Making the journey to the cloud with a Managed Service Provider

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Many enterprises are turning to the cloud to help transform business processes to better compete in the digital era and deliver the best for their customers. This shift has left the CIO and other IT professionals overwhelmed by the pace and enormity of the task of managing increasingly complex ecosystems and transformation projects. As such, many are seeking external expert partners. The task of deciding on a new managed services partner and transitioning from old to new can be as long and daunting a process as making the decision to move to the cloud. So how do you go about making the initial selection? How do you know you’ve made the right decision and, if you decide it’s time to make a move, what kind of issues do you need to consider? 

Why a Managed Service Provider (MSP)? 

There are a number of elements that might attract businesses to the managed cloud – for one thing, there are crucial technical advantages of partnering with an MSP. Most companies struggle to keep up with technology changes while also doing their day job. An MSP’s wealth of experience – working across a diverse mix of digital transformation projects, planning, delivering, and managing various cloud services – means that they can deliver the best solution for the business while the IT department focuses on regular operations. With an MSP, businesses can expect fast response times through enterprise monitoring and remote cloud services, more direct control over their infrastructure and application services, and the capability to automate cloud migration and management at scale. 

In addition to the technical and experiential advantages of an MSP is the other side of the coin: the lack of cloud skills in the IT sector. A report last year from Microsoft revealed that while organisations agree the cloud is important to their future, 40 percent of firms are struggling to recruit staff with cloud skills. According to a more recent study by Rackspace, two in three UK IT decision makers say their organisation is losing out on revenue because they lack specific cloud expertise. The UK is facing a serious technology skills shortage and a trusted MSP partner can alleviate this issue, bringing the knowledge, skills, and know-how that companies find hard to recruit and retain.   

Other considerations might include the disaster recovery capabilities of MSPs, which offer business continuity and decreased downtime. Another benefit is the fact that MSPs often cater to specific industries, often providing tailored services in areas such as manufacturing, health, retail, and the public sector.   

Migrating to the cloud and getting the most from it is not easy. It requires a lot of specialised skills, as well as a deep understanding of the cloud environment and the tools to optimise its use. All in all, the central advantage of partnering with an MSP is to take the stress from a business’ shoulders, allowing it to reallocate its efforts into pursuing business growth and delivering the best for its customers.   

On the journey – considerations for the contract 

Selecting and changing an MSP is a significant opportunity, and with that opportunity comes the prospect of radically improved services. With a new MSP, businesses have the capacity to shape an entirely new strategy. But what aspects should companies consider prior to and during the move? 

First and foremost, businesses must be upfront about their needs. The most successful relationships happen when the conversations between a company and an MSP clearly articulate what’s needed from the new provider, rather than focusing on what the business is receiving from the old provider. Businesses should consider the long-term objectives, short term deliverables, and their current position, and then form those points cleanly into an easily understandable contract. 

Ownership issues should be similarly front of mind. Ownership of hardware and software assets (for both the previous and forthcoming contract) needs to be established. When it comes the new contract, it’s important that there is a primary owner who is acutely connected to each strand of the project.

Businesses also need to ensure that they understand the terms the new contract, as well as the old: some contracts contain exit clauses that stipulate involvement and cooperation during a service transition to a new supplier. This is vital knowledge and will save time and money in the long-run if it’s properly understood. Businesses should keep in mind that the scope of the service they require might also change during the lifetime of the contract, so it’s important to look for an MSP who understands your business, is adaptable and agile, and can provide and accommodate for that flexibility.   

When to make the move 

Sometimes a company is already working with an MSP and realise that there is good reason to review and potentially move to a different partner. Aside from the obvious motivations – businesses are always looking a good deal and asking if the contract provides the right value for their money – there are a few interesting explanations for why businesses decide to change MSPs. 

A business may have signed with its current provider for a now outdated service and they are looking for expertise elsewhere. It’s common for businesses to change focus during the lifetime of the contract, and if this is case, it’s possible that the organisation’s provider is no longer an expert in providing elements critical to the client.   

Businesses may even be looking for an entirely new platform of choice, perhaps shifting from legacy dedicated or shared multi-tenant infrastructure to cloud services. For organisations looking to move expand globally, having a partner with Alibaba expertise will obviously be of great importance, and if a company’s current MSP is not an Alibaba partner, it might be time to make the shift. 

Final thoughts 

Many businesses are familiar with the outsourcing process, and some even change MSPs several times. It’s not uncommon for companies to move from provider to provider before finding a partner that best meets their business goals.   

That said, businesses should remember to maintain some level of relationship with their old MSP during the journey, as the success and nature of the project depends to some extent on their input. In any case, the new supplier should be willing to put in extra effort to ensure that all goes smoothly and in order to become a true strategic partner. 

Tony Connor, Head of Marketing EMEA at Datapipe 

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