Cloud adoption among SMBs is on the rise. A recent survey by Techaisle projects that, by the end of this year, the penetration of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications among SMBs will reach 94 percent, up from 73 percent in 2016. Furthermore, the number of cloud applications leveraged by SMBs is growing, and according to a recent study by Business Centric Services Group (BCSG), the average number of cloud apps in use at an SMB is expected to jump from three in 2015 to seven by 2018.
This eagerness of SMBs to embrace the cloud is making cloud enablement an important growth area for many managed service providers (MSPs), and MSPs can provide the following five enablement services as part of their offerings.
- Needs assessments. Every SMB has different requirements when it comes the cloud. Prior to implementing any cloud service, MSPs should evaluate how the SMB is leveraging the cloud and which cloud-based applications are already in play. Discuss the customer’s goals and objectives for moving to the cloud, determine ways they could benefit from moving applications that are currently on premise into the cloud and what moving to the cloud could mean for them in terms of cost-savings and resource allocation. Look at key infrastructure requirements, including resources already available to support the cloud-based applications, including security and data protection.
- Interface design services. When it comes to implementing cloud-based applications, poor end-user adoption and inadequate reporting are two issues that keep SMBs up at night. MSPs with web design experience can help alleviate some of the strain placed on their SMB customers by helping to design clear and intuitive user interfaces that reflect the goals and objectives of their customer on the front-end while delivering clear ROI data on the back-end.
- Proof-of-concept (POC) and piloting services. Deploying cloud-based, self-service IT infrastructures that separate real-world business operations from underlying IT systems can accelerate innovation and drive organizational growth. MSPs can add value and showcase their project management capabilities when they demonstrate — through POC and pilot projects — the gains SMBs can achieve when they implement cloud-based solutions. For example, SMBs will be able to delegate control over resources including processing power, bandwidth, and storage capacity directly to the departments that use them, and leverage policy-based automation and web interfaces to track resource allocation in real time. What many MSPs may not realize is their vendor partners often provide tools and resources for executing POCs, so it is important to check around and see what is available.
- Security and data protection. A recent survey by industry research firm Clutch found 64 percent of enterprises consider cloud infrastructure a more secure alternative to legacy systems. Yet, many SMBs still worry moving to the cloud will increase their vulnerability to data theft and loss, and many are unable to afford the same levels of security as most cloud vendors. By putting business continuity and data protection (BCDR) measures in place for their SMB customers as part of their cloud deployments, MSPs can provide assurances their customer’s data will be protected before, during, and after their physical-to-cloud migrations.
- End user training. Generally speaking, end users are the weakest link in IT security, so in addition to putting BCDR measures in place, MSPs can help their SMB customers become more vigilant through user awareness training on how to prevent security breaches. This can also be a revenue generator for MSPs, and many vendors have developed training programs their channel partners can leverage with their customers.
Enablement plays a critical role in the success of any cloud deployment. MSPs that offer these and other services will drive the growth and sustainability of their businesses, as well as that of their SMB customers, and they will also be well on the road to attaining trusted cloud advisor status.
Neal Bradbury is Senior Director of Business Development for Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers, where he is responsible for generating greater business value for the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners.