How to become a cloud-first MSP

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If you’re an MSP and haven’t been under a rock, you probably have a pretty good idea that cloud computing is here to stay.

SMBs are demanding more cloud services, the flexibility to be able to work from anywhere, and the agility that cloud can offer.  For MSPs the equation is simple.  Pivot and become a cloud-first Managed Service Provider that helps your clients take advantage of these new services, or wither and die.

Why pivot to cloud services?

The why behind making this switch in your business is simple.  You’ll win more deals and more clients.  If you’re stuck in your ways trying to sell on-premises servers and in-house exchange you will lose every time.  One of the major keys to growth for any MSP over the next 5 years will be to embrace the cloud and sell the services that your clients want.

The cloud can help you win deals in a few different ways.  One big advantage is that it can save clients significantly on upfront costs.  They are no longer required to purchase that stack of physical servers and all the licensing to go with them.  They also don’t have to incur the ongoing costs of maintaining that equipment.  You can give your clients a lower barrier of entry that makes it easy to choose you as a provider.  Remember if you don’t, your competitor will.

Clients with cloud service still need support.  They still need consulting to get them there.  Security is a need that persists even if the cloud and grows with a distributed infrastructure.  Take advantage of all those items and fill the gaps for your clients.  Cloud services and consulting can be very lucrative for an MSP if you properly position yourself as the expert.

A Starting Point

If you’re looking for a starting point for cloud services, Office 365 seems to be the obvious place to begin.  Get online and sign up with Microsoft as a Cloud Solutions Provider.  It’s simple to do and will allow you to start managing your client's O365 tenants easier and to even make some money off those licenses on the back end.

If you have clients that are on an old version of Exchange, move them to office 365.  The migration is an easy sell to your clients.  It will cost significantly less than purchasing new hardware and a current version of exchange (in almost every case) and will make managing their email easier than ever.  Uptime with O365 will likely be significantly higher than their in-house solution as well.

Another product they’re probably already purchasing from Microsoft is Office licensing.  Help your clients to get this moved to office 365 as well.  They have a few packages to choose from that can help you make sure the included apps fit your client's needs.  You should be motivated to help your clients make this change as well.  Not only does it offer them some great features and benefits they don’t have currently, but again, you can get a little cut on the backend from Microsoft.

File Sharing is another functionality that can sometimes easily be moved to the cloud within office 365 depending on the specific needs of your clients.  SharePoint is a great option for small businesses and is likely included for free with their office 365 package.  For larger organizations, Azure Files is a great solution.  It offers higher performance and more robust features for security.

Office 365 is a great place to get your feet wet as a cloud-first Managed Service Provider.  Take advantage of the programs they offer and look for opportunities to leverage them in the solutions your build for your clients.

Major Cloud Platforms

The next step in becoming a cloud-first MSP is probably the most time-consuming and labor-intensive.  You need to become an expert in cloud services.  Most MSPs will start with Microsoft Azure because they’re likely already signed up as a CSP with them.

It also makes a lot of sense to become familiar with Amazon AWS, and Google Firebase.  Those three products are the three biggest competitors in the public cloud space and understanding all of them will allow you to make higher quality recommendations to your clients on where they should move their infrastructure.

Take the time to learn the advantages and disadvantages of each platform.  Know them well enough that you can look at a particular need or workload a client has and be able to recommend the platform that will perform the best for their situation.  This will take some work and some education on your part.  It will also improve the quality of conversations you have with your clients and allow you to win more deals.

Depending on the client's needs and current infrastructure migrating them to the cloud can be a significant undertaking.  Do so with care and make sure you take time to plan the migration carefully and have a rollback plan in place before you start.  Most cloud providers can provide resources and consulting to help you plan the migration path for a client if needed.

As you get more familiar with the cloud platforms and features you may begin to see additional areas where your clients would benefit from a move to the cloud.  Take these observations to your clients in your QBR meetings.  They will always appreciate your forward-thinking suggestions.

Worth It

Becoming a cloud-first Managed Service Provider can be a significant change for your organization. There can also be a significant amount of time invested upfront as you learn the new technologies and services available to your clients.

The good news is that you can make money on every part of the cloud.  Consulting, planning, migrations, and even a cut as a partner on the cost your client pays for the infrastructure.  It will lower your support costs and can be used as a competitive advantage to win more deals.

As your cloud services business increases you will see there are many more products and services you can add to your catalogue.  Take the time to continually reinvest in your business by educating yourself on new products and services as they become available.  This will help you maintain your competitive advantage and continue to win in the cloud.

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