a cloud buyers guide

A Buyer’s Guide to Cloud

buyguide_Cloud

Most businesses have discovered the value that cloud computing can bring to their IT operations. They may have discovered how it helps to meet their regulatory compliance priorities by being in a SOC 2 audited data center. Others may see a cost advantage as they are approaching a server refresh when costly hardware needs to be replaced. They recognize an advantage of placing this hardware as an operational expense as opposed to the large capital expense they need to make every three years. No matter the business driver, the typical business person isn’t sure where to start to find the right cloud provider. In this fast paced and ever-changing technology environment these IT managers may wonder, is there a buyer’s guide to Cloud?

Where Exactly is the Cloud?…and Where is My Data?

Except for the cloud hyperscalers, (Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google) cloud providers create their product in a multi-tenant data center. A multi-tenant data center is a purpose-built facility designed specifically for the needs of the business IT infrastructure and accommodates many businesses. These facilities are highly secured and most times unknown to the public. Many offer additional colocation services that allow their customers to enter the center to manage their own servers. This is a primary difference with the hyperscalers, as they offer no possibility of customers seeing the sites where their data resides. The hyperscale customer doesn’t know where there data is except for a region of the country or availability zone. The hyperscaler’s customer must base their buying decision on trusting the security practices of the large technology companies Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. These are some of the same organizations that are currently under scrutiny from governments around the world for data privacy concerns.  The buying decisions for cloud and data center for cloud seekers should start at the multi-tenant data center. Therefore, the first consideration in a buyer’s guide for the cloud will start with the primary characteristics to evaluate in the data center and are listed below.

  1. Location– Location is a multi-faceted consideration in a datacenter. First, the datacenter needs to be close to a highly available power grid and possibly alternate power companies. Similarly, the telecommunications bandwidth needs to be abundant, diverse and redundant. Finally, the proximity of the data center to its data users is crucial because speed matters. The closer the users are to the data, the less data latency, which means happier cloud users.
  2. Security– As is in all forms of IT today, security is paramount. It is important to review the data center’s security practices. This will include physical as well as technical security.
  3. People behind the data– The support staff at the datacenter creating and servicing your cloud instances can be the key to success. They should have the proper technical skills, responsiveness and be available around the clock.

Is My Cloud Infrastructure Portable?

The key technology that has enabled cloud computing is virtualization. Virtualization creates an additional layer above the operating system called a hypervisor that allows for sharing hardware resources. This allows multiple virtual servers (VMs) to be created on a single hardware server. Businesses have used virtualization for years, VMware and Microsoft HyperV being the most popular choices. If you are familiar with and have some secondary or backup infrastructure on the same hypervisor as your cloud provider, you can create a portable environment. A solution where VMs can be moved or replicated with relative ease avoids vendor lock-in. One primary criticism of the hyperscalers is that it can be easy to move data in but much more difficult to migrate the data out. This lack of portability is reinforced by the proprietary nature of their systems. One of the technologies that the hyperscalers are beginning to use to become more portable is containers. Containers are similar to VMs however they don’t utilize guest operating systems for the virtual servers. This has had a limited affect on portability because containers are a leading-edge technology and have not met widespread acceptance.

What Kind of Commitment Do I Make?

The multi-tenant data center offering a virtualized cloud solution will include an implementation fee and require a commitment term with the contract. Their customized solution will require pre-implementation engineering time, so they will be looking to recoup those costs. Both fees are typically negotiable and a good example where an advisor like Two Ears One Mouth can assist you through this process and save you money.

The hyperscaler will not require either charge because they don’t provide custom solutions and are difficult to leave so the term commitment is not required. The hyperscaler will offer a discount with a contract term as an incentive for a term commitment; these offerings are called reserved instances. With a reserved instance, they will discount your monthly recurring charge (MRC) for a two or three-year commitment.

Finding the best cloud provider for your business is a time-consuming and difficult process. When considering a hyperscaler the business user will receive no support or guidance. Working directly with a multi-tenant data center is more service-oriented but can misuse the cloud buyer’s time. The cloud consumer can work with a single data center representative that states “we are the best” and trust them. Alternatively, they can interview multiple data center provider representatives and create the ambiguous “apples to apples” spreadsheet of prospective vendors. However, neither is effective.

