It’s impossible to ignore the meteoric rise of cloud-based services. Surveys and articles in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Information Week have been trumpeting a tipping point for cloud computing for several years. More recently, RightScale’s annual State of the Cloud survey revealed that an amazing 94 percent of businesses are utilizing the cloud for at least some of their IT needs.
Given this, it should be no surprise that IT consultants, resellers and managed service providers are being asked repeatedly about their own cloud services. This can pose a dilemma for some managed service providers (MSPs) and IT companies who haven’t already made cloud computing central to their offerings. Fortunately, it’s not too late. It just requires addressing three barriers that could be holding them back.
Barrier One: Language
The cloud wasn’t built for traditional IT professionals who can speak expertly about things like switches, routers, servers, and power supplies. Instead, the cloud was originally built for highly technical developers and for applications like Dropbox (News - Alert) and Netflix.
That means the hardware-focused IT professionals often lack the ability to use terms like “cloud orchestation,” “IaaS” or “middleware” with in contex and with authority. A lack of understanding of the terminology that defines cloud services and virtualized infrastructures is a major barrier, and becoming conversant in the cloud is simply essential.
Much of that understanding can be gained simply by investing some time in reading up on the subject. But, for those who want to take a deeper dive, there are several online certification courses that can help build a base of knowledge that should provide a sighnificantly higher comfort level, not just when talking with customers about utilizing the cloud, but also when it comes to building their own company’s portfolio of cloud offerings.
Barrier Two: How am I different?
It once was the case that IT companies would purchase hardware to handle offerings like Microsoft (News - Alert) Exchange Email Server. Now, however, those same companies are earning their money migrating email data to Microsoft Cloud Services (Office 365).
This shift creates a major question for MSPs and IT consultants: How do these companies compete with some of the large and already established players in the cloud space?
IT companies not only need to become conversant in cloud services and offer a menu of them, they need to strategize about the best way to simultaneously work with the big guys and distinguish themselves in the competitive landscape. In other words, how can they use the cloud to fill client needs in ways the larger companies can’t? To answer this question, IT companies must evaulate the core qualities and attributes that formed the foundation of their business growth, and identify how these can translate to the cloud era.
Barrier three: A new business model
As important as it is to address the forces driving the embrace of cloud, IT providers also must grapple with internal challenges. Perhaps none is greater than the challenge of evolving their business models to accommodate and profit from the reality of the cloud.
It’s no easy task. In the past, many IT professionals made their money by installing and servicing hardware, a job that delivered large upfront payments. With the cloud, the installation and servicing is either gone or drastically reduced, along with those large checks. But there are plenty of ways to still profit, and many of those are arguably more sustainable for IT providers. Moving from a hardware-focused business model to one focused on providing services usually means moving to a subscription-based payment model. This steady, reliable income stream can provide the sort of assurance businesses need to expand. The cloud also means geographic barriers rapidly melt away, providing instant access to new markets.
Clearly, the rapid advent of cloud computing has presented challenges to IT providers, but it’s also presented several opportunities. However, without a solid understanding of the cloud and having a solid portfolio of offerings, these providers can’t take advantage of those opportunities as they look to grow. But, by acknowledging the barriers that exist, they can take the practical steps needed to address them.
Pablo Marin is founder and CTO of the cloud software development company Conexlink. Conexlink’s first product, MyCloudIT, transforms IT companies into a 100-percent cloud-based global IT and Desktop as a Service provider in three simple steps with its fully-automated solution. For more information, visit mycloudit.conexlink.com.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino