Cloud computing has been a major buzzword for many years, and a number of vendors are now beginning to roll out cloud-based offerings to the market. While this may be good news for the end user, for the channel the cloud has always been perceived as something of a threat, cutting out the middleman and eroding the traditional channel supply chain of vendor-distributor-reseller-user. However, one aspect of the cloud computing market that has remained out of the spotlight is the cloud for home and small business users. This market presents an opportunity for the channel to cash in on the cloud hype, enabling them to access new customers, grow their market share and expand their business with offerings aimed directly at a fast-growing market niche.
When it comes to technology, the home user and small business market typically does not have the buying power to go straight to the vendor in many instances, even when purchasing cloud solutions. In many cases, users may also feel more comfortable leveraging existing relationships with resellers. This means that resellers have an opportunity to get involved in cloud solutions and sell these onto home or small office users.
Cloud solutions are often available on a per user basis or a subscription basis, or have the solution built directly into hardware. This makes access to technology more affordable for this market. As a result, solutions aimed directly at home and small business users are growing steadily. This growth has been driven in part by the growth of connectivity and always-on devices, and an increased desire for content storage, sharing and access from anywhere in the world.
Desire for content storage and sharing has lead users to seek cloud solutions to address demand. However, while public cloud solutions abound, and often only allow limited storage space for free, this free storage is simply not enough to store all of a user, business or family’s multimedia content. Added to this, the security issue around private content being held in a public server in an undisclosed location is a growing concern. In the enterprise space, organisations get around this by utilising private cloud infrastructure. However, building a data centre is simply not a viable option for the home or small business user.
As a result, solutions incorporating technology known as the ‘personal cloud’ are a growing segment of the market. These are typically desktop hard drives with cloud technology built into the hardware which enables users to securely store their content in a known location, while still giving them the ability to access and share this content. Personal cloud storage extends the storage ability of mobile devices, centralising storage for small business and home users. A range of apps allow users to access the stored content on a variety of devices and platforms, including tablets, smartphones and PCs. This content can then be access and shared via the cloud, regardless of where the user is situated.
Personal cloud storage is one area of cloud computing where resellers can embrace the phenomenon without fear that it is eroding their markets or their business. Because it involves hardware, the channel is still a vital and necessary route to market for the vendors of these solutions. There is significant profitability to be made in servicing the home user and small business market with products that are tailored towards their lifestyle and their needs. Storage media with built-in personal cloud facilities enables these users to conveniently access large amounts of space and share this content easily wherever they are in the world.
The reality is that the cloud is happening, whether the channel wants it to or not. Resellers and distributors need to look at alternate markets and products that embrace the cloud without threatening the channel, in order to take advantage of opportunities within the cloud space. Vendors are looking at diversifying into the home and small business market, and the channel needs to be ready to join the phenomenon if they are to remain competitive in the new cloud world.