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Choosing a cloud provider

17 Jun 2014

Choosing a cloud provider on your customers' behalf is a big step. Dr Michael Snowden, OneNet Limited chief executive, takes a look at questions to consider when assessing providers.

As a channel reseller, you will be answering your customers’ questions about moving to the cloud.  Selecting a cloud service provider on their behalf is a critical step. Customers will not thank you if it turns sour.

What should you care about? Firstly, do your customers worry about where their data is held? Revelations of data vacuuming by US intelligence agencies have dampened many customers’ enthusiasm for what appear to be lower costs from an overseas provider.

Due diligence is needed to choose a New Zealand provider. Arguably, the provider’s reputation is the most important factor. If outstanding references cannot be obtained, from both end-customers and other resellers, don’t pass the risk onto your customers.

Market reputation summarises many important elements such as longevity, technical competency, customer satisfaction and leadership. If your customers are familiar with the cloud service provider’s brand that you choose, they will be much more comfortable with your recommendation.

Dig deeper and look into the ephemeral cloud. Questions to ask include the following:

•  Who are the directors and key staff and what is their business and professional reputation?

•  What is the quality of their primary and secondary data centres?

•  How many highly skilled engineers are on hand?

•  Who owns the infrastructure? How resilient is it and how many single points of failure exist?

•  How many customers and resellers do they have?

• How do they handle updates, patches and monitoring?

You also need to consider how you will make money. What is the range of services available? What are the dollar margins for each serivce? Can you get expert sales support? How simple is it to prepare a sales proposal using the provider’s support systems? Is there a dedicated reseller portal? How easy is it to on-board and support your customers?  What support will you get during a customer migration?  How effective and responsive is the provider’s service desk? Can you easily do changes from a self-service control panel?

Will you maintain your invoicing relationship with your customer?  Can you continue to provide desktop, consulting and training services to your customers?  Will your provider try to take over your customer relationship?

How can you get started? Once you have selected your cloud service partner, consider low-hanging fruit such as hosted email as a first step for your customers. This is a low risk, low impact option. Once your confidence is gained you may, over time, advance to selling hosted desktops, which allow your customers to move all of their applications, whether customised or not, to a cloud service.

Cloud computing is here to stay. Embrace the change with a dedicated cloud service provider partner to get the best outcome for your customers and earn rich rewards for you in the process.

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