Cloud Storage For All: How To Build Your Own Practice

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Getting The Message To Customers

Cloud storage is a quickly maturing business but still requires much evangelizing and handholding by solution providers and MSPs.

Most business customers have a basic if imperfect understanding about what storage clouds are, said J.P. Villaume, president and owner of Gulf States Computer, a Baton Rouge, La.-based solution provider that partners with Mozy for storage clouds.

However, Villaume said, it takes time to help understand how it works. For instance, until recently, companies such as Mozy offered unlimited cloud storage capacity to consumers for a fixed fee. When it eliminated that option, it made it easier for Gulf States Computer to sell to businesses.

"Before, when we talked to customers, they'd say, 'Hey, I heard Carbonite and Mozy give unlimited backups,'" he said. "But now that they're shutting that [unlimited capacity] down, customers are better able to see the importance of good service."

When bringing cloud storage to customers, the first step is to help them choose what applications and business data can be best addressed with the cloud, said Jerry Pezzino, managing director of storage and data management business at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider working with Hewlett-Packard and Axcient.

For customers with a lot of primary data, they can consider moving part of that to the cloud and keeping stubs, or pointers to that data, on local storage for fast access, Pezzino said.

"Most importantly, customers want a single pane of glass to see their files regardless of whether they are on local disk or on a cloud," he said.

Security of data on a cloud can also be an issue, Pezzino said. "Nobody wants to be the first victim to put data on a cloud and see it compromised," he said. "Our medical customers were probably the last to make the move to the cloud."

Steve Brown, vice president of sales and business development at BlueHawk Networks, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider that builds cloud infrastructures for customers, said security of storage clouds has actually become less of an issue over time.

"I think concerns about security are disappearing," Brown said. "People see Amazon and how it is able to partition the data to prevent unauthorized users from accessing it."

In some cases, cloud storage can sell itself, said John Zammett, president of HorizonTek, a Huntington, N.Y.-based solution provider that recently started partnering with i365 on cloud storage.

One customer who just signed up for a $6,000-per-month disaster recovery storage cloud did so after a more traditional sales cold call, Zammett said.

"Our rep called the customer to ask about their primary backup needs," he said. "The customer said they had none, but then asked us about whether we have a cloud backup. And we said yes."

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