As appeared in The VAR Guy on February 16, 2012.

If you’ve dismissed the cloud as “just another marketing term” to hype the on-demand solutions that businesses have been using for more than a decade, then you’re missing the point. Dave Nielson of Cloud Camp defines cloud technology as that which is “on-demand, self-service, scalable, and measurable.” In contrast, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a two-page cloud definition – which, in typical government fashion, is overly verbose. But however you define it, there’s buzz about the cloud for good reason. The rapid movement of technology to the cloud – along with its promised benefits of elasticity and cost-effectiveness – is significantly changing the IT landscape for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs).

Gartner says that by 2015, 46% of all businesses will have more than half of their infrastructure and applications in the cloud, versus only 3% in 2011. IDC says that 85% of net-new software firms created this year will be cloud businesses. If you haven’t yet built cloud solutions into your selling strategy, it’s time to get on board. This year especially, the SMB market is looking to the cloud for solutions that are cost-effective, simple to manage, and easy to scale. You don’t want to miss out. Rome may not have been built in a day, but your cloud business strategy can be. Here’s how.

First, Get Focused

Don’t try to go out and sell every great cloud solution to your SMB clients at once, but choose the one that will make the most impact to their businesses while bringing about the greatest amount of revenue for you. As Justin Moore says in “Overcoming SMB Objections to the Cloud,” sell the value of a cloud solution, not the cloud itself. Look for your clients’ greatest technology need, then match the best solution to meet that need.

One common need is data storage. With approximately 2.5 zettabytes (2.5 billion terabytes) of data existing in today’s digital universe – plus increasing regulations that drive more SMBs to look for better backup and recovery solutions – data storage is one of the fastest growing areas of cloud computing. My January 2012 MSPmentor blog predicts this rise. Data backup and business continuity solutions are also one of the most lucrative cloud solutions for VARs because they can provide margin-rich recurring revenue. By focusing on selling a cloud solution that meets the data protection and uptime needs of your clients, you’ll have greater success signing new customers and boosting your earnings.

Next, Get Help From the Experts

The cloud services market is hot and the ability to move quickly is a competitive advantage. If you rely only on the trial-and-error process of selling different cloud solutions, it will take longer to discover those that are the “stickiest” for your customers and most profitable for you. Instead, find expert advisors, industry conferences, and trusted vendors who can help you quickly maximize your cloud business potential.

In the example of data storage, you could individually test several different cloud solutions for data backup, business continuity, and disaster recovery. Or you could move more rapidly with a single solution that takes care of all three and is backed by strong partners, such as HP.

Starting this month, you can learn about how to maximize cloud services and plan your entire cloud business strategy in a day at the HP/Axcient Cloud Roadshow. This roadshow is bringing together some of the best and brightest channel and cloud experts to deliver all of the tools and tactics you need to grow your business and earn more recurring revenue. It’s an entire event focused on helping you align your business strategy to include market-leading cloud services.

Beginning February 28 in Washington D.C., then continuing on to Dallas, L.A., Chicago, and New York in March, each day-long HP/Axcient Cloud Roadshow event features channel guru Robin Robins, HP and Axcient executive speakers, a CompTIA mini-course on cloud computing, and peer groups. Reserving a seat at this free event could be the most important move you make to grow your business in 2012.

The decision is yours: continue business as usual and watch the cloud movement pass you by, or jump on the opportunity and learn from the experts. We’ll see you at the HP/Axcient Cloud Roadshow!