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Green Cloud at IT Nation 2017

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The Green Cloud crew headed down to Orlando at the beginning of November for IT Nation, the channel’s largest solution provider conference. It’s our favorite event of the year (other than our own partner conference, that is), and we always work hard to make it a fun and productive show. There’s a lot of serious discussion and learning that goes on, but the atmosphere is friendly and engaging, and everyone is excited to be there.

ConnectWise puts on the show, but it’s not just a ConnectWise event. There’s a broad range of subjects and presentations that speak to the entire industry, across many vendors. And while the target audience for all the content is the VAR/MSP channel, we always seem to learn something as a company, as well.

At the conference, we spoke to many vendors and providers, and the message that seems to be developing across the IT industry is one of “buy, don’t build”—a theme that fits nicely into Green Cloud’s core competencies. There also seems to be a big push toward DaaS which, again, is a big part of Green Cloud’s offering.

This year’s IT Nation conference had about 3,000 attendees. It’s always a great event for us because we get to engage with many of our current partners, but since IT Nation is MSP-focused, it has also become one of our prime opportunities for face-to-face partner recruitment. We met with MANY new potential partners and had a lot of great conversations. Our sales guys were even writing up quotes for potential new partners on the showroom floor.

It was a thrilling experience, and we returned to Greenville pumped up and ready to help our partners grow their cloud practice with customized, hosted solutions and services. We can’t wait until next year’s event (and we’re already thinking up ideas for our 2018 t-shirts).

Partner Summit 2017

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On October 9th, we welcomed 50 of our channel partners to Greenville for our inaugural Partner Summit. After arriving at the Embassy Suites for happy hour, we took the party to UP on the Roof with some live music and delicious food.
The next day, we got things started bright and early. Following welcome messages from Green Cloud executives and our amazing sponsors, we began with some panels featuring our partners. They covered topics like DaaS, DRaaS, Network & security, and compliance.
After a great lunch at Ruth’s Chris, we broke out into Sales and Technical tracks for the rest of the afternoon. Demos of our new partner provisioning portal, DR solutions and vCloud were highlights of those sessions.
Then, it was time for an experience none of us will forget anytime soon: Performance Driving School at BMW headquarters!
We want to thank all of our partners who were able to join us in Greenville. It was a truly special event, and hearing how much you all enjoyed yourselves makes us thrilled to top this summit in 2018! Thank you to our sponsors for making it all possible: Tintri, Veeam, Zerto, Cisco and Level 3. Want to find out how you can join us in 2018? Contact marketing@gogreencloud.com.

Cloud Storage in the SMB Shows Lots of Room for Growth

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As consumer acceptance of the cloud grows, small businesses are becoming more comfortable about adopting the cloud to handle major facets of their IT operations, particularly when it comes to storing their data. This growing comfort with cloud storage provides VARs and MSPs with major opportunities in the SMB market. The analysts at Clutch, a B2B rating and reviews firm, conducted a recent survey that asked five questions of respondents. The answers they received give us a look at several important factors affecting sales in today’s SMB Cloud market.

 

To Dive In, or Wait?

As cloud provider competition has increased and the technology matured, and (more importantly) as the cost has plummeted, the answer to the question of when to adopt the cloud seems to be “right now.” The majority of SMBs who adopted the cloud have done so within the last few years; nearly a quarter of them within the last 12 months.

The dam appears to have burst. At this point, holding out for better pricing or more ideal technology metrics reaches a point of diminishing returns. The advantages (and sheer necessity) of cloud data storage have surpassed any further cost savings or skeptical hesitation.

 

Why the Cloud?

The fundamental discussion that should be had when considering cloud storage solutions is: “What are the benefits to the organization?” For most businesses surveyed, the primary benefit they received was improved access to data. The ability to easily access data and applications from anywhere, without having to consume IT staff resources to do it, is driving much of the SMB’s cloud adoption.

Businesses—even small ones—are becoming more mobile in their operations, and are relying more and more on staff who can work remotely and on-the-go. The question of whether mobility prompted the cloud or the cloud enabled mobility might be a “chicken-and-egg” debate, but it’s easy to argue that, in this case, you can’t have one without the other.

