Squeezing water from the cloud

With a greater number of organisations adopting cloud services each year, IT resellers must face the challenge of keeping themselves relevant and core to the value chain.

Services like Microsoft’s Office 365, Google Apps and Amazon AWS offer real alternatives to in-house server installations and while availability and security concerns continue to exist there can be no doubt that the direction has been set and there will be no turning back.

IT resellers are going to have to adjust their value proposition to cater for cloud services or they risk positioning themselves as competitors rather than enablers.

Eighteen months ago it was still reasonable to hold the view that cloud services would form only a percentage of the IT services deployed by companies. That view is no longer valid, and the biggest driver has been the unstoppable penetration of mobile devices into every level of business.

Sit down for almost any meeting nowadays and there will be a plethora of devices that can access anything but store very little. These devices with user-friendly multi-touch user interfaces have placed online services in the hands of every employee and re-shaped their expectations for IT delivery.

Users not only have greater visibility of what is possible but they also expect it to be made available as easily and quickly as installing a new App, and if their IT department can’t provide it then they go ahead and do it themselves. Services like DropBox and Skype are found almost everywhere and have punched numerous holes in network security and data management.

So what opportunities are available to the IT reseller? As a cloud service provider I certainly don’t have the definitive answer but I can tell you where it makes a difference to us. Following are four areas that, if covered off by a customer’s IT service provider, will add significant value to all aspects of the adoption.

Education: Cloud services are still relatively new and most businesses are still unaware of all the opportunities available to them. I spent 6 months investigating Amazon services before knowing for certain that we’d save nearly 40% by migrating our platform to them. Had our IT provider been able to tell us that – together with all the alternatives – would have saved us time and money and accelerated our competitiveness. Knowing what is available and what differentiates the options – including real world run-time costs – will put the reseller front centre in the deal process.

Assessment: Migrating existing services to the cloud, or adopting new ones, has very definite pre-requisites. Understanding what is in place and what will be required is critical to any cloud migration project and this will include not only infrastructure readiness but also user behaviour and expectations. Any required changes or upgrades can add significantly to the overall project cost. Helping to minimise or avoid these additional costs will keep you at the table.

Implementation: This is a more familiar IT reseller role and should be bread and butter business. Few companies have the resources available to project manage, design, procure, install, test and commission any new systems required and this is traditionally where their IT provider is expected to add value. With cloud services it is no different. While you may no longer be installing servers the areas of networking, security and policy are bigger than ever. Experience and a proper track record put you two steps ahead and a makes you a point of reference.

Continuity: The very nature and competitiveness of cloud services means they are subject to continual refactoring and improvements. By being up to speed on what’s new in services deployed within your client base means you ensure that they continue to receive full benefit for the services they pay for.

Make no mistake, the traditional services provided by resellers will be eroded over the next five years and those resellers that align themselves with the delivery of the cloud are going to the ones that strengthen their position in the market.

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Ian van Reenen is responsible for the creation, direction and development of the CentraStage technology. Ian qualified as a System Analyst and worked for Panasonic Business Systems and Backup.Net before founding Attix5, an online backup company, where he was CTO for 7 years and was responsible for product direction, development and deployment. Ian has filed 3 global technology patents including a method for backing up mobile phone data. He was invited to present at an international IT security conference in Paris and has consulted on large scale projects including the rollout of 100,000 new desktop images at Royal Bank of Scotland.