Your IT landscape is more than the sum of its parts. Choose the right managed services model in the right cloud, and it can work like a harmonious whole, driving innovation and profit. Pick unreliable providers in clouds that don’t match your needs, and you’ll see ballooning costs, inconsistent performance and ongoing difficulties with future upgrades. To realize the benefits of cloud services, you need to put as much thought into finding the right technical partner as you put into choosing a solution and a functional provider.
Solution vs. Managed Services Model
A lot of research goes into planning the evolution of your IT landscape. Management takes a deep look at the solutions available, reads case studies, and (hopefully) consults with IT and other departments to create an approach that will consider everyone’s needs going forward.
Once the management team figures out what they want, they’ll usually either go with a partner they trust already — such as someone they’ve worked with before, or who comes recommended by a trusted colleague. If a company does not have a trusted partner, it’s not unusual for them to spend months researching and meeting with all the partner options available to them. During this process, it’s not uncommon to read partner case studies, talk to their clients, meet them in-person for presentations, and do a lot of debating internally. After, they’ll have to decide on premises vs. cloud vs. hybrid hosting, the public vs. private cloud, and most importantly, who the right partner is to provide them with their unique solution..
But when they get to the stage of choosing a managed services model and picking a particular technical provider, companies typically do much less investigation. They may stick with whatever balance of in-house and managed services they’re already using — perhaps using a temporary staff augmentation model to ease the transition to the new system. In other cases, they’ll hire a technical partner (or partners) to implement the project, and provide ongoing support based solely on the recommendations of their functional provider.
Even when companies decide to really look into the issue, they often don’t understand all the types of managed services available. This limits their ability to choose strategically, forcing them to go with something that they’re familiar with. This can have negative ramifications, such as poor project execution, failure to meet performance and availability SLAs, and difficulty with future cloud and IT infrastructure projects.
Why Choose a Managed Services Model?
Small businesses often either have IT and compliance needs simple enough to manage in-house, or they lack the budget to hire dedicated admins. The largest companies have the scale and resources to make running their own hosting, administration, security and compliance feasible (although not necessarily desirable).
For everyone else, however, some type of managed services model is a necessity. It just doesn’t make any sense to build, maintain and manage a complex IT infrastructure when there are experienced managed services providers who can do it cheaper and better. It’s like a wholesaler deciding to design and build its own vehicles and train its own mechanics. The question isn’t whether to outsource — it’s what to outsource.
A managed services model is particularly important in areas of ERP, where expertise is costly and difficult to come by. Indeed, if you’re running a relatively rare platform like IBM AS/400, it may be the only way to get the support you need as experienced staff retire. But even in security, compliance, and SAP® administration, talent shortages can make staffing difficult. If a sysadmin leaves your company, a staff augmentation model or full-service MSP can mean the difference between a painless transition, and a frantic (and potentially, costly) talent search.
The right managed services model will also increase the standard of performance and decrease the risk and control cost. Businesses run around the clock, but onsite IT generally doesn’t. Many businesses can’t afford to keep redundant SAP Basis support staff on-call — much less furnish a 24/7/365 security monitoring and incident response team. Almost no one can afford to pay a roomful of techs to sit provide constant monitoring of systems with the skills to jump in and remediate issues as they arise.
A managed services model spreads the cost of monitoring and incident response between multiple companies, ensuring everyone is always ready for the worst. Similarly, managed services providers can drastically cut the cost of hosting and maintaining IT infrastructure, providing support and other crucial tasks.
With the right partner, managed services also increases the available talent. If you need an SAP implementation expert for a new upgrade, or someone to audit your internal governance, you can just call your MSP. As your company evolves and automates, this also makes it much easier to outsource other tasks.
What’s The Goal of My Managed Services Model?
Before you can pick an IT managed services provider, you need to consider your strategic goals. Are you trying to transform your IT landscape, increase performance and reliability, control costs or some combination? Are you interested in a staff augmentation model, co-management or full management?
Don’t just look at the next six months — think about the next six years. More likely than not, your needs will change over that timeframe. Game out both best and worst-case scenarios. What’s the chance you’ll acquire another company, or see rapid growth in a particular vertical? What are the odds that you’ll suffer a mishap that requires cloud disaster recovery, or need to scale back and consolidate operations? How would those different scenarios change the needs of your IT landscape?
Your goal should be to choose a managed services model (and provider) that covers all your bases. The top managed services providers will work with you to refine projects and set new goals as needed, and keep your landscape ahead of your needs. They can draw on diverse skillsets, supplemented by an extensive network of partners and consultants to help your company cope with whatever fate (and the market) has in store.
What IT Managed Services Do I Need?
Managed services encompasses everything that goes into a healthy, secure and compliant IT landscape. On the implementation side of things, your managed services model can cover everything from strategic planning and IT project management, through post go-live testing.
A cloud and hosting provider will also cover infrastructure needs, and (depending on the provider) even support an evolving hosting model. For example, if your company has a legacy system onsite and is contemplating a move to the cloud, Symmetry can plan and execute a multi-stage migration, and handle day-to-day operations during and after the transition. We can maintain your servers and landscape, connect them to our cloud network in a hybrid cloud configuration, and bring systems over in stages and move to a fully cloud-based managed hosting model.
