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Managed service providers (MSPs) offer remote management of Hybrid IT infrastructure and systems for on-premise environments, as well as private cloud storage. MSPs can help organizations to boost productivity and source more value from IT. However, before choosing an MSP you should carefully evaluate compatibility between your company and the MSP, in aspects such as compliance, service level agreements, and data protection.
In this article you will learn:
This article is part of a series on Hybrid IT.
A managed service provider (MSP) is a vendor that provides proactive, remote management of your IT infrastructure and systems. A managed service provider business model can be applied to a wide range of environments, including on-prem, cloud, multicloud, and hybrid infrastructure. This is why managed services provider definitions may vary, and change according to the offered service.
Some managed service providers may be referred to as managed cloud service providers, if they offer services for cloud resources. Other MSPs may prefer a more general term, like IT managed service provider, which can include services offered for on-prem as well as cloud environments.
Modern MSPs evolved from application service providers (ASPs), who provided remote application hosting services. These ASPs eventually began offering remote management of IT infrastructure, including remote management and monitoring (RMM) of networks and servers.
Within the MSP market, vendors often specialize in specific areas of IT. For example, managed security services providers (MSSPs), may provide remote firewall administration or incident response services. MSPs can also specialize in individual industries, like financial service, healthcare, or legal services.
Often, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) contract MSPs to help fill gaps in in-house IT. These services can provide work hours and expertise that an SMB is otherwise lacking. However, enterprises can also contract with MSPs to offset budget restrictions or hiring limits. For example, government agencies often outsource to MSPs.
There are several advantages you can gain from outsourcing or supplementing your IT operations with managed service providers. Below are some of the most common benefits.
MSPs can provide the guidance and support needed to optimise your IT efforts and enable in-house IT to focus on higher level tasks. For example, maintaining your infrastructure may take a significant amount of time but doesn’t require specific expertise. MSPs can handle standard updates for you while you focus on custom integrations or configurations.
Managed service providers can often provide greater security expertise and coverage than you can provide in-house. This may include 24/7 monitoring, access to enterprise grade solutions, or development of threat intelligence.
In particular, MSPs can increase security if you are in the process of migrating resources to the cloud or integrating cloud services. These vendors can often provide insight into security configurations and network controls that you may not be aware of.
By taking care of infrastructure management and maintenance, MSPs enable you to focus your efforts on revenue generating opportunities. Additionally, since services are proactive, providers can help you avoid downtime and help you optimize your resources for better performance and availability.
In exchange for the benefits of working with MSPs, there are some challenges you need to consider when adopting managed services.
When you use an MSP you are reliant on them to uphold service level agreements (SLAs) and trust them to perform duties as expected. If they do not uphold their end of the agreement, you may be left with significant downtime.
Additionally, if managed service providers use proprietary tools to manage and monitor infrastructure, you may not be able to access system information. This restricts your ability to stay informed about the current state of your infrastructure and can make it difficult to change providers or take over maintenance if you want to.
By nature, adopting an MSP requires allowing outside access to your infrastructure and systems. This can present vulnerabilities to your system since the attack surface is extended to the provider and their operations. To ensure your assets remain protected, you need to verify the MSPs security standards and take responsibility for monitoring access routes used by your vendor.
Additionally, depending on which compliance regulations apply to you, you may need to take special precautions with an MSP. For example, ensuring that they are operating from the same geographic location as you or that their processes are auditable according to compliance standards.
Organizational culture plays a large role in operations and your expectations of any MSP you choose. An MSP should hold the same level of accountability, customer service, and quality expectations as you. If they don’t, you are likely to be disappointed in their services and unlikely to gain a sufficient return on your investment.
When choosing a managed service provider, there are several factors you should consider. Some of the most important factors are covered below.
SLAs define exactly what service you can expect from an MSP and what recourse is available to you if they fail to meet those expectations. When evaluating an SLA, consider the following elements:
A good MSP can provide services that meet the needs of all distributed resources, infrastructures, and devices. This includes providing services to different geographic locations as well as to mobile or remote operations. This is especially important for remote workforces which may be accessing infrastructure from a wide range of locations.
Additionally, managed service providers should be able to manage these various devices and resources without needing to expose systems to potential attackers. For example, providing remote maintenance of distributed workstations without temporarily lowering firewalls.
Many organizations are using a combination of cloud and on-premises resources. These resources may be connected in a hybrid cloud, used separately, or organizations may be in the process of migration. Managed service providers should be able to provide support for all of these situations, even if you aren’t currently using all.
This means MSPs must support a range of virtual machine deployments, a variety of network connections, and must understand the specifics of working with various cloud service vendors. Generally, this is where managed cloud service providers come in. These providers serve as a combination of MSPs and cloud service vendors and may be better equipped to manage hybrid or primarily cloud deployments.
MSPs are often required to deliver affordable, scalable capacity availability. In addition to meeting these requirements, MSPs need to provide seamless integration without wasting too many resources on support. To help MSPs meet these demands, Cloludian provides two types of services:
Learn more about Cloudian solutions for managed service providers.