How Do I Find the Right Tools to Manage My Cloud?

By Lahav Savir

AllCloud Blog: Cloud Insights and Innovation

Cloud computing has gradually expanded across business verticals ranging from web applications to manufacturing to IoT. In addition to enabling companies to achieve their business targets faster, cloud computing architectures have evolved to new areas such as containerization, serverless and distributed environments.

While these new architectures help organizations optimize and accelerate, they also open up a new set of challenges—especially regarding operations and talent. Organizations need a full operations team to provide continuous support for cloud infrastructure, and it is difficult to find  the right personnel because the technology itself is only few years old. The relatively small talent pool automatically makes operating costs expensive.

In addition, implementing cloud-based organization and compliance processes presents another giant task for a company. Agencies across the world like NIST or CIS have released their cloud frameworks to assist organizations, but this can be time consuming.

Managed Services Partners can help companies solve the above challenges by converting operations capital expenditure (CAPEX) into operational expenditure (OPEX). With a rich set of expertise, tools, processes, and practices, Managed Services Partners can handle operations for companies while allowing them to stay focused on their business goals. Below are some of the major benefits of MSPs.

Technical Expertise

With evolving architectures and the adoption of DevOps and SecOps models, it’s very difficult to hire the right personnel that can support an organization’s computing environment. MSPs can be very effective at easing this challenge. With a deep pool of resources and experience from working with many customers, MSPs can quickly deploy any architecture and provide 24/7 operational support. MSPs have dedicated teams to support an organization’s architecture at the infrastructure, DevOps and security levels. The cross-functional teams can quickly be ramped up and provide a swift response for customers.

Furthermore, some MSPs adopt their own DevOps operations model in which they continuously automate the customer environment by following problem management of ITIL processes. This not only helps the customers, but also keeps the operational costs low for MSPs. Depending on the customer architecture, MSPs can assign customer success managers whose main responsibility is to ensure smooth project operations. This involves timely resolution of incidents and service requests, as well as well-coordinated change requests. Lastly, MSPs also have experience in handling hybrid environments that span multiple cloud providers and on-premise systems.

Security and Compliance

Security is one of the most important areas for any organization, but it is often neglected. MSPs can provide critical help by closing security breaches and ensuring they aren’t reopened due to user activity or a gap in an application code.

In addition, MSPs can help companies meet and maintain stringent industry compliance standards like HIPAA, PCI-DSS, ISO, SOC, or SOX. A Premier MSP Partner offers verticals that are intended to support such compliance requirements. Working with multiple customers, Managed Service Providers are able to develop robust processes to swiftly comply with these regulations. They also have tools to ensure that the computing environment doesn’t deviate from the standards afterward.

An MSP runs ongoing security assessments of the customer environment and continues to remediate problems. Integrating user activity with the monitoring system helps alert an MSP operations team to immediately identify any unauthorized activity. Moreover, MSPs run patch management programs to harden customer resources against the latest security vulnerabilities. The patch management cycles are performed on a monthly or quarterly basis. However, zero-day vulnerabilities are identified and patched immediately.

Processes

When an organization begins operating, it must ensure all processes are defined and followed by its operations team. The process documents can start with regular ITIL processes like Incident Management, Service Request Management, and Change Management; however, the process documents can also be more extensive, including Security Incident Management, Vulnerability Management, Business Continuity Management, Network Security Management, etc. The development, communication and enforcement of these processes can become difficult for an organization to carry out, consuming considerable time and work. Managed Service Providers can take complete responsibility for these processes and implement them as a company desires. This way, organizations can stay focused on their business goals.

If operations are managed by MSPs, it becomes their responsibility to ensure processes are followed diligently. Cloud providers like AWS have their own Managed Service Partner program in which they evaluate if the partner has the appropriate process controls in place to assist their customers. A MSP program designation is renewed based on annual audits. Any gaps must be fixed within a set time period, or the MSP will lose its competency badge.

Technology Adoption and Implementation

Managed Service Providers always have to be on their toes regarding new technologies because they must be fluent with new systems in order to serve a diverse customer base. Service providers usually assign a team to specialize in technology adoption, adding value to existing customers’ environments. The team advises on evolving technologies and how the organization can implement them.

For example, if a cloud provider introduces a new service, it might be time consuming for a company to evaluate, identify a use case, perform proof of concept and roll out the environment. However, this is part of the daily work for MSPs. When a new service or feature is rolled out, MSPs make an assessment of customer environments and determine which features would be useful. After consulting with the customer, new technologies can be implemented in a short time. This improves technology and feature adoption rates for a company, giving it the chance to enhance security, operations and reduce costs.

Cloud Cost Management

From the early days of cloud computing it became evident that costs from the cloud could get out of control quickly if certain monitoring practices aren’t in place. Cloud providers have launched various services to assist their customers in identifying ongoing costs and in bringing them under control. But if there isn’t a dedicated team in place, it isn’t easy to perform cost management. The complexity of this task increases multiple times with an enterprise company. Larger companies have many cost centers and seek to allocate cloud usage costs to different departments.

Another significant way to reduce cloud costs is by leveraging reserved instances. However, it is critical that the reserved instances are properly managed so there is no waste. Managed Service Partners help customers in this case by offering cost management as part of their operations. MSPs have cloud financial management teams whose primary responsibility is to identify areas where customers can streamline costs. They can also provide different types of cost allocation reports and dashboards, depending on customer’s cost centers. MSPs are responsible for providing ongoing purchase recommendations for reserved instances. Once bought, the service providers manage the instances to ensure optimal usage.

Tools Expertise

With various architecture models, it is clear that one tool can’t fit all organizational goals. Companies need a 24/7 monitoring tool, backup management tools, patch management tools or playbooks, vulnerability scanning tools, VPNs, IPS tools, WAFs, logging tools, cost-management tools and so on. It is difficult for any organization to evaluate and decide on the tools they need. In addition, a dedicated team is necessary to manage and maintain these tools. License purchasing, renewals and invoicing, etc. only add to the complexity. The most difficult complication arises when companies are dealing with multi-cloud environments in which the tools must function on and integrate with different platforms.

When an organization works with an MSP, these tools are automatically brought to the table as the part of the support contract, and organizations can get direct benefits. Tools management and upgrades becomes the responsibility of MSPs.

Conclusion

The notion that MSP offerings are only suitable for large enterprises has begun to fade.

For any company seeking to minimize labor costs, MSPs provide essential, multifaceted support that enables organizations to meet their goals while remaining within budget. MSPs make it possible for even small-to-medium-sized businesses to accelerate adoption rates and even scale up. Many start-ups have begun leveraging these services, as well. Partnering with an MSP can make for more efficient operations, allowing the organization’s professionals to focus on their main business objectives.

Lahav Savir

Read more posts by Lahav Savir