Evaluating cloud solutions: The benefits, drawbacks, and use cases for managed cloud services

 In Cloud

Organizations are rapidly leaping into the cloud for the ease of use, low costs, massive scalability, increased agility, and superior availability it provides. So much so that the managed cloud services market is expected to increase nearly 13 percent over the next five years.

Managed cloud service providers (MCSPs) help organizations leverage the benefits of cloud through custom service offerings. You can purchase a managed cloud service for just about anything. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) are the most common, but backup as a service (BaaS), workspace as a service (WaaS), and function as a service (FaaS) are becoming more popular. There’s even anything as a service (XaaS), which offers access to analytics as a service (AaaS), monitoring as a service (MaaS), robot as a service (RaaS), and much more.

In the final post in our Evaluating Cloud Solutions series, we’ll break down the benefits and potential drawbacks of managed cloud services and introduce you to the most common offerings so you can begin to evaluate whether they may be a fit for your business.

Benefits of managed cloud services

Managed cloud services offer several advantages over do-it-yourself, unmanaged cloud options. Here are three of the biggest:

1. They are simple to use

Available with just a few clicks from a self-service catalog, managed cloud services are simple, fast, and flexible. Since MCSPs perform most cloud management tasks on your behalf, they can eliminate the need for an organization to have its own maintenance and support staff.

In contrast to the lengthy installation times that are typical with on-premises deployments, a managed cloud service and its underlying infrastructure is ready to go in a matter of hours or minutes.

In addition, solutions offered by MCSPs often have outstanding agility, scalability, and availability, enabling you to start small and add new capabilities as your business grows. You can scale in and out as well as up and down to meet demand, eliminating the need to acquire new hardware and personnel as demand increases. For example, you may choose to scale out the number of database instances for a specified period to support a promotion you plan to run.

2. They include specialized expertise and support

When you purchase a managed cloud service, you outsource the work to a group of IT experts who will operate as an extension of your team. As specialists in networking, security, backup, disaster recovery, and much more, MCSPs can help your organization avoid the risks that accompany rapidly changing markets, technologies, regulations, and competition.

Because MCPSs have an army of resources, they are capable of quickly implementing any new technologies and projects you require, which can help your company increase its efficiency and overall competitiveness in the market.

3. They deliver cost savings

MCSPs deliver the advantages of economies of scale, including access to enhanced services for the same price or less than customers who do it on their own. Available via a pay-per-use or subscription-per-service model, managed cloud services reduce traditional capital expenditures, making it easy for you to predict and budget your IT costs.

In addition, if implemented properly, they can help your company save on labor costs. Rather than having to hire and train technical staff to support your systems, you can focus your human resources where you need them most.

Managed cloud services can deliver indirect savings as well. By choosing a service from an MCSP experienced with HIPAA, SOX, or PCI compliance regulations, your company can reduce risk and avoid the costs associated with a security breach.

Drawbacks of managed cloud services

While the benefits of managed cloud services surely outnumber their challenges, you should examine the following three weaknesses before making a decision:

1. They limit your access and control

When you hire an MCSP, you entrust them to supply your company with the IT infrastructure, resources, control, and security it requires. Because they support many clients, MCSP offerings are standardized, limiting your ability to access the hardware and tailor it to fit your needs. The managed cloud services that do offer customization options are cost-prohibitive for most organizations.

Once an IT solution is outsourced to an MCSP, you lose direct control over those services. You can no longer walk over to your IT team to make a request and have it satisfied immediately. You’ll need to follow the procedures outlined by your MCSP to get anything done.

What’s more, if your business experiences an outage, you will be at the provider’s mercy and hoping they react swiftly to restore service.

2. They can be limited in scope

Managed cloud services are designed to do one specific thing and to do it well. For example, you would only purchase a monitoring as a service (MaaS) offering if you have monitoring needs. Because of their design, these services are often limited in scope, have latency and performance limitations, and may not meet strict security and compliance requirements.

They can also put your business at risk of being stuck in the middle between your MCSP and other vendors when problems arise. You’ll want to ensure that your MCSP has working relationships with your providers and are willing to assume the responsibility of resolving issues in accordance with the agreed-upon SLA.

It can be difficult to understand the differences between competing managed cloud services, especially if you aren’t an IT nerd. It’s extremely important for your company to vet all aspects of an MCSP before jumping in, including their offering, credentials, incident and change management controls, and other processes. Don’t leave any stone unturned!

3. They may subject you to vendor lock-in

Even though cloud adoption is on the rise, many companies are still unwilling to put their data in the cloud for fear of being locked into a single vendor. Moving from one supplier to another can be complex and costly because each MCSP’s solution may make use of proprietary technologies, inefficient processes, or contract restraints.

Infrastructure transfer risks, application transfer risks, data transfer risks, and human resource knowledge risks are common lock-in risks you may experience when working with a single MCSP. While these risks may seem ominous, doing your due diligence, planning early for an exit, maximizing the portability of your data, considering a multi-cloud strategy, and implementing DevOps tools and processes can help you avoid vendor lock-in.

 Common managed cloud services offerings

The managed cloud services offerings available are endless! Here are three services favored by many businesses today.

1. Desktop as a service (DaaS)

DaaS allows you to consume virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) through an MCSP, eliminating the need for on-premises hardware to support virtual desktops. With DaaS, your IT staff can focus on managing virtual desktops, clients, and applications instead of the technology stack.

Most MCSPs include upgrades, backups, business continuance, disaster recovery, and 24/7/365 support in the price of the service. A DaaS solution can help your business reduce costs while providing your end users anytime, anywhere access to the applications they need.

To successfully adopt DaaS though, you’ll need to trust your MCSP and have access to fast, reliable, redundant internet connections.

2. Database as a service (DBaaS)

 DBaaS utilizes an MCSP’s infrastructure and resources to run your databases. It includes few-click setup, automatic upgrades, multiple DB versioning, monitoring, high availability, robust disaster recovery, multiple security options, guaranteed uptimes, and much more.

Amazon RDS, Microsoft Azure SQL Database, and Google CloudSQL are just a few of the DBaaS offerings available today.

DBaaS may not be a great fit for companies that have an outstanding staff of database administrators; expect linear, affordable database growth; or don’t have geo-distributed data requirements.

3. Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

Many enterprises are looking to DRaaS solutions as a new way to protect their data because it allows them to add cloud-based failover to their backup and recovery services. There are virtually no size or time limitations with DRaaS, so you don’t have to worry about the traditional backup capacity and longevity concerns.

The service is a great fit for business-critical applications that must be available 100 percent of the time.  It is cost-efficient and offers easy deployment. In fact, many MCSPs offer mobile apps that allow you to connect, synchronize, and manage your backups.

DRaaS trade-offs include performance problems, security concerns, and questionable SLAs.

Are managed cloud services right for your organization?

Deciding on whether to use managed cloud services can be a complex process. You’ll want to evaluate a variety of factors and understand the impact each available option has on your business. Doing so will ensure that you make the best decision based on your organization’s requirements and unique circumstances.

Contact your SHI account executive or email us at cloud@shi.com for help in determining if managed cloud services make sense for you.

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