At this point in the evolution, most companies understand the many benefits of Cloud computing. When it comes to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) - better known as Public Cloud - the flexibility, performance, and cost-effectiveness are unbeatable for many applications. However, small-to-mid size businesses (SMBs) seldom have the luxury of having people with infrastructure or hosting expertise on staff. This means that at times they must lean on the Cloud vendor for support and that's when things can get frustrating. SMBs tend to have smaller, more generalized IT staffs and although signing up for Cloud is easy enough, it must be properly managed to realize its full potential. The support challenge is not necessarily relegated to SMBs either. Large companies often need to tap into specialized infrastructure knowledge as well. This is often because their applications have become extremely complex or highly integrated over time.
Why Is Cloud Support an Issue?
One of the few gaps with Public Cloud and one that’s been a challenge from the beginning lies in the area of support. It's a self-service model, and most providers have little in the way of support if any for smaller clients. The pricing is based on this philosophy as well. Unfortunately, it's often the SMB sized users who need the most help. Vendors offer varying degrees of support ranging from the “we will get to your ticket if we can” approach to contracted programs that cost thousands of dollars a month. Depending on your situation, you need to explore what the provider offers, what the cut-off points are in terms of responsibility, and how much their programs and additional assistance will cost.
When will Support Matter Most?
Two key factors determine how big an issue vendor support will be. They are 1) the level of infrastructure knowledge available on the internal IT team; and 2) the complexity of the applications being run. A large IT team with dedicated infrastructure people and relatively simple applications may never call the provider. But an SMB with no hosting expertise trying to run an eCommerce business will heavily depend on its Cloud partner to answer questions, provide guidance, and fix problems.
What SMBs Should Think About When Buying Cloud
Identify Internal Resources Assess internal skill-sets to identify who can help you get the most from your Cloud investments. If you have someone on your IT team with any previous hosting experience, this is likely the person you want as the lead. Even if you regularly need vendor support, having a point-person with at least some rudimentary knowledge is valuable. Assess Your Support Needs Think about your current and near-future needs for vendor support. You can draw on your previous experiences if you have them. If it's a new application, map out the technologies you will use and assess what skill-sets you have in-house that can manage them. You may want to start small in a test environment to gauge how complex the management task will be moving forward. Dig into the Detail Hosting providers are hard to compare. It's not a conspiracy - the reasons are that vendors use a diverse suite of technologies with different price-points and they offer an extremely diverse range of services. Learn what the vendor will do at no extra charge - and what support will be chargeable. Also, understand their protocols for getting help, what their response times are like, and the escalation procedures they use. If you don't understand these important additional costs of your Cloud strategy, you're not getting the whole picture. Nothing drives people to near-madness faster than paying for a service and being ignored when they need help. When buying Cloud, all companies, and particularly SMBs need to know what they are getting into and also what they are getting for their money. Don't assume because you bought fully managed services from other providers that you will get the same level of support for your self-serve Cloud environment. You won't! The good news is that most vendors offer add-on management services from which you can pick and choose. We believe every client deserves 24x7x365 support regardless of their size or hosted service. That's just our way of doing business, but every vendor is different. We also offer a wide range of additional managed services if needed. If you think support will play an important role in the success of your Cloud venture, be sure to do the homework before going too far down the road.