Should start-up CDNs offer Professional Services (ProServ)? A VP of Sales once said that customers only value the things they pay for, not the things they don’t pay for. Give away ProServ at no cost, and companies won’t value the service as much as when they pay for it. Many CDNs have started on the premise of offering CDN services and giving away ProServ. They don’t want to be like Akamai charging tens of thousands of dollars in ProServ fees. It’s interesting to hear CDNs say this , as many do in the industry, preferring to “throw it in for free at no cost to close the deal”. Akamai runs the most profitable CDN business for a reason, and they know how to capture the IT spend like no one else.
If a start-up CDN gives away ProServ for free, that only means another technology vendor is going to capture that spend, since most IT organizations have budgets to spend. Start-up CDNs, especially those that raised vast amounts of VC should build ProServ organizations and charge for consultation. That in itself would be a key differentiator in the CDN ecosystem, as no one really does it besides Akamai and Limelight. There is a time to charge for CDN services, and a time not to. When not to: when setting up trial accounts, setting up SSL certs, creating CNAMEs, setting up storage, rules engine, rsync, sFTP, caching rules, or other basic services required to turn up a customer, those should be included.
However, if a company has 30 websites, and many of them are making millions annually in revenue, then it’s time to start pitching ProServ. Or if there is an enterprise with thousands of employees that needs a robust security solution at the last mile that is consistent with their perimeter security strategy, then that is a good time to offer ProServ. Even more important than the charging fees aspect, ProServ builds relationships between the CDN and the customer. And guess what, once strong relationships emerge, the chances of the customer switching to another CDN are minimized. Conclusion: For CDNs considering Professional Services, they need to bring on board folks that have experience selling ProServ, as it would be very difficult for a CDN rep to sell it.