Traditionally many enterprise solutions have been out of the reach of SMEs due to their significant upfront capital investment. With the emergence of cloud computing this has brought these solutions within the reach of every business; whether it’s a small company using SaaS applications for mail, CRM and accounting, through to mid-size companies using IaaS to ease the cost of standing up new areas of business or even just evaluating something new while minimising the cost. Cloud is beginning to bring down the barriers to the entrepreneurial SME by mitigating the risk the business faces while adapting to changing markets.
What are the benefits for SMEs and how can the channel help to deliver on them?
SMEs need to consider how their business applications will run in the cloud. If they are using IaaS to transfer their traditional IT on to a cloud then how will the business interact cloud based IT infrastructure. For instance, is the SMEs Wide Area Network (WAN) capable of handling the traffic to the cloud and if not what is the best solution for their specific situation? On the other hand, if they’re migrating to a SaaS model then security becomes a bigger concern as the business is relinquishing some control to the SaaS supplier; data governance and jurisdiction remain the remit of the SME to choose a cloud provider who can deliver on Service Level Agreements (SLAs) required by the business.
The financial model is of equal importance to the technical considerations because the primary benefits of any cloud solution are the speed of acquisition, flexibility to adapt to changing requirements and the speed of execution (ramp up and ramp down). If the contract is too restrictive then the cloud proposition starts to lose its competitive edge over a capital investment. A good channel partner will not only deliver a technically sound solution but also one where the financial model meets the customer’s needs.
What do resellers need to know about cloud computing and SMEs if they are to provide the products and services best suited to customers?
Business partners operating in the cloud need to recognise the benefits of this new financial model and be able to articulate it to the customer with the same level of skill they currently do with technology. In addition, they need to decide how they’re going to start this journey from quietly driven solution providers to annuity focused service providers. A hybrid solution, for example, allows partners to deliver traditional solutions coupled with cloud services.
What can they do to ensure they’re well placed to provide these cloud services?
First they need to decide they role they want to play, which is outlined in our blog on: Cloud Computing: Forget the hype, what are the roles the channel can play?
Some partners may have originally viewed ‘the cloud’ as a threat given the direct nature of early engagements. That has now changed with both suppliers and customers looking to the channel for help to guide them through their IT decisions. Advising customers on the right solution to address their business needs has been a role the channel is long familiar with. Cloud has not changed the importance of being a ‘trusted advisor’: understanding the business requirements and being able to articulate the IT solution which can address that need. The trusted advisor has a focus on business outcomes yet understands the technical input.
As a recap: channel partners will typically adopt one, or more, of the following roles:
||The Cloud Business Advisor assists customers understand the business benefits of Cloud computing and helps customers make the correct IT choices for the business need|
||Understands the customer’s business needs and builds complex solutions based on Cloud technology|
||Provides solutions and services based on Cloud technology and principles|
||Offers a variety of Cloud services to their customers from best in class vendors|
||Integrates cloud and non-cloud technology providing a bespoke business driven solution|