Guest Column | May 22, 2014

5 Ways Cloud Services Are Forcing Your Business To Change

Cloud Services Changing MSP Model

By Douglas R. Grabowski, Jr., managing partner of Grabowski Group, Inc., ASCII Group Member Since 2010

Clouds! Public! Private! Hybrid! Buzzwords ... and more buzzwords! Let’s face it, cloud computing has arrived, and is not going anywhere. Sure, we had the same technologies “back in the day” (think: mainframes, where access was remote and not on-premise, and secure) and today, everyone professes to have a “cloud” solution.

It's been this way for years. One of the best-known “cloud” apps: email! How many of you have a Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, or Gmail account? You never see the server it’s sitting on, you never touch the data center — you just know it’s there. And you get it for free. And you expect it to be up 24/7. Don’t you? 

But you’re not building hundreds if not thousands of servers and hundreds of data centers globally to spread risk and increase redundancy. Let the large players incur that cost for you. 

The same thoughts can hold true for you, your clients, and your business. Cloud-based services have changed the face of business already. Here are five areas where the cloud will force your business to change (and help you and your clients have better redundancy, increased security, lower costs, and higher availability). 

  1. Fixing issues will be easier. Cloud-based knowledge information systems will help train field technicians on how to repair items. Gone are the days when you need to know everything in your head or have a huge set of books and binders (reminds me of the day when I have Steven Feuerstein’s PL/SQL seminal works. That guy single-handedly taught me everything I used back in the mid to late 90s). Now, with all of the nuances of hardware, smartphone, and software support, the chances that someone has encountered the same issue as you is very high. Leverage that knowledge, and be sure to store it for the future. Lightning always strikes twice.
  2. Increased self service. And functionality. Think about the last time a client needed a collaboration tool. Email! Nowadays, products like Hackpad store all data securely in Dropbox automatically AND offer real-time collaboration. For free. Your RMM (remote monitoring and management) tool (also in the cloud) offers communicators and real-time messaging to your help desk. Again, you never see it, but it’s there. You can offer self-service, or automate (via scripting) resolutions. A large part of my business was in automating common Windows issues. We have the technology, so let's use it! I saved more than 93 percent of help desk calls from ever occurring. 
  3. Backup and file sharing. I would be remiss if I didn’t include the most fundamental component that will revolutionize your business. Having highly cost-effective backup, sync, and file sharing services for your business and your client’s business is of paramount importance, and the number one item you should be utilizing (if you’re not already)! There are many great providers that are redundant, compliant, and secure that have solutions that cost just a couple of pennies per gigabyte stored.    
  4. Lowered licensing cost. Gone are the days of per-server and per-core and per-location licensing. Vendors are adopting their licenses to be per user (from anywhere, at anytime, via any device) and this license mobility will lower client costs and simplify your management time and effort. 
  5. Enhanced compliance and risk management. Services will ensure your client data is stored securely, in compliance with major regulations (HIPAA, PCI, PHI, etc.) and will ensure that you don’t have to build it yourself. 

Lastly, people are afraid that “cloud” will eliminate jobs. In fact, the need for experienced project managers and aggregators will never be higher. 

I’m not saying throw everything into some startup, because we all know breaches occur amongst large and small organizations. What I am saying is that I never want to run Microsoft SBS box again (many single points of failure), nor run an Exchange cluster (Microsoft, AppRiver, Rackspace, others -- now do it faster and cheaper), nor run my own backup storage again. Leverage others that are leaders in the space. Embrace their services (and their R&D budgets) for success.

I believe that laggards will have trouble keeping up with more nimble technology adopters. Many providers tend to forget that they’re in the value-creation business for their clients, and think that they need to sell the most expensive service on-premise. In the end, they end up managing more risk and incur tremendous business disadvantage. So find services that work for you, and embrace the cloud.