All The Ways MSPs Can Use Cloud in 2015
As we wind up 2014 and planning for 2015 begins, we've now had enough time to reflect on how cloud computing has impacted our lives, particularly our managed services businesses. We have come a long way since 2009, when cloud computing arguably began to gain momentum. And, while the MSPs who resisted (with legitimate reasons) cloud in the early days, today they have fewer reasons to do so.
So, this may not be an exhaustive list of ways managed service providers can use cloud computing in 2015, but it will address the more common and more lucrative methods. If you think I missed any cloud opportunities, I'd like to hear from you.
This may not be the most profitable method, but it can serve an important function in your MSP business. Reselling, as many MSPs will tell you, is not high on their priority list. However, there are times where reselling cloud solutions can play an important role in maintaining healthy customer relationships. Many MSPs will resell public cloud solutions as a way to appease customers who want inexpensive IT alternatives. As long as its kept in perspective, reselling a cloud offering is probably a good idea for non-core solutions.
I have written extensively on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). In my opinion, IaaS as an offering for MSP customers can make a lot of sense. It may not be a high margin offering, but it can be a segue into higher margin solutions. IaaS, as a channel offering, has been quite popular in recent years. However, as Rackspace has shown, it may not be crucial to the overall success of a MSP.
Backup offerings to the cloud are really the bread and butter for most MSPs. Even the least skilled MSPs can deploy an effective cloud backup solution, either by reselling another cloud provider or by backing up to the MSP's own data center or co-location facility. Backup can be a very lucrative business line for MSPs, depending on the maturity of the offering, the quaility of the customers, and the scalbility of the service. Many MSPs only use backup as a small component of their business but it does have the potential to be a big part of any MSP's service catalog.
This can be a large and generic category for cloud cmputing. Given how prevalent cloud is today, it is difficult to imagine even small businesses who do not use some cloud based solution. Whether it is cloud based accounting, CRM, POS, VoiP, or some other line of business application, there are plenty of cloud solutions being used directly by customers. MSPs can play a role in managing those cloud environments. While a MSP may not be able to see Salesforce.com's infrastructure, there are still valuable services a MSP can provide based on a 3rd party's cloud environment. Services like user management, data backup, migration solutions, and enforcement or monitoring of corporate IT policies are just a few of the value adds a MSP can provide based on another company's cloud offering.
I would be remiss not to mention private cloud as one of the biggest opportunities for MSPs in the entire "cloud computing" panoply. Private cloud is still a very lucrative offering for many customers, especially those in the upper SMB or mid-market space. MSPs can do everything from building and deploying to full management of a private cloud, without ever having to own the infrastructure. Obviously, the more industrious MSP can build their own cloud platform and sell it to their customers. The point is, private cloud offers a great variety of business model choices for MSPs.
This is not a definitive list, by any stretch of the imagination, but it should give you plenty of ideas as you begin your 2015 planning.