99 Problems but the cloud ain’t one: Is Self-Service or Managed Service right for your business?

In the past few articles we have looked at how cloud services have rapidly evolved in recent years. There are now a multitude of service models available that are flexible enough to suit each organisation’s unique needs.

The variety of service models on offer means that businesses are empowered to either take control and manage their own infrastructure, completely outsource the management or to have a mixture of both models implemented for different functional areas.

There are some key factors that businesses need to consider when selecting a service provider, including security of data, ownership and cost. There is no right or wrong way or one set guideline for organisations to follow when it comes to making this decision, however it is important to be well informed of all the options available.

In this article we will take a look at the benefits and implications of both the self-service and the managed service offering (Infrastructure-as-as-Service), along with some key factors that need to be kept in mind when making this decision.

Self-Service model:

This model is ideal for enterprises that need the speed and efficiency of cloud without sacrificing the functionality and reliability they’re accustomed to from traditional data centres.

A self-service Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas) model is designed to support simple, fast application building and scaling. For those who are equipped with the right IT teams this can be the most desirable option. There are however a few key factors to keep in mind if you are considering this option:

  • Dependency/Ownership – Since the controls are with the organisation with a self-service model, there is less dependency on the vendor for support and one of the main benefits is that a lot of simple tasks can be achieved at a faster pace. If speed is a key requirement and critical for business operations and the right skill sets are available in-house, then this option should be considered. Businesses are empowered with wider control of its own infrastructure without needing to consult the vendor partner.
  • Provisioning – For businesses that rely on uptime of its infrastructure, such as an online retailer, they need a provider that can provision and deploy new infrastructures as fast as possible in order to reduce the risk of losing any business. If a business suffers downtime and a customer is unable to access what they need within a few clicks they will switch to an alternative provider, with a corresponding loss in customer retention and revenue.
  • Self-service portal –This should be one of the key factors when selecting a provider. If you cannot operate the system easily then this will cause further challenges and in some cases drive up more costs. Not all vendors have a portal that will have all of the tools and reports available that your business requires to be successful. This factor needs to be critically evaluated and we would always advise to perform a fit gap analysis to ensure you are headed towards a model that will be effective for your unique business needs. An ideal portal will offer visibility, control and transparency along with high levels of flexibility.

Managed Service Model:

Although the self-service model is extremely appealing for many businesses, there can be long term drawbacks that need to be considered. The way we operate our businesses has drastically changed over the years and this has been driven by key developments within technology.

If you are not equipped with access to the right expertise then you are in danger of compromising on future innovation and this can heavily impact your business. An example of this is the boom in mobile shopping. If you are an online retailer and do not have the right expertise to build mobile platforms you can easily lose customers to providers who have embraced mobile in their ecommerce strategy. It is vital that businesses can keep up with these new trends in order to survive in crowded markets. As technology expertise is the back bone to a successful self-service model, businesses need to carefully evaluate if they can provide this internally or whether an external source would be more cost effective.

This is where a managed service model can be more effective as this model can provide performance, scalability and efficiency. Over time this can pay big dividends for business as the provider will keep up with all of the new hardware, networking, storage, database, security protocols etc which are being introduced and the organisation can use their internal staff to drive innovation and business growth. We need to be realistic and identify the tasks that can be managed internally such as - firewall rules, backups, patching, resource allocations and then look at what more complex activities can be outsourced.

While on the surface the self-service model looks to be an effective solution there are staffing challenges which come with this model, such as having an internal implementation and support team on hand 24X7x365, which can add significant costs associated with providing this function within the business.

In comparison, the cost of the managed model is more transparent and can be more easily planned for. IT managers need to critically examine where their resources are best placed.

Is this managing the data backups and firewall rules or would it be more beneficial to free up its IT team of these administrative tasks and allow them to focus on other business critical needs which drive innovation and growth for the organisation.

Vivek Vahie is senior director at Navisite India.