How to Choose a Cloud Managed Services Provider

Before you jump into a long-term cloud managed services commitment. Think about some of these things.

Working with vendors can be terrible… It can take up all your time, distract you from your priorities, and make your situation worse than it was, to begin with. And the point of bringing a vendor in was to solve these problems in the first place! This is why it’s so important to make sure you perform some due diligence, so make sure to look out for the takeaways from this article when you choose a cloud managed services provider.

Imagine this scenario, your application development team have been working on a new feature for the whole quarter. Your QA team have been through multiple iterations of testing, the new features are solid and has successfully made it through alpha and beta testing. You’ve made some amazing progress and improvements along the way. Now it’s time to release it to the world.

Your deployment team flips the feature flag and it’s now publicly available. The marketing team push out notifications, emails, and social media posts out to the masses.

You see a 500% spike in user requests coming in, everything is looking great! But then your stomach sinks as you watch the number of errors start to climb on your monitoring tools. Requests are timing out, latency is climbing, and jobs are being dropped at an exponential rate.

What’s going on? Your managed services vendor was supposed to have load tested and configured auto-scaling for high availability. When outages such as these happen, it can have a huge impact to your business in terms of not only lost revenue but also brand damage.

In 2017, the cloud-based project management tool Asana experienced a major outage that affected many of its users. The outage was caused by a failure in the company’s database architecture, which prevented users from accessing their data or using the service. Failures in auto-scaling do happen, but businesses should have a disaster recovery (DR) process in place to handle these situations. With the goal being to have minimal impact to the end user.

This is why it’s worth putting in the time to find the right managed services provider for your business. So that you can avoid situations such as this.

In this article, we’re going to take a view at the key tactics to help you choose a cloud managed services provider that’s right for you:

  • Understand your business needs and goals
  • Research and compare potential providers
  • Review security and compliance policies
  • Evaluate support and maintenance services
  • Pricing and contract terms
managed services team working

Choose a cloud services team for your business needs and goals

Before you choose a cloud managed services provider and dive into a potentially long-term agreement with a third-party, you should know what you’re trying to achieve holistically. Your vendor shouldn’t (and likely won’t) be the silver bullet to all your problems. Just the last missing puzzle piece to round out your cloud strategy.

Determine your goals

Define what it is that you’re looking to achieve with your cloud infrastructure strategy.

  • Are you in startup mode and still in early architecture mode?
  • Has your business scaled to a point where it will be expensive for an outage to occur?
  • Is your team not properly utilized because they spend a lot of their time performing maintenance tasks?
  • or do you just need some additional expertise on hand, due to a skill gap in your existing team?

Having the answers to these questions should be the first step in figuring out the best provider for your constraints. If none of these problems exist, then you may not have a need for an MS team at all!

Always remember to find a solution to a business problem and not the other way around!

Evaluate your existing infrastructure

Do you have existing cloud infrastructure that you can hand support over to? Or are you still building out your infrastructure? If it’s the latter, then you may be better off with a professional services team and/or cloud strategy consultant. They’ll help you architect the right solution to fit your business model and long-term cloud strategy. As well as deploy a team to implement said infrastructure that can either be handed off to your in-house team for operations or onto an MS team.

Research and compare providers

Now that you’ve set the foundation by figuring out the ‘why’ to your managed services journey, you can start to assess potential partners. Use the business needs and goals as the objectives as the selection criteria when reviewing providers. Beyond that, make sure to spend time on the following tactics:

Industry experience

Have they worked with clients in your industry in the past? If they have a track record in yours or a similar industry they will likely have experienced common issues and know how to handle them. For example, if you’re a retail e-comerce store it’s good to have a cloud partner that understands the ebbs and flows of e-commerce. Like know how best to prepare for peak sales season and how to handle 24/7 hyper care monitoring during that period.

Social proof

Can they provide example case studies and testimonials from past or existing customers? Are there any call-outs or red flags that you can see? The best social proof of course being a referral from another business in your network

Review security and compliance

Security should be a high priority for any business working in the cloud, big or small. Compliance will be especially top of mind if you’re in a highly regulated industry. Think, Health, Fintech, Legal etc.

Now is the time to check if they have the correct certifications in place as an organization, do they have certified experts on the team, and have they had experience working with highly secure and compliant driven businesses in the past?

Data management

Ensure that they have a good handle on managing data. Data is the lifeblood of many businesses so it’s important that your service provider knows how to manage it for you. They should be asking you the right questions to understand what your current policies are and how you need your data to be encrypted.

The cloud managed services team you choose should have a robust backup and recovery process that they can bring into your business. They should guide you on appropriate return to operation (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) to suit your business requirements. Ideally they’ll tailor a disaster recovery (DR) plan that brings your critical business applications back online in the event of an outage and with minimal downtime.

Support and Maintenance

Have an understanding of what level of support you need for your business. Do you just need additional support outside of your normal business hours? Or are you looking to handoff 24/7 support to a third party? You’ll find a variety of available services for MS providers. Many will have a mix of on-shore and off-shore team to ensure that there’s always coverage.

Get clear view of their response and resolution times. Ensure that they are able to meet the SLAs that you require. Can they ensure that they will be available and capable of bringing your services back up in the event of an outage? Because after all, you are paying for peace of mind.

What is their process of maintaining your services? Your cloud will continually require updates over time to ensure compliance and security is maintained. Figure out what their process is in terms of maintenance windows, cutover process, and rollback.

Pricing and contract terms

Lastly, make sure that their services align with your cloud operational budget. Or that they are able to customize an agreement that fits with your terms. Most MS providers are flexible enough that they can work around a client’s requirements. But, make sure that you’re not sacrificing any of the critical requirements and objectives that you’re looking for.

You’ll also want to see where you can create contract terms that best fit your needs. If you’re not ready or able (due to budget constraints) to dive into a long term contract, see if there are options for a shorter term engagement. Try a 3-month initial contract to see how your vendor works with your team. Of course, 3 months is a short sample size of time. But, you’ll get to see how they operate, what’s their communication style, and how do they manage updates etc.

cloud managed services tech with client

Do your homework before you choose cloud managed services!

As a golden rule with any long-term commitment, ensure that you invest in research and due diligence. Even a short term contract may seem low risk, but there are hidden costs in vendor selection, contract negotiations, and onboarding. These will add up quickly so it’s important to ensure that you have a crystal clear understanding of the business problems that you’re looking to solve.

While it may seem easier just to get a vendor in quickly to offload some of the stress. It will inevitably be a much bigger pain if you don’t do your homework and choose a cloud managed services provider that the best fit for your business.

If you and your team are looking to leverage cloud managed services to unlock your output. Reach out to us at Autimo. We work with clients to build managed services engagements that best fit their goals.

Will Sheldon

Founder & CEO

Will is the founder and CEO of Autimo. He created Autimo as a way to fill the gap of skilled Cloud and Devops engineering in the market. His vision is to democratize cloud knowledge and ‘raise the water’ level of cloud engineering competency for everyone.

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