Customer service: The next challenge for cloud providers

Customer service: The next challenge for cloud providers

Customer service is still a new concept for many cloud providers, but you can make sure you get what you need by communicating clearly

Public cloud providers are not new, but their interactions with enterprises are still in the early stages. Not long ago, few public cloud providers picked up the phone. Today, public cloud providers must respond to users. Moreover, as an enterprise that works with a public cloud, you must learn how to effectively communicate with cloud providers, on both sales and operational issues.

Keep in mind: For major IaaS providers -- AWS, Google, Microsoft, IBM -- cloud support is an emerging science. They are still in learning mode, especially the ones that have built a public cloud, such as IBM and Microsoft.

You should have a two-way relationship with providers. They need to understand your requirements, and you must know what to ask for.

For instance, communicating your storage needs goes beyond drive capacity. You and your provider must also understand latency, security, management, and geographic distribution before moving forward with the right solution. You should put this in writing as well.

When negotiating prices, it’s a good idea to keep in mind the number of years you’ll likely need the cloud service. If you’re buying one year at a time, the discounts will be hard to come by, whereas multiyear deals could be as much as 50 percent off retail if you’re a big enterprise. Some cloud providers will offer a discount, while a few will hold strong on their prices. Of course, prices are creeping down all the time, so factor that into your thinking as well.

As far as operations go, my best advice is to communicate over channels that can be audited. That is, you can open up tickets and create an electronic record when you’re having issues. This will help you get credits for outages or other shortfalls in the SLA.

You don’t need to treat cloud providers any different than you treat existing vendors. Indeed, some are your existing vendors. However, you need to open up an effective line of communication that can support the acquisition of cloud services, based on your requirements, as well as provide effective support for ongoing operational issues. If a potential provider cannot offer adequate information and support prior to the sale, it’s doubtful an acceptable level of support will drop into place after the sale.

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