Interestingly, while improved security and large-file migrations were tied as secondary benefits, the availability of storage and its cost were the least important factors for cloud adoption. In particular, the lack of concern about cost is evidence of the opportunity that now exists, as it shows a major shift in consumer sentiment about what was once a primary obstacle in cloud sales: the expense.

 

Is the Cloud Reliable?

More than a third of organizations surveyed reported no problems with their cloud service providers over the past year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the primary issue experienced by the remaining two-thirds was downtime, which remains a persistent challenge in the technology world.

While it’s a valid criticism of the cloud, professional cloud storage providers have a strong track record of stable datacenter operations, and multiple layers of built-in redundancy means outages are rare. The reliability of the cloud is on par with any on-premise network, and perhaps more so in many circumstances. In addition, the ability to expand into disaster recovery solutions means that cloud storage possesses many unique qualities that can’t be easily replicated in an on-premise network.

 

Storage Provider or Storage Service?

Control and efficiency are two facets of business operations that often clash with each other. The same is true of cloud storage. Is the attention that must be paid to managing backups worth the trouble, or is a convenient automated service that automatically backs up data a better solution?

For most SMBs, the answer seems to lean heavily in favor of the storage provider solution vs. the automated service approach. This is more evidence of the opportunity that exists for VARs and MSPs to bring comprehensive solutions to their SMB customers, customized to address their desire to control at least some of the process. This may have the added effect of relieving some of the stress associated with making the switch to cloud-based storage (i.e., allowing the data to leave the premises).

 

What is the Spend?

More than half of survey respondents pay $250 or less per month on cloud storage backup. A quarter of them use free services so they pay nothing at all. Free services don’t have the security and capacity to meet the needs of most businesses, however, so those services are likely to become less favored as cloud adoption grows.

Interestingly, a quarter of respondents pay between $250 and $1,000 each month, which is a sweet spot for many service providers building recurring revenue. As cloud adoption continues to gain acceptance and become a business necessity, we can expect to see many free service users shifting to the lower cost tier, and many in the lower cost tier to shift to the middle.

 


 

This survey and its results are eye-opening in terms of what is still out there. If cloud storage is a building-block of your solutions business, then bringing your SMB customers into a cloud storage solution opens up the potential for further sales of security, virtual desktop, disaster recovery, and infrastructure solutions as well.

While selling to the enterprise makes for profitable business, VARs and MSPs are smart to keep an eye on small business moves to the cloud. If nothing else, the Clutch survey adds more evidence to the pile that shows how much opportunity exists in the SMB market.

Disaster Recovery Doesn’t Have to Be a Disaster

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Disasters come in many forms. Some are freak, random events that strike out of the blue. Others are completely-preventable lapses in human judgment, or even the result of a malicious act. For any organization, an interruption in operations can be, well, disastrous. But it doesn’t have to be.

Investing in a disaster recovery solution is an investment in safeguarding your business. Interruptions to your operation will happen, but how you proactively prepare and react to the event will help minimize the impact until operations can be fully restored. A rapid and successful disaster recovery depends entirely on what your company does before a disaster ever occurs.

3 Steps to Successful Disaster Recovery

STEP 1: Make a Plan

Various industry surveys report that roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of companies have no viable disaster readiness plan in place. In our modern, interconnected world where a failure in one facet of operations can cascade into a system-wide breakdown, the failure to plan is inexcusable, but something that is easily remedied. Responsible businesses prepare for the worst, and those that do are vastly more capable of weathering a disaster-related interruption.

Any good business continuity plan will identify the key players within the organization (management, IT, HR, etc.) and assign roles and responsibilities to them if and when disaster strikes. A careful risk assessment of the company’s vulnerabilities, a clearly-defined chain-of-command, and overlapping communication and contingency protocols are essential elements of any disaster recovery plan. The participation of your internal IT team and external IT service providers is also critical to a successful and workable plan. Make sure the various stakeholders provide input and air their concerns during planning because, in the midst of a crisis, you don’t want anyone arguing over what to do.

