Contact Richard:   +44 (0)121 663 0223 +44 (0) 7703 355045

Why the “Internet of Things” is an opportunity for MSP’s

Internet of ThingsHave you heard the term the “Internet of Things“? If not, it’s a phrase you’ll hear more and more in the months and years to come!

The “Internet of Things” can roughly be described as uniquely identifiable devices connected to the Internet. We’re used to PC’s and Servers, Routers and Switches being connected to the Internet. But now we have tablets and Smartphones, cameras and printers, Televisions, Gaming consoles and even Fridges connected to the Internet!

How many IP devices are there?

According to research, more than 30 billion devices will be wireless connected to the Internet by 2020.  30 billion! That’s more things on the Internet than people on the planet!

So clearly, the “Internet of Things” isn’t a passing fad. This isn’t something that’s going away – and IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) should start preparing for this.

Consumer trends become business trends

As we’ve seen with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – what happens in the consumer market will permeate the business market. For MSP’s, this means more clients with IP connected devices. IP devices that need monitoring and maintaining.

MSP’s need to stop thinking of just PC’s and Servers, and start thinking about managing other devices. [TWEET THIS]

Watch or listen to my interview with MSP expert Dave Sobel

I recently sat down with my good friend and industry expert Dave Sobel. Now Dave is a man very familiar with the “Internet of Things” being something of a Home Automation fan, having a house containing over 70 IP connected devices! Unusual? Yes. Unique? Absolutely not. We’re all accumulating IP connected devices every day, whether we realise it or not.

Dave and I discussed the opportunities available to MSP’s with the “Internet of Things” and why the PC isn’t quiet dead yet, even if those IT Solution Providers who fail to embrace the Cloud are…

I hope you enjoy our conversation which you can watch via video…

or listen to via audio Podcast …

 

TECHNICAL NOTE: If you’re having problems listening to audio here, disable any Ad-Blockers and make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Flash. If you’d like to download an MP3 audio copy of this interview to listen to away from your keyboard, then click the download button above or visit http://snd.sc/13i3DAN

The Top 5 Questions Asked by MSP’s about Cloud Computing

Cloud ComputingAs an experienced Business Contracts Solicitor, Sue Mann of Cousins Business Law has helped dozens of IT companies navigate contract law. Sue’s last guest post for this blog “Your MSP contract – what is in and what is not?” received very warm feedback from all who read it. When Sue and I last sat down to chat about the questions that Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) typically ask me about Cloud Computing contracts, I asked Sue if she’d consider putting her answers into another guest blog post – to which I’m grateful that she kindly agreed. Here, Sue answers the top 5 questions asked by MSP’s about Cloud Computing.

The Top 5 Questions Asked by MSP’s about Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is far from a new idea, but the difference now is that it’s becoming more widely accepted and used in businesses of all sizes. That means that those MSPs who haven’t already
started moving their clients to cloud solutions are looking at this much more seriously. Clearly as IT specialists MSPs are in a much stronger position than I am to assess the technical and financial pros
and cons, but from discussions with Richard I am aware that a number of questions tend to be raised by MSPs around some of the legal issues, so I’d like to try and help here.

1. Who is the cloud customer?

Not so long ago, MSPs’ clients using cloud services would probably have done so by buying those services direct from the cloud vendor. The market is now changing. With more cloud vendors coming
into the sector with a broader range of offerings, it is becoming less usual for the small business client to buy direct from the cloud vendor and for MSPs to become the reseller.

To that extent the MSP becomes the ‘middle man’ in the supply chain. From a legal point of view the MSP is then the customer of the cloud vendor. The MSP will be selling the cloud services on to
its clients. Keeping this relationship in mind will help in answering a number of the other common questions which arise.

2. My MSP client hasn’t paid me. Do I still have to pay the cloud vendor?

Following on from the previous point, you will be the customer so far as the cloud vendor is concerned, so the short answer is yes, the cloud vendor will want payment even if your client doesn’t pay you. Each business contract depends on its own particular terms, but the majority of cloud vendors will expect to use their standard terms which will generally be heavily in their favour, including as to payment, and I expect they will have little sympathy if your client hasn’t paid you.

I can suggest two ways that you can protect your MSP business in this situation. Firstly – and this is a general rule which applies to all arrangements with your MSP clients – make sure you don’t agree to more than you can deliver. What I mean by this is, where you take on arrangements which require you to do something, make sure that you will be in a position to meet your obligations – in this case make a payment at a specific time to the cloud vendor. So, the contract with your client should require your client to pay you in advance of the date you have to pay the cloud vendor. Include protective measures as well such as a right to suspend your service, charge interest and so on if your client doesn’t pay you on time.

