For many organizations, the question isn’t whether cloud hosting and cloud applications make sense. Rather, questions asked often concern around what makes the most sense to move and how to transition smoothly, especially making sure you have the right expertise. Many businesses find the answer in managed cloud services.
What is a managed cloud service?
A managed cloud service provides IT management of your hosted cloud platforms and applications, allowing you to decide how much your team does and how much you outsource. If you do not have an IT team, you can outsource all the work. If you have a small IT team, you can outsource the time-consuming manual tasks, freeing time for more strategic activity. Even enterprises can benefit by adding expertise without expanding the payroll.
To understand the benefits of managed cloud services, we first must understand the difference between cloud applications and cloud hosting.
Cloud applications and examples
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a common description of a cloud application. Some well-known examples include: A customer relationship management program (CRM) like SalesForce, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Analytics, HubSpot, Amazon Web Services, Ricoh Smart Integration and DocuWare.
Of course, there are many, many others. Generally, you can access these applications from anywhere, all you need is an internet connection and the appropriate login credentials.
With cloud applications, you need an administrator, someone to manage who has access to the system and their level of access (user, administrator, etc.). What you don’t need is anyone to setup, partition a drive, load software and applications, or manage technical elements like software updates. That is all handled by the application provider – and that typically includes training and employee support too.
Cloud hosting is different
Cloud hosting features a server and network infrastructure typically run from a data center where software partitions a single piece of hardware. It may include a hosted application, like a Microsoft 365®. Often, it simply features multiple, often virtual servers setup for optimized load balancing to prevent downtime.
Effectively, you move your network server into the cloud, giving you greater flexibility and ease to expand (or reduce) capacity as needed. In the case of a Microsoft 365®, both your email server and software run from the cloud. You may still need to load applications locally to laptops.
The advantages are numerous. A few big ones are:
— You have cost savings with less hardware to manage, upgrade, and update.
— Your IT team has more time not managing hardware related issues.
— Being offsite, you have a natural business continuity plan in place. If you need to leave the office, you can still access all your business tools from your company laptop or configured home computer with a VPN connection.
The thing about most cloud hosting is, you still need technical expertise to configure and manage the systems. You need someone who can configure your servers. Someone must load your company-specific applications that do need to be on your server. Someone needs to load the local PC applications that connect with your applications. You need IT. And that’s why managed cloud services continue to grow in popularity, especially today.
Here are 8 ways organizations benefit from them:
#1. A foundation for business continuity (and disaster recovery)
A managed cloud service fits neatly with business continuity planning (BCP).
Your server, applications, and server hardware (which you rent as part of your cloud hosting agreement), are in one location, and with redundancy to ensure uptime.
Your managed service provider has its own BCP to ensure they can meet their service level agreements (SLAs), which means you will continue to receive service even in the event of a disaster.
Your IT team or business contacts (like an operations manager) can direct the effort from anywhere and even access the applications to execute any tasks as needed.
Distributed tools and teams like this limit the impact of a disaster that would otherwise disrupt operations.
An important facet of the business continuity benefit is disaster recovery, or the ability to recover data and/or systems due to technology-specific events like data breaches, ransomware, and destruction of hardware like laptops and servers (not an issue for cloud-hosted solutions).
Managed cloud service providers back-up the hosted systems as part of their offering. You may also be able to take advantage of services like disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) that backs up your operating systems, files and data, applications, and all configurations.
If your managed cloud service provider offers IT management services, you may also be able to get endpoint protection and backup for local devices like PCs.
#2. Improved system reliability
The redundancy of cloud infrastructures and cloud architecture guarantees reliable access to all your business tools and data. Fail-safes are built-in to ensure uptime and continuity of access. A cloud host could lose an entire rack of hardware, but you would likely never know as the system would automatically “roll” to the next, redundant instance to keep you up-and-running.
#3. Enhanced scalability
One of the challenges for onsite servers is managing the hardware. If you need more memory or hard drive space, for example, you need to purchase and install it. With a cloud computing, you adjust your contract and go in and reconfigure for the newly added space. With a managed cloud service, you adjust the contract and they reconfigure the newly added space.
The service provided makes scaling to growth and other needs much simpler. You focus on the work you need to do while the service provider gets it done.
#4. Confidence in your data security
A data centre company’s reputation depends on secured systems. You should always confirm with your managed cloud service provider the security of the data center they use.
Best practices for data centers include:
— Multi-layered security protocols
— A minimum SOC II security standard
— Perimeter building security
— Zoned card or biometric access controls
— Zone fire suppression
#5. Technical expertise to get the job done right
Established managed service providers with a proven history have both the teams and the expertise to set up, provision, migrate and support your organization’s cloud solutions. Their technical expertise allows them to immediately step in and help, whether as another team member or as your full-service cloud service provider.
#6. Simpler building of custom solutions
Without hardware commitments, you have more flexibility in the tools and applications you use.
Need a dedicated server for an application? A managed cloud solution can be easily provisioned with a unique virtual server to handle the load, complete with the storage, security, and memory needed to run it.
This allows you to build an infrastructure that meets the needs of your employees to stay productive wherever they work.
#7. Faster deployment and support
Managed cloud service providers speed deployment. Regular performance analysis ensures a fully optimized system. Network operations center (NOC) monitoring guarantees problems are identified and addressed sometimes even before end-users are aware a problem exists.
If someone should have an issue, support teams can be reached to immediately begin remediation or help update a password.
#8. Better budget-ability
Managed cloud services eliminate capital expenditures and depreciation tied to physical hardware. Instead, the entire operation becomes an operating expense. Plus, all the services are bundled into a single price with preset fees defined for any services needed to expand the infrastructure to meet increased data, user, or application needs.
The reduction of physical equipment that is needed and the consolidation of fees simplifies the matching of computing needs with budget demands.
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