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Beware of the Also cloud

August 16, 2012 / Scott Kinka


So, you’ve decided to move some of your critical systems or software to the cloud.

How do you tell one cloud provider from the next? How do you pick the right cloud services provider(s) to help you truly change the way you consume technology? For some perspective about the cloud, let’s turn to Microsoft (chuckle).

In a recent survey of small and midsize business adoption of the cloud, Microsoft found that small and medium-sized business (SMB) use of the cloud will triple in the next few years. But 60 percent of SMBs don’t have the resources to implement these new technologies. As a result, 56 percent of them want to lean on one vendor for all of their cloud needs.

An opportunity for the service providers? Yes. A risk for you? Absolutely. Why? This report, as well as others like it, have prompted the growth of a new kind of cloud. I’m not talking about public or private, hybrid or virtual private. I’m talking about the “Also” cloud. As in, the services that your existing provider might “ALSO” offer to sell you.

Most of the early entrants into the cloud game focused on solving one problem and solving it well. Hosted PBX, hosted email, Internet-based backup, hosted contact center, and cloud computing are generally the flagship product of their respective cloud providers. And in many cases, they do that service particularly well. They install well. They support well. They scale well.

Many of them, however, have decided to do more than solve one business need. They’ve decided to ALSO solve others. Exchange vendors are adding hosted PBX services on top of Microsoft Lync. HPBX companies are reselling cloud computing. Google and Microsoft are trying to do everything and asking us to believe they can be good at all of it (and that they want to take your direct phone call for support).

Equally troubling is the fact that some of the biggest Also cloud offenders are telecom carriers and CLECs. Use your own judgment on how well the big guys support their traditional business. But, are you prepared to move your critical data and systems to their side offering?

SMBs are embracing the cloud in unprecedented numbers. They also want to lean on a single vendor to do so. These businesses must ask the tough questions of the providers they choose to partner with:

  • What is the real nature of their business?
  • Do they actually provide or resell the various services they claim?
  • Do they have dedicated staff for each of their different types of products?
  • Are they certified by their underlying vendors to provide the services that are being billed under their logo?
  • Who’s going to answer the phone, and are they in a position to actual fix a problem?
  • Simply, are they in a position to support the services that they are providing and that you are counting on?

Is it possible that a cloud provider can provide multiple services? Absolutely. SMBs can get what they want. But it’s going to be very interesting watching businesses figure out who can actually do it for them.

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