6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Cloud Partner

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Despite the increased use of cloud in businesses, its full potential still remains relatively unexplored, especially in the relationships between vendors and customers when forming a partnership. Of all channel partners, managed services providers (MSPs) run the greatest risk of cloud hosting providers dropping the partnership and launching a competitive product. This can have a devastating effect on a company that relies on cloud services for a significant part of their revenue.

The Value of Cloud

While more and more MSPs are starting to build cloud into their revenue stream, not all cloud providers are the same. From small business to enterprise-level, all MSPs can realize revenue from cloud services, especially considering hosted solutions require little to no oversight. The monthly payment model characteristic of MSPs adds simplicity and predictability too, acting as a controlled IT spend alternative to on-premise IT operations. Given these factors, the decision to be made is not whether to use cloud, but which cloud hosting provider is the right choice.

Your cloud partner must be able to support you efficiently and effectively, following their own SLA’s from sales through service, which is not something every vendor can achieve. The right choice will mean a mutually beneficial partnership, while the wrong choice could mean disaster and a loss of customer trust.

Finding the Right Cloud Partner

Choosing a cloud partner involves deeper consideration than when selecting a standard vendor, as you will be putting entire aspects of your cloud business model in their hands. For this reason, MSP’s need to look for the right signs, asking questions like, is the potential cloud hosting vendor reliable? Do they offer competitive monthly marketing fees? Do they follow their stated SLA’s?

In order to feel assured that you are striking up a partnership with the right cloud partner, I suggest you consider the following:

1. Look out for the warning signs.

Treat complicated service-level agreements (SLAs), a lack of any SLA, or long-term contracts that are difficult to terminate as red flags. Watch out for hosting companies that haven’t invested the time or money to use an outside auditing firm to conduct some type of annual audit on their processes. This in particular is a huge warning sign that formal policies and procedures are not being verified.

2. Judge cloud partner responsiveness.

Start gauging a potential cloud vendor's responsiveness from first contact. Do not accept delays, and expect quick response times that arrive without reluctance. No good can come from a one-sided relationship, as a lack of communication is a sign the cloud partner does not care enough to return your calls and answer your emails.

Obviously, you need to know if the cloud hosting provider is responsive before you begin a partnership rather than when you are already conducting business. The best way to be assured of this is to conduct research to find out about the company’s reputation, such as by reading online reviews, messages boards and blogs, and examining any case studies and testimonials available on the company’s website.

3. Understand how the cloud partner operates.

It is important to know how your prospective cloud partner works on a technological and organizational level. When vendors have an excessively complex hierarchy this can lead to problems trying to get hold of support; you may need to navigate through various customer service representatives until you find someone who is qualified to deal with the issue. Therefore, it is far better to have a single point of contact, but it is essential that you can rely on this contact to respond in a timely manner.

4. Find out if the cloud partner is established.

Look for active partners and a current customer base that will be able to provide you with referrals. Also, check to see if the vendor already has existing products and if they are mature. Finally, find out who runs the company: is it a well-known industry figure or a shady outsider? It is essential to find out all of the above as the cloud industry is full of frauds.

5. Look for experience.

While it may seem like a relatively new and novel concept, cloud has actually existed for many years. Cloud vendors with ample experience are the best potential partners you can find, as they provide stability and confidence to their partners. How much time you can expect your cloud partner to dedicate to upgrading their cloud infrastructure and integrating partners into it depends strongly on the cloud provider’s experience level.

Also, look for clues that your prospective cloud hosting partner seems enthusiastic about cloud, and that the company has a cloud product tailored for reseller and service providers.

6. Think like an IT department.

An IT department looks for fixed operating costs, and so should you when seeking a cloud partner. Similarly, as IT professionals look for a central point of management from their cloud services, partners should be delivering services from a central location.

Most often, you will find more positive factors about potential vendors than negative. However, it is important that your choice is not lacking any of the above considerations in order to have a lasting and productive relationship. Once you have made a shortlist of vendors who cover the above criteria, ensure you choose a cloud partner you can feel comfortable working with on an ongoing basis.



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