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How to Find the Right Cloud Services Partner: Five Tips for Success

The steady growth in the cloud sector offers an excellent opportunity for companies that provide IT services to all businesses

The cloud services sector is growing rapidly, particularly in the public cloud space. Market analyst IDC estimates that global spending on public cloud services will top $47 billion this year and more than double by 2017 to reach $107 billion. The analyst attributes this growth in part to a shift in focus from savings to innovation: The first wave of cloud adoption was driven by end users' need to reduce costs and increase efficiency, whereas the next wave will focus on leveraging cloud services to expand company offerings and improve competitive positions. As the market is shaping up, both end-user companies and cloud service resellers are poised to be beneficiaries of a growing cloud services market.

Another trend in the cloud services industry is the emergence of a partnership-based delivery model: increasingly, companies that provide technical services to businesses are looking for partners with cloud delivery expertise so that they can deliver cloud services as resellers. Gartner estimates that by 2016, at least 20% of total cloud services will be delivered by partners rather than via direct purchases from vendors, a fivefold increase over current rates. This makes sense from a business standpoint - companies that provide IT services to businesses rightly want to focus on their core competencies to succeed in a highly competitive economy. They are looking for cloud experts as partners to round out their portfolio of offerings.

If you're the leader of an IT company in the market for a cloud partner to broaden your service portfolio, it's important to make sure you team up with a provider who can competently handle cloud services delivery so that you can focus on the activities that differentiate your company in the marketplace. Here are some tips to help you find that ideal cloud services partner:

  1. Enterprise-class capabilities: Assessing the core proficiencies and infrastructure of potential partners should be your top priority. Make sure they can deliver on-demand scalability and allow you to seamlessly increase capacity for your customers as demand spikes. For example, if you're considering a partnership to enable you to resell cloud infrastructure services, look for features like user-configurable firewalls and load balancing, IP address management, image cloning and snapshots, managed backup and other enterprise-class capabilities. Also make sure the partner offers the service and expertise to back it all up.
  2. Industry experience: With the cloud services market growing so rapidly, new cloud services vendors are springing up to try to cash in. Look for a partner with a track record of success in the industry, a company that has successfully provided cloud services to customers of all sizes. Take a look at prospective partners' customer lists, and ask for references. Find out if they have achieved hosting partner status with an industry leader like Microsoft.
  3. Compliance and security capabilities: Safe data management is a crucial issue in any industry, but for companies with customers who handle financial or medical records transactions, robust compliance capabilities are a must. Make sure your cloud services partner offers the HIPAA and PCI compliance solutions your customers need. Also look for cloud service partners who can prove that their data centers are compliant; make sure the partner performs well in compliance tests such as SSAE 16 audits.
  4. Portfolio compatibility: As the trend toward a partnership-based delivery model suggests, next-generation IT service delivery is about focusing on what you do best. To find the right cloud services partner, evaluate prospective partners' portfolios and compare them to your company's capabilities. Look for a partner who can help you fill in the gaps and round out your portfolio so that you can offer customers a one-stop solution.
  5. Customer ownership: When you work with a partner to deliver services to customers, it's important to establish upfront who owns the customer relationships. Some companies prefer to make the partnership as transparent as possible, while others would rather own the customer relationship, presenting branded cloud services to their clients. Make sure you understand partner expectations, and look for partners who allow automation and customization.

The steady growth in the cloud sector offers an excellent opportunity for companies that provide IT services to businesses of all types and sizes. The technology community is evolving toward a collaborative service delivery model that has the potential to significantly increase the quality of services as well as end-user satisfaction as all players in the delivery chain focus on their core areas of expertise.

The key to making this new service delivery environment work is to forge effective partnerships. IT companies that are looking to expand their portfolio offerings to include cloud services should therefore carefully consider all relevant factors before selecting a cloud service partner. By finding the right partner, they can ensure success for themselves - and their customers.

More Stories By Todd Benjamin

Todd Benjamin is Vice President of Hosted Serves at Hostway Corporation. He came to Hostway in 2008 with 18 years of executive experience in the technology and telecommunications industries. Prior to joining Hostway, he was president and CEO of Rodopi Software, Inc., a provider of next-generation financial and automation software solutions for the Internet industry. Previously, he held executive-level positions in sales, marketing, finance, and corporate development with several software, technology, and service provider organizations. Mr. Benjamin holds a Masters in Business Administration and a Juris Doctor from UCLA, as well as a Bachelor of Sciences in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Washington.

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