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Azure managed service providers (MSPs) can take over certain IT responsibilities in your Azure cloud. In the past, MSPs were hired for basic IT, but today there is a wide range of managed services, including financial monitoring, service monitoring, governance assessment, financial management and optimization, and assistance with Azure migration.
In this post, we’ll explain the different types of Azure managed service providers, and show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help simplify cloud management for Azure MSPs and their customers.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is a managed service provider (MSP)
- Managed services pros and cons
- What is an Azure MSP
- The importance of Azure MSPs
- Simplified cloud management with Cloud Volumes ONTAP
What Is a Managed Service Provider?
A managed service provider (MSP) is a third-party company that provides you with a service that you can use to operate, maintain, and troubleshoot systems, tools, or environments. MSPs enable you to outsource IT responsibilities and expertise to cover a lack of in-house resources. You can also use MSPs if you simply don’t want to dedicate energy or resources to basic IT tasks.
Traditionally, managed service providers have only performed basic system tasks, such as monitoring or troubleshooting. However, MSPs have now evolved to provide a variety of services, including software delivery, data security, and cloud migration. There are even top-tier services, such as IBM and Accenture that remotely manage customer’s entire IT stacks.
Managed service providers can help companies scale, simplify resource deployments, perform 24/7 monitoring, and access the latest technologies regardless of complexity. Managed service providers are particularly useful for organizations moving to cloud services, where workloads are already remotely accessible and managed.
Managed Services Pros and Cons
Managed service providers can offer a variety of benefits to organizations. Unfortunately, there are also some cons to using them. The most common pros and cons are covered below.
Pros of managed service providers include:
- Time—eliminating responsibility for lower-level or time-consuming tasks enables your teams to focus on higher-level or specialized tasks. This includes time spent troubleshooting or learning new technologies. MSPs can help you efficiently configure and manage systems, enabling you to deploy resources faster and more reliably. They can also grant you the time needed to focus on innovation or creating a competitive advantage.
- Skills and knowledge—many organizations do not have experts in every technology they use or wish to use. Additionally, organizations can’t always hire new staff to manage these technologies or train existing staff to a level of competence. An MSP enables you to gain access to this expertise without having to hire someone in-house.
Cons of managed service providers include:
- Cost—in general, the more expertise an MSP brings to the table, and the more work they can take off your plate, the more expensive they will be. Using an MSP adds significant cost to your cloud budget. However, a good MSP can compensate for some of this cost by optimizing configuration, reducing cloud provider costs and making your in-house work more efficient.
- Control—using an MSP requires giving control of your systems and data to a third-party. This means you are reliant on the efficiency and responsiveness of your provider to manage issues. You are also reliant on them to help keep your data secure. This requires careful evaluation of providers and any service level agreements (SLAs) they may offer.
- Lack of competitive advantage—if you handle most or all of your cloud development or operations activities with MSPs, your organization will have a limited ability to innovate beyond what competitors are already doing (because they can also hire an MSP with similar capabilities). By building a cutting-edge local engineering team, you can develop new capabilities that no other competitor has.
- Vendor lock-in—when you rely on an MSP to configure and operate technologies for you, you often do not develop the skills in-house to manage those technologies on your own. Additionally, if MSPs use proprietary tooling to configure or manage systems, ending your contract may mean completely reconfiguring your systems.
Learn more about how to choose your Cloud MSP in this article: Cloud Managed Service Providers: Key Considerations for Choosing Your MSP.
What Is an Azure Managed Service Provider?
An Azure managed service provider is an MSP that can help you implement Azure cloud services. This can include migration, configuration, deployment, maintenance, or individual services, such as data analysis or machine learning.
The most common tasks performed by managed service providers in Azure are:
- Financial monitoring—providers help you manage cloud costs by making it easier to understand cost breakdowns and predict future costs. Providers can also help you identify the source of overages and provide recommendations for reducing costs.
- Service monitoring—Azure management requires attention to a variety of dashboards and logs. This can be overwhelming if you do not have access to tools or automation needed for centralization. MSPs can manage this centralization and help you ensure that your services and data remain available.
- Azure governance assessments—providers can help you ensure that the policies and configurations you set in place are maintained. They can identify deviations and correct issues accordingly, so that your systems continue performing as expected and meet compliance guidelines.
- Operational tasks—cloud environments incorporate a wide variety of services, applications, and environments that all need to be patched, updated, and monitored. MSPs can help you perform these tasks with minimal downtime and frustration. They can also help you customize updates to your specific needs. For example, holding off an upgrade until associated services are modified.
- Subscription management—Azure subscriptions define what level of services you have access to and how those services operate. Managing subscriptions plays a vital role in ensuring the smooth operation of your cloud systems. MSPs can help you maintain the right level of subscription for your needs and that subscriptions don’t unexpectedly expire.
Why You Need an Azure Managed Services Provider
When you implement Azure services, using a managed service provider can offer the guidance and support you need to successfully transition. Below are a few of the most compelling reasons to consider an MSP.
Get the full value out of Azure migration
When organizations migrate to Azure, they often only adopt basic services. This is because many organizations aren’t familiar with what resources are available or how they can best use those resources.
An Azure MSP can help you customize your migration, ensuring that you are moving applications and data in a way that maximizes resources. For example, helping you assess whether native databases can provide greater functionality than hosted ones, or help you plan migration from AWS to Azure.
MSPs can also help you prioritize which applications you move and how. For example, recommending replacements for legacy applications or helping you refactor applications to take better advantage of cloud benefits.
Get Azure compliance expertise
Azure offers a variety of services and utilities to help you manage and maintain compliance in the cloud. However, using these tools requires familiarity with Azure resources and functionality that many organizations don’t have. On top of this, organizations may not be aware of how compliance in the cloud differs from on-premises.
Managed service providers, particularly those focused on compliance, can help you determine which regulations apply to your data. They can also help you ensure that compliance is maintained and that audits are performed and documented as required.
Access to a 24×7 support team
When organizations move to cloud resources, their data and services become more accessible and available to employees and customers. This enables organizations to operate globally and continuously. However, this potentially constant operation means that organizations often need support at all hours of the day.
Managing 24/7 IT support in-house can be costly and unfeasible for many organizations. Fortunately, MSPs can often provide this support efficiently and cost-effectively. To help you choose a team reliably, Azure offers several certifications attesting to the quality of a team. These include Microsoft Gold Certification, Azure Certified Professionals, and Azure Expert MSP classification.
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 Azure cloud management for private, public, hybrid, and multicloud environments. Here are key features and capabilities that can make your work easier:
- Centralized management—Cloud Manager is a UI and APIs for management, automation and orchestration, supporting hybrid & multi-cloud architectures.
- Storage efficiency features—including thin provisioning, data compression, and deduplication, reducing storage footprint and costs by up to 70%.
- Easy cloud migration—NetApp’s data replication tools SnapMirror® and Cloud Sync service will get your data to the cloud, including lift and shift.
- Data protection—leveraging NetApp Snapshot™ technology and Disaster Recovery.
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.