Be sure to plan for multiple causes of downtime as well. Most people think “disaster” means a natural event like storm, fire, or flood. In fact, natural disasters are the most infrequent causes of business interruption. Far more likely are events such as power outages, network and/or hardware failures, human error, or unauthorized access/cyberattacks. By planning for a wide range of potential events and investing in a multi-purpose approach to recovery, you can prepare your company for virtually any scenario. Finally, have a “Plan B” in place, in case Plan A doesn’t work out for some reason.

STEP 2: Protect Your Company Data and Applications

Data protection and recovery lies at the heart of any successful disaster recovery, but DR solutions are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every company should employ a regular data backup solution so that operations and data access can be rapidly brought back to a pre-disaster state. In addition, investing in virtual desktops enables an organization’s employees to continue working from any location, should the physical damage to the business be too severe.

Work with your disaster recovery solution provider to not only integrate data backup and virtual infrastructure into your plan, but also to develop a tiered approach to recovering your organization’s critical software applications. By organizing your applications into recovery tiers, you can ensure that applications are brought back online according to their level of operational urgency, and enable you to focus on recovery needs during an event.

STEP 3: Test, Test, Test

Once your DR plan is in place, be sure to schedule and run regular testing drills to make sure the plan actually works. The time to discover weaknesses or holes in your plan is not during an actual disaster event. Regular testing will expose any inefficiencies in the plan or confusion on the part of stakeholders, and gives your management the confidence that the solution in place was worth the investment. This will make it easier to justify updates and expansions of the DR system as technology evolves and new threats emerge later down the road.

The Fourth (and most important) Step

An additional step in successful disaster recovery—and a critical one at that—is to pick the right Disaster Recovery-as-a-Solution (DRaaS) provider. When selecting a provider, be sure to consider not only their recovery technology offerings, but also their business maturity and level of expertise. Look for a provider with the technology you require, and the levels of knowledge and professionalism that match your business objectives.

A good provider partner should be willing to help you plan and implement a disaster recovery program that meets your Recovery Time Objectives (RTO), as well as offer confidence-building resources such as third-party validations of their solutions, comprehensive Service Level Agreements (SLAs), signed certificates of testing, a dashboard to monitor and manage real-time analytics, etc.

Every minute counts in the event of a disaster and interruption in business continuity. To ensure a rapid recovery and resumption of operations—as well as to mitigate any loss of data, revenue, or customers—it is worth the time and investment to develop and implement a proper disaster recovery plan. The keys to success are a proactive approach that recognizes (and respects) the danger to your business, and selecting the right provider partner to meet your recovery goals.

 

A Real-Life Example of Planning for Disaster Recovery

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DaaS solutions prove their worth when the unexpected happens…even for us.

When we talk about disaster recovery and business continuity, we often think about it in terms of a catastrophe—destructive events that directly impact an organization’s physical location and equipment. Not every business interruption is catastrophic, however; in fact, most are short-term problems—power outages, hardware malfunctions, simple human error—that are quickly and easily remedied. Not every interruption is related to the organization’s physical location, either; rather, it is some random, external incident with effects that cascade down the line to suspend business-as-usual. Such interruptions are still costly, nonetheless.

A recent example of such an event occurred in Atlanta, with a massive fire that destroyed an interstate bridge and cut off a heavily-traveled section of highway for weeks. When the initial disaster happened, a 100 ft. section of highway collapsed. Tens of thousands of motorists were stranded, with no way to get to work. Nearly a quarter million vehicles use this section of highway every day, and the immediate disruption to local businesses was staggering. Given the time required to repair the bridge, ongoing traffic issues will continue to make life difficult for area employees, including our own staff in Green Cloud’s Atlanta offices.

Again, for companies taking proactive disaster recovery efforts, this interruption in business continuity as their workers sat idle on a highway had nothing to do with their infrastructure, or their data storage and backup plans. No failover contingency could be employed, and there was no hardware to restore. This was an operational interruption that was completely external and out of anyone’s control. The only element of a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that mattered here was an investment in virtual desktops.

