The right managed cloud service provider can help your organization speed the adoption of public cloud services, develop apps or analyze data safely and securely, and focus more on core business objectives.
But the wrong one can do quite the opposite. Choosing the wrong partner could negatively impact the reliability of IT systems, create bottlenecks for your development team, or worse, expose sensitive data to security risks.
Knowing what questions to ask a potential partner can help you avoid a negative outcome. In this blog we'll detail some critical things to look for when choosing a managed cloud service provider so you can pick the right one.
What is a Cloud Managed Services Provider?
A managed cloud service provider is a type of information technology (IT) managed service provider (MSP) that manages cloud infrastructure as opposed to traditional infrastructure. These MSPs typically manage cloud operations, systems, and processes so businesses can outsource these responsibilities to a third party instead of manage the many moving parts involved in cloud operations management themselves. Managed cloud service providers typically manage infrastructure as a service (IaaS) such as public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid in some cases.
Why Use Cloud Managed Services?
Managed cloud services can help businesses reduce complexity and increase efficiency. Cloud management is an undifferentiated activity, meaning that it doesn't affect your company's market differentiation in any way. Similar to the electricity that powers your building, you just need it to work! Therefore, to many it makes sense to outsource this function to experts that do cloud management as a business. They'll more than likely be more efficient than you and be able to provide a suite of tools, top talent, and businesses processes you can leverage, saving you time and effort and increasing time to value of cloud services.
How to Choose a Cloud Managed Services Provider
You should choose a managed cloud service provider that specializes in your industry, doesn't require root ownership of your environment, and offers services you can grow with, regardless of whether or not your plans change.
Here are 11 things to look for in a managed cloud service provider.
1. Cloud agnostic.
Choose a managed cloud service provider that will enable you to easily capitalize on multiple clouds to meet a variety of technical or business needs. If public cloud is your focus, look at which public cloud providers they support. Ideally you should choose an MSP that knows the major cloud providers inside and out and stays up to date with evolving cloud technologies. They should also have capabilities that work across clouds so you can maintain strong, consistent security and compliance even as you shift among cloud environments.
2. Cloud competencies and credentials.
Look for a managed cloud service provider with deep cloud expertise that holds the highest distinctions within their cloud service provider (CSP) ecosystems. For example, the highest partner designation for Amazon Web Services (AWS) partners is Amazon Partner Network (APN) Premier status. Partners that have achieved APN Premier Partner status have the most experience and have excelled in multiple benchmarks, such as demonstrating successful customer outcomes and holding various prestigious cloud certifications.
In addition, there are individual partner competencies for various industries and areas of expertise, such as the DevOps competency or the Healthcare competency, that partners can achieve by applying deep focus to particular areas. Look for a partner that holds a combination of competencies that are a good match for your business.
3. Security and compliance accreditations.
It goes without saying that you should look for a partner that offers solutions for the compliance and security frameworks that are important to your business. If you're in the software as a service (SaaS) industry, you want to choose a SOC 2 Certified vendor because SOC 2 certification is often a requirement for business contracts in the SaaS space. Similarly, if you're in healthcare you'll want to choose a HITRUST Certified vendor for the same reason.
4. Business Associate Agreement.
A Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is a written contract between an entity and its vendors, contractors, and third-party service providers. It describes how both parties adhere to compliance and security regulations and outlines the responsibilities and risks each party takes on. BAAs are required for most compliance and regulatory frameworks. Choose a partner that will sign a BAA and steer clear or any that won’t.
5. Industry focus and expertise.
Look for a managed cloud service provider that specializes in your industry over a generalist. Especially if you're in a highly regulated industry like healthcare, public sector, oil and gas, or financial services. The partner will know the specificities of your industry challenges and be able to offer solutions. They'll know the particular cloud services that will be applicable to your business, how to best leverage them, and what's coming down the pike for your industry.
6. Service Level Agreements.
Make sure you choose a partner that offers 24/7/365 support service level agreements (SLAs), and a 15-minute response SLA for urgent issues. Choose someone that will not only offer this but also provide a cell phone number – not an 800 number – for you to reach them in the event of an outage.
7. Gives you ownership and control over environment.
Some MSPs offer a "black box" model for cloud management, meaning they require you to migrate into their cloud environment in order to receive the monitoring and management services. If you want to make a change to your environment you have to go through their management and wait support to get back to you. This can waste precious time and slow down your ability to innovate, especially if the partner takes several hours or even days to answer the request.
In order to avoid this, look for a managed cloud service provider that let's you own your cloud environment. Cloud partners like Cloudticity let you bring your own cloud to the table and deploy the cloud management solution into your environment.
In addition, look for a partner that provides pre-vetted infrastructure templates so you can make secure changes to your environment yourself without going through your provider's management.
8. Time to remediation.
Some managed cloud service providers are slow to respond to tickets, which can put a huge damper on productivity and innovation. If you need something changed or have an issue, you're at the mercy of your cloud partner to fix that.
When choosing a potential partner, ask them how long it takes them to resolve a ticket on average. And ask what percentage of tickets get resolved within one hour.
9. Automated services delivery.
Gartner predicts that 99% of cloud security failures are the customer's fault. It's true, the vast majority of cloud security incidents we hear about in the news stem from misconfigurations, i.e. human errors that led to security weaknesses that got exploited, like someone leaving default settings on a storage bucket that housed sensitive data.
One of the major benefits of the cloud, however, is that it allows you to automate so many security operations tasks that would traditionally have to be done manually, which drastically reduces the risk of human error that could lead to data exposure.
When choosing a cloud partner, ask if their managed cloud services are automated or if they're delivered primarily by humans. Some partners have automated 25-35% of managed services, while others have automated over 90%. The more automation the provider uses, the tighter your cloud security will be. Additionally, this metric will be indicative of the partner's cloud maturity and expertise level. (Hint: seasoned cloud experts are keen on automating EVERYTHING.)
10. Services offered.
Take a look at services offered. Do they offer managed compliance services and if so, which compliance frameworks do they support? What security services do they provide? Are they doing incident management or just alerting you to do it yourself?
Find out if they do cloud cost optimization. Managing cloud costs is a top concern for IT leaders right now.
Importantly, find out what role the cloud partner will play. Are they going to be essentially a help desk and ticketing system, or do they provide direct access to a cloud strategist to advise on how to align your technology with business goals?
11. Track record.
Ask if they've ever had a breach.
How long have they been in business supporting the cloud? Pick a managed cloud service provider that was born in the cloud, not one that is merely adapting legacy capabilities.
12. Tiered, consumption-based pricing.
The cloud is consumption based, so managed cloud services should be, too.
Choose a managed cloud service provider that offers discounts that scale up with your usage. That way, even if the price feels expensive initially it might make more and more financial sense as you grow and use more cloud.
With the right managed cloud service provider, your business can be more agile, more secure, and get more value out of cloud services. But the wrong partner can slow you down from achieving business goals.
If you're in healthcare or life sciences and manage sensitive health data, Cloudticity could be the right managed cloud services partner for you. Reach out for a free consultation today.