Growth, Mobility and Security.  Maybe this sounds counter-intuitive.  After all, isn’t the promise of the cloud “cheap” IT?  For large enterprises, storage and server capacity are huge concerns as the price of these critical datacenter resources continue to rise.  And many enterprises are looking at ways in which to leverage Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers to deal with this.  IaaS companies like Amazon provide virtual machine images, CPU and storage for pennies an hour.  Their business is growing and many companies are taking advantage of this off-premise approach to IT subsidy.  But the Cloud is much, much more than IaaS.  Small and Mid-sized companies are looking for someone to provide services that include their critical applications and service providers previously known as MSPs are stepping up to meet the challenge.

But before we go there, let’s look at some industry statistics for the SMB published by MarketBridge, a leading Sales & Marketing Research firm quoted by CRN in a recent article.

The numbers show that 80% of SMBs currently use the Cloud for Application delivery and the companies with 10% growth or higher in 2010 were twice as likely to move infrastructure AND software to the Cloud.  38% believed Mobility was a reason to move to the Cloud.  This hasn’t been spoken of much in the Press but ‘service ubiquity’ is a part of this reality.  In other words, SMBs want to use their applications wherever and whenever they need them… AND don’t want to be constrained by ‘brick-and-mortar’ facilities to do their business.  This means Cloud providers will need to use technology that allows for mission critical applications to be delivered on a plethora of devices across all kinds of networks. Last and maybe surprisingly for some, 48% of the SMBs surveyed said they believe their data security is “better” in the Cloud.  And we know that security is more than just back-ups.

I recently spoke to Kent Erickson, CEO of Channel Cloud, a company that has been in business since 1999 to meet the challenge of off-premise IT.  He evolved the company from a Professional Services company to a true Managed Service Provider.  But he realized that even in the early days of delivering applications as a service, there was a chasm between technology and business demand.  The Channel Cloud approach starts with the needs of the business and injects Cloud technology to meet those needs.  Instead of selling technology bits-and-bytes, Channel Cloud sells business solutions and uses their own Cloud to manage the services.  This way, demand based on Applications/Growth, Mobility and Security can be met in discussions that focus on the business of the business and not the hype of technology.  This is a breath of fresh air for SMBs trying to figure out what the Cloud is and where it applies to their business.

The success Channel Cloud has seen is driving them to replicate the model to a new breed of MSPs who need the business acumen training to service their SMB customers.  Imagine that, building a business on solid business principles.  What a concept!