A good Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution—such as the one employed by Green Cloud—enables employees to log into company servers from a remote location and access an exact copy of their workstation, including all files, email, and other applications. This meant that motorists stuck in traffic or otherwise unable to get to the office because of the event could still address business issues and continue to get work done using their laptops or other mobile devices. DaaS’ ability to mitigate the effects of such an event, and to quickly restore some level of operations in an emergency is critical to recovery. In addition to allowing remote employees to continue servicing customers, a virtual desktop solution saves companies valuable time in restoring full operations and prevents a major loss of revenue.

In our case, Green Cloud employees used a DaaS solution to continue monitoring our area data center operations, communicate with fellow staff members across the country, and handle customer accounts with no discernible interruption in quality or timeliness of service.

When assessing risks to your company during the disaster recovery planning phase, try not to think about the totality of possibilities. It is impossible to prepare for every event, but it is definitely possible to build a plan that focuses on business functionality instead. If your core business has a set number of operations that must be fulfilled (customer communications, order entry, inventory management, real-time reporting, etc.), make sure your plan addresses those operations, regardless of why they might get interrupted. As we’ve seen in the Atlanta incident, one key to maintaining business continuity is a solid virtual desktop solution.

Green Cloud and Veeam’s Business-Boosting Offer Continues!

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Announcing an extension to our popular Cloud Connect promotion.

Back in February, Veeam launched a promotion for the nearly quarter-million end-users of their Cloud Connect services, offering eligible customers up to $1,000 in FREE Cloud Connect services. On top of that, Green Cloud gave eligible partners special promotional rates of $0.05 per GB for signing up their customers to Veeam’s Cloud Connect.

The response to the limited-time promotion was overwhelming, so on April 3rd, Veeam announced that they would extend the promotional dates by three months.

Originally, customers had until the end of March to sign up for this promotion and until June 30, 2017, to use their FREE Cloud Connect Services. With the extension, customers now have until September 30 to sign up, and all participants must use their FREE Cloud Connect Services by December 31, 2017. Eligible Green Cloud partners can also take advantage of the extension to continue receiving promotional rates for signing your customers to Veeam Cloud Connect.

About Veeam Cloud Connect

Veeam Cloud Connect enables end-users to extend their data availability to the cloud with comprehensive, industry-leading backup, replication, and disaster recovery technologies. Best of all, Veeam’s Cloud Connect services are built right into their suite of backup and recovery products—end-users only need a few minutes to activate Cloud Connect and get started through a back-end configuration console.

Veeam Cloud Connect Backup integrates hosted cloud repositories directly into the console, giving end-users complete control of their backup and recovery management tasks. In the event of a failover, Veeam Cloud Connect Replication provides a seamless transition to VM replicas. Working together, these cloud solutions keep your customers’ data secure and available—and their businesses up-and-running—at all times.

Eligibility Requirements

Green Cloud partners wishing to take advantage of the promotional rate offer must be listed in the directory of Veeam-powered services (to help you generate and receive new leads) and Green Cloud must be designated as your VCSP.

Eligible end-users must own or purchase Veeam Backup & Replication, Veeam Availability Suite, or Veeam Backup Essentials (any edition), and be current on maintenance at the time of registration. Customers already using Cloud Connect services are also eligible, as long as the funds from this offer are used to either expand their service or purchase new services.

To qualify for this limited time offer, customers must register for an activation code by June 30, 2017, and use their FREE Cloud Connect services by September 30, 2017. Limit of one activation code per Veeam customer account.

Click here for registration instructions, or contact Green Cloud’s sales or support team for assistance.

 

Contact Marketing@gogreencloud.com for more information or assistance.

FIVE STEPS TO SMART DISASTER RECOVERY PLANNING

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After a disaster has struck is not the right time for your customer to be figuring out what to do. As with most things in life, the best solution to possible disaster is a healthy dose of prevention. By proactively managing the most common threats— system failure, facility damage, data theft, cyber attacks, etc.—with comprehensive disaster recovery practices, you can help your customer mitigate much of the risk to business continuity.

Without a solid plan, your customer is rolling the dice on irreversible damage to their business. They may not realize it, but they need a robust disaster recovery plan. A proactive DR plan should be included in any solution you offer—and there are plenty of viable solutions out there—but what are the fundamentals of a good disaster recovery plan?

