Hosters, Cloud Service Providers, MSPs, and the Channel Ecosystem at HostingCon

The attendees of HostingCon, and the audience we strive to serve most directly, tend to define their businesses in variety of ways – cloud providers, hosting providers and managed service providers are all in similar businesses, but with differences in their models.

The distinctions are difficult to make, and there’s plenty of overlap. Many hosting providers are managed service providers, or offer cloud infrastructure or cloud software. Some cloud hosting providers are managed service providers. And many managed service providers offer cloud services. There are few companies that intentionally exist within a boundary they’ve drawn because of a particular definition or term.

One interesting feature that unites these businesses – particularly interesting in the context of HostingCon – is their value to the software vendors and other hosted services as a channel for the distribution of their services.

In all the various incarnations of the hosted services business – web hosting, SaaS, managed service providers, cloud hosting – one of the greatest currencies is that relationship with the end user, in terms of billing, but also in terms of support and perhaps most importantly, trust.

At most of the steps up-stream in the hosting ecosystem, vendors recognize that the various providers of hosted services bring that end-user relationship to the table, and they recognize that selling through the hosting channel is the most effective and efficient way of selling into the end user market. Much more so than selling to them directly.

The really nice thing about this ecosystem, from the perspective of the channel partner, is the positive light that puts on being sold to. As I’ve expressed elsewhere, being marketed to in this business isn’t like somebody trying to sell you a car while you’re trying to watch football. It’s somebody trying to pitch you tools that will help you provide the best possible set of services to the customers and businesses that rely on you.

Good service providers, focus a lot of their energy on building out the best possible suite of services around the needs of their customers. And with very few exceptions, those service providers rely on partnerships with vendors to supply those services. In a way, being a good service provider and a good channel partner are part of the same equation.

Managed service providers, cloud providers and hosting providers in general regard the channel structure as a mutually beneficial arrangement with the potential to enhance the prospects of everybody involved. Vendors gain access to customers they probably couldn’t reach on their own. Service providers gain new revenue streams, and functions that could add to their overall appeal. End users get access to a greater breadth of services through a one-stop shop.

It’s interesting to look at how the channel ecosystem overlays HostingCon as an event. Throughout the feedback we receive, attendees routinely list meeting with new partners and existing partners as one of their major motivations for attending the show.

That ecosystem is certainly apparent in the exhibit area. A quick trip through the exhibit hall can reveal an amazing list of software and hosted software service providers looking to partner with the hosting or service provider channel, as well as many other upstream software and hardware makers not necessarily looking to sell through hosting providers, but to sell directly to them.

It’s also something we’re determined to see reflected in the educational program. We’re working to bring in big vendors and successful channel partners to share some of their channel strategy ideas that can help build on the business models of attendee companies.

Hosting providers, managed service providers and cloud providers in general understand and appreciate the role they play as a channel partners, and the opportunity that presents. But, of course, being a good channel partner doesn’t mean working hard to make your vendors happy. It’s a matter of bringing together services in a package that will best benefit your customers.

HostingCon is a great place to build on that package.

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