Secondly, to cover a situation where your client’s failure to pay might be part of a wider dispute or the end of your relationship with that client, if possible negotiate an option with the cloud vendor allowing you to terminate the cloud service in respect of that client. This is more likely to be possible where your contract with the cloud vendor covers multiple clients, so that what you will need is the ability to reduce the number of users under the contract. Your negotiating position is also likely to depend on factors such as the length of the term of the contract between you and the cloud vendor and whether the fee is a monthly or other periodic fixed charge or variable according to usage, but keep in mind the principle of not exposing your business to the cloud vendor more than you can definitely cover with your client.

3. My MSP client’s data stored in the cloud has been lost or corrupted. Am I liable?

As the reseller of the cloud service to your client, your client has no direct contract with the cloud vendor. What you should do is to check what assurances the cloud vendor offers as regards the safety and security of the data and whether it provides any indemnity for loss or corruption and mirror those in the contract with your clients, so that you are not promising more than you can provide. On a client relations point, you are their advisor and the expert as far as your client is concerned, so make sure they understand what is and is not covered to try and avoid any dispute over liability arising in the first place. Before you engage a cloud vendor, it is important that your preliminary due diligence checks cover the physical and technical security of the cloud vendor’s service including their back up and testing procedures to ensure that the possibility of a loss or corruption of your client’s data is minimised and that, should it occur, prompt restoration should be feasible.

4. My MSP client isn’t happy with the cloud vendor’s service. Whose responsibility is it?

I realise that I’m starting to get repetitive now, but as far as your client is concerned you are providing the service to them so you should take responsibility for sorting it out. To do that you will need to follow the procedures you have agreed with the cloud vendor. My suggestion here is to make sure your contract with the cloud vendor includes a comprehensive description of the service the cloud vendor is to provide backed up by service levels for key areas and, if possible, some form of ‘incentive’ in the form of service credits. The obligations you undertake with your client should then not exceed what the cloud vendor undertakes with you. Think of it as a back to back arrangement with your client where what you offer is no more than you receive from the cloud vendor.

5. My contract with the cloud vendor is coming to an end. What will happen to my client’s data?

This time I won’t repeat myself, but will launch straight in – make sure your contract with the cloud vendor covers what will happen to data stored in the cloud when the contract ends for whatever reason. In any event the contract should include provisions for an orderly transfer of the data either to you (so you can pass it on to your client) or to a new cloud vendor. Without appropriate cover there will be a danger of lock in to an unsatisfactory cloud vendor. Such provisions will also be critical if anything happens to the cloud vendor such as insolvency.

Conclusion

To sum up, my advice is to carry out thorough preliminary checks, weigh up the potential benefits, risks and legal obligations and make sure that whatever terms are finally agreed in relation to the cloud service are recorded in written contracts with both cloud vendor and your client .

 

About Sue Mann

Sue MannSue Mann is an experienced Business Contracts Solicitor.

You can email Sue at sue.mann@business-lawfirm.co.uk or telephone her on 0121 246 4437.

You can also find Sue Man on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

photo credit: © Ahmed Amir via photopin cc

Listen to the CompTIA Podcast interview with Paul Tomlinson of Mirus IT

CompTIA UK Channel Community Logo

One of the benefits of being the Chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community is that I get to chat to some of the best and brightest people in the UK IT industry today.

I’ve said many times before that after a lot of these conversations, I often  wish that we had recorded that chat, so we could share the conversation with other people.

With that in mind, I’ve been scheduling time to sit with many of my peers from the  CompTIA UK Channel Community to hear their stories, get their thoughts and opinions on the latest news in the Channel, and generally chew the fat.

Paul Tomlinson of Mirus ITFor our latest episode, I’m thrilled to be talking to Paul Tomlinson of Mirus IT.

Mirus are one of the biggest members of the CompTIA UK Channel Community, with 70+ members of staff. They are arguably one of the top 100 Technology companies within the UK in terms of growth.

Paul himself is a successful entrepreneur, and in our interview we talk about the growth of Mirus, as well as two other businesses Paul has setup – Vivositi, focusing on Office 365 Cloud Solutions and a start-up in the tough IT recruitment market.

You can listen to the Podcast in one of three ways.

The Podcast is around 15 minutes long, so ideal for the commute to the office or a lunchtime listen.

You can also go back and listen to our other Podcast.

Would you like to be featured in an upcoming Podcast?

Is there anyone within the UK Channel that you would like to hear from? Leave a comment and let me know!

Goodbye SBS, Hello to a World of Alternatives


Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 LogoMicrosoft yesterday made official with an announcement that a few of us knew was coming or suspected would happen at some point. Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 will be the last version of SBS produced. SBS 2011 Standard and Premium will be available in most channels until June 30, 2013, and through OEM until December 31, 2013.

Windows Small Business Server Essentials will become Windows Server 2012 Essentials, leaving Microsoft’s only SMB focused offering being a hybrid cloud based solution.

The reaction of the SBS Community

As you’d expect, the SBS Community worldwide is expressing a mixture of shock (but perhaps not surprise), anger and, in many cases, betrayal.