STEP 1: Assess Risk – Before designing a DR plan for your customer, you should conduct a thorough risk assessment to analyze the systems being utilized and identify any potential threats to your client’s mission-critical operations. In addition, you should evaluate not only the customer’s physical facility for risk indicators (e.g., is it located in a disaster-prone area?) but also the recovery facility for factors such as regional proximity to your customer, levels of security and redundancy, etc.

STEP 2: Define RPO and RTO – This step is critical because it is where you determine what kind of DR plan your customer requires. If their organization can withstand significant downtime while they recover, then there isn’t much of an issue that even the most basic plan can’t address. After all, the name of the game here is how quickly you can get the customer up-and-running again. If time isn’t a factor, then a simple solution will do. If, however, like many organizations, no amount of downtime it tolerable, then a more immediate solution is required.

Carefully assess your customer’s acceptable Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) to determine the applications that will satisfy both, and refer often to these two goals to help prioritize what the customer’s plan requires to survive a business disaster.

STEP 3: Communicate with Personnel / Assign Tasks – Developing a good communication plan among your customer’s staff is an important, but often overlooked step. Help your customer determine who needs to do what in the event of a disaster. How they access their data and resume activities during an interruption in business continuity should be determined beforehand and communicated to all employees, to avoid the inevitable confusion that sets in during a disaster. Make sure your customer assigns proper roles and responsibilities to critical staff members because decision paralysis often hampers the internal “first-response” team.

STEP 4: Manage Sensitive Data – Every organization has sensitive data, whether it be proprietary resources, sensitive employee records, or customer account information. A good DR plan should ensure that all confidential data and information is regularly backed up, properly secured, and immediately recoverable when the plan is activated.

STEP 5: Test the Plan Regularly – Once your customer has a DR plan in place, you should assist them in testing it regularly. Failure to test on a consistent basis will likely result in creeping inefficiencies or even failure if a disaster occurs. The more comprehensive the test, the better it will work and the more successful your customer will be in getting back on track if the business is interrupted.

Every customer is unique, every solution is different, and there are too many variables to cover all possibilities. But a good risk plan starts with these fundamentals. By addressing a strong disaster recovery plan as part of your offering, you do more to help your customer’s business recovery efforts than any amount of hardware or software can do on its own. Follow these basic steps, and your customer can be confident that they’re prepared if and when disaster strikes.

Boost Your Business with Great Offers from Green Cloud and Veeam

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Help your customers achieve the best results in cloud backup, replication, and disaster recovery with Veeam Cloud Connect.

Through June 30, 2017, Veeam is running an incredible promotion for the nearly quarter-million end-users of their Cloud Connect services. Eligible customers will receive up to $1,000 in FREE Cloud Connect services. And to sweeten the deal, Green Cloud is offering special rates of $0.05 per GB to our eligible partners who sign up their customers.

About Veeam Cloud Connect

Veeam Cloud Connect enables end-users to extend their data availability to the cloud with comprehensive, industry-leading backup, replication, and disaster recovery technologies. Best of all, Veeam’s Cloud Connect services are built right into their suite of backup and recovery products—end-users only need a few minutes to activate Cloud Connect and get started through a back-end configuration console.

Veeam Cloud Connect Backup integrates hosted cloud repositories directly into the console, giving end-users complete control of their backup and recovery management tasks. In the event of a failover, Veeam Cloud Connect Replication provides a seamless transition to VM replicas. Working together, these cloud solutions keep your customers’ data secure and available—and their businesses up-and-running—at all times.

Eligibility Requirements

Green Cloud partners wishing to take advantage of the promotional rate offer must be listed in the directory of Veeam-powered services (to help you generate and receive new leads) and Green Cloud must be designated as your VCSP.

Eligible end-users must own or purchase Veeam Backup & Replication, Veeam Availability Suite, or Veeam Backup Essentials (any edition), and be current on maintenance at the time of registration. Customers already using Cloud Connect services are also eligible, as long as the funds from this offer are used to either expand their service or purchase new services.

To qualify for this limited time offer, customers must register for an activation code by March 31, 2017, and use their FREE Cloud Connect services by June 30, 2017. Limit of one activation code per Veeam customer account.

