By Colin Jack, lead systems engineer at Embotics Corporation
It is quite easy to predict that cloud computing will remain an elevated priority for IT departments and companies in 2013. For managed service providers (MSPs) who already provide online IT service offerings, the cloud presents a way to expand offerings and increase incoming revenue. In speaking with a number of service providers, we’ve seen that offering cloud solutions can be done without a large investment of time or infrastructure by using existing virtualized assets.
There are two underlying reasons why some MSPs are successful at this and others just plod along. The first is in which services are offered and how. We have all heard the phrase, “the proof is in the pudding.” MSPs that understand that the “proof is in the services” will be more successful than those who do not. MSPs whose businesses are flourishing never lose sight of how to offer fair, highly optimized services such as IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) on-premises or through hosted capabilities, in addition to value-added professional services and technologies. The other main differentiator is the cloud management platform that you use to oversee services and customers. An automated cloud management solution reduces complexity on behalf of customers and administrators, resulting in optimized cloud services.
For service providers looking to expand their cloud services in 2013, we have gathered the following steps on how to create and manage cloud services for customers.
Assess The Customer Environment
Successful MSPs know their customers. They have strong relationships and understand their business needs and goals. Cloud computing may still be far off in the distance for some of these firms, while others are clamoring for it now. MSPs that know how to tailor services to fit these varied needs will demonstrate their knowledge and underscore their value as partners. However, you can prepare those customers who are just virtualizing their workloads now by offering virtualization or cloud readiness assessments. The company will understand that you have the expertise to address future pain points caused by capacity and performance bottlenecks, configuration issues, infrastructure density, and more.
Leverage Existing Assets
Including cloud services in your catalog does not mean that you have to purchase new technology. Rather, by successfully managing virtual machines (VMs), service providers can use their existing resources that may be sold to customers. A simple cloud management solution will track, control, and audit activities on all VMs and reduce virtual sprawl. This tight VM management demonstrates to customers that you will be able to manage their data and workloads efficiently.
Employ An ITaaS Framework
Although your administrator may agree that offering cloud services makes good business sense, he may secretly fear that his workload will increase. First, clearly define what cloud services are being offered. Next, avoid adding stress and additional burdens to administrators by selecting management solutions they can easily configure and maintain and that are easy for customers to use. When selecting an ITaaS solution, keep in mind the needs of your customers, operational procedures, and technology.
Automation is essential when service providers are expanding their range of cloud services, as it allows for consistent, predictable customer flows and increases the VM-to-admin ration. Automation strengthens your relationships with customers by allowing them to easily increase their use of your services, which results in higher revenue to your firm.
Make It As Simple As Possible
There is a reason why we all remember the KISS acronym. Don’t get bogged down in all the different variety of cloud services you can provide. Pick the top services that will interest your clients and address their business concerns. Keeping it simple will also allow customers to easily expand their services with you.
Service providers can easily take advantage of the ongoing fervor for cloud computing by expanding their IT services in 2013. By focusing on simple, clearly defined solutions that effectively use cloud management solutions, MSPs will generate new revenue streams while customers will benefit from optimized cloud services.
About the author:
Colin Jack is the lead systems engineer at Embotics Corporation. He oversees cloud management educational efforts at local VMUGs and other customer events. Previously, Colin was the IT manager and systems administrator for a number of technology and telecommunication firms.