I fully understand why. I’m an outspoken cloud evangelist and for years have been banging the drum about the need for SMB IT companies to embrace cloud. I’ve also butted heads with some of my peers who don’t want to embrace that change. But I acknowledge that in all things, choice is important.

Cloud isn’t a fit for everybody

Many end-users don’t want Cloud solutions due to privacy concerns or the fact they are comfortable with on-site solutions. You can educate them, but ultimately they will decide what it is they want.

Many end-users can’t feasibly use Cloud solutions. Broadband Internet in the UK is developing rapidly, and I’m going to guess than even in two years time many homes and offices around the UK will still be limping by with very slow Internet connections.

IT Services into the CloudBy removing SBS from their product range, Microsoft are removing choice for end-users. Some might say they are forcing their world view on their partners.

Sure, you can still buy Windows Server, Exchange, etc. But try explaining to any end-user why they could get those features in SBS for a certain price point, and now they’ve got to pay many times more for individually more complex products with the same functionality.

Not everybody is ready for Cloud, and even by the time SBS 2011 is pulled from the shelves by Microsoft, I’m pretty sure that will still be the case.

Time for SMB IT Companies to re-evaluate

So Microsoft’s decision to end-of-life SBS is a difficult pill to swallow. But it might be the opportunity (or kick up the bum) that many SMB IT companies need to re-evaluate their business choices.

Most SMB IT Solution Provider businesses (including my own) were historically built on the back of a relationship with Microsoft. Customers wanted Microsoft products, and we sold it to them. Microsoft was the best solution available, at the right price, with the right partner model. Everybody wins.

The Alternatives to Microsoft

But take a look around today, and Microsoft aren’t nearly as relevant in the SMB market anymore.

  • Office 365 (and it’s predecessor BPOS) simply aren’t SMB partner friendly offerings. But there are a plethora of other companies who offer similar hosted solutions that are partner friendly. In the UK, take a look at Secure Virtual or ThinkGrid Colt Ceano or any one of a dozen other reputable and partner friendly Cloud vendors.
  • SBS is dead, but for years credible (and in many ways superior) alternatives such as Kerio have been available. Kerio having a thriving user community, great support and a good reputation.
  • As an SMB IT company, I’m betting you found selling Volume Licensing to price sensitive SMB clients difficult – but when Microsoft hiked their Volume Licensing by some 33% earlier this year for EU customers, virtually impossible. Trust me, other Vendors realise there is a recession on and price accordingly.
  • You probably have clients who resent buying Microsoft Office. They use barely any of its functions, and so can’t understand its high price tag. Are you speaking to them about Open Office or Libre Office?

So be aware of these alternatives. Investigate them. Talk to other vendors. Talk to your peers about what they use. Don’t assume you have to partner exclusively with Microsoft to grow an SMB IT business.

Do talk to your clients about Microsoft solutions, but if they balk at the prices or inflexibility – offer them well considered and researched options. In my experience, most clients don’t care about what’s under the bonnet – they just want the solution to work for them.

Conclusion

If your IT business was built on the back of a partnership with Microsoft and selling SBS – the announcement of the end-of-life of SBS is tough. I feel your pain.

But you know your clients best. If they want cloud solutions, offer them cloud solutions. If they want on-site solutions, offer them on-site solutions. If they want a hybrid solution, offer them a hybrid solution.

Remember – you have and always will help decide what’s best for both your client and your own business, not Microsoft.

 

Further Reading:-

 


Webinar – IT Service Providers Guide to Making Money with Cloud Virtualization – Wed 30th Nov

Cloud with Dollar SignsA heads-up that I’ll be joining my good friend and “Mr. Virtualization” himself, Dave Sobel of Evolvetech this Wednesday for a Doyenz Webinar about how IT Service Providers can make money with Cloud Virtualization (or as we’d call it in the UK, Cloud Virtualisation!).

I gave a presentation at the hugely well attended Autotask User Group in London a couple of weeks ago on how IT companies can use tools like Doyenz’s rCloud (released in the UK just this month) to provide Off-Site Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions to SMB clients – and from the dozens of conversations I had after that presentation, I know that how to make money from the Cloud is a really hot topic amongst IT Solution Providers and MSP’s right now.

imageIn this webinar we’ll be touching upon Cloud Virtualization and other solutions, exploring which trends are here to stay and how you can incorporate them into your existing managed service offering.

The webinar is one hour long and will also cover:

  • How to cut your technology costs with virtualization
  • How to earn monthly recurring revenue from cloud recovery
  • How to market cloud services to new and existing SMB clients

The webinar takes place this Wednesday 30th November at 1900 GMT (1100 PST) and you can register for the webinar for free here.

We’ll be taking questions on the webinar, so feel free to Tweet them across to @tubblog, @djdaveet or @DoyenzInc now or on the day!

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EDIT:- The good folks at Doyenz recorded the webinar which you can now view again on-line.

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