What should CIOs expect from their managed cloud provider?

What should CIOs expect from their managed cloud provider?
Jon Lucas, along with his business partner Jake Madders, founded Hyve Managed Hosting in 2001. Since then, in his role as Director, Jon has facilitated the growth of the company from a small start-up to a hugely successful business servicing over 300 customers. With a background in software development, Jon has spent time at Crédit Agricole, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and M&C Saatchi throughout his career.

Opinion As digital transformation continues to dominate the IT landscape, cloud computing has helped a wealth of organisations to evolve. So true is the fact that Gartner predicts that by 2020, a corporate “no-cloud” policy will be as rare as a “no-internet” policy is today. The CIO of 2017 undoubtedly needs to embrace the cloud, but the transition is still a sizeable task without adequate help and guidance.

Managed service providers have been around for a while and can provide any manner of services – virtual desktops, security, storage – you name it and there is a company out there who will provide it ‘as a service’. Enter managed cloud providers – the new breed of MSP – with expertise in everything cloud.

But what exactly should a CIO look for in a managed cloud provider? What responsibilities remain at the executive level or with the internal IT team? Should the CIO be looking for a ‘trusted advisor’ or an ‘outsourced partner CIO’?

The changing role of the CIO

These questions can only be answered by first looking at the role of the CIO and how this – alongside, but also independently of IT – is changing. The role of the traditional CIO was technical oversight of day-to-day IT operations. The CIO was a seasoned IT pro with the desire to step away from his desk overwhelmed with computer screens and walk into a position that controlled IT spending. 

But who does the CIO turn to for expertise and guidance? Finding trusted partners has always been a great option for IT teams looking to expand on the knowledge and capabilities they have in-house. With experts now owning the title of ‘managed cloud providers’ it is a game changer for a CIO looking for a cloud strategy.

Holding up their side of the bargain

When entering into an outsourced partnership there are expectations on both sides. If a managed cloud provider is entrusted with propelling a company into the era of cloud, harnessing a company’s dependency on data to find a competitive advantage and being a trusted partner to the CIO then they have to bring something a bit special to the table.

A truly great managed cloud provider looks at the situation from every level –  they are a trusted ‘outsourced CIO’ who can provide guidance about strategy and part of the IT team who can roll up its sleeves and get into the weeds of combining the existing IT infrastructure with the innovative benefits of the cloud. But this is always easier said than done.

Meeting C-level expectations 

A managed cloud provider’s job is to juggle balls, anticipate needs, provide guidance and be one step ahead of any issues that might arise – to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the CIO.

It may seem basic, but if a managed cloud provider cannot deliver constant availability and isn’t always on the lookout for things that could cause an outage, then the rest is all pointless. Availability is an managed cloud provider’s bread and butter providing the performance a CIO expects and depends on.

As important as availability is, sometimes it’s not enough. In a world always demanding faster and better, performance must be a priority. Always honing in on performance bottlenecks and how to resolve them should be an everyday thing for a managed cloud provider. This is especially true when AWS-like cloud instances can be set up instantaneously and over-used resources and auto-scaling can get out of control.

Compliance – although not a factor for every company or industry – should still be part of a managed cloud provider’s repertoire. Regulations, including the US-EU Privacy Shield and GDPR, mean storing data can be complex and that not all data at a company can be stored in the cloud. As a managed cloud provider, deep knowledge and understanding of any regulation that could impact a customer is vital. As a CIO, the responsibility to comply with all regulations can be daunting, but if a managed cloud provider can provide insight, guidance and most importantly compliance, it can make a huge difference.

Compliance goes hand in hand with security. As public cloud begins to play a larger part in IT strategy, CIO’s can often feel like the control of security is slipping away. A seasoned managed cloud provider has security experts on hand to continuously protect against the latest iteration of attacks and provide proactive security policies.

In the face of all these fundamentals, managed cloud providers have to bring opportunities, innovation and creativity to their work. As workloads expand and change how are those handled differently? What strategic choices can be made around the combination of public, private and hybrid cloud?

And if any of this goes wrong – which is hopefully something you don’t experience as a CIO, but let’s pretend – a great managed cloud provider will have noticed and be on the phone before the customer has realised anything is wrong. An action plan must be in place, issues must be escalated in an efficient manner and solutions, or at least personnel working on a solution, must be available to jump. This is the service portion of a managed cloud provider, but in the eyes of a CIO it can be the critical safety net to the cloud.

It is all about trust

As individual areas, these are all important, but the biggest thing a CIO should expect from their managed cloud provider is trust. There is always a risk in handing over the keys to the IT castle, but through a built-up track record and thoughtful guidance, a managed cloud provider should instil confidence in any CIO and be a trusted partner no matter the journey a company is taking through digital transformation and into the cloud. 

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