The term “cloud” has been applied to all sorts of online or Internet-based application models, and there are a great many approaches to developing cloud-based services and solutions. What this translates to is a volume of options and possibilities for information storage, management, and access in the cloud.Understanding where information is stored, how it may be accessed, and how it might be transmitted to others becomes essential knowledge that business owners should have when they engage with any information technology (IT) solution or service. Yet the plethora of “simple, affordable, and instantly gratifying” services currently available on the web all but ensure that businesses will engage with one or more solutions that provide them with little or no information (much less control) over the placement and management of their data.
Small and growing businesses have always relied upon various service providers and vendors to deliver the solutions required which support the business operation. Often viewed as the critical infrastructure of the business, phone and computer systems are among the first acquisitions a new business makes. Phones and voice service, wired and wireless networks and all forms of communications infrastructure are part of IT and represent a large portion of the business information systems.
Small businesses used to have a phone guy they could call for phone stuff. The phone guy was a person or company who got phone lines installed, ran cabling for phones, installed phone systems and set up voicemail. The phone guy could help get cheaper long distance calling rates and train users on how to use the paging system and transfer calls. The phone guy interacted mostly with the office manager or receptionist – the person in the office most likely to be “in charge” of the phone system, influencing these purchasing decisions greatly.
The computer guy, on the other hand, made sure the workstations and server were working, defragged hard drives, installed software and set up printers. The computer guy was the person or company that sold and supported the IT in the business, and often consulted with the business owner or line manager when it came to addressing information system requirements.
Telephony and networking is now clearly in the realm of IT, which changes how services are selected and purchasing is influenced. Computing and communications infrastructure, networking and mobile is all part of business IT. The separation of services – voice versus data – is gone. The phone vendors and the IT suppliers are now the same company, providing the critical infrastructure, the platforms and the application services that businesses are buying. These service providers understand that the foundations for delivering voice and data services are the same; the skills of their techs and the tools they use have converged to the point where there is little separation of duties.
Cloud services and outsourced solution providers offering hosted PBX and virtual applications infrastructure have revealed to business owners that there is often little difference in what the phone guy and the computer guy can provide. Business owners want converged solutions: voice and data when and where they need it to support business operations. Just a little research reveals that these anytime/anywhere models are widely available and that the cloud is the key.
IT services are critical to the business, but the server doesn’t have to be under the front desk or in a back closet in order to function. There is simply too much evidence in the market for these business owners to ignore; shooting the server is now a viable option.
Every day more business owners are being inspired to [shoot their servers] seek out the services that will allow them to continue to benefit from innovations in technology while relieving them of the direct responsibilities of equipment purchasing, implementation, administration and lifecycle management.
Cloud services deliver this capability, and channel partners and Value Added Resellers should recognize their opportunity to get inspired as well, and to start offering cloud-based and hosted services to their customers and capture the “buying decision” opportunity that has [been] created.
Ready. Aim. Fire.
Recognition of the convergence of voice and data services and channels hasn’t really hit home for a lot of resellers and channel partners, and this has rightfully positioned providers on both sides of the equation as viewing the others as direct competitors. The phone guy thinks he is his customer’s “trusted advisor”, and that the loyal customer will certainly come to him if there is ever a need. As well does the computer guy believe that he is the trusted advisor, having the ear of the business owner and wielding enough influence to ensure a continued revenue-earning relationship.
In truth, both the phone guy and the computer guy probably have earned their business customer’s trust and were the go-to people when there was a new business need. The problem is that the customer may no longer call one or the other of their “go-to” guys because the forward-thinking guys are offering one-stop service that delivers everything the business needs. The lines between phone and computer stuff are not so clearly drawn any longer; it is all cloud IT and full service providers are winning the customer business.
Channel resellers, agents and MSPs are all telling their SMB/SME customers the same things, and at a base level they’re selling the same things, too. Everyone is talking about lower up front investments and improved business productivity… and what they’re all selling is cloud and virtual. “Businesses need cloud in order to compete; move CapX to OpX; mobile is the new office” and “remote workers and devices need a secure quality network”.
Whether it relates to telephone systems with voicemail, automated attendants and a little intelligent voice response thrown in, or if the deal is for servers and workstations, software and network cabling, it is all business information technology and the trusted advisor is the guy who can provide it all. Convergence has clearly arrived.