At Two Ears One Mouth IT consulting we will listen to your needs first and then guide you through the process. With our expertise and market knowledge you will be comforted to know we have come to the right decision for you company’s specific requirements. We save our customers time and money and provide our services at little or no cost to them!

If you would like assistance in selecting a cloud provider for your business contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net

www.twoearsonemouth.net

we listen first…

What is the Difference Between a Direct and Indirect Channel?

It’s not just a transaction, it’s a relationship

In my 25-year career in consulting and selling IT solutions most of my time has been as a direct employee of a company. As a direct employee and sales consultant, I received healthcare benefits as well as a salary complemented by commissions or bonuses. My product focus was simply what my company offered, and I would tailor that offering to fit the customer’s needs. There were occasions when I had to take the opposite approach due to the limitations of my company or an offering. I needed to tailor my customer’s needs to my solution. Recently I’ve changed to the indirect channel with an independent organization that allows for many suppliers and their vast array of solutions.

Most IT and telecommunications suppliers utilize both direct and indirect channels. Some, I have found don’t manage this well, which results in channel conflicts. A channel conflict is when a direct and an indirect consultant compete against each other for the same customer. Many times, they are proposing the exact same solution. This situation leaves only two differentiating factors for the customer, relationship, and price. When there is no clear relationship advantage for either consultant then the supplier will be under pressure to lower their price. In this scenario the supplier reduces their margins due to the conflict

This has caused most suppliers to create strict rules of engagement with their channel partners. Like the technologies these suppliers provide, some suppliers manage the channel better than others. In future articles, I will detail some of the suppliers I have had experiences with and how they have dealt with or avoided channel conflict.        

My experience in both channels has found the indirect channel to provide the best alternatives and solutions for the customer. To follow are the three primary characteristics of an indirect consultant that create their competitive advantage.

Better overall industry and solutions knowledge

When I first left the world of the direct consultation and sales channel I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to stay abreast of current technology and trends. After all, the company I worked for had provided all my “training” to this point. I soon discovered my concern was unfounded and the exact opposite was true. What I have discovered as being an independent consultant is that there is an abundance of information available today to all that take the time to seek it. Each supplier I partner with has their own product training and information available, as well as general industry information, to keep their representatives current.

My initial concerns have also led me to seek out and find an unbelievable amount of unbiased technical information available on the web and certain podcasts. I now listen to my favorite “cloud-computing” podcast at the gym in lieu of music. I receive an hour of high quality, technical and current information on cloud computing every day. What I initially perceived as a shortfall of the indirect model has turned into an advantage.

An unbiased approach to customer challenges and solutions

When the consulting partner you’re working with has a greater knowledge and expertise, coupled with larger solution sets to choose from you are with the right partner. Almost every provider I am aware of in telecommunications and IT utilizes the indirect channel. They embrace it due to its lower cost and increased flexibility in their consulting and sales teams. Many suppliers align with “master agents” allowing the indirect consultants to work with many suppliers and only one partnering agreement with the master agent. If an indirect consultant discovers a solution provider that is not aligned with their master agent most times they can engage directly with that provider to establish a relationship.

Compensation models for direct vs. indirect

I am usually not comfortable talking about compensation; I would not consider bringing it up as an advantage for the consultant. However, the typical indirect consultant compensation plan benefits the customer. That is, if the customer is looking for a long-term relationship. The standard compensation plan for the direct employee is based on a one-time commission or bonus for bringing a new customer to the business. This creates an incentive to move on and find the next prospect, not to build the relationship with that client. Compensation plans for indirect, or independent consultants, are paid as a small percentage of the monthly recurring revenue (MRC) created by bringing the new business to the provider. These payments are in the form of residuals that continue as long as that customer stays with that provider. From the inception of the agreement this incentivizes the consultant to stay in close contact with the customer and assure their satisfaction level stays high. For this reason, the independent consultant tends to provide a better level of service that is more consistent to the customer.

