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How MSP cloud services can help grow your business

Channel firms needn't hesitate to develop cloud offerings. The CTO of Level5 Management discusses how MSP cloud services can benefit businesses and strengthen client relationships.

When we emerged as an MSP back in 2008, we built our company, Level5 Management, as a private cloud-facing company first. That year was, by many accounts, the "Year of Cloud Computing," and businesses were clamoring for technology that would afford them greater mobility and more freedom from the weight of capital investment.

We began by offering our own IaaS and cloud services, using VMware and a very complex storage and computing platform. Clients were attracted primarily to the dramatic change in the investment dynamic -- the expense was shifted upward from them to us, which we then provided in little resellable pieces. But the full breadth of what we could do to revolutionize our clients' operations hadn't yet been realized: At the time, Amazon was still young, Azure was just "something Microsoft was working on" and the global public cloud services market was still looking to gain a foothold.

The last 10 years have catapulted everything into the cloud -- apps, services and an ever-ballooning line of custom business applications -- and today's cloud represents a very different landscape, flush with options. While consumers eagerly received the shift to cloud, the multiple benefits of MSP cloud services came into sight.

Considerations for MSP cloud services

MSPs looking to tailor offerings to their own internal dynamics and precise client needs now have an expansive range of cloud vendors at their disposal, including their own private cloud options. Perhaps the most important analysis for MSPs to undertake involves the cloud tools they are providing. MSPs need to assess the tools' available features and the gaps they need to fill to best serve their particular client base. MSPs can begin this process by making a list of everything they might need to provide new revenue streams, and then think about which products best fill out their cloud stacks.

Ben FilippelliBen Filippelli

Profitability is among the key considerations for MSP cloud services. If MSPs acquire a firm understanding of the services they are selling, and evaluate the true costs to properly price their offerings, providers can absolutely keep their margins -- whether they offer private cloud or public cloud.

As an example, some cloud vendors let you commit to three years on reserved instances with very minor cancellation penalties and savings of more than 40% off the cost of "pay as you go." That reservation can apply to any instance, so even if you're replacing the client in under three years, you can simply apply that reservation to another instance (even if they aren't the same resources) and still get the credit and no cancellation fee.

When Level5 first started offering MSP cloud services, security was one of our primary concerns. However, our feeling is it's easier to protect and lock down cloud resources when everything is the same for our clients. It can take the burden off local IT management to some extent, as more dollars flow into their services and support instead of being directed at simply acquiring the latest, fastest computers and laptops. This also acts as a boon to profitability because you are spending less time on managing local issues and more time on managing the clients' cloud experience.

Clients have come to increasingly trust and rely on us to provide them with what they need.

Freeing up internal resources

Based on our experience, as more clients utilize cloud computing, the burden on internal technical resources decreases. We need fewer engineers, and we can replace them with high-quality, genuinely personable help desk people, which translates to significantly reduced costs. Our clients find the on-demand readiness of cloud to be a better overall experience, whether they are using Windows Virtual Desktop or remote desktop services or simply web-based apps in the cloud.

The redirection of resources has also provided us with the space to deeply refine our expertise of the products we use, as well as standardize across the board on applications, connectivity, usage, terminology and training of employees. In turn, we're able to put a renewed and more fervent focus on exceptional customer service and relationship-building and round out a remarkable experience for our clients.

Additionally, we have found more time to work on deeper cloud technologies and help our clients take advantage of what is available, beyond just monitoring and fixing things that break.

While we were initially concerned that if we expanded our cloud offerings we would have a weakened relationship with our clients, the opposite has occurred. Clients have come to increasingly trust and rely on us to provide them with what they need.

In this way, our embrace of evolving cloud strategies has empowered us to advance our role from reseller to trusted advisor.

About the author
Ben Filippelli is the chief technology officer of
Level5 Management, a managed IT service provider based in Boca Raton, Fla. Filippelli is also a member of The ASCII Group, a North American IT community of more than 1,300 MSPs, solution providers and systems integrators.

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