A managed cloud services provider (MCSP) partially or totally manages the cloud platforms of their customers, including the migration, maintenance, and optimization of those platforms.
Cloud environments include public, private, and hybrid clouds, each of which requires that providers have the skill sets to manage them depending on the goals of the platform. Customers work with their managed cloud services providers to decide which elements of their IT environments they will outsource to their providers and which they will manage in-house.
Benefits of using a managed cloud services provider
There are a number of benefits to using a managed cloud services provider, including:
Cost savings. Companies that use MCSPs save money over the long term because they don’t have to assume any operational or capital expenses pertaining to maintaining their cloud network infrastructures. Organizations also save money because they don’t have to find and hire people with the skills necessary to maintain their infrastructures.
Disaster recovery. In the event of unforeseen disasters, companies must have disaster recovery plans in place to protect their data and recover it as soon as possible. The sooner organizations can retrieve and restore their data, the sooner they can resume normal operations. If companies suffer unexpected disasters, MCSPs can support their customers’ disaster recovery plans so there is minimal downtime.
Rapid issue resolution. MCSPs provide customers with 24/7 support. Their specialists are always available to address any network issues their customers might have, which allows them to quickly resolve problems.
Automatic upgrades. Cloud technology is always evolving and that means organizations’ networks can become obsolete if they’re not updated and upgraded regularly. Companies that use managed cloud services providers don’t have to worry about constantly trying to keep their networks updated. Rather, the providers stay on top of advances in the cloud and upgrade their customers’ network infrastructures as needed.
Network security. Cloud security is difficult, and it requires employees with skills that are in high demand and not readily available. MCSPs have the knowledge and the necessary resources to secure their customers’ networks against unauthorized access.
Infrastructure that’s reliable. Managed cloud services providers have the necessary experience and knowledge to build and maintain cloud network infrastructure. Consequently, organizations that use MCSPs can be assured of the durability and reliability of their cloud network infrastructures.
Integrating cloud services. Managed cloud services providers help their customers ensure that any cloud resources they select are seamlessly connected to their existing systems. MCSPs can also help ensure that users and applications can easily access these cloud resources.
Key considerations when choosing a managed cloud services provider
Before choosing a provider, a company should consider which clouds they’re going to use, says Craig Lowery, vice president, analyst at Gartner Inc.
“Most of our clients are multicloud, AWS, Azure, Google, but one of those is their main cloud,” he says. “So, you want to be sure you get a managed cloud services provider that at least has expertise in that core cloud. But they should also be able to service you in the other clouds.”
Evaluating providers to ensure that the provider you select aligns with the goals of your business is also critical.
“Working with a provider that you know and trust is a good way to start,” Lowery says. “But you still want to vet them. You still want to be sure that they meet the requirements that you have. But if you already have a relationship with them, it can make things go a little bit more smoothly.”
A company also needs to ensure it understands the provider’s cloud service level agreement (SLA) before agreeing to the terms of the contract as an SLA can be difficult to understand.
Consequently, it’s important for an organization to have its legal team review the SLA’s terms and conditions to understand such things as the uptime the company can expect for the cloud services, the conditions under which it can receive a refund, as well as how long it takes for the provider’s customer support team to respond to and resolve customer complaints.
“You need to check the provider’s uptime, reliability, as well as ensure it has the right cybersecurity protocols in place,” says Eric Kimberling, CEO, Third Stage Consulting.
A company also needs to ask the provider if there have been any security breaches, and if so, what the nature of those breaches were, Kimberling says.
“Companies should also ask how the providers define managed services because that could be everything from just hosting a cloud solution to a more complete offering for providing more infrastructure and integration services,” he says. “So, understanding what it is you’re looking for and ensuring that your provider offers those services.”
Disadvantages to working with an MCSP
Although there are many benefits to working with a managed cloud services provider, there are also some disadvantages.
For one thing, working with a managed cloud services provider means that companies are giving third parties access to their systems and infrastructure.
This can introduce vulnerabilities into their systems because their companies’ attack surfaces have been extended to include the MCSP and its operations. To ensure its systems and infrastructure remain secure, an organization must verify the security protocols the MCSP has in place as well as assume responsibility for monitoring the access routes the provider uses.
Additionally, depending on the regulations that apply to a company, an organization might have to take certain precautions with its MSCP. For example, a customer should check that its managed cloud services provider is operating from the same geographic location where the customer is located or that the MCSP processes can be audited according to the location’s compliance standards.
And although companies expect that their costs will go down, that doesn’t always happen. Depending on the complexity of a company’s systems as well as the level of services it gets, the provider’s services could be expensive. If an organization doesn’t budget appropriately, their costs may actually increase.
