It is fair to say that the Cloud has dominated the public headlines for the past few years. While the public cloud has cornered the market in terms of headlines and public breakdowns, the managed hosting industry has quietly plugged along in the background providing both consumers and providers with a tightly managed and secured computing environments.
In this guide, we are going to take a look at the managed hosting world by discussing the new best practices of managed hosting and why those changes have made, and will continue to make, the industry stronger.
Consumer Best Practice: Network Viability
For the consumer, one of the stark realities of any service provider is how their consumer commitments are structured and where those commitments end. In the vast majority of cases, most managed hosting providers start and end their network commitments in the data center. For the managed hosting provider this strategy makes sense; their data center of operation is the only location, they know, they can fully secure.
From the consumer point of view, network viability inside a managed hosting provider’s data center comes as a contract stipulation. Yet, as we all know, in data center network viability isn’t enough on the client/business end. To fully flesh out a network, consumers need to invest in security strategies and network performance monitoring solutions.
Managed Hosting Provider Best Practice: Pick the Right Clients
The job of a managed hosting provider is to supply clients with access to the most secure, fastest, highest load bearing and automated scaling-redundant built out network. On one end this means all MSP (managed service providers) have the job of providing a secure data secure, high end infrastructure, encrypted data pathways etc. On the other hand, the process of keeping their network clean for established clients is picking the right clients to represent.
While the MSP has the underlying task of making money to stay in operation, they also have to be secure in the type of clients they let into their fold. The wrong client driving the wrong type of traffic from the wrong sources, could put an entire network in danger. MSP’s, for the sake of their clients, must be very smart about who they choose to do business with.
Consumer Best Practice: Understand True Cloud Vendors
The Cloud is everywhere. If you search for web hosting, managed hosting or web server solutions, you will run into cloud services. The Cloud is everywhere. Its over-abundance has created an issue called cloudwashing. Cloudwashing is the ongoing practice of IT firms to promote their services as cloud based even though they are nothing of the sort. It is a marketing issue driven by bottom line interests rather than IT realties.
As noted by Forrester research:
“Any solution that carries the cloud name should include the following core requirements: 1) full automation; 2) self-service access; and 3) tracking and monitoring of resources. Today, the biggest violators include enhanced virtualization, extended contract requirements, and provisioning that takes longer than 15 minutes. Survey results show that only 30% of hosted private cloud adopters could get additional virtual resources within 15 minutes. Among hosted private cloud adopters that regret its sourcing type selection, 31% state that its solution fell short on speed of provisioning and flexibility.”
All potential MSP’s should have full automation, self-service access and tracking/monitoring of resources. Moreover, all managed hosting cloud providers should have the ability to deploy resources in less than 15 minutes. If any of the MSP’s you are researching fall short of these criteria, they shouldn’t be considered true cloud vendors and should not be considered for investment.
Managed Hosting Provider Best Practice: True Disaster Recovery SLA
Many MSP’s and cloud providers market their solutions with terminology of “disaster recovery” or “business continuity.” The language is common and it refers to a very real issue in the hosting world. With services available around the globe, business operation 24/7/365 is key. If a client thinks your services are down, a sale is lost.
MSP’s worth their salt will provide consumers with an SLA sans downtime loopholes. Common loopholes found in low level “cloud” solutions are downtime caused by natural disasters, city-wide power outages, storms and hacking. These loopholes, for the sake of business continuity are not allowed. Consumers pay managed hosting providers to make sure their online presence is always up and running regardless of local power outages, storms, natural disasters or DDoS attacks.
For the MSP, building out security facilities, port links, networks and global points of presence all dedicated to the secure transfer/continued uptime of services in the event of a tumultuous event, is of paramount concern.
The same concerns apply for consumers. When considering a MSP, make sure their disaster recovery SLA doesn’t include loopholes as discussed above. If they do, do not consider them worthy of your time or capital investment.
Consumer Best Practice: Data Security across Networks and Vendors
The basic rule of thumb within the Internet is threats can come from anywhere at any time. Whether those threats stem from internal company faults or from external malevolent activities, threats can come from anywhere. Working with a managed hosting provider is no different. While you can take all possible measures to secure the network living behind your corporate firewall, part of your security concern must be placed at the feet of the MSP. Are the security regulations of your MSP automated and easy to reproduce/harden? Are the security regulations of your MSP sans red tape and delays which will cost you more money than wanted? Does your MSP have a map of action laying out how each cloud environment and workload will be secured and hardened?
The basic rule of thumb within the Internet is a threat can come from anywhere. The basic rule of thumb for clients searching for a MSP is understanding that MSP’s have the ability to lessen threats by having workable and automated solutions to the aforementioned questions.
Managed Hosting Provider Best Practice: Automation is Key
Picking the right clients to join your network and securing that network is only part of your battle. As a managed hosting solution, automation of solutions is another key operational need. Automation is key for your business vitality because customization is time consuming, costly and it takes away from the demands on other clients.
While it has to be said that customization is needed for specific instances and larger clients, automation will provide your network of clients the same standard of operation, the same security protocols and the same level of protection across the board. More to the point, customization means more possibilities of something going wrong. Customization means more chances for an error to breakthrough or a security protocol – for the exact reason that it hasn’t been fully vetted yet – to breakdown jeopardizing the remainder of your client network.
Automation of solutions are more economic, prove safer in the long haul and are better guided by SLA contracts keeping all clients on the same page.
The Revised Managed Hosting Best Practices Guide Summary
Three revised best practices on both sides.
For the Managed Hosting Provider:
- Understand the right clients to work with. By choosing the right clients, you increase network security and harden security protocols.
- Provide a true SLA in terms of disaster recovery and business continuity. Clients will not pay you for loophole riddled SLA’s when it comes to service uptime.
- Automation of solutions. Standardize and automate services to keep all clients on the same page. Customization is needed from time to time, but limit when possible.
For the Managed Hosting Client:
- Network viability. Understand most MSP’s will work to secure their network inside the walls of their data center yet for your overall security, taking extra external network security measures is a must.
- Cloudwashing. Understand simply because an IT firm applies the term cloud to their services, it does not make them a cloud vendor or a MSP. There are guidelines. Stick to them.
- Data security across networks. Understand the data security practices of your chosen MSP. Do they automate? Do their processes help to harden all connected networks? Are their solutions workable in multiple computing environments and workloads?
While there are additional managed hosting best practices for clients and vendors, this quick list should give you a good idea of what to look for regardless of your station. Use the list wisely.