2014 saw a major inflexion point in businesses moving to the cloud when Office 2003 and Windows XP were retired. Suddenly, given that Microsoft no longer want to sell Office on premise, a major move to Cloud was inevitable. We’ve all seen that that was a powerful once-off trigger for businesses to question their future IT strategy and look seriously at the cloud options.
2015 is a year when an even more significant change will take place – the final demise of Windows Server 2003 and more significantly Windows Server SBS (Small Business Server). It’s a major transformation with Cloud Industry Forum predicting that over 1,000 servers a day will migrate away from Windows Server 2003 – and that’s in the UK alone.
What every IT reseller and VAR has known for a number of years is that this could very well be their death-knell unless they make a massive transition. Windows Server SBS has been the life blood of small and medium sector as well as their local IT guy – the IT reseller or VAR. Businesses – typically from 10 people up “grew up” with SBS as their domain controller, storage manager, Identity and Access Management and email server. It became Microsoft’s secret “sleeper” in the organization – deployed for small money initially for a couple of simple tasks, but increasingly became the core of their IT infrastructure. It was also just complex enough that it needed an IT support person generating great opportunities for the local IT reseller.
But now SBS is gone, leaving a big gap in the support model for small and medium businesses.
The bigger question is who, or what is going to fill this gap?
Businesses have now had some time dabbling with using cloud solutions, often in a BYOD environment but without really moving away from their server. What seems apparent to businesses now is that in a server-less world, they need the IT guy for a lot less and it seems they are approaching the point where they don’t need that lifeline of the IT support resource. They can buy their devices online and self-serve to many business apps.
After operating for some time in the post-server world however, businesses begin to see gaps appear. For instance, when a new staff member joins or leaves and needs to be set up on multiple apps, or somebody checks why the Cloud storage account is costing hundreds or thousands a month or who has access to the app that has critical customer information. An even bigger headache comes in the short term when a business decides to migrate all their email and server information to the cloud.
While, they don’t need their IT guy for everything they used to need him for, it soon becomes clear that businesses still need a line of support and critically better self-service tools to manage access to IT.
So, same question – who, or what is going to fill this gap?
Well, firstly let’s have a look at what IT support businesses have always needed whether that was provided by an IT person internally or the local IT support company. The list looks something like this:
- Buy Communications Equipment
- Buy Windows OS (or other)
- Buy Office / Collaboration
- Buy Business Applications
- Install and Configure Applications
- Manage User Access and Setup
- Monitor Users and Systems
- Back up data and Disaster recovery
- Extend, customize or integrate to create semi-custom “solutions”
- Buy PCs
- Buy Servers
- Buy Printers, Networking Equipment
So, some of that just goes away with self-service and cloud applications, but some of it still needs someone to do it. Businesses soon realize that they still have a responsibility for customer data, even if it’s in a cloud app paid for on the Sales Manager’s credit card. They still need to ensure they secure access to company data, especially when staff leave and access needs to be instantly terminated.
So, as the traditional IT guy walks out the door, taking the last server with him there is a real opportunity to provide real business value to small and medium businesses by meeting their needs. The shape of that service may look different and it may even make sense to combine it with another service already being provided, but the need is still very real.
Many IT distributors and resellers/VARs have seen the threat, but also the opportunity and are ramping up to take on this Cloud Services Broker role using solutions like InverCloud. Cloud vendors are still figuring out how they should work with these new brokers and how their platform needs to accommodate delegated access.
Telcos are also in a great position, already supplying technology services to a large base of small and medium customers. They were early to see the opportunity that was coming down the track and many are positioning themselves with platforms like InverCloud that give them the ability to offer their SME customers a self-service portal for managing access to all cloud apps, supported by one trusted partner on a single bill and with single-sign-on.
The vision for cloud brokerage has been getting clearer for some time and it looks certain that 2015 will be pivotal in a significant number of small and medium businesses waving goodbye to their servers and transitioning to accessing their ICT services in the Cloud. The role of the Cloud Broker is still being defined but it is clear that new players and new solutions will become central to managing IT services for small and medium businesses.