The popularity of managed cloud services in modern-day organizations has spurred corresponding growth in the number of players providing managed cloud services in the market. Managed cloud service providers are, however, quite different in that:
- Some providers manage only their own private/public cloud infrastructure.
- Some providers specialize in single infrastructure or application types.
- Other providers are strictly VARS (value-added resellers) or system integrators but lack vast experience in hosted clouds or applications.
Bearing this in mind, what are the most important criteria for choosing a managed services provider?
Criterion #1: Service Parameters
Every organization is unique — and so are cloud needs. Your workload will determine your application-specific requirements, including performance, security, data residency, availability and cost. Your managed cloud provider should ideally allow you to have adequate visibility into key service parameters and avoid managing your workload on a one-size-fits-all platform.
Criterion #2: Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Many managed cloud service providers limit their SLAs to infrastructure uptime but do not provide assurances for application availability, something that is often impacted by things such as orchestration problems and software updates. If you require your cloud applications to absolutely have always-on accessibility, look for a provider who is willing to configure your cloud services to meet your requirements and back it up with an SLA.
Criterion #3: Security Assurance
Security concerns have always been a key cloud constraint, especially for organizations with sensitive workloads. Make sure your provider employs security best practices, including:
- Having a security monitoring and response team 24x7x365.
- Requiring multi-factor authentication for data center access.
- Having an intrusion-detection system in place.
Criterion #4: Adequate Cost and Performance Visibility
Modern organizations are demanding near-real-time visibility into how their cloud workloads are performing. Line of business and IT managers then use this data to make decisions about their investment. Choose a managed cloud service provider with a sophisticated cloud management platform that provides granular details about TCO (total cost of ownership), infrastructure usage and performance by various applications.
Criterion #5: Data Backup and Recovery
Every organization requires its cloud workloads, including all databases and applications, to be properly replicated and backed up in a safe and timely manner regardless of where the workload is hosted or who manages it. Some commercial organizations and public sector organizations are also charged with the responsibility of complying with data sovereignty regulations. Choose a provider that meets all your needs for data sovereignty, backup and recovery.
Criterion #6: Easy-to-Use Management Portal
In this digital era, IT decisions are no longer the sole responsibility of CIOs and technical employees. Non-technical employees need performance and cost data from cloud workloads as well. Make sure your managed service cloud provider provides an easy-to-use management and reporting portal that provides your employees with a rich array of data.
Criterion #7: Compliance Assurance
Data sovereignty laws, data privacy regulations and evolving industry standards are a big challenge for many organizations, more so for public sector organizations that are governed by strict laws regarding how and where to store private data. This is even more critical in the cloud since the customer has little control over compliance issues. Make sure that you choose a provider who will proactively ensure all your data remains compliant and in tune with a changing regulatory environment.
Criterion #8: Ability to Customize Services
As your organization evolves and its needs changes, you will likely find that your hybrid IT environment becomes increasingly interconnected via APIs. As a result, your managed service cloud provider will increasingly have to optimize and integrate a wide range of workloads. With this in mind, you should choose a provider with deep expertise in a wide range of services and technologies. The provider should ideally provide a technology-agnostic perspective that enables you to integrate a growing range of services.
Criterion # 9: Data Encryption
Data encryption is critical for organizations that maintain sensitive data such as financial, medical and social security records. Your managed service cloud provider should provide a high degree of encryption for your data both in transit to the cloud and when residing in the cloud.
Criterion # 10: Stability of the Provider
Low barriers to entry into the cloud market mean that new entrants are always coming up and leveraging ubiquitous cloud infrastructure and management platforms. It’s always best to choose a managed cloud provider with a proven track record of service and reliability.
Whereas cost reduction was a chief consideration by organizations when choosing a cloud services provider a decade ago, organizations are now paying more attention to other features and services that provide greater value to the organization. Consequently, cost ranks quite low in the criteria that many organizations consider critical when choosing a managed cloud provider.