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A transformation in progress: the next phase of cloud service management

Business’s relationship with the cloud continues to evolve as companies seek new ways to leverage its power for competitive advantage. As such, the movement from the data centre to the cloud wasn’t the final chapter of some larger process, it was only the beginning of the next phase of business IT.

Yet it might be time for a re-evaluation in approach. Many early adopters have simply lifted and shifted, replicating their management approach from on-premise to the cloud. As the cloud evolves and grows more complex, governance and optimisation will only become more challenging.

Companies have benefitted greatly from the transition towards cloud services, enjoying reduced capex and greatly accelerated access to the latest cloud tools and resources to name a few. However, new challenges have also emerged. Under this new model, a public cloud provider will give the customer all the on-demand cloud services they need, but this leaves a sizeable gap in responsibility. Who now manages all the separate cloud components together and ensures they are optimised for performance and cost? 

The managed services imperative

First, let’s look more deeply at the reasons for the move to managed services. If not properly monitored, the increasing agility and velocity of cloud technologies often come at the expense of increased management complexity and reduced cost visibility. If you don’t understand how to keep your cloud streamlined and running efficiently, your costs could spiral. For example, according to Gartner, organisations that lack cost optimisation processes will average 40 per cent overspend in public cloud by 2020. This is a cost that organisations can’t afford and don’t have to put up with.

Business priorities ultimately boil down to time and resources, both of which are finite. It’s unlikely that your average company – be it a marketing agency, a public utility, a manufacturer or whatever – has aspirations to become a cloud provider, so why waste both time and resources on running and optimising the cloud? The priority instead should be to focus your energy on making your business a success.  

An organisation can, with considerable cost and effort, operate and manage its own cloud workloads. But is going it alone worth the risk? There is a very limited talent pool of those with the skills and breadth of experience to work across your cloud environment, which is likely a mix of private, public and hybrid cloud platforms. These skills are in high demand, meaning you may put huge investment into growing your cloud capability only to see it snatched up by the competition.

What’s more, these skills need to be ‘on tap’, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice and at any time. In today’s super-fast 24/7 consumer culture, customers expect you to be accessible at all times, especially if your business is international. Yet this is impossible without a skilled cloud management team that’s able to provide 24-hour support. If your application goes down overnight, you can’t afford to wait until the morning for your cloud team to come online. Many organisations struggle to cope with this sort of demand, which requires a complex and specific mix of skills and expertise. 

A managed services provider can deliver the skills, expertise and technical support you need whenever you need it. With allocated expertise, a programme of continual service improvement can be implemented, helping cut costs, improve agility and allow organisations to focus on increasing productivity in their core business.

Crucially, however, a managed service provider brings expertise and a laser focus on the challenges faced by your business in the cloud. It is all too easy to make decisions that, on the surface, seem beneficial but could have unforeseen consequences. For example, deciding to shut off unused cloud capacity may seem like a good way to save costs but can leave you exposed if the corresponding business and technical context is not understood. An experienced provider, with visibility across your entire cloud operation, won’t make the same error.

Only the best

With the level of support a managed services provider can deliver, a company’s choice of partner is one of its most important decisions. In this respect, bigger isn’t always better. Some larger providers operate massive teams, spread across numerous offices in different parts of the world. While constant service is guaranteed, quality is not always assured. One challenge may be owned by a team in the UK while another is owned in the USA. A fragmented service is not an effective one.

The temptation then is to go with a smaller cloud specialist, focused solely in the core services of your chosen cloud platform. Yet this may not always be the best choice. Organisations that are ‘born of the cloud’ cannot usually provide other full-stack services such as application development, identity management and database support. Cloud infrastructure is only a small part of the range of services a technology partner should be able to provide, which should also include services for integration, development and liaising with third parties.

No single cloud will satisfy every requirement, and the rise of the multi-cloud environment is testament to the fact that certain platforms are more suitable for specific workloads. As business needs change, you can’t predict which cloud platform you will be using next year. Ultimately, it’s up to decision makers to weigh up the options and choose the provider that offers the widest range of experience and capabilities at the most competitive cost.

To ensure they can take advantage of the opportunities enabled by the cloud, organisations must seek partners that are trusted advisors, not just outsource vendors. Doing so won’t only allow the business to focus on what it’s best at, it will help it deliver a faster, more efficient and responsive customer experience. If the cloud is the beating heart of an organisation, a skilled managed services provider brings the expertise and care needed to keep it healthy.

Adam Dunn, Cloud Propositions Lead, KCOMImage Credit: Wynpnt / Pixabay

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