Hold onto your seat: business acceleration may seem lightning fast now, but it’s about to hit warp speed. Today, transformational information technology (IT) innovations are disrupting the digital landscape, leading to bold new companies and technology-enabled business models. Compound this with the burgeoning share economy and you’ll find that even your local taxi company is reeling from the impact of technology disruptors like Uber and Lyft. It can sometimes seem like every business is a technology business today, finding competitive advantage – or disadvantage – in how they utilize IT, react to changes in the marketplace and stay ahead of nimble competitors.

This competitive cycle of innovation raises expectations on IT managers and drives new models for IT deployment. The old model – enterprises building out their own data centers and deploying infrastructure and applications on what were often 18 to 24 month cycles – proved ripe for disruption. Today, software companies that scheduled updates two-to-four times a year, can now do smaller updates on a daily basis, without disrupting customers. Hybrid IT architectures, combining in-house resources with a vast array of managed service providers (MSPs), offer greater flexibility, better cost profiles, a smoother path to future-proofing and more agility for business.

Managed hosting is a good entry point into hybrid IT for many enterprises. Every situation may be unique, but there are many common questions that customers use to evaluate MSPs. Here are a few.

Does the MSP have expertise in what you’re trying to optimize?

Let’s cut to the chase. New software introductions typically mean long days and late nights, and that’s after you’ve already likely spent hours justifying the upgrade to business executives. Don’t let this be an obstacle to moving your company forward. Instead, consider alternative ways to introduce software without increasing overhead.  Step one: validate your potential MSP’s experience, reliability, and security protocols before committing.

An ideal MSP has experience not just in managed applications, but also in your application stack and its associated interdependencies, including the OS it runs under, the web server driving it and the databases supporting the system. This is especially true for many key applications such as SAP, or databases like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, or Oracle. In many cases, the vendor needs certifications to provide maintenance and deploy updates, as well as experience in the nuances of managing the licenses with these large, powerful software companies. This shouldn’t come as a shock to any experienced MSP.

How flexible is the MSP’s offering?

Flexible offerings will support you through all phases of business, from onboarding and maturity, to growth. In the onboarding process, dedicated teams must move quickly to troubleshoot issues. Are they willing to roll up their sleeves and jump in, knowing that some work may be required before negotiations are completed? In some instances, once you’re up and running, your support needs might be minimal. For others, you might need a support team that can be a hands-on resource, dedicated to your needs. Can your potential MSP offer varying levels of support rather than just one-size-fits-all options?

Having a flexible MSP in your court also influences how smoothly you can provision expanded workloads or purchase more capacity. Ease of provisioning can come down to API maturity or the number of clicks a management portal takes to add capability and deploy new workloads, or how long it takes for that process to be completed. If you tap into your MSP to handle a spike in demand, how easy will it be to adjust downward once that spike passes?

Flexibility, or lack of it, also factors into how a MSPs will bill you. Some slice and dice services, such as compute and storage, into small increments. Others require minimal configurations or ratios of services (e.g. X amount of compute is only sold with X amount of storage). Identify what you need so you can determine how flexible your configuration can be, and how it will impact your budget.

What’s the range of services offered?

Understanding the range of services available beyond your initial arrangement can impact how smoothly you’re able to expand your business.

Is managed hosting a first step on your way to the cloud with a key application? If so, does your MSP have  multi-cloud capability – both public and private – providing you the flexibility to implement the optimal deployment model to benefit your need? Is your reach global? Data centers in multiple locations become key considerations when managing performance around the world.

A little research now will go a long way down the road. The range of services offered by an MSP has implications for how you can organize your IT operation, and the business itself, as your enterprise evolves.

How will the environment be secured?

IT security breaches are headline-grabbing news – headlines you’d rather avoid. Understanding security measures and services available is a key consideration when choosing an MSP.

Look for security with a multi-tiered model, starting with physical security. In some applications and jurisdictions, there may be compliance requirements regarding physical security. Your MSP should not only be compliant, but should also be certified by the proper regulatory bodies for the facilities in which your services will be deployed.

Securing infrastructure involves multifaceted options and services, ranging from firewalls, intrusion prevention and DDoS mitigation, to other services that can be layered onto your hybrid IT architecture. Remember, each layer of the software stack should be secured, as well as the hardware it’s running on and the building housing it.

Ultimately, the MSP you choose should serve as an extension of your own team. Your business deserves an experienced managed hosting partner that will give you flexible, reliable and responsive support. When you include CenturyLink on your evaluation list, we assure you that we will address each of your questions and work alongside you to assess your managed hosting needs in a free consultation. Take the first step toward a more agile and competitive business today.

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