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Five questions to ask before you choose your cloud computing partner

Businesses everywhere, in every sector are switching the way they manage data to the cloud.

With that comes a wealth of tools provided by companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. But to benefit from the cloud means different ways of working, roles and skills – and that has fuelled a boom in demand for managed service providers (MSP).

But how should you decide which MSP is right for your business? Here are five questions to help you find the right partner.

What differentiates this MSP from other providers?

As with any partner, you want to select an MSP who feels like an extension of your team. However, validating their credentials is also vital. In recent years, we have seen a rise in MSPs coming to the market with excellent Public Cloud skills, but without a breadth of real-world experience in integrating this into existing environments. In your initial conversation be clear on the real-world experience they have across the solutions you want to deliver both now and in the future – whether it’s managing on premises solutions, colocation, virtualisation or public cloud services. Check out related experience in managing security, compliance and connectivity. Establish what end-to-end services they can provide and where your data will sit (and with which provider). Look for MSPs who have satisfied customers, been with them long term and are happy to share their experience.

What does the MSP’s partner ecosystem look like?

The beauty of working with an MSP is the ability to tap into their knowledge and experience through their internal team and partner network. Ask how the MSP’s partner ecosystem is made up and who is included – and how they plan to grow the network. To take your MSP seriously, it should work with a hyperscale organisation (like AWS or Microsoft); but equally, shouldn’t be limited to just working with one. Your procurement process may demand that the MSP is not tied to one vendor, so over reliance on one company will not restrict you in the future.

What is the MSP’s security credentials?

Given the rise in data breaches and increasing amount of data protection laws, security of your data is paramount. Be clear with your prospective MSP on its security credentials and monitoring procedures in place – such as a security operations centre (SOC) and disaster recovery process.

Equally, are they clear on the different security needs for the varying types of cloud and how these will integrate with the existing infrastructure? For example, if they work with a hyperscale partner (like AWS), do they operate on a shared responsibility model (i.e. the hyperscaler shares responsibility for the security and compliance with the customer).

If this is the case, you (or the MSP) need to have the capability and skills internally to be able to manage the security of everything from the platform and operating system to the firewall. Meanwhile the hyperscaler would assume responsibility for managing the security of the networks and databases.

Where will your data be stored?

While the beauty of the cloud allows data to be stored anywhere, many organisations have strict guidelines noting the physical storage location of their data cannot be more than 30 miles away from their office. For many, data sovereignty can make or break whether an organisation can sign on the dotted line or not.

Additionally, with Brexit and Indy2 on the horizon, this question has never been more valid and clarity from an MSP is vital.

What benefit can the MSP bring to you that your organisation couldn’t do by itself?

The final question – though incredibly important – relates to skills. The IT skills gap is an issue which has impacted the sector for several years and continues to challenge organisations. There is currently an overwhelming demand for specific skillsets.

Cloud architects have been identified as the second most wanted candidates by employers in Scotland. In an environment where there is a skills gap, we find that employers will settle for candidates who don’t quite hit the mark. However, this can have a knock-on effect. Bad talent creates bad clouds – something which is incredibly counter intuitive. MSPs can help to bridge this skills gap in a variety of ways – from providing technical expertise in the design and build of a cloud (from years of experience) as well as having a variety of in-house specialists who can provide consultation on future developments within your infrastructure.

By investigating the options available to you, the appointment of an MSP should help you to avoid this skills gap entirely – or at least until you find the right candidate.

Technology will continue to evolve, and so will the understanding and skills needed to support its growth. We can expect the MSP model to go from strength to strength in the coming years. By being clear on the outset from what you want and need from that MSP, it will create a successful relationship for many years to come.