There are several different ways to find the right partner to lead you through the process of making the right decisions for your IT infrastructure. Most companies will choose to work with a consultant that in unbiased for providers, has a deep industry knowledge and is incentivized to stand behind the solution for the long run. The describes the indirect consultant like Two Ears One Mouth IT Consulting.

the indirect sales channel works better
The indirect channel wins…for you!

If you would like to talk more about how the channel does or does not work contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net

www.twoearsonemouth.net

we listen first…

Death of the Salesman?

D.O.S.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the beginning of my sales career and how different things are for today’s salesperson. I don’t believe salespeople have exclusivity to the story “How the Internet has changed Business”, but it is the business story I know the best.

I was fortunate my beginnings in telecom in the 1980’s was in project management (PM), not in sales. This allowed me to work closely with sales people, as well as learn the technical side of the business first. The company I worked for, InfiNET, sold and installed phone systems of 100 users or more. After a few customer meetings of discovery, we would typically “cutover” the phone system after 5 pm on a Friday evening.  Our customers had no tolerance for phones to be down for even a moment during business hours, at that time it was their most critical application.

Inevitably, there would be unplanned problems we would resolve on site. This allowed me to create a close relationship with my best technician, a bi-polar genius named David. David knew more about the phone company network, and the equipment we installed, than anyone I’ve ever known. It was on these working weekends, watching David systematically troubleshoot issues, that I sharpened my technical expertise.

The owner of that company, as I was just getting comfortable in PM, asked me if I would like to try sales. I laughed out loud, and gave an emphatic “NO!” Soon I realized that it really wasn’t a question, and my sales journey began. My technical and application knowledge was deep, and my customers trusted me already, so my sales career began with huge success. It wasn’t long before I needed to sharpen my sales skills to keep my funnel growing.

At this time I discovered at the time that the salesperson was a trusted counselor, educator and guide through the process of acquiring goods and services. When I would first meet my prospects for large phone system they had no idea how these systems worked, the components and how to make the right purchase. Business Telecom was still young and businesses were used to paying rent to the monopolistic phone companies for their phone systems. For that reason, the decision makers were primarily financial leaders, not the IT managers that handle the process today.

Fast forward to today, the technology has matured and the advent of the internet has affected the purchase process greatly. Cold calling has become very rare with voicemail and email. Telecommunication has integrated with IT and the primary decision maker is the IT manager. The IT manager, as with most buyers today, has a completely different process for purchasing. The trusted counselor, educator, and guide is dead. The internet has eliminated the role of intermediary for the salesperson. I recently read that 90% of B2B purchases start with a web search, a complete turnaround from when I started.

Where does sales go from here?

Contrary to the messages above, sales is not dead, it’s not even sick. It’s changed, so we need to change. My examples above are about the businesses of technology, but the internet has affected all business. Just ask your travel agent or taxi driver the next time you can find one. The salesperson plays a vital role in business and always will. So how can the salesperson still provide value in today’s environment?

  1. Bridging the Gap– As much as the buyer thinks he knows from his research, the salesperson knows more about the product and service he represents. I’ve seen a gap between what the buyer believes he’s getting and what he’s actually going to get. Once he knows the buyers perspective the salesperson can then see that gap. At that point he can help the purchaser by eliminating mistakes and confusion he has seen others make.
  2. Connecting People– With the demise of traditional prospecting methods, new ones must be developed. Networking is a huge part of this; the salesperson of today spends hours every week building his network. He can share these valuable resources through referrals. It can be a risky exercise to introduce a prospect to others that could offer value independently. Ultimately, he should trust the process of helping decision makers and organizations in this way.
  3. Provide and Display Expertise– Another technique to be developed is sharing knowledge and expertise. Today this is through blogging and social media. The information should be given away in hopes that when the prospects need help they will come to the expert. I’ve see this process work, you need to trust the process.gap

These are some of the ways I’ve found, if you have feedback or know of other ways of providing value please share them with me at jim.conwell@outlook.com or call me at (513) 227-4131