Managed services and cloud services: understanding the relationship
Managed services. Cloud services. They are both ubiquitous terms in the IT and business press, these days. But whilst most business owners understand that they are different, yet related concepts, fewer are able to define precisely what that relationship is. Do you need one or the other, or both? How do they work together?
To begin, let’s examine what the two concepts actually are.
Managed services contracts vary in terms of scope, but all involve an external third party – the managed services provider – taking control of a particular facet of an organisation’s IT infrastructure which would traditionally be handled in-house. This almost always involves an element of troubleshooting and fault repair, sometimes in response to incidents but more often on a proactive, network monitoring basis. The defining word, of course, is ‘managed’, meaning that managed services are proactive, end-to-end offerings which assume complete responsibility for the performance and continuity of an aspect or aspects of the IT infrastructure.
Cloud services are defined in terms of their delivery model; they are deployed to organisations remotely, over the internet. This removes the need for the organisation in question to manage particular hardware or software onsite. Cloud services can be hosted in public, private or hybrid cloud infrastructures – regardless, the key characteristic is that remote deployment.
Both cloud and managed services, then, involve third party suppliers. However, whilst managed services are cloud services, cloud services are not necessarily managed services.
Managed services are cloud services because they are delivered, in part or sometimes entirely, remotely over the internet. That is, they use a cloud deployment model. A managed services partner which monitors your infrastructure for incidents and then fixes those incidents remotely is delivering that monitoring and repair work via the cloud. A managed services partner which does not actively monitor your infrastructure, but is nevertheless available for remote troubleshooting when you need it – think of the screen sharing functionality often used when individual employees need help with their machines – is also delivering that service via the cloud
By contrast, whilst cloud services such as software as a service (SaaS), desktop as a service (DaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS) do outsource the supply of a particular aspect of the organisation’s IT infrastructure, they do not necessarily incorporate ongoing management. It is often possible to deploy a cloud service with a one-off purchase. Yes, the service is delivered to the organisation on an ongoing basis, via the cloud, but the supplier has no responsibility for its ongoing performance, fault repair, disaster recovery, business continuity and so on.
All this means that truly business-critical cloud services are often best augmented with additional managed services contracts. Managed services provide the additional, higher-level and proactive support required for true peace of mind. If a cloud service is rather like a subscription, then a managed service contract is rather like the wraparound to ensure that that subscription is optimised, performing as required, thoroughly protected and troubleshooted whenever necessary.