Sunday, April 10, 2011

Selling Hardware with The Cloud

One of the concerns that consultants have about cloud computing is: What do I sell? This is a legitimate concern.

Make no mistake: If you make your money selling servers, then you better be prepared for the world to change very fast. As for everything else, there will be a gradual transition. And some equipment will always exist onsite.

What's the gradual transition to? Well, in the short-term, we're going to see onsite storage in the form of NAS devices and lite servers (SBS Essentials and Foundation server). Desktops will fade into thin clients over the next three years. But monitors, UPSs, printers, switches, routers, firewalls, telephone systems, and QOS devices will all remain onsite.

Within five years some ISPs will be offering just a fiber cable onsite with hosted firewall at the other end of the cable. That is rare today (I don't know why. It's very obviously the next step.)

So how can you make money off the cloud right now today with both existing clients and new prospects? That's easy: The good old network audit.

Maybe "checkup" is a better idea. Especially around tax time, you might want to avoid the word audit. :-)

What is a Cloud Network Checkup? Well, start with my Cloud Prep checklist. Just send an email to [email protected] and it will auto-respond with my cloud checklist. This is a list of things to consider when moving a client to the cloud.

We are putting together a Bandwidth Audit for all existing clients plus new prospects. Here's how it works:

1) Contact the ISP to determine the current existing speed on the client's network. Ask whether they can get a free upgrade of this speed. In many cases, clients are eligible for free increases and just need to trade in their router. ISPs (especially phone companies and cable companies) would be overwhelmed if they told everyone about this, so they increase speeds when the opportunity arises. Create that opportunity.

Test the line! Unplug everything and speed test the line. Document this.

2) If replacing the router ("modem" for people who insist on use that term even though they're not modems anymore) was not part of Step One, speed test the line inside the router. If the LAN side is slower than the WAN side, quote the client a new router. Make sure it's a NEW router that has new chip sets and can handle the faster bandwidths going forward.

Once the router is up to spec . . .

3) Verify that all firewall settings are correct, including password and inbound/outbound rules. Then speed test inside the firewall. If this speed test is significantly slower than the WAN side of the firewall (the LAN side of the router), then quote the client a new firewall. Once again, new means new. Even a two year old firewall may not be able to move Internet traffic above 10-15 MBps.

4) If there's a wireless device, it should be a newer N type wireless device. Your wireless device might be clamping down a 40-plus MBps Internet connection to only 10-13 MBps wireless. If that's an issue for the client, quote a new wireless device.

5) Once again, disconnect everything from the LAN side of the switch and run speed tests on more than one port. If you get different results on different ports, the switch is going bad. Quote a new switch. If there is just a dramatic dropoff from the WAN side to the LAN side, quote a new switch.

Today you can get business class 100 MB switches at a very reasonable price. If possible, get a 1 GB (1,000 MB) switch for the client.

6) If the client has all 100 MB ports on the LAN side of the switch, all servers and workstations should have 100 MB NICs or better. If the client has all 1,000 MB ports on the LAN side of the switch, all servers and workstations should have 1,000 MB NICs or better. Quote upgrades as appropriate.

7) If the client is using VOIP, or planning on it, consider a QOS - Quality of Service - device that will shape the bandwidth and increase telephone performance.

In my opinion, ALL of these items need to be tested and replaced as needed.

So what hardware do you sell to clients during the transition to Cloud Computing? How about . . .

- NAS devices
- Lite servers
- Desktop PCs
- Thin Clients
- Monitors
- UPSs
- Printers
- Switches
- Routers
- Firewalls
- Telephone systems
- QOS devices

The key is to show up with a plan and a commitment that helping your clients improve their bandwidth will set then up for success in the cloud.


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