Identify Cloud-First MSP Vendors with These Key Questions

July 26, 2017

In our last blog post , we discussed why choosing a legacy MSP vendor is unlikely to position you for success in your cloud migration. Today, we will provide a starter list of questions (with a more robust set of key considerations here) to help you identify the right Cloud-First MSP for your enterprise.

The three critical areas to discuss in detail with every vendor you consider are:

  1. The MSP Itself: Company Leadership, History, and Accreditations

    Ensure the leadership is strong and they have proven experience. Case studies and engagement with leading cloud providers is a great indicator of capability and depth. If the company

    Sample Questions to Ask About the Company:

    1. Does your MSP show true partnership with cloud providers - multidisciplinary expertise, public case studies, showcases at speaking events, etc.?
    2. Which certifications do the engineers have?
    3. What are your experiences with cloud migrations/deployments?
    4. Is the MSP a premier-tier partner to one or more cloud providers?
    5. Is the MSP advocating the same tooling and operational methodology in the cloud that it advocates outside of cloud, and/or does it promote a “lift and shift” migration?
  2. Your Relationship with the MSP: Cloud Ownership, Strategic Alignment, Conflicts of Interest

    Before you sign any contracts, ensure you are clear about ownership and that your needs align with your vendor’s capability. Conflicts of interest are surprisingly common.

    Sample Questions to Ask About Your Relationship with the MSP:

    • Does your MSP resell, get paid by, or have a quota with a cloud provider? (pro tip: cloud resale is generally not in your best interests, and gives the MSP way too much much leverage over you and your business.)
    • Can your MSP commit, in writing, to consistently representing your business interests without a conflict or any external incentives? This includes kick-backs from cloud providers or other companies whose products they may resell.
    • Who actually owns the keys to the cloud account? If you do not own your own cloud account, you are placing far too much trust and responsibility in the hands of a third party.
    • If push comes to shove, can you fire your MSP without having to rework the migration? What is your exit strategy and what does it look like, in practice, to fire the MSP?
  3. MSP Cloud Knowledge and Processes: Service Availability, Security/Compliance, Automation, Monitoring and Analytics

    As they always say, “The best offense is defense.” Find an MSP that is proactive to minimize incidents and reacts quickly when they do occur.

    Sample Questions to Assess Cloud Knowledge and Process:

    • Does the application deploy through automation or human/manual ops? How frequently is it deployed, and is that done proactively or reactively? Poor MSPs will make promises they can’t keep, like “deploy once and run forever” or “lift-and-shift and forget it.” This is a path to quick revenue for them, and a recipe for disaster for the customer.
    • Does the client or MSP use predictive analytics and data sciences to detect anomalies, or wait for a fault to occur and then react to it after-the-fact? This is critically important. If your MSP is using yesterday’s tools and mindset to operate in the cloud, you will both fail, and ultimately it is your business and customers that suffer.
    • Does the application itself support parallel production deployments, or is there a singular production deployment with all the eggs in a single basket? If you can run multiple production deployments, do it. One of anything is never enough in the cloud. Stuff happens.
    • Does the staging environment perfectly (or very nearly perfectly mirror) the production environment, and do developers do their work in a highly-similar deployment? And is the MSP advising you on the importance of this methodology and the automation that supports it?
    • Does the MSP actively encourage the customer to make near-term investment in automation and telemetry, or does it push the customer to "lift and shift" and/or in to cloud resale models that do nothing to ameliorate the underlying flaws in infrastructure, software, and cloud hosting environments?
    • How does the MSP handle incident response, access control, credential management and delegation, auditability, and how does it scale its team(s)?

    With hundreds of companies suddenly seeking to enter the red-hot Cloud MSP arena, it can be extremely difficult to know which among them are qualified, unconflicted, and experienced. Choosing a Cloud Managed Services Provider (MSP) is an important decision that will help you improve the reliability and efficiency of your critical IT infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be a difficult choice. Disqualify yesterday’s MSPs and find MSPs who have fully embraced, and truly understand, operations in the cloud - and cloud-first infrastructure architecture. Cascadeo is one, but there are others like us out there. Choose wisely!