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AWS Managed Service Provider: Passing the Baton to Certified Experts

AWS managed service providers (MSPs) offer IT support and development for AWS services, as well as assistance with AWS migration projects. Amazon’s managed service partners program vets and certifies MSPs, and requires them to pass third-party audits, to ensure customers work with a trusted partner. 

In this post, we’ll explain the cons and pros of working with an AWS MSP, and offer considerations for choosing a managed service provider. We’ll also explain how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help simplify cloud management for MSPs and their customers.

In this article, you will learn:

What Is a Managed Services Provider?

A managed service provider (MSP) is a vendor that provides IT services for a fixed or subscription cost. MSPs are aimed to enable businesses to outsource their IT responsibilities, reduce budgets, and scale despite staffing limitations.

When businesses use managed service providers they generally still control and take responsibility for some aspects of IT. The MSP works collaboratively with the business to evaluate their needs, improve efficiency, and provide expertise and availability that would otherwise be missing.

Usually, the managed service provider performs time-consuming, repetitive, or complex work. They are also typically responsible for providing support and maintenance. For example, if you are looking to migrate a physical server to AWS, you can do that on your own or with the help of a managed service provider.

3 Things to Check Before Choosing an AWS Managed Service Provider

Many cloud customers take advantage of managed service providers to help them migrate to and manage complex cloud environments. However, choosing the right MSP can be a challenge. Below are three aspects to consider when selecting a managed service provider for your AWS deployment.

Consider migration and going live
Migrating workloads, applications, and data to the cloud take time and resources that many organizations don’t have. Then, after migration, managing configurations, optimizing resources, and troubleshooting issues become a concern. When choosing a managed service provider, you need to make sure that the provider you choose can cover you during migration and into day-2 operations.

While you can potentially use separate providers, this is less beneficial since your migration provider is not necessarily concerned with what happens after migration. Additionally, your day-2 operations provider would be less knowledgeable of your previous configurations or the configuration of your new environment. For simple management, you might want to go with one provider for general cloud management and AWS cloud migration services.

Choose a trusted provider
To help customers choose a trusted provider, Amazon offers the AWS MSP Partner Program. The AWS managed service partners program vets MSPs so customers can be sure they are getting a reputable, skilled MSP. Providers certified by this program have to pass third-party audits. They must also clearly outline their capabilities and how they can provide value to the customer.

By selecting a managed service provider through this program, you get added assurance that your provider is an expert in AWS deployments. You also have a higher guarantee that AWS best practices are followed, and that any provider tooling integrates smoothly with your cloud resources.

Service level agreements (SLAs)
SLAs help ensure that your systems stay up and running smoothly even in case of disaster. These agreements help you guarantee that downtime and any revenue loss caused by that downtime are limited. When selecting a provider, make sure to evaluate the promises made by their SLAs, including what happens if the SLA is breached.

Pros and Cons of Working with AWS Managed Service Providers

There are several pros and cons to working with MSPs in AWS. Below are the most common benefits and issues that you are likely to encounter.

Pros

Pros of AWS managed service providers include the following:

Scalability and stability
Managed service providers can scale services without the same constraints as independent businesses. Because they are devoted to multiple customers, they can more cheaply add staff or tooling as needed to manage your growing configurations.

Additionally, MSPs can provide 24/7 services, ensuring that your cloud environments are monitored and functional at all times. This provides stability that is hard to match in-house, particularly with a small team.

Improved operational efficiency
Managed service providers enable you to work as efficiently as possible with the staffing resources available to you. They enable you to supplement in-house expertise and allow your on-site teams to focus on higher-level or more immediate concerns. They also enable teams lacking in cloud expertise to adapt to changing demands associated with cloud services.

MSPs can provide enterprise-grade tooling without the associated price tag. Since MSPs often serve a large number of customers, they have the budgets and productive power to develop and acquire enterprise security, monitoring, and automation tools that they can then pass on to you.

Ensured compliance
Compliance in the cloud can be confusing and overwhelming for many organizations. It’s not always clear what data falls under compliance regulations, what those regulations require, or who is responsible for implementing and maintaining compliance. 

A managed service provider can help you navigate compliance in AWS and help you ensure that all regulations are met. They can also sometimes provide guidance for alternatives if certain services do not meet your compliance requirements. Just make sure that the MSP you choose is familiar with your industry and the specific requirements that apply to you and your data.

Cons

Cons of using AWS managed service providers include the following:

Cost
Adopting an MSP is going to add costs to your existing cloud budget. Ideally, the provider can make up for or even beat these costs. They can do this by optimizing your AWS configurations and reducing the amount of time and effort your in-house staff needs to commit.

However, keep in mind, the more work a managed service provider takes off your plate and the more reliable they are, the more expensive they are. This cost is unavoidable but should be well worth it, provided you choose your provider carefully.

Lack of full control
Managed service providers may work remotely or on-prem. In either case data and permissions must be made available over connections that may be breached. Additionally, because you are outsourcing work, you do not have control over the specific staff that accesses your data or accounts.

This lack of full control can be a major concern for many organizations and is one you should take into account. You need to be sure that you trust your MSP and that any contract you sign guarantees the privacy and security of your data and systems.

Learn more about how to choose your Cloud MSP in this article: Cloud Managed Service Providers: Key Considerations for Choosing Your MSP.

Next-Generation AWS Managed Service Providers

AWS is encouraging MSPs to become “next-generation AWS Managed Service Providers”, which are supposed to provide more value for customers by offering:

  • Education and consultation services—providers improve customers’ in-house knowledge and skills while managing services. A good provider explains what they are doing and why that choice is the best practice.
  • Expert-level management—providers have in-house experts trained in AWS configurations, specifications, and best practices. If expertise is lacking, providers are responsible for contracting a third-party who can train provider teams.
  • Customer advocacy—providers inform customers about potential services that could improve their operations throughout the AWS stack. This requires familiarity with all AWS services as well as a clear understanding of a business's goals and best interests.

Common use cases for next-gen AWS MSPs include:

  • Automation of security and compliance
  • 24/7/365 monitoring and response for fast disaster recovery and minimal downtime
  • Implementation of third-party tooling, such as machine learning platforms

Simplified Cloud Management with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports up to a capacity of 368TB, and supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload.

In particular, Cloud Volumes ONTAP enables simplified AWS cloud management for private, public, hybrid, and multicloud environments. Here are key features and capabilities that can make your work easier:

In addition, NetApp  FlexClone® enables you to instantly clone data volumes to writable destinations with zero capacity penalty. New storage is allocated only for data changes made to the clone. Cloud managed service providers can use FlexClone to quickly and efficiently mount and test new infrastructure configurations.

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