Google is ready to bring the entire Android app store to Chrome OS, removing the need for IT departments to manage complicated applications, while bedrock corporate solutions are quickly moving to the cloud and displacing dedicated server-based applications. Office 365 is replacing Exchange servers, SaaS-based Xero and QuickBooks are taking over for old-school accounting applications, and no one would even contemplate a locally managed CRM solution at this point.
And those on-site systems that are still being used today are rapidly becoming a maintenance nightmare as they age while remaining decidedly “un-agile” to scale up and down as business needs shift in a dynamic environment. Companies are done investing in systems that will be outdated before they’re even out of the box and are being won over by the allure of cloud-based computing offerings from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and the Google Cloud Platform.
The Cloud Opportunity for MSPs
Luckily, there’s still a place for MSPs in the new cloud-based ecosystem for companies willing to adapt and establish themselves as leaders in this new space. The new must-have offerings are:
- Cloud Migrations — migrating on-premise systems to the cloud, clustered around a technology stack that meets client needs and minimizes expenses
- Cloud Performance Monitoring — ensuring SLAs are being met by delivering monitoring, alerts and reporting
- Cloud Service Brokerage — recommending the optimal solution package and reselling it to customers
- Application Development — building custom applications, websites and services on the new cloud-based stack
- Managed Services — providing full-service solutions that cover every aspect of client cloud deployments, from implementation to monitoring to security
But along with those opportunities are some challenges that might be holding some MSPs back from taking the plunge. There’s a learning curve for mastering new control panels, multiple vendor solutions and methods. Managing costs in a single or multi-cloud environment requires a new set of expertise and tools. And billing for cloud resellers can be a confusing and error-prone undertaking.
Fortunately, Microsoft makes it easy to get cloud savvy in five simple steps.
1. Get started with Microsoft
The Microsoft Partner Program is a great way to get your MSP business established in the cloud business. Microsoft’s long legacy of relying on partners to sell, deliver, and manage services makes its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program an excellent jumping off point.
Going the Direct CSP route will net your business higher margins, although you’ll have to make an upfront investment in billing and provisioning systems while providing first-tier support. If you can’t make that commitment, being an Indirect CSP still lets you resell Microsoft cloud services, albeit with a lower margin.
2. Find your focus
Your MSP business has probably already amassed some niche industry expertise, and now is the time to put that knowledge to work. All industries are not created equal, so understanding what a particular market needs before they’ve even figured it out for themselves gives you a first-mover advantage and the opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in a particular domain.
Build out your buyer personas, understand their requirements and focus your messaging and offering on what you know will resonate. On the flip-side, stick to what you know, and don’t try to use your initial cloud forays as the moment to expand into new industries with which you’re not already familiar.
3. Bundle up
Packaging IaaS services with your own value-added services (such as migration and professional services) is the best way to maximize your value to customers and increase your margins. A la carte offerings have their place, but in the great cloud land grab you want to deliver as much as possible to increase your foothold and establish your expertise.
Now is also not the time to get greedy, as smaller and more nimble players are attacking the same markets. Keep margins between 10 percent and 20 percent to stay competitive and win bigger deals.
4. Deliver a unique selling proposition
Your potential customers and current clients have many vendors to choose from when moving to the cloud, so you need to figure out what separates your MSP from the pack. Industry expertise? Local presence? Value-added apps?
Once you’ve nailed down what makes you special and will make your customers’ lives easier, package it professionally and make it a key part of your marketing efforts, delivering a clear and compelling pitch with slick website landing pages and collateral.
5. Embrace automation
Babysitting every customer deployment will limit your MSP’s growth and doesn’t take full advantage of the cloud opportunity. Instead, you should be getting ahead of the growth you’re planning to experience by automating as many cost savings opportunities as possible.
Deal with capacity spikes, spin up new instances globally to meet growing demand, and ensure 24/7 uptime by planning ahead. The Microsoft Azure and Office 365 ecosystem is rich with tools and solutions to make growth graceful and avoid reputation-damaging hiccups.
When you’re ready to get serious about your cloud business, Unigma billing, automation and deployment solutions are there to help your MSP scale and support your growing customer base. Learn more at http://www.unigmakas.wpengine.com.