Managed hosting providers are increasingly assuming a vital role in all aspects of business operations. As cloud-based technologies and applications continue to evolve, businesses are eager to leverage virtual technologies to drive growth. Organizations have developed new business models, services and products built around cloud technology. Businesses are differentiating themselves by leveraging the operational intelligence extracted from the massive volume of data generated, stored and analyzed through managed hosting, virtual infrastructures and cloud technology. This cloud-based innovation spans all industries and markets, from education to retail to healthcare.
With current advances in cloud and managed hosting technology, economies of scale matter more than ever. Effective business leaders recognize that while they need to leverage virtual technologies to remain competitive, they are not in the business of managing applications, maintaining a virtual infrastructure or running a data center. Business and IT leaders who most effectively leverage cloud and virtual technology often do so by partnering with a managed hosting provider whose core competency and expertise is architecting, maintaining and evolving their customers’ applications to help them achieve their business goals.
Selecting an effective, well suited managed hosting provider is a critical business decision that can determine whether an organization succeeds or fails in today’s highly complex and rapidly evolving business climate. Business and IT leaders must ensure their managed hosting partner is equipped to navigate the sophisticated and rigorous regulatory and PCI compliance issues involved in working with financial, health, or personal customer information and data. With every headline of a data breach, security is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge. Due to the sophistication and expertise required to run a bullet- proof, secure, compliant and highly functional infrastructure, business and IT leaders must systematically evaluate and vet their managed service provider to select a partner that best meets their business needs. Below are five key characteristics to consider when selecting a managed hosting service provider.
One: Comprehensive Technology
It may sound obvious, but the most essential characteristic for a managed hosting provider is the ability to offer a comprehensive suite of technology solutions. Business and IT leaders should ensure the service provider they select has a disarmingly broad set of solutions available to meet not only the business’ current needs, but to scale and grow as the business leverages cloud and virtual technology to develop new products and services.
A comprehensive suite of services will include a product portfolio with a breadth of innovative cloud and as-a-Service platforms. A fully equipped managed hosting provider offers support for virtual infrastructures, storage, colocation, desktop-as-a-service (DaaS), end user computing, traditional and dedicated managed hosting, application management capabilities, and more. They can manage a service level agreement (SLA) starting at the application layer and all the way up the technology stack.
A business’ applications may operate on a single, uniform platform or multiple systems. Due to this likely variation in environments, it is key that a provider is able to accommodate a range of applications and systems in their managed support, which may involve working with middleware, applications, open source and proprietary software. It is wise to select a service provider who can offer a range of support to avoid the unnecessary complication and cost involved in switching to a service provider that offers a broader portfolio of services.
Two: Customizability and Best Practices
A second key consideration when selecting a managed hosting service provider is whether the partner is able to architect and maintain a customized solution based on best practices designed to meet a business’ unique goals and technology needs. Customization begins at the design phase, and business and IT leaders should look for a service provider with the expertise to modify each architecture based on their individual business goals.
A provider’s best practices should ensure seamless migration for its customers by taking an existing physical machine infrastructure and virtualizing it. An effective service provider will have well established onboarding capabilities that involve white glove service and comprehensive support. To execute this transition effectively, a high quality managed hosting service provider will have tool kits and have implemented managed capabilities to ensure a seamless migration.
Best practices should be at the core of a service provider’s approach, and those best practices should include assembling the best team to execute a custom solution for each customer. The right people and right processes should be in place to design an architecture that meets the needs of each business and organization.
Three: Customer-Centric Orientation and Mindset
Business and IT leaders should select a managed hosting provider with a clear customer orientation and mindset. A service provider partnership is a high-touch experience and the relationship should be led by a dedicated account manager who serves as the single point of contact and escalation for the customer. This support should be readily available by phone or email, and should result in swift attention and escalation to other service channels, if necessary.
