In the age of cloud, infrastructure has become a competitive differentiator. Companies that build scalable, repeatable, automated Azure clouds are able to get products to market faster and innovate with fewer risks.
But many companies feel that this vision of innovation on the cloud is out of reach, mostly due to a lack of cloud expertise. In fact, 85% of IT executives say that greater cloud expertise would help them recoup the return on their cloud investment, and 71% believed their organizations have lost revenue due to a lack of cloud expertise.
An Azure Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help close the gap. Here are a few of the reasons why companies are seeking out Managed Services for Azure:
1. Get the Full Value Out of Azure
Companies that lift-and-shift their applications to Azure often use three Azure services: basic compute, networking, access control. While you’ll likely have lower costs and greater flexibility vs. on-premises or colocated datacenter management, you won’t realize the full benefits of Azure.
An Azure MSP can help you identify the right Azure services to use and the right process for transitioning to more optimal services. For example, they can help you weigh the costs of transitioning to an Azure native database service against the ease of lifting and shifting to an Azure VM. They can help identify parts of your application that are worth tweaking in order to take advantage of the auto scaling capabilities of Azure. Based on their experience on other Azure migration projects, they can help you avoid common mistakes.
You don’t need to completely rearchitect your applications to get the full value out of Azure. An Azure MSP can identify high-impact areas to focus on so that you can migrate quickly and with the greatest benefit.
2. Understand the Value of Infrastructure-as-Code
Infrastructure-as-code is what enables you to launch new Azure resources in minutes, spin up and down test/dev environments with ease, automatically scale up production resources, and maintain consistent configuration standards across resources. An Azure MSP can help you go from manually building resources in the console or CLI to a fully operational infrastructure-as-code system — much faster than you could do yourself.
An Azure MSP can help guide you through the basic building blocks of infrastructure as code: templates (Azure Resource Manager), configuration management (Puppet, Chef, Ansible for Azure), and catalogs (Azure Managed Applications). Each of these tools work together to allow you to architect, launch, and configure Azure resources programmatically. At Logicworks, we write custom templates and scripts for each client. We also have a library of Azure Resource Manager templates and configuration management scripts that have been previously audited for HIPAA, HITRUST, PCI-DSS, SOC2, and ISO 27001.
For systems engineers that have operated primarily on-premises, infrastructure-as-code on Azure takes some getting used to. Most choose to build resources manually and assume they’ll figure out infrastructure-as-code later, only to find they’re not getting the expected ROI on their Azure investment. An Azure MSP can provide that necessary expertise so you can get scalable infrastructure now.
3. Get Azure Compliance Expertise
Maintaining compliance on Azure requires a new set of tools and processes. For risk-averse companies in highly-regulated industries, this often means months of work to conduct a risk assessment, understand the required tools, configure them, document them, and prepare for audits.
An Azure Expert MSP with compliance expertise can ensure that your Azure architecture meets your specific standard. Often they can do so using low cost Azure-native tools rather than retrofitting your existing tools to Azure. As mentioned above, they may even have Azure Resource Manager templates that have previously been audited for HIPAA, HITRUST, PCI-DSS, FedRAMP or another standard ton get you up and going even faster.
On an ongoing basis, an Azure Expert MSP can also help you prepare for audits by pulling documentation and ensuring that your infrastructure meets required standards. Recently, Logicworks worked with a HITRUST compliant healthcare company that needed to meet 400 separate controls. By working with Logicworks as their MSP, Logicworks provided evidence of 175 of those controls. This means that Logicworks immediately reduced their overall audit scope by 40%. The company said that it would have taken 2-6 months to implement and document those controls themselves. Watch the full case study here.
4. Access to Azure 24×7 Support Team
Maintaining an in-house overnight support can be both expensive and challenging to manage. But if you’re running mission-critical applications on Azure, you need that level of support.
Quality 24×7 support is the foundation of any good MSP. Don’t be wooed by the marketing claims about the quality of an MSP’s support; ask for hard metrics and get references. If you’re evaluating MSP’s support teams, look for the following traits:
- On-shore support (not overseas)
- Certifications of the support team (look for Azure Certified Professionals)
- Certified audited program accreditations: Microsoft Gold Certified and Azure Expert MSP status
- NPS-T scores on tickets
- Escalation path to network, automation, or DBA specialists
- Quality of their Cloud Management Platform (ask for a demo)
- Access to a Service Delivery Manager or Product Manager to coordinate efforts and make sure tickets are resolved
Having 24×7 support makes your internal teams happier and mitigates the risk of running mission-critical applications on the cloud. A good MSP will function like an extension of your in-house team, supplement what you need, and give your internal team flexible control of what it wants to manage.
Logicworks’ Managed Azure customers also often find that our services cost significantly less than managing a night support team.
5. Managed Patching, Backups, and Break/Fix
Many people assume that when you migrate to Azure, Microsoft takes care of OS patching, backups, and upgrades for you.
In reality, more than 80% of technologists believe that IT leadership underestimates the cost and effort of maintaining the cloud. Just as when you operated on-premises, you are responsible for regular patching, taking snapshots, and of course fixing the unexpected. Some services can be configured to perform backups and patching automatically, but for the most part the responsibility lies with you.
By outsourcing to an Azure Expert MSP, you’re offloading time-consuming, often labor-intensive maintenance that your team doesn’t need to handle. Let them focus on business-impacting upgrades.
6. Keep Up with Azure’s Innovation
Last but not least, operating on Microsoft Azure means you have to keep up with a constant stream of new products and announcements — and R&Ding new Azure services can be a full-time job. Often these new services can make a substantial impact on your business.
An Azure Expert MSP should be so tuned-in with Microsoft’s latest announcements and innovations that they suggest new tools for you to try and upgrade your services when appropriate. Oftentimes Logicworks is invited to beta new cloud services to gain competency early, then offer that expertise to our customers.
Your MSP should be your cloud R&D department. They should tell you about new services — both those you should try and those you should ignore — and help you keep up with the latest cloud trends.
Logicworks is an Azure Expert MSP with 25 years of experience managing enterprise IT. We specialize in managing complex workloads for companies in highly regulated industries, including healthcare, finance, retail, and technology.