Click here for registration instructions, or contact Green Cloud’s sales or support team for assistance.

Contact Marketing@gogreencloud.com for more information or assistance.

Finding Your Niche in the Cloud

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When I talk to traditional hardware resellers, I often hear them say they want to sell cloud solutions but they’re not sure how to pivot their business. A lot of them express reservations—and even downright fear—about taking that step. Many worry about biting off more than they can reasonably chew, or having to completely reorient their current practice.

To answer them, I always explain that they don’t have to sell “cloud-everything” or radically change their business. Our most successful partners identify their niches in the market—such as voice or disaster recovery—and then find cloud solutions to fit that niche. They’re already familiar with the ins and outs of their particular segment, so it’s a matter of figuring out which solutions can “bolt on” to their existing offering.

In addition, the scalable nature of the cloud enables hesitant VARs to start small by picking one or two complementary solutions and then ramping up to add more services and solutions to their portfolio later on. This makes the transition to the cloud easier on their staff, builds organizational expertise at a comfortable pace, and provides a means to demonstrate the cloud’s profitability without a huge upfront commitment.

This last point is important because many VARs place the profitability question above ease of transition, and they don’t want to adopt the cloud because they don’t perceive it as profitable. This perception is magnified when they begin exploring the costs of building the infrastructure to connect their customers to the cloud.

The profitability objection is easy to overcome because, first and foremost, providing cloud services does not take away from hardware sales at all. There’s always a need for on-premise hardware and with the growing popularity of hybrid cloud solutions, VARS can actually present clients with more options and create bigger sales as a result. And even though the cloud market is now firmly in place, it is still experiencing wild growth in adoption. As adoption increases, so will sales.

Second, it’s critical to remember that the shift to the cloud isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Building recurring revenue may be 3–4 year proposition, but in the long run, it can be significant. Forward-thinking VARs who are patient enough to evolve their business as the cloud matures will find that the recurring service fees substantially boost their overall revenue. Not only that, the contractual nature of the charges can also increase their company’s valuation because they are considered guaranteed future income.

Finally, while some VARs may have the capital to build their own data center, most don’t want to (or can’t) build a cloud solution from the ground up. In fact, those who go it alone may find themselves left holding the bag on a lot of expensive gear and idle manpower while their sales team figures out how to properly sell the cloud. A best practice for VARs is to partner with a reliable cloud infrastructure provider—like Green Cloud—to reduce their risk and allow them to focus on their core business, and leave the technical worries (and a lot of upfront investment) to someone else.

Contact Green Cloud today to learn more.

 

The AWS Myth: What’s Good for the Enterprise Is Probably Not Good for SMBs

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As enterprises continue their move to the cloud, many of these large, well-funded organizations find mega-cloud providers like AWS to be a good fit for their needs. If you can afford them, AWS resources and services can deliver powerful computing capabilities without the capital expense of building your own data center. But what if you’re a medium-sized company with limited resources and a serious organizational need for cloud solutions? Or a small business looking to leverage the cloud’s ability to quickly scale and adapt to meet surging growth? Is a hyper-cloud provider like AWS their best bet?

 

Without a doubt, AWS is the market leader in high-performance cloud computing, a single source for hosted services that can now touch pretty much every aspect of IT. AWS is even pioneering completely unique and innovative computing methods that give their customers access to unparalleled capabilities. Is AWS’ model sufficient and cost-effective to meet smaller-scale needs, however, or is there a threshold at which using AWS becomes counter-productive and a less monolithic cloud provider becomes the better option?

 

Putting aside the question of whether it is a good idea to engage a large provider like AWS, which may very well compete with you for the same customers (as Dropbox recently discovered), there are fundamental deficiencies in the AWS model that are better addressed by a smaller, more local cloud provider. This is especially true of the SMB market, where AWS’ dizzying array of choices and high level of expertise required to source, implement, and manage their solutions can be a daunting (if not impossible) challenge.

 

The Dilemma of Many Choices

 

AWS offers a range of virtual machine (VM) families, from general-purpose VMs to machines optimized for computing, memory, storage, or GPU performance levels. Taking into account each VM family’s available models, price-points, and operating systems—not to mention prior generations that remain available—the menu of AWS options soars to a bewildering number of possible combinations (currently around 50,000 choices).

