Our future is partly to mostly cloudy

From 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico.

Finally in the air after a weather delay in New Orleans, I am reflecting on the past three days of the 3rd quasi-annual
SMB Migration IT Pro Conference. In addition to great food, great people and great times, I think we all were able to pick up new ideas about trials, tribulations and trends in the IT support business.

We IT Professionals are in the midst of a transformation from the MSP era to a new era. Many would call this new era the "cloud" era, but I think it is more than that. I might call it the "cloud-driven" era, but even that name doesn't fully describe what is beginning to happen. The cloud is really a catalyst, forcing us to take a new look at how we deliver (and bill for) services. A recurring theme of discussion, both on-stage and in the hallways, was how would the cloud change our businesses. While this is an important question from an existential point of view, my biggest point of ponderment (my new word) is how will the cloud affect my client's businesses?

Our clients, and people in general, are arriving at a stage of "IT Self-Actualization". Just like the point in other technological evolutions where individuals go from relying on others, to starting to make their own informed decisions about complex technology, the cloud makes it so easy to decide to start using XYZ service by going to www.xyz.com and signing up for a $300 per month solution that will do everything they need to manage their business. No expensive servers, no expensive SQL, no big bills from the IT guy to set it all up, right? Unfortunately (for the business owner) a sanity check is not included with that $300 monthly payment.

The questions should be obvious... What if the Internet is down at the office, will we still be able to work? How do I get my data pulled in from my existing, on-premise system? How do I get my data back should I choose to bail out? Can I have copies of my data periodically sent to me? What if XYZ.com goes belly up one weekend? What if their data center computers gets seized by the Feds and impounded? Do I need to go on?

Who is going to be able to provide them the needed sanity check? Me? Will they call me before they sign up (like they didn't do when they bought BlackBerrys for their entire sales department?) And if they do call before signing, how do I price my advisory service?

If they are already a Managed Services client, and they eliminate a server or two in the process, do we adjust our monthly fees to reflect that? If we do so, then we need to know if our cost of providing the kind of service they expect from us will actually decrease (and if it doesn't, then why should we reduce our monthly rate?)

Don't be fooled. This technology evolution is metastasizing. For example, I used my new iPad for the whole conference. I never used my notebook computer. I used the iPad for note taking, processing email, looking up references on the web, checking in for my return flight, etc. It is small, light and easy to carry around with great battery life. Couple this convenience with ubiquitous internet connectivity providing access to a killer app in the cloud, and who in their right mind wouldn't adopt it? And... it will be happening sooner rather than later.

Enough about MSPs. What about the IT support firm that is not even a managed services provider? Do they skip right over the MSP phase and transition directly to a cloud-centric model? That is a decision that I am glad I will not have to make...

So yes, we learned things from experienced peers that we didn't know and found out new ways to approach situations and issues that plague us all, PLUS we made new contacts and friends which should help us going forward. My biggest take-away is the required mental challenge to process all of this information.

For me, I feel like a conference is really successful if I come away with more questions than answers.

Mission accomplished.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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