Adapting to the Cloud
A transformation is taking place among the IT reseller community. Sales professionals up and down the country, who are well-versed in the key benefits of hardware and software solutions, are increasingly being expected to navigate their way through the murky waters of consultancy.
The reason is the much-hyped development of cloud computing. This revolution in the way IT is used means that the channel has to reassess their approach to business. It’s no longer just about selling products, but about building relationships with clients and offering expertise in areas that are not as clear cut as traditional sales and maintenance.
This isn’t to say that the introduction of the cloud will require every business to change their IT operations. Companies have their own specific concerns that aren’t easily addressed by a one-size-fits-all model. Resellers need to be aware of the fast-changing number of options to advise their customers on the right way to run their IT systems – and this isn’t as easy to get to grips with as it may first appear.
The first thing resellers need to be aware of are the different cloud models on offer and their relative merits. A full or public cloud model delivers software as a service (SaaS) over the internet, and storage as infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It's easy to use, and removes the hassle of IT maintenance and security, which becomes the cloud provider’s responsibility. However it also creates new issues and plenty of companies will still be better off using servers.
A hybrid cloud approach could provide a solution to these concerns by taking advantage of both a server and a public cloud structure. For example, a company might decide to run its client applications on a public cloud while keeping its emails in a secure server cloud system. This offers the flexibility to keep sensitive data local, and more analytical processing on a different platform.
The reseller’s role will now be to advise on which of these routes their customers should go down. This means understanding the options, the related issues and being able to ask the right questions that help clients come to their own conclusions over which type of solution is the best fit for them.
For many companies, high on their list of concerns is security. Whilst security is the cloud provider's responsibility, they are no more infallible than anyone else, and trusting your data to them means relinquishing a level of control. Furthermore, cloud creates added concerns around where data is stored. In the USA for example, data can be seized by the government under the PATRIOT act. For some companies this might not be acceptable.
Cost concerns also play an important role in choice of cloud service for companies. Clients may like the idea of cloud because it spreads the cost, and avoids big capital outlays. But if they need a range of bespoke services for thousands of employees, the one off payment may be much cheaper in the long term. Resellers need to advise companies accordingly. This isn’t just about getting the biggest commission. A smaller sale of the right product will usually mean more business down the line.
Alongside this, resellers should consider whether companies are willing to hand over control of their IT services to an external provider. Many cloud solutions are generic, one size fits all offerings – and so on-site servers may be a more appropriate option for those looking for bespoke solutions.
Perhaps the most crucial concern for day-to-day operations is connectivity. Remote locations can affect broadband speeds and therefore how appropriate a cloud solution might be. At the same time, in a company where moving around is the norm, then loss of connectivity is easier to cope with as in a cloud service as you are not tied to one location. Using a cloud-based approach could also provide a contingency plan for organisations that experience equipment failure and need to relocate. One company I know includes in its contingency planning ‘go down to Starbucks and access the cloud through their wifi’.
Selling cloud solutions isn’t just about learning new technologies, though that is important. It is about understanding the whole landscape and being able to offer consultancy and long term account management. But this doesn’t mean that IT sales people are unable to succeed in this new environment. In fact this emerging area could prove to be a far more rewarding career.
More insights on how resellers can adapt their approach to cloud computing will be presented by Richard Tubb at the CompTIA EMEA Member Conference on November 9 in London, alongside other sessions on running and growing a reseller business.