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SMB cloud services: Microsoft managed cloud services for SMBs

Vendors are looking more closely at SMBs in the area of managed cloud services. In this, part one of our Q&A, Luke Wignall discusses how offering Microsoft SMB cloud services may affect his SMB. Learn about offering managed cloud services in SMBs and how it will affect your day-to-day operations.

Luke Wignall, managing partner of Common Knowledge Technology, a Denver-based SMB services provider, sat down with to discuss the future of SMB networking services -- namely, managed cloud services. SMBs -- whether they be five seats or 500 seats, seek networking service providers. After all, while enterprises spend their IT budgets on hiring full-time IT people, smaller companies often don't have that luxury. These companies turn to SMB networking services providers to maintain their networks and connectivity.

In part one of this Q&A, Wignall discusses the future of Microsoft's SMB cloud services as a Microsoft partner and how managed cloud services will affect both customers and providers. In part two, Wignall discusses how managed cloud services affect the network and how the recession has played a part in his business.

Microsoft is making a push into managed cloud services. As a Microsoft partner, what can you tell us about this?

Microsoft still doesn't have its licensing figured out. Microsoft essentially loses 50% of its licenses to software theft, the black market and so on.

SMB cloud services

Read part two of this Q&A, where Wignall discusses the effect of SMB cloud services on the network and how the economy has changed his business.

Microsoft is pushing hard into the cloud for its software-as-a-service (SaaS) -- this is where the company wants all small business to go. It wants everyone on a subscription, because then you can't steal the license. It wants everything on the cloud, everything by subscription, and that entire interface that you're looking at is Web powered, so the whole thing can be put up in the cloud and it's the same experience.

Last year, I was adamant that I could not conceive of small business owners wanting to put their stuff in some nebulous cloud, but the economy changed that perspective. Small business owners are flat-out saying: I don't want a server. We're selling backup solutions in the cloud now. To them, buying a $400 tape device and then tape protection -- nobody wants it. They're more than happy to have a multi-service cloud.

What kind of effects do SMB cloud services have on the business of a networking solution provider?

Customers want all the same functionality of all the stuff that Exchange makes Outlook do that Outlook by itself can't do. This makes me worried about the change in my services. In the old days, this kind of service would be considered a separate account. Now the expectation is, I'll call the ISP. I have to handle that, because everything you need to work with is in the cloud. So I need to be more involved, especially with bandwidth resellers. Bandwidth is going to become an even bigger deal. Good luck using a cheap DSL if you're trying to reach a hosted Exchange server, hosted SharePoint server, desktops that may even be in the cloud, or servers that are in the cloud.

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Microsoft is about to start offering hosted servers, which is Exchange and so forth hosted on its infrastructure, which we work with. It's fairly complicated, and Microsoft doesn't want to have to support these people. It wants to bill them, while we support them, and I'll get commissions from the company. And the expectation is that I will be billing for the migration -- which, by the way, so far has been an absolute nightmare to quote.

I go from being an engineer or a mechanic to becoming a facilitator for my customers. I'm a concierge, a facilitator -- hosted servers will ultimately focus me around services. Right now, our business is a nice blend of services, projects and procurement, and a big chunk of that is going to go away.

How will the push into managed cloud services affect your everyday operations?

It's starting to look as if I'm going to end up having some sort of employee that sits and manages my managed Microsoft solutions. From a managed services standpoint, I'm going from piecing together managed services. There's clearly a day coming when I say that my managed service offering is Microsoft, or whatever other vendor is going to be offering the same level of managed services, from backup to server, to OS, to virtualization, to whatever, with whomever I decide to align myself. The rumor with Cisco is that its whole play with servers was not to sell servers to people but to be a foundation of future cloud offerings.

View part two of this Q&A, where Wignall discusses how managed cloud services will affect the network and how the economy has affected his business.

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