Cloud Fail

Boss, Cloud, IT Business
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cloudblock_logoSometimes you are just dead wrong. Despite the best intentions and a lot of good technology, insight, research and demand for your service.. you fail miserably. I talk a lot about the stuff ExchangeDefender does great and here is one that just bombed.

The Original Idea

Back when we first decided o go ahead with CloudBlock we were being pushed by a lot of our partners to provide our Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and so on as a management platform. Everyone was going to be a cloud services provider and a lot of people wanted to host it themselves in their own data centers. So we wrote CloudBlock, the fork of the ExchangeDefender & Shockey Monkey management infrastructure.

Looking back, that should have been the first and last thing I needed to know: If these people were so much better than us at building the cloud – they would have built it themselves not looking to buy it from us.

But it was a great opportunity that didn’t cost a lot and had a lot of promise. We wouldn’t be involved in any of the expensive stuff we’d just build it and sell it.

And we did. Cloudblock has been a profitable experience for us but the growth was pathetic and did not meet our revenue expectations.

The Reality Of Cloud

The humbling experience that has been the reality crushing down on us.. is that the cloud is all about the support.

In the larger scheme of things.. a few dollars per month do not create a significant enough of a hurdle in purchase decisions of real companies. If the client needs a reliable email solution, $2, $5, $20, $50 a month difference in cost is not enough to make them hold back.

Some people are cheap. Yes, and they will subscribe to a free solution.

Some people are stupid. Not a good idea to make a product serving them at least not as a subscription (rob them up front)

For everyone else.. what makes the difference is the customer service, people behind the solution, performance when something goes wrong (because it will no matter what) a long term roadmap, etc.

In the service business the focus is on the service, not so much on the underlying technology. Considering that we built the underlying technology and considered that to be the core of what we were offering – CloudBlock suffered the same fate that so many MSPs and VARs in the extinction category experienced – the demand moves along with the experience not the convenience.

Lessons from the FAIL

Look at the profile of the user that is relying on your service. If you have no faith that they will survive as a company, neither will you.

Keep the line of communication open. If the user does not respond to your inquiries, surveys, etc then there is a good indication that your product is not seen as strategically relevant to even click on the link and that doesn’t bode well for the future.

Stick hard to your expectations. If the product line (given time) does not hit your metrics, do not dedicate more time to achieving diminishing results.

Self-service is in far more demand than good service. This is perhaps the biggest thing I’m picking up from this. I hire smart people, who are there around the clock (and some of them quite literally will get on a call at 3am) but the natural tendency when it comes to technology is to give it a kick yourself first. No matter how great the support phone or chat are, the first thing that usually gets hit is the site and the self-check / NOC tools. We’re bringing that tech to ExchangeDefender in a really heavy way and integrating it up and down through Shockey Monkey and our client-side tools.

So fail, learn, try again. We acquired all the third party assets last year after announcing that the platform was being sunset. CloudBlock will go offline in a few days as there is really no market between free and $10-15/mo email service.

Not gonna lie, taking this one as a bit of a defeat. I really was very optimistic on the notion that there would be more of a follow through on people building out their own infrastructure but there simply isn’t enough to sustain a business model. While this is great news for ExchangeDefender (and gives me more confidence that Microsoft will continue to fail in its effort to get the small and medium sized business) it always stings when you fall down.