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Cloud Managed Service Providers:
Four Key Considerations for Choosing Your MSP and Storage Broker

Cloud adoption today represents a significant shift for the enterprise, affecting vendors and service providers across verticals. With major cloud service providers such as Google, AWS, and Azure dominating the marketplace, simpler, more secure, and affordable cloud migration solutions have become available. But despite these improvements and the core internal IT team that many organizations already have to manage the cloud, they still face a number of obstacles. To meet these demands, enterprises can turn to a managed service provider.

In this blog post, we’ll present four important considerations when selecting a cloud managed service provider (MSP). We’ll also show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP serves as the background technology that many MSPs are using to provide their services.

Evaluating Your Cloud Managed Service Provider

What Is a Managed Service Provider: A Definition

Managed service providers step in to help enterprises manage the cloud. Cloud vendors today are a far cry from their ancestors of a decade ago. Today’s cloud vendors are evolving so quickly that it is near impossible for organizations’ IT staff to stay on top of the latest solutions. But keeping up with these changes is critical for organizations in order to prevent delays in time to market. This is where managed cloud service providers, or MSPs, step in.

These managed cloud providers have the expertise and extensive knowledge of cloud features and developments to ensure that their customers are receiving the best, most up-to-date cloud solutions. This is true for both startups seeking an optimized cloud environment that allows them to stay on top of the latest innovations as well as for traditional enterprises embracing cloud migration as part of their digital transformation strategy.

Your cloud managed service provider functions as a technology partner, working to keep your data secure and available. This is a valuable business partnership, and selecting the right MSP is not a decision to be taken lightly.

In the following sections we’ll present four important factors to consider when evaluating a cloud MSP.

1. Skills and Specific Expertise/Industry

It is critical that a cloud managed service provider have the relevant skills and experience since this impacts your organization’s efficiency, uptime, and bottom line. It also plays a key role in ensuring your organization stays ahead of the competition. There are a number of questions that can help you in evaluating the cloud managed service provider’s skills and expertise.

  • Can the cloud managed service provider run a heterogeneous IT environment? For example of how this would work at a managed service provider, AWS APN partners should be able to provide a number of specific features.
  • Are they up-to-date with the latest features of cloud providers? Ask your MSP what recent features they’ve implemented for customers and how this was delivered. Who is their target audience? Do they mainly serve traditional enterprises or startups? While a native-cloud startup like Netflix or Airbnb may require highly scalable security services, a traditional enterprise might be best served with a more basic cloud deployment that ensures safe and private migration of data from employees’ computers to the cloud.
  • Do they specialize in serving customers in a particular vertical, such as gaming, data, healthcare, or banking? And if so, are these organizations with a reputation for excellence?

2. Security and Compliance

When selecting a managed service provider, security and compliance practices are another point to consider. It’s important to determine whether or not they are certified to run the specific type of cloud you want, and at the level you want.

  • What type of certification does the MSP have? Today, each cloud vendor offers its own partner program: AWS APN Consulting partners, Azure Partner, and Google Cloud Partner Advantage. It’s important to check whether your MSP is a partner with any of these programs.
  • What type of individual certification does the MSP require of its employees? And at what level is the employee certification (e.g., architecture, admin, DevOps, security engineer)?
  • Are they maintaining a compliant environment? What physical measures do they take to secure their teams and keep their environment compliant? For example, for a traditional organization with its own data centers, the cloud managed service provider must be physically secure at the data integration point, the physical point between it and the cloud. In addition to the physical infrastructure, it should be able to demonstrate that it has a process in place for securing the entire environment.
  • Is the MSP itself compliant? Even if you don’t need it for your own business, having compliance demonstrates the organization’s level of maturity and capability.
  • Do they maintain compliance with regulations that are relevant to your industry? For example, if your organization is in the healthcare industry, are they HIPAA compliant? For the payments industry, are they PCI compliant?

3. Resource Allocation and Management

Your cloud managed service provider also functions as a broker of different services, such as basic computing and storage as well as capacities resources. As a broker, the MSP runs a multitenant shared environment in which every tenant is a completely separate customer account environment holding its own applications and data systems. You’ll want to ask questions to ensure their brokerage services are worthwhile.

  • Do they offer complete transparency into the enterprise environment? Transparency enables them to allocate resources for optimal utilization and minimize costs. For example, let’s say an organization has a marketing team that is using a managed service provider for a specific purpose and the sales team is using it for another application. Brokerage service should provide you with the option to fully optimize both these resources.
  • Are they able to maintain the security of your environments and a strict segmentation of different accounts? They should be able to do this not only within your organization but with different customers and across separate accounts.

4. Potential Cost Savings with a Cloud Brokerage (the MSP As a Value-Added Reseller)

Efficiency and optimized controlled costs are key to successful cloud adoption. This is particularly true in large enterprises, where the cloud is used across different departments.

Following are the questions you should ask to determine your MSP’s ability to deliver on this:

  • As your cloud governor, can the MSP identify wasted, idle resources and consolidate them to optimize the level of utilization across the organization?
  • Can the MSP offer a 5-10% volume discount on cloud usage as a result of its ability to consolidate resources effectively? Since MSPs usually serve multiple accounts and have a large consumption rate among the major public cloud vendors, they are also able to offer a volume discount on their cloud services, effectively functioning as a volume reseller.
  • What additional value-added services (VAS) do they offer? For example, do they offer disaster recovery (DR), backups, storage efficiency features, and data tiering?

Cloud Volumes ONTAP: The Platform Behind the Broker

Another key component to finding the right cloud managed service provider is knowing what technology they use in the background. For a number of managed service providers, NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP forms the basis of all the services that they extend to their customers.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP runs as an instance on cloud storage in AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, and it has a full complement of services that make it cost-effective to deploy high-critical enterprise workloads in the cloud, including a high-availability configuration to prevent data loss and limit downtime, storage efficiencies to lower cloud data storage costs, and efficient snapshot backup and DR capabilities to protect your data.

It is also controlled through NetApp Cloud Manager, the single-pane console which provides complete visibility of resource allocation for both the MSP, its customers, and partners. It also supports multitenancy with user and role management and permissions, in addition to hybrid and multicloud management, automation, and orchestration workflows.

One MSP that uses Cloud Volumes ONTAP is Fujitsu. Fujitsu reduced a client’s operating costs by $3 million dollars using Cloud Volumes ONTAP, by providing raw access to AWS EBS. See more customer success stories about how Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides essential services for MSPs here.

Conclusion

These four different aspects of an MSP service not only shape the future relationship the two of you will have with your organization, but also directly contribute to your organization’s success. Remember that these aspects don’t function in isolation—they are strongly interconnected to one another. For instance, financial benefits of the MSP as a reseller are a direct consequence of superior resource allocation and management. NetApp’s Cloud Volume ONTAP provides a data management platform and services that offers customers both these aspects.

If you’re looking to find an MSP, consider one that relies on Cloud Volumes ONTAP. Or, to try it for yourself, sign up for a 30-day trial of Cloud Volumes ONTAP on AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure.

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