6 top managed cloud service providers
There are dozens of managed cloud services providers, so to help you begin your research, we’ve highlighted the following products, arranged alphabetically, based on independent research and discussions with analysts. Organizations should contact the providers directly for pricing information.
Although Accenture has global capabilities, the company mainly focuses on Europe, North America, and APAC. Accenture supports multicloud use cases and most of its customers use Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Accenture offers the full range of infrastructure managed services, including managing, hosting, migrating, and evolving infrastructure in the cloud. While Accenture offers general purpose cloud services for all industries, it’s primary verticals include government, biotech/life sciences/pharmaceuticals, and financial services/insurance. Accenture is well-suited for large enterprises that want total cloud services support, including consulting, migration and modernization, and operations. “Accenture has limited experience in offering contractual responsibility for clients’ compliance requirements, such as HIPAA, PCI, GDPR or FedRAMP,” according to Gartner Inc.’s Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud IT Transformation Services report released in July 2022.
Capgemini, which offers multicloud capabilities in every region, mainly focuses on Europe and North America. Capgemini’s primary verticals are general manufacturing, retail, and financial services/insurance. Capgemini’s enterprise-grade managed services enable customers to run applications on AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Virtustream. Capgemini offers managed services for infrastructure as a service and applications, including backups and technical support. Capgemini helps organizations identify and migrate the workloads suitable for their cloud deployments as well as integrates and manages customers’ environments and applications. Capgemini may not be a good fit for midsize enterprises. “Capgemini Engineering allows Capgemini to offer a combined IT/OT cloud-based solution for heavy industry, which is a differentiating feature in this sector,” according to Gartner.
While Deloitte offers services globally, the company focuses on clients in North America and Europe. Its primary verticals include financial services/insurance, government, and healthcare. Deloitte supports multicloud use cases, including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, VMWare Cloud, and Oracle Cloud. Deloitte helps companies design, build, and run their cloud environments. This provider emphasizes cloud transformation and helping customers build customized cloud environments. Deloitte works directly with customers to identify where/how the cloud can improve their business processes. Deloitte is suited for large enterprises focused on digital transformation. Although the majority of Deloitte’s business is related to its consulting services, the company is beginning to focus more on its managed services business, according to Gartner.
HCL focuses primarily on North America and Europe although it does offer managed cloud services worldwide. Its main verticals include general manufacturing, financial services/insurance, and life sciences/biotech/pharmaceuticals. Although HCL supports multicloud use cases, some 90% of its managed services customers use Microsoft Azure, followed by AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud, IBM Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud. A major part of this provider’s cloud strategy centers around building and migrating apps to the cloud. In addition, HCL’s cloud-native application infrastructure helps companies design and develop apps or move already existing apps and workloads so that they work efficiently in the cloud. Although HCL has robust cloud-native capabilities, fewer than half of its public cloud IT transformation services staff are cloud-native app developers and just over half of its deals are cloud-native, Gartner noted.
NTT Data has a major focus on North America and APAC, followed by Europe but also offers managed cloud services globally. Its main verticals include general manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services/insurance. While NTT Data supports multicloud use cases, more than 65% of its managed services customers use AWS, followed by Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and IBM Cloud. NTT Data focuses on helping clients modernize their apps and migrate them to the cloud. This provider also helps customers replace legacy client architectures with enterprise-grade cloud technologies. NTT Data also calls on the expertise of the company’s other departments to provide customers with additional services, including identity and access management, enterprise networks, and managed security. NTT Data provides app development and modernization services to help customers clients build cloud-native applications. These services include product lifecycle services, cloud platform services, as well as strategy and planning services. NTT Data uses its extensive industry expertise to develop technical solutions that solve its customers’ business problems. “NTT DATA has many programs to attract, retain, and train talent, but it lacks the cohesion at an enterprise level,” according to Gartner.
TCS (Tata Consultancy Services)
TCS operates worldwide but mainly focuses on North America and Europe. Its primary verticals include life sciences/biotech/pharmaceuticals, retail, and financial services/insurance. TCS supports multicloud use cases and its managed services clients mainly use Azure, Oracle Cloud, and AWS equally, followed by GCP, and IBM Cloud. The provider has created separate business units for AWS, Azure, and GCP. TCS helps customers design roadmaps for migrating to the cloud that align with the goals of the business. The TCS managed services suite emphasizes migrating pre-existing workflows and apps and transforming them into cloud-native implementations. One-fifth of TCS’s employees are dedicated to public cloud IT transformation services. TCS mainly focuses on large enterprises and only a small percentage of its business serves midsize enterprises. “TCS may not be suitable for smaller deals or for those organizations not seeking transformational outcomes,” according to Gartner.