The case for managed service providers in your cloud strategy

Although they seem like natural cloud enemies, managed service providers are a great complement much of the time

Do you need an MSP (managed service provider) if you are moving to the cloud? That's a question many IT pros have. The short answer is that use of MSPs can be complementary to a cloud strategy. In fact, in my consulting work, MSPs are used in about 80 percent of the cloud deployment projects I’ve been on in the last few years.

MSPs let you outsource some or all enterprise IT operations so that you retain more direct control over the infrastructure and application services -- more akin to using a hosted or collocated data center. When you outsource to the cloud, you get less control because you're using a shared infrastructure designed to minimize customization to achieve the cloud's economy of scale -- and lower price.

MSPs also can act as an adjunct, not just as an alternative, to the cloud. MSPs can provide cloud integration or cloud connection services that let IT deploy assets in a combination of managed services and public cloud services, all going through the single MSP. That is, the MSP provides the management layer between the enterprise and the public cloud, as well as to those assets running at the MSP.

This three-tiered architecture (enterprise, MSPs, and cloud) is often easier for enterprises to manage. 

There are additional advantages:

One is that some MSPs are industry-focused, providing common services for specific industries, such as health care, retail, and manufacturing. Most public cloud services don’t focus on specific industries, which means an industry-focused MSP can place the public cloud services in context to better serve industry-specific processes and compliance.

Another is that using MSPs to leverage public cloud-based resources can be a great bridge to the cloud, with the MSP using its experience to help you get up to speed in the cloud for your early deployments while also handling IT assets not appropriate or ready for the cloud.

When it comes to MSPs and the cloud, it's not an either/or decision but a "right mix" decision.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.