In terms of breadth of technology expertise, business and IT leaders want to select a service provider with fast, responsive and effective trouble shooting capabilities. How quickly will the service provider assess and address problems from the time they are first reported? The most effective managed hosting providers will be available to address problems around the clock and will be swift to implement a fix and then solve the underlying issue. A customer should be able to quickly have an engineer working on any issues that arise.
A service provider should be flexible and available to accommodate each customer’s operational needs. A customer-centric focus should motivate a provider to work around operational parameters to meet unique needs. For example, a service provider should be available to execute unscheduled maintenance if needed. Business and IT leadership should prioritize flexibility when selecting their managed hosting provider, and it is likely that flexibility will be critical for businesses to leverage managed services and cloud technology to meet their goals.
An additional component to effective customization is the right ecosystem of partners. Although it is crucial for a service provider to offer a comprehensive breadth of solutions, it is also important for a service provider to partner with other providers to offer increased flexibility, products and services to its customers. This robust framework of partner relationships must be governed by best practices to ensure the partners are operating as a cohesive entity and the right people are in place to provide the right service to execute the custom solution needed by each business.
Four: Security Implemented Through a Robust Infrastructure and Operational Fabric
An effective managed service provider must have a sound, tested infrastructure and operational fabric. As part of this operational fabric, it is important that a provider operate across geographies. If the service team and technology infrastructure operate in a single area, they become susceptible to natural disasters and service interruptions, jeopardizing their ability to ensure continuity and provide an uninterrupted level of service. A business should have the flexibility to architect and design its infrastructure with security and disaster recovery elements across data centers and geographies.
Some managed service providers fall short when it comes to safeguarding their customer’s infrastructure. These providers may have a single data center with a single router – and if it fails – businesses are trouble. It is important for a managed hosting provider to think about redundancy in all aspects of their service. A strong managed hosting provider should offer a broad geographical range of services that businesses can use to scale and grow securely.
To achieve a robust infrastructure, a service provider must embed security into every aspect of their operations. The provider should implement proactive intrusion detection and should have a dedicated competency to maximize security. This team should continuously monitor threats and ensure the macro security infrastructure is being optimized both physically and virtually and that each system is designed with redundancy at every level.
A managed hosting service provider with a deep and comprehensive portfolio of solutions will be prepared to address concerns around security such as PCI and HIPPA compliance. The provider should be ready to design a HIPPA compliant solution with security elements such as encryption in transit, encryption at rest, and two factor security authentication. These capabilities are of particular importance for customers working in regulated environments such as healthcare and financial services. Different customers run different levels of alerts and threats at varying intervals, and it’s important for a provider to adapt to the needs of these specific customers.
A data center’s physical infrastructure should be architected with safeguards including an uninterruptable power supply, fire detection and suppression, flood control, and temperature control, including cooling and HVAC. These physical security measures should guard against intrusion by using the most advanced alarms, intrusion detection and biometric scanning.
Five: The Right Sized Provider Delivers Valuable Personalization
Finally, it is important for business and IT leaders to select a managed service provider with whom they connect and can work with effectively. A key characteristic for selecting a service provider that will work over the long term is to identify a provider of the right scale. While the breadth of service is important, if a smaller business were to select one of the largest service providers, it is possible that business would not receive a high level of customer-centric, flexible and customized support. Conversely, if a business selects too small a service provider, its provider may not have the scale and expertise to offer the necessary support.
Managed service providers should ensure their customers receive regular, personalized attention. Having direct access to a senior member of the managed service provider’s management team through a direct email or cell phone can be a good measure of the degree of personalized attention a customer is likely to receive.
In today’s environment of increasing business complexity, IT and business leaders are often turning to managed hosting service providers to help them scale and grow. It is critical that businesses select a service provider with a comprehensive suite of technologies that can be customized to securely meet their individual businesses.
When business and IT leaders take the time to vet and select a service provider of an appropriate scale that operates according to the highest levels of security, they can leverage powerful cloud technology and managed hosting services to optimize costs. Managed hosting allows businesses to shift from a CapEx to an OpEx model, and can more effectively focus on their core competencies while deploying powerful cloud technology to drive business growth.
Comments on this article are closed.