 

For SMBs, the sheer complexity of AWS’s offerings can be an impenetrable barrier. Without well-trained and knowledgeable IT resources to assist them, how is a mid-sized business owner supposed to figure out the optimal AWS build to meet their needs while staying within budget limits? AWS provides an online tool to help, but this assistance largely comes down to templated advice and a selection based more on hope and guesswork than a sound, informed decision-making process.

 

Performance Rules, but Value Matters

 

For most startups and SMBs, building a custom infrastructure is not a viable strategy, but neither is investing in the resources required to make an AWS cloud solution work. These businesses need performance and reliability, live technical support, a comprehensive but not overwhelming menu of options, and high levels of scalability and security—including disaster recovery—to ensure continued operations at all times. They also need to be assured of the value of their solution in relation to what they receive for the price.

 

Many SMBs are discovering that finding a reliable hosting partner with predictable costs and robust infrastructure is a better alternative than trusting a mega-cloud provider like AWS to keep their business concerns in mind. While AWS is competitive on some of the issues that matter to SMBs, professional hosting companies with a customer-centric approach and specialized focus on a limited number of solutions can outperform AWS. The level of direct customer contact and support an SMB requires is something AWS is simply not built to provide.

 

True Customization Requires a Personal Touch

 

Another area where smaller hosting partners surpass AWS is in customization of solutions, which ties back into the personal touch a smaller provider can give to its customers. Customization is a critical component of scalability, which is essential to the growth strategy of many SMBs. Custom solutions must also be reasonably priced with no extra costs and expensive add-ons hidden in the mix. Walking a client through their custom solution often relies on a serious hand-holding effort that can only be delivered by a provider working directly with the customer. Again, with the way AWS has commoditized their web service offerings, a high level of customization is not something they can do.

 

Bigger Can Be Too Much

Even though major cloud providers like AWS have tremendous scale, global reach, and diverse service offerings, their approach does not meet the needs of every business out there. In fact, smaller cloud providers continue to see high demand for a more personal level of cloud computing, largely because the average retail cloud consumer knows little about the technology beyond its marketing messages and value prop. They also rarely need the full breadth of services AWS offers, but instead want someone to sit with them and explain exactly what their business needs and why.

 

If you’re moving to the cloud but don’t know much about how it works or how much it costs, your best bet is to find a cloud provider partner with certified expertise, a solid track record, and proven, tested infrastructure. Your prospective hosting partner should also offer a healthy range of options, from simple cloud storage space to a full-fledged managed services portfolio. This is important because, as you transition to the cloud, you often need a variety of solutions to address your legacy systems and applications, and to ensure that your cloud solution properly fills in any gaps (such as security, redundancy, disaster recovery, etc.) created during the move.

 

Other elements to consider in selecting a smaller cloud partner over AWS include things like: their relationships with other MSPs; specific expertise in various vertical markets such as manufacturing, legal, or healthcare; the availability of “on-demand” resource provisioning; typical speed of deployment (which is often far faster than AWS); and even the option to employ consulting or staff augmentation services through the provider. All of these are things a cloud partner should be able to provide that AWS cannot.

 

Bottom Line

 

While the enterprise is still in a romance with AWS, the movement of SMBs away from hyper-cloud providers is rooted in deep-seated—and well-founded—concerns about cost/value, support, competition, and customizability. It’s also driven by a desire for the peace of mind that a competent partner stands with you to address any needs that may arise. For many business owners, aligning with an experienced hosting partner—like Green Cloud—who provides industry-leading solutions and excellent customer support has many obvious advantages over a hyper-cloud provider.

 

AWS has an unparalleled menu of services and options, but this huge portfolio undermines its practicality for the SMB market. The options are simply too many and too inscrutable for the average cloud consumer, who needs personal support and a sales approach focused on their specific needs. Small to mid-sized business owners simply don’t have the time or resources to spend figuring out their best AWS option and then attempting to implement it on their own. This simple fact ensures that smaller cloud providers still have a seat at the table, and that they can actually outperform AWS in the much more expansive SMB market.