Cloud rains pennies from heaven

A lot of people in the channel look at cloud storage as a commodity sale: an end user wants to offsite a whole load of data and every couple of year's bumps up their capacity.

A lot of people in the channel look at cloud storage as a commodity sale: an end user wants to offsite a whole load of data and every couple of years bumps up their capacity.  But a change in the way that you look at space in the cloud can turn storage into a recurring revenue stream that allows you to build an ongoing relationship with your customer base and open doors to up selling opportunities.

Just as with disk space on the network, it's not the space in the cloud that's important, it's what you do with it.  Online backup, for example can transform the way that you resell Cloud storage.

Online backup can offer a simple, automatic and secure way of protecting a customer's data by replicating an encrypted version of their data to a secure offsite data centre.  Most businesses already recognise the importance of backup but many deploy their backup plans in a way that doesn't maximise the opportunities for their businesses or for the resellers that they purchase their solutions from.

Take tape backup, for example.  Typically, in a small business, someone with an administrative role will be responsible for swapping over a backup tape nightly on the sever and carrying it home with them to ensure that the copy is stored remotely.

Assuming that it all works properly, it's fine, but the restore process is unlikely to be the slickest of services when the customer calls up their reseller for support help.  Most resellers offering this sort of service will be familiar with the painstaking process of retrieving the tapes, schlepping into the customer's office and then searching for the lost files to restore.

The VAR has to make a trip into the customer's office, the customer has to make a trip to wherever the tape is stored and all the while the business stalls until the all-important files are found.  It's an unpleasant experience all round - especially when you send in the bill.

Cloud backup offers resellers the opportunity to completely change this experience.  

Rather than a one-off cost for the tape system, online backup is charged at a monthly fee.  This not only reduces the barriers to adoption but also presents the opportunity for VARs to package the backup as an essential part of a monthly support contract.  This helps to lay the foundations for recurring revenues from the service and also plays a part in strengthening the relationship with the customer.

Good online backup solutions that are designed with the channel in mind will include a powerful administration console that allows meta management of multiple customers' backups.  A VAR that resells this sort of service to its customers will be able to remotely: select backup sets, configure user accounts, monitor backups, test restores and even remotely manage the restore process.

So, in the event that anything does go wrong at the customer's site and a restore needs to take place, the reseller can instantly put everything right without even having to leave their desk.  Rather than the unpleasant experience we described before, the VAR can step in and be the hero, with no time being lost and no negative impact on the customer's business.

The process of managing an end user's backup also gives a VAR an opportunity-creating insight into the business they are supporting.  Knowing which devices are crashing and losing data is an ideal way of understanding where upgrades are needed - and being the first onsite to offer a replacement.

Similarly, regularly testing the restore process - which should be a key part of any backup strategy - is an excellent time to sit with your customer and discuss wider security and IT issues and opens the door to broader dialogue about new avenues they should be exploring.

Because backup is an essential to any business, it's great way for resellers to open their customers' minds to cloud services.  Resellers who are successful at demonstrating the benefits of the cloud through applications such as online backup are in the perfect position to move those customers up through the value chain for additional online services.

So, rather than seeing cloud storage as a commodity, if wily resellers can recognise the opportunities presented by applications for cloud storage they can drive ongoing revenues and help themselves build closer relationships with their customers.

Claire Galbois-Alcaix leads Mozy's Web Direct business in Europe.  Mozy is the world's most trusted provider of online backup solutions and is currently undertaking a reseller recruitment drive with CloudOne Solutions in the UK.

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