Managed service providers (MSP) have been around for quite awhile now, and, for the past 15 years or so, have had a front row seat for what was perhaps the most massive shift in digital information storage capabilities in human history. If you’re ‘of a certain age,’ you’ll remember the floppy disk. This 3-inch compact storage unit, which gained widespread appeal in the 1980s, had a capacity of only 400kb in 1984. That size doubled to 800kb in 1986, and by the late 1990s, standard floppy disks could hold up to 1.44MB of data—a huge improvement. However, technology had established its rapid evolutionary pace by then, and by the time we reached the turn of the millennium the first commercial USB flash drive became available on the market—with a whopping 8MB capacity.
In the decade and a half since its launch, the USB drive has grown exponentially to the point where there are 1TB models available—125,000 times the capacity of the original USB, and 25 million times the early 80s floppy disks. These are staggering numbers, bordering on incomprehensible to the layman. But even this evolution is relatively minor when compared to the recent developments in cloud-storage.
Cloud based storage has eliminated many of the issues of weight, space, and/or cost that are part and parcel of direct-attached storage (DAS) devices like floppy disks, USB Flash Drives, and internal and external hard drives. The cloud also allows collaborators to share files in real-time and at enormous scale. Also, while most commercials DAS systems can at most only store a few terabytes, public and/or private cloud-hosted storage can offer firms the ability to store hundreds, or even thousands. For industries dealing with big data, in which storage requirements may often meet these levels, it’s beginning to make more and more sense to move data to the cloud. And these same industries will be looking to MSPs with experience for guidance.
But the Cloud is Scary!
Now, it’s no secret that the cloud isn’t always a 100 percent perfect solution, and ultimately, it shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for on location solutions. Sometimes, data uploads can be achingly slow, and, as we’ve all seen with recent headlines, security breaches are a very real threat. And if ‘the cloud’ still sounds scary to many businesses out there, dare I say that ‘hybrid cloud solutions’ probably sounds even scarier—a bit like a three-headed monster—instead of the perfect, and highly scalable mash-up between traditional backup solutions and cloud based storage that it is.
What smart MSPs should be focusing on when it comes to selling clients on hybrid cloud storage is just how effective it can be as an additional tier to on-site physical storage infrastructure. The cloud simply acts as an extension of what they already have, preventing the need to invest in additional hardware, and providing almost unlimited, and flexible, benefits.
Selling the Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Storage
Cost. Since hybrid systems make use of the immense storage capacities of the cloud married with the greater performance of on-site drives, clients need to be aware that they can reduce the number of on-premise, physical storage devices they need to have on site, thereby also reducing the requirement to manage and maintain local resources. Boom. Reduced operational costs. In fact, enterprises often reap a 20-30 percent cost reduction on non-critical infrastructure when they make the switch to a hybrid cloud solution.
Capacity. Cloud storage solutions offer firms an unmatched degree of scalability, allowing businesses to ebb and flow when it comes to data storage needs, and save money (yet again) by not having to maintain unused on-site infrastructure. Also, by storing low-risk data on public clouds, space is freed up to keep more important information protected, and easily accessed, on-site.
Performance. Related to capacity, accessing data becomes much faster when pertinent, day-to-day information is able to be stored onsite from on-site hardware than when it needs to be sent longer distances, such as to and from a cloud provider. However cloud providers are catching on to this; Hybrid solutions can store data locally and use WAN optimization techniques, eliminating the transfer of redundant data and improving speeds.
Data protection/back-ups and archiving. The cloud can act as a constant back up for local drives so in the case of an emergency, you can provide clients with quick retrieval and recovery from any on-site technology failures. Generally speaking, enterprises spend millions on in-house backup systems that are rarely if ever needed. The public cloud ensure that organizations only pay for disaster recovery when they need it, instead of paying for it when they don’t. That said, migrating backups to the cloud is not always easy, and another benefit MSPs can bring to the table is their experience with cloud database and storage in order to meet compliance standards.
Use Cases for Hybrid Clouds
There are various areas the smart MSP can focus when it comes to pitching a hybrid cloud solution to their clients. Here are three:
Testing new applications. With many business leaders still sketchy about the cloud (see above re: three headed monster), proposing that companies test the waters by using it as a testing or staging environment is a great way to reduce some of the fear, and bring about increased confidence in what the cloud can bring to the table. In the case of untested applications, it makes sense for teams to test out the work on a public cloud, before committing to the cost of private clouds. This way too, in-house developers can get familiar with cloud architecture, and not risk an inexperienced cloud engineer wreaking havoc on their applications.
Increased capacity demands. Similarly, if an application is successful, and new capacity demands need to be met, a hybrid solution allows a smooth transfer from public to private cloud in order to handle these loads. Also, there might be applications a business needs to run on-site, but can store in the cloud. Especially applications that create their own data, and lots of it, such as sensors placed on devices, security cameras or audio systems. The rise of the Internet of Things is definitely going to change more risk averse minds, as the amount of data that needs to be stored will soon be increasing by leaps and bounds.
Legacy systems. Many organizations have complex lines of application dependency. In most cases, some components of these apps can move to the cloud, but those tied into legacy systems can’t. MSPs should make the case for maintaining legacy systems in house, or on private clouds, while pushing for other components to move to the public cloud.
As more and more companies look toward cloud solutions for specific functions, MSPs with experience are in a great position to capitalize on the demand. MSPs need to act as consultants in order to determine the right approach for their clients. There are dozens of factors to look at when choosing the right provider—from backend and commercial support to community size and appropriate system administration features—and it is the job of the savvy MSP to help the client make the right choice.
MSPs who suggest a hybrid cloud storage to their clients can be sure they are offering more value, improved security, and lower costs.
What’s your take? Have you seen an increased interest in hybrid cloud storage solutions among your clients? Do you have a strategy percolating for how to best sell hybrid cloud services? What are the biggest challenges you face in that regard? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Additional Resources on this Topic:
This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.
This post was originally seen on V3+Broadsuite Blog.