How to Get High-Quality Cloud Services — Even If You Don’t Speak Techie
To get started, let’s classify what a large cloud provider is. The typical large cloud providers are household names like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and RackSpace. Believe it or not, they actually all have the same characteristics:
- A very large technology company with thousands of employees
- The business focus began in technology products or consumer services and added cloud later
- They are very datacenter centric (think hardware and software first)
- They focus primarily on larger customers, with SMB customers as an ancillary offering
- They do not offer traditional hands-on IT support
- They assume the customer has IT staff of their own
This only a short list, but it gives you a pretty clear M.O.
Here’s where small and medium businesses get into trouble with these big cloud providers: The large cloud providers assume the customer knows exactly what they want, exactly what they need, and furthermore, possess the IT staff internally to work with them to set up any new cloud services.
Who Has Time for a Headache?
I came across this Forbes article comparing the process of picking a cloud services provider to picking a car. That’s a really smart comparison. If you are a small business, picking a large cloud provider is like buying a stick-shift when you don’t know how to drive one.
Still think that the large cloud providers are a safer bet for your small business? Here’s how a typical conversation would play out (get ready to have a headache if you’re not a techie):
Customer: I need cloud services.
Large Cloud Provider: Great, tell us what you need.
C: I need a cloud server to host my files, my accounting system, my software development and my ERP system.
LCP: Excellent. How would you like the servers configured and what operating system do you need?
C: I need server one to have Windows Server 2012 with 2 CPUs, 12 GB of RAM and 100 GB of storage. I need server two to have Linux, 4 CPUs, 32 GB of RAM and 400 GB of storage.
LCP: Great, how much bandwidth do you need to each server and how many IOPS does your workload need?
C: I would say we need at least 5 MB per server of bandwidth, 1,000 IOPS for server 1 and 2,000 IOPS for server 2.
LCP: Almost done. Do you need dynamic workload balancing and do you need to be in a completely private environment or multi-tenant?
C: Definitely need dynamic workload balancing and multi-tenant is fine as long as workloads are balanced across all efficiently.
Okay, so did reading that just give you a migraine? Did you understand even a fraction of it? Probably not, which illustrates the biggest difference between small-business focused cloud providers (like Fluid) and the large cloud providers.
In contrast, we specifically focus our services on small and medium businesses. We are different from large cloud providers because:
1) Our cloud solution was built from the ground up with our specific small-to-medium business customers in mind
2) We wrapped our cloud solution up in a blanket of support
3) We always, always ensure we always have a relationship with our clients. Our clients are never just a number.
Here’s a typical conversation between a Fluid employee and a new client who is interested in the Fluid Cloud (no ibuprofen necessary):
Customer: I’m a CPA firm and interested in the cloud.
Fluid: Great, tell me about your business. What software do you use today and plan to use? How many users do you have and in what locations? Do you have other areas of the business that can be improved?
C: Well, we are a small firm with three CPAs and two support staff. We use QuickBooks for most of our clients and two of our CPAs work out of their homes, one in Dallas and one in San Diego. Our corporate office is in Houston. We need to be able to share files and would like to have a system for tracking sales and contacts — we don’t have anything like that today.
F: Thank you, this is very helpful. We can certainly help with the QuickBooks and file sharing and have some great solutions for sales tracking. We call that CRM. Do you know what internet service you have in each location? If not, we can find out for you.
C: Oh it would be great to hear what CRM solutions you recommend. Currently the Houston and Dallas locations have AT&T Uverse and San Diego has Verizon FiOS.
F: Excellent, that should be more than sufficient. Do you have specific expectations and needs regarding how much downtime is acceptable in the business? Less than an hour, less than 8 hours, next business day? Also, do you have regulatory requirements that you must meet to have your data encrypted?
C: We can be down for an hour and still be fine, but down more than a day would really hurt the business. Now that you mention it, we do need to ensure the QuickBooks data is secure and encrypted.
F: Thank you so much, this tells me you are suited for our Silver or Gold cloud service and don’t really need the Platinum service since it would be overkill for you and additional cost you don’t need. When would you like to start the project and have all your systems ready for use?
C: We aren’t in a huge rush, but if we could have it ready by the first of next month, that would be great. Then we can start fresh after month-end close.
F: We can certainly do that. We typically will start on a Friday to migrate all your current information to the cloud and then we will have someone onsite and/or available by phone for each user starting at 8 am Monday morning to walk everyone through accessing the systems and answering any questions. Would this work for you? Do you have any other questions?
C: This would work fine. Yes one question, once this is all done, what do we do if we need help?
F: We have a standard help desk process for you to speak to any of our technicians directly and schedule an onsite visit if necessary.
Leaving You in the Lurch
Large cloud providers assume you have the technical staff and knowledge to know exactly what you want and need and the ability to tell them and answer all their techie questions. They then setup the environment as you specified and inform you “the systems are on and ready for you to use.” That’s great, but leaves out an important step – how in the world are you supposed to use what you just built? What do you, as a user, do? Again, large cloud providers assume you have the technical skillsets in-house to know what to do.
Assuming you make it through this gauntlet and are using the systems, what happens if you need support? Even the simplest questions require a call the large cloud provider’s call-center where you will get a person reading from a script. There is no personal attention and certainly no ability nor desire to come onsite to work with you.
Another major difference from Fluid – large cloud providers do not have nor do they want to provide any face-to-face support. There is no hand holding, no user-support specific to your business – there is no relationship! You are merely a number to them. Just a transaction that occurs monthly.
Covet Thy Customers
At Fluid, all our cloud clients are very precious and valuable relationships that we covet and treat with respect.
- We first understand their business needs and then we help them define what they need.
- We then setup the cloud environment specific to their business needs and give them hands-on training to ensure every user can access systems successfully and the systems perform the way the client needs them to.
- Then we are always on call to provide face-to-face support after the fact to ensure they are always taken care of.
In other words, we work directly with our clients before, during and after to ensure their cloud works the way it was intended and the way it is needed to support their specific business.
Hopefully by now you get the picture. If you speak fluent Techie, you are confident telling a large cloud provider exactly what you need and you can provide your own IT support, the big cloud providers will be just fine for you. But if you are like most small and medium businesses, and you need a bit more help in setting up cloud services that fit your needs (and don’t make you pay for more than you need), get a smaller cloud provider like Fluid on the phone.
I would love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with cloud providers. Comment below or tweet me at @fluiditservices.
Like this? My team and I have a lot more to say about the cloud in these posts: