How to Optimize Your Cloud Billing Management
What is Microsoft Office 365?
Office 365 is a subscription service that includes classic Microsoft Office apps like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, with all the added productivity benefits of cloud-based storage and integration. Users can also access tools like email and calendar and can subscribe to other useful applications, like Skype, based on their needs.
Why Do Professional Services Offer Office 365 Support?
Many modern managed service providers (MSPs) support Office 365 as an add-on service for clients. Typical offerings include help desk, end user training, and migration support. There are a lot of ways MSPs can upsell and profit from Office 365. According to solutions provider Continuum, one of the most profitable services is cloud solution provider (CSP) licensing.
“CSP billing is a great way to consolidate billing for your clients, while making yourself a little margin by being the middleman. All our clients have opted for us to take over the billing of their Office 365 licenses. This gives us a little boost in our monthly recurring revenue, while also giving us more control and brownie points with Microsoft when all those licenses soon add up.”
Going Beyond Office 365, Azure Cloud Billing, and Spreadsheet Accounting
It’s no secret that Office 365’s tight integration with Azure is part of how Microsoft has been gaining market share in the cloud infrastructure industry. As we mentioned, incorporating Office 365 into service providers’ overall offerings—especially one that includes managing Office 365’s use of everything a cloud environment has to offer—is an important source of revenue. In fact, a 2018 MSP Benchmark Survey Results Report by Kaseya found that 79% of all MSPs manage Office 365 services for clients.
Most end users understand at least some of the benefits of using Office 365 in conjunction with Azure as opposed to a data-center-only environment.
By combining Azure and Office 365, the key benefits customers receive are:
- Increased security. Microsoft’s native integration of Office 365 with Azure Active Directory makes it easier to manage permissions and access controls. When managed correctly, the cloud environment is also often more secure than a data center. Azure Rights Management can also provide better content-related security than standalone Office 365.
- Better performance. Running Office 365 with Azure means it runs on the same infrastructure as other Microsoft applications like Skype, has access to the same scaling abilities as other cloud-based applications, and can automatically access Azure’s load balancing. Software patches are also handled automatically.
The Overhead Challenge
For MSPs selling Office 365, the biggest challenge to profitability is managing the service overhead. Because there are so many different places for businesses to purchase Office 365, most MSPs don’t have much flexibility in how much they charge for the Office 365 subscription. Turning a profit on the service requires managing overhead efficiently.
If billing and invoicing for Office 365 and Azure is done manually, using a spreadsheet, MSPs can end up wasting a significant amount of time on billing management. According to Kaseya’s 2018 report, 35% of MSPs that responded to the survey spend an hour or more on billing/reconciliation each month per client.
Additionally, professional services providers might not be able to accurately allocate discounts and might lose discounts that should be allocated to the master account.
With manual Azure cloud billing, there’s a chance that bills will be inaccurate, and it will be difficult for either the MSP or the client to dig deeper into the bill and understand exactly where the money is being spent or how to streamline costs.
Don’t let your cloud bill catch you by surprise. Watch our webinar, “How to Deliver on the Promise of AWS and Azure Cloud Cost Savings”, to learn solutions for overspending in the cloud.
This lack of transparency can erode customer trust in both the MSP and the overall cloud strategy. Just as important, the time-consuming, manual billing management eats away at the profits from selling Office 365. If everyone is selling Office 365 at the same price, the simplest way to turn a profit is to dedicate as few staff resources as possible to manage each account.
Increase Profits with Cloud-Based Billing
Simplifying billing with a cloud billing management platform like CloudCheckr is the only way to increase profits when you’re selling a subscription to Office 365. Here’s how:
Reduce overhead. With cloud cost management and cloud billing with Azure, you’ll be able to dramatically reduce the staff hours spent managing tedious, error-prone billing. Reducing the number of staff members needed to manage billing makes each Office 365 subscription more profitable.
Introducing: the cloud financial administrator. Read this article about “Why Every Cloud-Based Organization Should Have a Cloud Financial Administrator” to learn more.
Capture discounts. One of the ways MSPs can make a profit is by capturing Azure discounts and applying them to the master account. However, with manual bill procedures these discounts are often ‘lost,’ and accidentally spread across all client accounts. With cloud billing management, ensure that all discounts are applied to the right account, whether it’s your client accounts or discounts that belong on the master account.
Reduce errors. Any manual process is asking for errors, and that’s especially true when digging through spreadsheets compiling billing information for hundreds of clients, each with different usage and discounts and services. Errors can cost the business money, if you’re undercharging, or trust, if you accidentally overcharge and the customer discovers the mistake. Errors also take time to fix, adding to the HR overhead associated with each account.
Let go of error-prone, manual cloud billing and embrace comprehensive cloud management. Read this white paper to learn how you can use CloudCheckr for Reseller and MSP Billing.
Offering Office 365, especially as part of a larger suite of Azure services, is a major opportunity for MSPs, as long as they can do so without spending too much time managing each Office 365 account. Using a cloud billing management platform like CloudCheckr is a way to take advantage of the demand among MSPs’ customers for Office 365 but in a way that can actually be profitable for the MSP. With automated billing and detailed billing information that easy to access, MSPs can capture the correct discounts, provide accurate, on-time bills to all customers and manage more accounts with less people—leading to a more profitable business and customers who trust the MSP to bill correctly and trust that they are getting what they pay for in the cloud.
Make spreadsheet billing and invoicing a thing of the past. Set up a private demo with one of our experts to learn how CloudCheckr can save your professional services business time and put money back into your pocket.