There is no doubt that Cloud will continue to be top of the IT agenda in 2018. And, channel companies - from managed service providers to resellers to agents - are increasingly recognizing the huge opportunities that exist in the cloud services sector across cloud hosting, cloud-based Disaster Recovery (DR) and cloud backup. So, no matter what role you play in the channel, matching your capabilities with a cloud service provider that can help you take advantage of these opportunities will be key to success and business growth from cloud services in 2018.
Based on our experience, channel organizations have very diverse requirements and desired levels of investment when embarking on a cloud services strategy. For some, it is about earning recurring commissions with minimal involvement in the end-to-end sales and support process. Conversely, resellers often want to retain billing relationships but have assistance with the sales and support process from the cloud provider. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) often want to be responsible for the end customer relationship, which includes billing, account management and support, and profit from adding their own managed services offerings around the cloud service.
Regardless of your cloud services go-to-market strategy, there are some key attributes and offerings that channel organizations should be looking for from cloud service providers (CSPs). It is important for channel organisations to partner with a cloud provider that can support their desired strategy and help them deliver the security, scalability and cost-effective cloud services that their customers demand. Here are some of the primary factors that channel partners should be considering when choosing a CSP.
Tenure in the industry
How long has the cloud provider been in the industry? What is their level of expertise? With cloud computing now being more than a decade old, cloud providers that have been around for that long have gained priceless experience that they can help you pass onto your customers. You will also naturally want to look into the cloud provider’s history of customer service, and the rate of customer satisfaction, as outlined by leading analyst firms.
Breadth of offerings
What can the cloud service provider offer that will truly enhance your product portfolio? The demand for cloud-based backup and DR solutions is huge and growing quickly and many channel organizations can benefit from partnering with CSPs who are leaders in this space. For Managed Service Providers, an important consideration is whether the CSP enables you to monitor and manage all of your customers’ cloud services including Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and cloud backup?
Ideally, the offering should include powerful visibility management features across billing, performance, security, compliance, testing and reporting to enable you to drive additional revenue from value-added services.
Depending on your customer base and growth ambitions, you may need to team up with a cloud provider that has a national - even a global - footprint. More and more companies – both large and small – are prioritizing data sovereignty across borders when making cloud buying decisions and it’s important to partner with a cloud provider that can support this with a global data center footprint. Ensure that the cloud provider can both host the workloads of your customers and provide backup and DR facilities in the necessary locations.
Performance and scalability
Essential for any channel organization to achieve and maintain success are the service levels you’re able to deliver to your customers. Your cloud service provider must have in place clear service level agreements that will support you to acquire customers and keep them happy. It is also advisable to examine past performance and uptime. Additionally, think about the implementation timeframe and how important that is to you and your customers. A simple, efficient on boarding process is needed for short sales cycles. In addition, determine whether the cloud provider will allow you to scale your services to support your needs. All in all, you want to quickly establish a profitable cloud services revenue stream.
Security and compliance
No matter who your target market is, cloud security and compliance considerations will be at the top of their priorities list. It is essential to have a partner who can help you meet your compliance requirements as well as your customers. Is security included or is it an add-on? To help channel partners respond to an environment of increased risk from cyber attacks, ransomware and other threats, the cloud provider should natively integrate advanced security features into its cloud platform. Of course, the cloud service provider should also be fully certified and compliant with industry regulations and be able to help you prove that to your customers.
Determine what levels of support your customer base requires and ensure that your CSP can help you deliver that. Furthermore, determine where the support team is located and whether they can outline a support plan for you. Ultimately, you should have confidence that your CSP will be a true partner to you across the customer lifecycle – from sales to implementation to ongoing operations – and provide the support to back that up.
Pricing and term flexibility
Is the pricing model straightforward, and can the pricing be customized? With an increased focus on cloud cost-effectiveness, you need to ensure you’re set up to offer customer’s cost-effective options that won’t lock them in to paying for cloud resources they won’t necessarily use. Determine if your cloud service provider is agile enough to meet your needs, and to efficiently have your customers up and running with the cloud services with pricing structures that suit diverse needs.
Different cloud providers place different value and investment levels in their channel. Does the cloud provider have experience with channel partners, and, if so, do they have good relationships with their channel partners? And, importantly, the provider should not compete with their channel partners in professional or managed services. This will protect your revenue opportunities.
All the factors outlined above will influence whether you can achieve lasting business growth with cloud services in 2018 and beyond.
Dante Orsini is SVP of Channel & Business Development at iland