While cloud services are still relatively new and many businesses are unaware of the opportunities available, more organisations are adopting web-based services every year.
Fears over security and privacy are subsiding as organisations come to understand the nature of cloud services and their potential benefits, and there is a renewed focus on CIOs reshaping IT services as a competitive advantage rather than a business cost.
Meanwhile, mobile devices have put online services in the hands of every employee and reshaped their expectations for IT delivery. Users not only have a clearer vision 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 cannot provide it, they go ahead and do it themselves.
Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps and Amazon AWS offer alternatives to in-house servers, so despite availability and security concerns, there can be no doubt the direction has been set. There will be no turning back. Resellers are going to have to adjust their value proposition for cloud services or risk becoming competitors rather than enablers.
I do not have the definitive answer to the question of how resellers should remain core to the value chain, but I can tell you the main areas that will add significant value to all aspects of a cloud migration.
VARs must educate customers about the opportunities in the cloud, knowing what is available and what differentiates the options - including real-world run-time costs.
This will put the reseller front and centre in the deal process. We spent six months investigating Amazon’s services before confirming that we would nearly halve our costs by migrating our platform over.
If only our IT provider had been able to tell us that.
Few firms can project-manage, design, procure, install, test and commission any new systems required and this is traditionally where the VAR is expected to add value. With cloud services it is no different; while you may no longer be installing servers, networking, security and policy are more important than ever. Experience and a proper track record put you two steps ahead.
Helping to minimise or avoid costs will keep customers interested in you and your services. Migrating existing services to the cloud, or adopting new ones, has definite pre-requisites.
IT resellers must understand what is in place, what will be required and include not only infrastructure readiness, but user behaviour and expectations to avoid changes or upgrades that will add significantly to the overall project cost.
Combating the traditional view of the technology purchasing refresh model and outlining the very nature and competitiveness of cloud is key for resellers. This means continual recalculations and improvements.
Stay up to speed and continue to receive full benefit for the services for which your customer pays. We like to think our service is very easy to learn and use, but there is no doubt that regular site visits and training would keep our users better informed.
Make no mistake: the traditional reseller services revenue will erode over the next five years and those resellers that align themselves with the delivery of the cloud are going to be the ones that strengthen their position in the market.
Ian van Reenan is CTO and founder of CentraStage
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