Customer Service: The Missing Link for Big Box Cloud Providers

While scads of MSPs regard “service” as their middle name, the dirty secret of cloud computing is that actual service is often a promise honored in the breach.

SMBs tend to gravitate to the Azures and AWS’s out of aspirational thinking or a misplaced belief that huddling with the big boys will somehow rub off on them. But even those who don’t have stars in their eyes – and who realize there’s life beyond Microsoft and Amazon – frequently find themselves ill-equipped to understand the reality/nuances of the cloud market.

Why are small and midsize businesses less than enthused with the big box players? Let us count just some of the ways: minimal-to-no-onboarding; no single point of contact; having to navigate the licensing maze; DIY installation; sketchy (patchy?) patch management; absentee oversight/troubleshooting; low-to-no touch. And the list goes on.

That said, leaving Microsoft and Amazon for seemingly more entrepreneurial pastures by itself doesn’t ensure a stellar customer experience. By eliminating the two most obvious providers in cloud computing, an SMB’s choices don’t end – they multiply. It’s true that getting a provider to care about your business, to feel your pain, isn’t trivial, but that alone won’t get your applications to run on time.

What will? Due diligence, around the proposition that any provider worth its salt, and worth your time and money, needs to have its own infrastructure. It’s not complicated; it just requires a mindset that recognizes that the quality of customer service in cloud computing varies dramatically. And that responsive service in IT isn’t a “nice to have” – it’s tightly bound up with how your business – not just your technology – performs. Real service is a gateway to cutting costs, boosting performance and uptime, and forging a productive connection with a third party (whether a certified cloud provider or not) who understands and actually cares about your business.

Call it “white glove” migration, the personal touch that is so alien to big box providers and smaller pretenders; it’s the antithesis of the laissez-faire approach that has taken root in cloud computing. The corollary to this DIY impulse is nickel-and-diming for bandwidth, a practice decidedly not limited to the biggest players in the cloud market. Put another way, any vendor can overcharge: how a customer measures uptime isn’t the same way a vendor measures it.

For customers, “uptime” means an implementation functioning on all cylinders. Uptime reflects the speed of the software, the configuration of the server, the presence of a support team focused on your overall experience, the expectations that flow from working with a partner, not a vendor.

For true partners, hand-holding is standard operating procedure. Note to vendors: that really isn’t too much to ask – is it?

What do you look for in a cloud partner?

This article first appeared here (membership required).

About the Author: Adam Stern, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Infinitely Virtual, is an entrepreneur who saw the value of virtualization and cloud computing nearly a decade ago. Stern’s company helps businesses move from obsolete hardware investments to an IaaS [Infrastructure as a Service] cloud platform, providing them the flexibility and scalability to transition select data operations from in-house to the cloud. Stern established Infinitely Virtual in 2007 to provide virtual dedicated server solutions to growing enterprises, offering what was essentially a cloud computing platform before the term existed. Infinitely Virtual is a subsidiary of Santa Monica-based Altay Corporation, which Stern founded in 2003 to provide Windows, VMware, and other service solutions to small and medium-size businesses.