Guest Column | September 12, 2013

Cloud Storage Opportunities For The Channel

By: Mason Swenson, Product Marketing Manager for Imation’s Nexsan solutions

There’s a challenge at the heart of every business: the more data you have, the more data you have that needs to be retained, managed, and secured — which in turn creates more demand for instant access, fast compliance, and the ability to unlock the business value of data with analytics. 

The value proposition of cloud storage started as simply a way to optimize costs. Now, cloud infrastructures deliver access to compute power and storage capacity on an as-needed basis, support robust disaster recovery and business continuity strategies, and enable companies to integrate off-site backup into their data protection plans. As a result, cloud storage has morphed into a solution with the ability to offer organizational agility and flexibility in addition to cost optimization.

Managed service providers (MSPs) and value-added resellers (VARs) have a unique opportunity to serve as trusted advisors for their customers, both on cloud storage options or to offer their own cloud environments for their clients. This is particularly true for enterprises looking to establish IT infrastructures that can meet today’s needs, and quickly scale for growth.

For VARs and MSPs advising clients on cloud opportunities, here are some considerations to encourage clients to keep in mind:

  1. Look for a tiered solution. Growing businesses will be best served by a cloud storage solution that can be integrated with an onsite appliance, which acts as the gateway to the cloud. Integration offers faster recovery and restore with the onsite tier, while the offsite tier offers a cheaper and more flexible solution for growth and protection from site disasters.
  2. Encrypt data securely through the entire storage process. Businesses should ensure that data is encrypted on site, in flight, and in the cloud. This allows VARs and MSPs to give their clients the ability to manage security policies and enable full protection of their data.
  3. Manage access control: As a component of a security policy, businesses must identify an integrated solution with measures in place to make sure they have control over the individuals who have access to information, and what type of access is permitted. This gives clients the peace of mind that they are still in full control of their data without requiring extra time and effort from their overtaxed IT resources.

Another opportunity for the channel comes by adding a cloud storage offering to product and service portfolios. By offering cloud storage as a service and not a one-time hardware sale, channel organizations can shift their own business strategy to become MSPs, which enables recurring revenue streams.

MSPs have a number of options on technologies to put in place to facilitate cloud storage service offerings:

  1. APIs. Many MSPs deliver cloud storage by providing some type of application programming interface (API) to their customers. This allows different software components to communicate with each other and enables the end user to retain control of and access to data.
  2. Network-Attached Storage. Some MSPs deliver cloud storage by purchasing network-attached storage (NAS). NAS is file-level storage connected to a network to provide access to data. Not only does NAS operate as a file server, but it is also specialized for this task either by hardware, software or a combination of the two.
  3. Custom Virtualized Clouds.  Other MSPs will create their own secure and scalable cloud solutions for their clients by deploying a virtualized environment — supported either by open source or purchased technology — and then use block storage behind it. Block storage is normally abstracted by a file system or database management system for use by applications and end users.

In order for companies to fully achieve the benefits of cloud storage — agility, flexibility and cost optimization — the MSPs’ cloud must be built on a tested, enterprise-class technology.

MSPs and VARs can serve as trusted advisors to their SME customers —  helping them balance access to data, data security, and overall IT and storage costs. This presents a significant opportunity for the channel, either to advise on strategies or to deliver a custom cloud service offering themselves.

Mason Swenson is a product marketing manager for Imation's Nexsan solutions. Mason has more than 14 years of successful product management and finance experience at industry-leading technology companies.