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IT firms need to develop “trusted advisor” status

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Warren Olivier, Veeam Software Regional Manager for Southern Africa (image: Veeam)
Warren Olivier, Veeam Software Regional Manager for Southern Africa (image: Veeam)

IT service providers, systems integrators and partners need to up their game to become trusted advisors to their clients — or risk stagnating.

As the world of information technology gets more complex, clients want trusted partners who can make it simple for them. More and more businesses face the challenge of being always on, and they need service providers who can ensure that their systems are always available. They want solutions that just work.

Unfortunately, that rarely happens:  Every new leap in technology brings a new wave of people trying to cash in, and the current move towards the cloud is no exception. Clients are faced with a lot of people trying to sell them a lot of services. But when things go wrong, everyone blames everyone else. In the middle of all the finger pointing, the client is left standing.

Paul Fanaroff at Tectight Enterprise Technologies agrees that IT service providers who want to stand out in the market need to take on the challenge of being a single point of accountability. He has told us that it’s the company’s expertise their clients need more than anything else. They don’t need more hardware or more applications, they need less complexity — and they look to their service providers to make things simple.

Another one of our partners, Brenton Halsted of Silicon Sky, has said that customers are now expecting them as IT service providers to invest in their own infrastructure, and only charge for what they actually use.

This puts the burden on providers themselves to design, and invest in, their own systems for maximum resilience. Whether you’re providing cloud-based applications, storage or infrastructure, the only way to ensure constant availability for your clients is to ensure it for yourself. Yet many service providers I’ve dealt with are no better than OK at protecting their own systems.

In many cases the problem is cost; but, IT service providers should be aware of the value of their reputations. Running lean is a good idea, but when does that become cutting corners? And if you’re cutting corners, what might the ultimate cost to your reputation and your business be?

Selecting tools that help to bridge the availability gap can enable service providers to manage their own environments better, and to serve their clients more effectively, at a lower cost. Virtualisation allows for multi-tenanting, which enables a better return on investment for each piece of hardware – but it also means you need excellent security, and excellent data protection. The ideal is that even if your primary data centre burns down, your clients won’t notice more than a temporary hiccup in their service. Given the right hypervisor, storage, cloud connectivity and data protection, that’s entirely feasible even for relatively small operations: A virtual server can now be restored from a backup file in a matter of minutes.

The bottom line is that clients need to rely on their IT service providers to help them think strategically about how to build infrastructure and services that will enable their businesses to grow. Those can’t make the leap to taking on this advisory role are going to struggle.

Warren Olivier Regional Manager Southern Africa at Veeam Software

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