For enterprise applications, you’ll obviously need competency in the specific application, but you’ll also need scalability and customization, as well as security and compliance. Traditionally, these were a tradeoff — you could get a highly scalable public cloud, or a highly customizable and secure private one. However, as we’ll discuss below, the managed private cloud has evolved to the point where some top MSPs can provide the best of both worlds.
Understanding the security and compliance needs of your managed services model can be especially tricky. Many companies don’t even understand what strong security or a modern, healthy compliance program would look like.
These unfortunate organizations are used to struggling to keep up with compliance, spending months gathering documents and compiling reports for auditors, and months more unravelling their security model and remediating SOD conflicts, only to start over again. They don’t expect SAP GRC access control to continuously audit transactions, spot and remediate SODs as they happen, and automate audit reporting, so they won’t look for a partner to provide that level of service.
What Are the Managed Services Models?
Cloud computing changes fast, but there are currently four basic types of managed services available within the cloud space: hyper scale cloud providers, managed application providers, system integrators and value-added resellers.
- Hyperscale cloud providers are the public cloud names everyone knows — companies like AWS and Azure. These clouds pioneered cheap compute with exceptional scalability and self-service, making them a popular home for testing and development.However, they’re weak in areas crucial to production, such as customization support and enterprise application expertise. They also don’t have the SLAs production requires. Your contract may promise you 99.999% connectivity, but it won’t promise that your system won’t slow to a crawl during demand spikes. For production, you’re almost always better off in a private managed cloud.
- Managed application providers like Symmetry typically provide what the hyperscale cloud lacks: deep enterprise application expertise, customization support, and the ability to meet the SLAs that production requires. MAPs have the deepest subject-matter expertise for legacy and cloud hosting, combined with high-touch service.As an SAP hosting expert in this vertical, we often get customers coming in the door looking for someone to execute and host multi-phase SAP implementations, upgrades and migrations. However, they tend to outsource tasks like Basis admin, GRC and disaster recovery. Often, this happens in the planning phase when cost-benefit analysis reveals the benefits of single-vendor hosting. In other cases, they’re seeking a more reliable alternative to a current hosting partner or onsite team.The downside is typically an absence of the self-service and scalability available in the hyperscale cloud. However, Symmetry’s next-generation cloud allows us to provide both these benefits within a private cloud managed services model. With careful provisioning (we always reserve extra compute to prevent slowdown due to demand surges — something that public cloud providers don’t do), better maintenance and an automated infrastructure, we provide a public cloud experience with the reliability of a private managed services model.
- System integrators are experts at filling in the gaps. They specialize in getting different clouds and applications to play nice with each other, and tend to have plenty of enterprise application expertise in relevant areas, making them useful for multi-cloud landscapes. However, while this managed services model may be a good choice for a particular niche, integrators aren’t generally cost-effective for clients who see an expanding role for the MSP. Most aren’t great at scaling or cloud automation, and they may be too narrowly focused to meet your needs as a whole.
- Hardware Value Added Resellers are companies that sell hardware solutions with some degree of customization and support. The growth of hosting has been shifting hardware VARs further into the managed services model for some time, as companies switch to a cloud-first approach that de-emphasizes the role of hardware. However, the hardware VAR model gets in the way in some respects. They often don’t have great support for customization or deep enterprise application expertise, and their use of vertically integrated hardware limits their usefulness in many cloud and hosting scenarios.
Other Factors That Affect Your Managed Services Model
- One Provider vs. Multiple: All else being equal, it’s almost always best to work with a single managed services provider when possible. Multiple providers increase the cost of administrative oversight, and can pose extra costs like integration, which wouldn’t be a factor otherwise.Additionally, it can be hard to get everyone communicating well, or establish clear responsibility for areas of operation. These factors may only seem like a minor source of irritation normally, but in an emergency they can make the difference between a minor glitch and a costly outage. Even in a worst-case scenario, you’re always better off with one throat to choke.
- Service and Support: SLAs are both crucial and deceptive when choosing a managed services model. On the one hand, you need to choose a provider who promises the performance, stability and resolution production needs. On the other hand, you’ll always have much more to lose than your MSP from a broken SLA.Think about it this way: if your MSP slows to a crawl for six hours, or disaster recovery mistakes prevent your backup system from coming on line, who’s really out of luck? Sure, the MSP will provide some compensation, but that compensation won’t undo the damage of a major disruption. That’s where support comes in. Look for a managed services provider who gives you direct access to the staff who runs your system around the clock — not a 9-to-5 helpline.
The Best Managed Services Model For ERP
Different companies are at different stages of outsourcing, but pretty much everyone is evolving towards a greater role for managed services. Even if you’re currently just looking using your managed services model in a few specialized areas, you’ll benefit from being able to outsource other tasks as your business matures.
As a managed application provider, Symmetry offers more experience and a greater variety of skills than anyone else in the SAP space. We were one of the first companies offering SAP HANA cloud hosting, and offer unparalleled service in implementation, support, DR, security and GRC. Whether you’re ready to outsource production, or you’re just looking for a flexible staff augmentation model, we’re here to support your ongoing evolution.
Contact us to learn what our managed services can do for your organization.