The cloud is a common topic of discussion for businesses of all sizes, but it's fair to say there's still some confusion around it. Not only is there technical talk for company bosses to get their heads around, it's actually pretty difficult to define as any one thing; the cloud exists in a number of forms.
Public cloud is often the first type that comes to mind for most, but then there's private cloud, not to mention hybrid; a mixture of both. Now, we're seeing the idea of a managed cloud mentioned more frequently.
What is managed cloud?
While most cloud solutions will allow adopters to cut operational costs significantly, they must still be managed and maintained by someone. Staying on top of security and ensuring everything is working as it should are just two of the concerns. Some firms will be determined to handle their services in-house, while others prefer to simply reap the benefits without being too involved in the behind-the-scenes operations.
Managed cloud refers to a comprehensive service designed to cater for the latter of these groups. In most examples, it'll involve the supplier's experts taking care of things like system monitoring, reporting, performance testing, security and compliance management, and disaster recovery.
Why is it a good idea?
Some people choose to look after their own cars in order to keep costs down, and the same can be said for businesses and their cloud setups. In order to maintain either of these things, though, the user must have the necessary time, knowledge and skills - although this isn't always the case.
Most of the drivers who are able to maintain their own vehicles to the appropriate standard have backgrounds in mechanics or something similar, and again, the same is true for businesses and the cloud. Unless they're IT-focused, the proper and cost-efficient management of such a service will be challenging to say the least.
For those determined to keep things close to home, there is the option of tasking an in-house IT team with management duties, but this may require extensive training. That's if such a team is even available. Often, because of size and limited spending power, many firms already outsource IT support, so this option won't always be feasible for SMEs, a market which many argue is the biggest beneficiary of cloud technologies.
Even for those with the capabilities, managed cloud is a great way to improve standards elsewhere across a business. Any company that has additional time to spend on the work they specialise in should be able to boost profit in the long term.
End-to-end managed cloud services allow businesses to harness the power of IT with ultimate peace of mind and confidence. By having experts on hand, firms needn't worry about the factors that could, in a normal situation, hinder installation or operation. Dedicated specialists will be able to keep security high on their priority list, for example, and opportunities for growth and evolution can also be highlighted when necessary. Having this kind of help so readily available can be invaluable in any business situation, but it's particularly useful for smaller firms that would otherwise require expensive support from a third party.
As is the case with all major enterprise projects, it's crucial to research and accurately predict ROI before any cloud solution is seriously considered.
Going for the cheapest option will rarely be the best way forward, and managed services exemplify this perfectly. While they can initially cost more than their self-service counterparts, investments tend to be justified in the long term. Not only is more time created to enhance other areas of the business - when everything is included in one, single package - it's usually possible to predict all monthly costs.
The final decision
There are clearly plenty of benefits that come with choosing a managed cloud solution over its alternatives, but the end-choice will depend on a number of factors. Business size will be one thing to consider, as many larger organisations have their own dedicated IT departments. If the necessary skills are available, the team has sufficient time and the infrastructure is already in-place, keeping everything in house may be a logical step to take. Otherwise, moving forward with a dedicated, managed service could create plenty of exciting opportunities.