Cloud Technology

The 4 Levels of Managed Public Cloud: Which One is Right for You?

Managed cloud services are not one-size-fits all. Here’s how to decide which level of outsourcing is the best fit for your business and IT needs.

A few years ago, IT teams focused on technology.

The CIO would ask:

“What does this technology do and why is it better than what we currently use?”

Now, IT is no longer just about purchasing and maintaining technology. IT teams are under pressure to innovate and provide measurable value to the business. The CIO must ask, “How can this technology help us deliver an amazing customer experience so that we can sell more of our products or services?”

According to the 2017 State of IT, 75 percent of technology leaders said that IT is in the midst of its biggest historical shift. The report calls IT “the central nervous system driving business success, partnering with departments to orchestrate experiences with connected data sources and new capabilities.”

However, IT teams face a shortage of skilled employees who can help them achieve their goals. They barely have time to maintain their existing equipment – let alone innovate. In fact, 60 percent of CIOs believe that an IT skills shortage will prevent their company from keeping up with the pace of change.

4 Ways to Meet New Business Demands (When You Have a Small or Overworked IT Team)

Many IT departments are turning to managed cloud services to overcome their IT skills gap. With managed services, IT teams outsource their day-to-day admin and maintenance while they take advantage of the flexibility that the cloud offers.

In particular, IT teams want to outsource the growing burden of public cloud management.

Research has shown that more companies are moving their workloads to the public cloud. A Cisco study found that by 2021, the public cloud will account for 73 percent of all data center traffic. Meanwhile, the number of workloads in the private cloud will drop from 42 percent to 27 percent.

However, many managed service providers (MSPs) don’t have expertise in public cloud. They often handle just part of your environment – leaving you responsible for everything else.

Before you choose a managed cloud provider, get clear on your goals and what you want to outsource. To help you make a decision, we have put together this graphic that shows the four levels of managed public cloud and what you can expect with each option.

Level 1: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure-as-a-Service offers virtualized computing resources via the cloud. In this model, your cloud provider handles your networking, storage, servers, and virtualization.

You can build your own IaaS platform in-house. Alternatively, you can go with a public cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. These vendors give you a pre-defined set of services that serve as an on-ramp to the cloud.

One of the top benefits of IaaS is cost savings. It allows you to reduce your CAPEX, as you don’t need to invest in hardware and infrastructure.

Other IaaS benefits include increased agility. Since you pay for these services monthly, you can quickly scale your environment to match your business demands. Many IaaS providers also guarantee their uptime, so you don’t need to worry about your systems crashing.

However, IaaS providers only offer service level agreements (SLAs) on your infrastructure – not on your systems. If one of your core applications goes down, you are responsible for getting it up and running.

In fact, an IaaS model requires you to handle much of your IT environment in-house. Many companies don’t realize that they need to take care of their backups, applications, and data until after they sign an IaaS contact. Then, months later, they realize that their servers have never been patched and they could lose their data.

Level 2: Managed IaaS (M-IaaS)

With Managed IaaS, you can outsource your infrastructure and its management. This service includes everything that you get with IaaS, along with a team to handle the following:

  • Backup, restoration, and disaster recovery
  • Operating system management
  • Patching
  • Security
  • Monitoring

M-IaaS provides all of the benefits described in Level 1. In addition, your M-IaaS provider will monitor your infrastructure and systems 24/7. If something happens, they can quickly resolve issues. Your M-IaaS provider can also give you higher levels of security and performance than you would get with standard IaaS services.

However, M-IaaS won’t let you achieve the full benefits that a managed service provider can offer. You still need the in-house resources to manage your applications and data.

Level 3: Managed Platform-as-a-Service (M-PaaS)

With Managed Platform-as-a-Service, you can build and update applications without the need to maintain your development infrastructure in-house. It includes everything in Levels 1 and 2, along with database management.

With M-PaaS, your developers can take applications to market faster – while you avoid the high costs of maintaining your infrastructure. Your provider handles your provisioning and allows you to scale, as your business needs change. Your MSP will also monitor your environment so that you can free up your internal team for innovation.

However, if you are looking for all-in-one managed services, M-PaaS may not be the right choice for you. With M-PaaS, you’re still responsible for your applications and data.

Level 4: Managed Apps (M-Apps)

Managed Apps is the general contractor for IT services. When you work with an M-Apps provider, they oversee all of your cloud services. That way, you don’t need to manage each vendor separately.

M-Apps covers everything in Levels 1-3, along with runtime, data, and applications. An M-Apps provider can manage all of your public and private cloud applications, along with mission-critical systems, such as SAP.

M-Apps is the best option when you want to reap the benefits of the public cloud without putting a strain on your internal resources.

5 Things to Consider Before You Choose a Managed Cloud Provider

You have a lot of flexibility when it comes to outsourcing your cloud services. You can start small with one service or significantly reduce your IT burden by outsourcing everything.

Here are five things to consider before you choose a managed cloud model:

1. Your internal resources

According to the RightScale State of the Cloud Report, the #1 cloud challenge is a lack of resources and expertise.

If you choose Level 1 or 2, you’ll need more internal resources to manage the items that your MSP doesn’t handle. For example, at Level 2, your MSP will manage your servers while you are responsible for your applications. However, with the IT skills shortage, it can be hard to find and retain qualified personnel to manage your applications.

As you move towards Levels 3 and 4, you’ll need to manage less of your cloud environment yourself. By the time you get to Level 4, your internal resources can avoid mundane IT tasks and put their focus squarely on the business.

2. Governance

It’s hard to control governance in the cloud, as employees can spin up machines any time they want and store your data on random servers.

The further you move to the right of the chart, the more you can improve your governance without sacrificing agility and delivery speed. For example, you can ask your MSP to get approval from someone in your company before they fulfill a request. That way, employees won’t be able to spin up machines on public clouds without getting the proper approvals first.

3. Security and compliance

Employees often go around IT to use public cloud services. While the public cloud is convenient for employees, it can create security vulnerabilities for IT teams.

As you move towards Levels 3 and 4, your MSP will handle your security and compliance. If you are considering a managed cloud provider, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How will your MSP keep your data secure in the public cloud?
  • What tools do they use?
  • How will they ensure your compliance with industry and government regulations?

4. Disaster recovery

Not every MSP offers backups and disaster recovery. Be sure to find out what they cover and what they expect you to handle yourself.

Ask about your MSP’s data protection plan. Can they meet your SLAs from both a recovery time objective and a recovery point objective?

5. Ease of billing

Cloud billing can be a nightmare.

With many providers, you will need to look at each invoice line by line and make sure that everything adds up. This is an incredibly time-consuming task, as the average cloud provider has thousands of line items. It can be nearly impossible to tie cloud expenses back to specific projects or business units.

As you move towards the right of the chart, your MSP will manage your complicated billing for you. Each month, you will get one easy-to-understand invoice.

Get a Clear View of Your Business Goals

The right MSP can take a lot off your plate – freeing your IT team to focus on innovation and delivering value to the business.

If you’re thinking about outsourcing your public cloud services, start by getting clear on your goals. What does the business want to achieve? What workloads make sense to outsource? What benefits, such as efficiencies and cost savings, can you attain when you outsource those workloads to a managed cloud provider?

Next Steps

To learn more about how cloud can help you drive your business forward, download How to Achieve Real Business Value with Hybrid Cloud and How to Master Cloud Complexity.

You can also contact us today to discover how we can help you ease your transition to the cloud.