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Do I need a cloud provider or a managed services provider?

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Managed services provider or cloud services provider? That’s a bit like asking if you should hire a contractor for your kitchen remodel or rent tools and do it yourself. Both will get you there eventually, but you’ll have expertise, guidance and experience on your side if you go with an MSP—not to mention access to specialized tools and extra features. Of course, when it comes to cost, a cloud provider is the clear winner.

Since “cloud” is an all-encompassing term for a variety of services and products, many business owners find themselves at a loss when deciding what IT solutions make sense for their needs. Today we’ll run through the differences between two often-confused services to help you choose the best fit for your company. (You’re on your own with the kitchen remodel, though!)

A cloud services provider gives you access to one tool

All MSPs are cloud services providers, but not every cloud services provider is an MSP. Essentially, cloud providers give you access the cloud over a shared infrastructure or via software. A bunch of different products get lumped into this category: cloud storage offerings like Google Drive, SaaS tools like Salesforce.com and cloud hosting platforms like Amazon Web Services.

Although these products cover a wide range of functionality, they do share one uniting characteristic: minimal customization. Cloud providers design their tools to cover the maximum number of bases with the least number of made-to-order features and functions. Sacrificing customization allows you to take full advantage of the economies of scale inherent to the cloud, as the products offered by cloud providers typically cost less than custom-built IT solutions. And that can save your business a lot of green!

An MSP helps you design the tools you need

MSPs, on the other hand, can create customized access to the cloud by offering private, public or hybrid models. MSPs will make cloud servers and tools as secure as you need them to be, and will help schedule and plan your deployment so there is little to no interruption.

There are differences in service, as well: MSPs usually offer guidance when you create cloud-based servers and tools, advising you on the size and scope of IT solutions. Many MSPs have experience working within particular industries such as healthcare or real estate, so they know what a company like yours needs and what’s required to stay compliant with industry-wide regulations.

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Additionally, some businesses benefit from outsourcing routine IT functions to MSPs. Your MSP may take over security tasks like monitoring and data backups, work with external vendors—like a data entry service or application developer—to deliver IT access without a go-between, maintain your networks, and regularly update your software and IT infrastructure as necessary. For many businesses, the ability to outsource this kind of technical housekeeping more than makes up for the extra cost of engaging an MSP.

Security and support: The foundation of any good MSP

MSPs offer more robust security options and higher-level, more personalized business IT support than cloud providers. They’ll check in with you to discuss your cloud’s technical vitals and provide routine status reports as a matter of course. What’s more, they’ll partner with you to develop a strategy for your cloud deployment—both in the near future and five years from now.

Similarly, custom cloud servers created through an MSP offer the maximum in IT security. Integrating with a public cloud comes with risks, particularly if you’re managing sensitive data, and MSPs can help you design custom security solutions for your cloud services, including private clouds, firewalls, data encryption, security patches and password support. They also offer support hotlines and disaster recovery services, meaning there’s someone to call if something goes wrong.

Many MSPs also offer 24/7 business IT support, so they’re available if your server suddenly goes down and you have no idea why. Unlike with high-volume services, your call or email isn’t going to be lumped into a long queue until it gets escalated to the right person.

You don’t necessarily need to choose

If you’re integrating with the cloud for the first time, the advice and experience of MSPs can prove invaluable even if you’re using public cloud services. For instance, you might like the reputation and stability of a large public cloud service like AWS but rely on an MSP to help you deploy your applications and file servers. A case like this isn’t really an either/or situation but rather a combination of different resources and strategies.

Ultimately, determining whether to work with a cloud provider, an MSP or both comes down to the level of control you want over your systems, as well as how much you feel you can benefit from tailor-made IT solutions. Of course, the quality of your IT support provider is going to affect the level of support you receive. For some help selecting a top-notch partner, download our How to Hire the Right IT Services Provider e-book or skip the reading and head straight to MyITpros.com to drop us a line. As one of the premier business IT support providers in Austin, we’ve seen just about everything when it comes to the cloud. Just don’t ask us to pick out your kitchen tile!

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