MSPs - How to get closer to customers

According to a recent study, approximately 82 per cent of enterprises use more than one cloud service. With this in mind, as a Managed Service Provider (MSP) you’ve probably just accepted that your customers will use services from the large public clouds alongside your own.

But is there a way for you to actually get closer to your customers whilst they diversify their infrastructure? How can you encourage them to consume as much of your resources as possible, while still providing the freedom they demand?

In reality, enterprises are looking for providers that can deliver flexibility and adapt to their needs, coupled with the ability to easily move workloads between different environments. They have a greater awareness of the pitfalls of vendor lock-in, but are very receptive to the idea of a single portal that enables them to manage a range of cloud services. While this concept has been around for some time, its importance now more than ever can’t be overlooked.

Of course, there are other considerations when your customers make purchasing decisions, such as where their data needs to reside, performance, cost, elasticity, Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) and support.

From the outset however, a couple of the most important questions MSPs should ask are:

  • Do you know how much resource your customers are using in the public cloud?
  • Can you tell when their usage changes?

If your answer to these questions is “no”, it would be more useful for you to collect this information from the outset. Not only can you then spot when your customers are deploying a new cloud application, you can offer support to them and even manage it. Alongside this, you could propose a report which consolidates ALL their usage - a challenge that most CIOs can’t address without your help, and something of great value to them.

This value to your business and to your customers is created by acting as the entry point for ALL your customer’s cloud accounts, even those workloads which are not deployed on your own infrastructure.

Whilst the advantages are clear, your customers can be wary of the effort needed to migrate to a cloud service, or between clouds, and to get their workloads and data out of the cloud. As a managed service provider, customers will look to you to help them with this. You’ll need to be able to bring their virtual machines into your cloud, but as their entry point into a range of clouds, you’ll need to help them move to the public cloud and avoid being locked in. Providers such as CloudSigma, Amazon or Azure are making an effort to facilitate this.

Ultimately, customers are going to continue using multiple cloud services, and avoiding vendor lock-in. Instead of feeling competitive pressure however, you should embrace it by becoming a single point of access to these services, and providing customers with the management solution they are looking for.

Xavier Fernandez, CTO at Abiquo

Image Credit: Shutterstock/violetkaipa