Is A Movement, Not A Maturity Model: Five Things MSPs Must Get Right


By Mike Cullen, Senior Vice President of Sales, N-able by SolarWinds

For today’s MSPs, cloud is no longer a choice or even an evolution. It's a movement whose time is now, and every managed service provider (MSP) has got to be a part of it or risk losing their customers.  Whether you’ve already made the plunge or not, here are five key things that MSPs need to get right if they want to grow and thrive in the new cloud economy:

  1. You Can’t Pick and Choose: In a perfect world, every MSP wants to deliver hybrid cloud in his or her own data center. But in reality, the public cloud is where the leverage is for pricing, and your customers recognize that. That's why MSPs can't pick and choose between public, private or hybrid options. They have to deliver what’s best for their customers. It’s also tempting as an MSP to pigeonhole a customer into what best fits your business, but you'll lose credibility if you take that approach. Give your customers what they need. The bottom line is cover all the bases and make sure you’re not leaving an “in” for any competitor to swoop in and take over.
  2. Roles are Changing: Cloud is changing the way you and your customer do business. It’s taking your focus away from servers – which are increasingly being managed by data center giants -- and placing it on managing the end user’s ability to compute. That means your business is becoming more about managing tablets, smart phones and PCs as the importance of the server diminishes to both you and your customers. So as the cloud movement grows, keep in mind that your role with your customers and your suppliers will change. Even your MSP users will change. And the number of mobile devices that exist in the market will be increasing, driving demand for more cloud services and more knowledgeable MSPs that can efficiently support the changing business and technology needs of the marketplace.
  3. Recognize the Fact that Your Customers are at Both Extremes: Your customers are at both ends of the cloud spectrum, making it critical for you to be ready to serve those who are resisting the cloud and those who are embracing it wholeheartedly. Although some will say that resistance is futile, there will always be holdouts. At the same time, cloud has moved well beyond the early adoption phase and has now reached the early majority, with offerings such as Office 365 already reaching the billion-dollar mark as far as sales. So assess your customers’ cloud IQs and plan accordingly, and be sure to include a cloud option with every quote you provide – even for those holdouts. Most of all, never stop educating your customers and using your expertise to guide them through their cloud transformation, however slow or fast it might be.
  4. SaaS Does Not Equal Simplicity: The great myth about cloud is its simplicity. From day one, cloud providers have led the market to believe that software-as-a-service (SaaS) is technology nirvana, but anyone who’s gotten their feet wet with even the most popular cloud offerings knows there’s much more complexity to it than simply logging in and sharing files. There are drag and drop workflows to design, passwords to manage, users to support and a boat load of administrative functions that most small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) don’t have the bandwidth or skillset to deal with. That’s where MSPs come in, and the opportunity to support SMBs with everything from cloud adoption, to compliance, scalability and the day-to-day complexities of IT maintenance is starting to look limitless. In fact, SaaS offerings require all the remote monitoring and management (RMM) services that you offer today, and more. With your RMM toolset, you’ll be automating cloud-related tasks for your customers, you’ll be detecting hardware failures, permissions issues, DNS cache errors, email latency, connectivity issues and more. At N-able, our N-central MSP RMM automation platform is poised to help MSPs address all of these things with the technology they already have in place.
  5. Be Your Customer’s Trusted Advisor: When it comes to cloud, not many businesses can compete with the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and Google. Fortunately, for the MSP, the future lies in playing the role of the trusted advisor. If you remember that your value is in helping your customers make their best business and technology decisions, and guiding them through the IT implementations that those decisions become, you’ll never go wrong.

The cloud is clearly here to stay. It’s arrived and it’s thriving. Get your business aligned with your customers’ needs and go big. Now is not the time to just get your feet wet. The market is primed and ready for those MSPs that are willing to put all the options on the table.

About the Author

As senior vice president of sales for N-able by SolarWinds, Mike Cullen brings over 20 years of corporate sales experience to his MSP customers, and has assembled an equally experienced sales force.

Prior to joining N-able, Mike was vice president of sales (Ottawa Branch) and interim president of the Québec region for IKON Office Solutions. He grew the Ottawa business to $24 million in just five years, resulting in the Ottawa office's recognition as the branch office of the year in 2000.

Mike joined IKON in 1995 as a result of an acquisition of Fulline Office Products, an office equipment company Mike co-founded in 1988.