When we speak about solutions such as cloud, most solution providers might have braced it as if it were the future of information technology. But the fact is that cloud computing can be interpreted differently by different people.
This whole notion stems from the idea that the resources used by customers can be converted and shared virtually thereby giving a rise in virtual applications. Here again, storage is based upon the users need and capacity. In effect, the virtual environment is in all probability stored thousands of miles away from the reach of the local solution provider.
This basically becomes a catch-22 situation for a number of system integrators. To fully understand how cloud computing can affect decision making in IT, one needs to take a closer look at how technologies such as this can affect business processes with relation to the customer. Cloud computing in general covers a number of technologies. These would include managed service providers, application service providers, hosted servers, hosted storage technology, hosted security solutions along with a number of other services and technologies. However, a handful of those services are combined to help build a complete hosted solution. This basically eliminates the need for customary hardware generally found in some businesses.
While this may sound like a real downer, todays system integrators make most of their profits from integrating services, keeping hardware margins on a much lower side. The cloud, as we think of it, may just about eliminate or bring down the sale of hardware. However, it will still require training, support and maintenance which can be further converted into revenue. So it basically all comes down to defining a culmination of services as packages which are then sold or purchased over a period of time.
However, technology providers looking to make a profit from using cloud services will need to narrow down on their choices. And those choices would answer the following:
What services can be offered | How does one go about offering these services | What would be the right amount to charge | How to bill the services provided | How to support the chosen services
What it means
When you look at it from a larger point of view, there are several options for taking up cloud computing. The trouble is deciding on where to begin. For a number of solution providers MSP or Managed Service Provider is generally the best starting point. However, with MSP a solution provider has the chance of transcending into becoming both a customer and a provider of cloud services. When one looks at it as a whole, a typical MSP solution consists of a partner who provides system management services to end customers. But for that to happen, the partner must make use of an existing managed services platform.
In such a scenario the management platform will charge the solution provider for each monitored device. The solution provider on the other hand will then bill the customer after having added his/her margin. All in all an MSP or the solution provider carries on providing services to all registered customers eliminating the need to build it from scratch.
For small and medium businesses, hosted file servers are best way to go. The model consists of setting up a virtual file server which basically consists of file sharing, remote access along with a number of customary services that would otherwise be present locally.
Such a server brings several opportunities with it. For instance, solution providers can make use of virtualization technology, build small data centers and supply a hosted file server on their own. In addition, open source platforms such as Linux can be used to keep costs down. They can also choose to package options such as backup, support services and security for an additional fee.
Cloud computing on the whole comes in as an opportunity for a number of solution providers. It all boils down to making use of technology specifically to meet customer needs and building business practices around the cloud for increased profits and service opportunities.
Areas of growth for cloud solution providers
With the availability of high bandwidth, falling prices in PC components and with people becoming more mobile than before, implementing cloud services makes more sense than before. The mentioned few have grown over the years and are in general considered to be a good fit for mobile workers and partners alike.
Security as a Service: As most of us would be aware of, a handful of security applications have moved to the cloud, security suites being most of them. Desktop solution providers have come about to offer hosted security solutions for desktops and servers. The advantages of implementing such a security solution includes up-to-date protection (requires lesser number of signature updates) along with its comprehensive reporting feature.
Elastic Clouds: Amazon is one of the few companies that offer services such as Elastic Clouds. Here virtual servers can be rented out to run customer applications. The idea behind this is to provide scalability as and when needed by the customers, where they have total control over virtual server OSs along with the ability to allow them to pay based upon demand or usage. In addition, using Amazons EC2, solution providers can create cloud services for customers by building their very own virtual data centers thus allowing them to create instant cloud related businesses.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructures: VDI or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is best used when the need is to bring together and control desktop PCs. The basic workings of a VDI are done by setting up a virtual PC at the client side allowing them to connect and work remotely. The implementation of VDI is growing as we speak and is said to grow into a cloud computing service in the coming years. Using VDI, solution providers will be able to create and deploy customized virtual PCs. Here customers pay to gain access to each virtual PC.
The above mentioned examples are just a few that are viewed as emerging technologies delivered using the cloud and if done properly they can be extremely profitable for any given solution provider.
Author is MD & CEO, eScan
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