My Confession: Why SMBs Need MSPs for Reliable Cloud Services

My Confession: Why SMBs Need MSPs for Reliable Cloud Services

Last week was a painful one for me. First, I took a polite hit from Brendan Cosgrove, director of social media and community at Kaseya. Then, I took a few lumps from Nick Bock, CEO of Five Nines Technology Group, an MSP in Lincoln, Neb. In public forums and in private meetings, Cosgrove, Bock and a few other MSP pundits told me our websites were running slowly. And in some cases pages weren't loading at all. How the heck could that happen since our web sites run in the cloud -- where IT resources are automatically activated to boost site scalability and responsiveness?

Fact is, our websites faced the perfect storm last week...

  1. Our cloud service provider suffered some outages related to a faulty router software upgrade.

  2. Our web integrator had just upgraded our sites with a bunch of new capabilities.

  3. I had also updated our sites with a bunch of new plugins.

During parts of last week, I struggled to determine whether one, two or all three of those variables had hurt our site performance. Gradually, I narrowed down the issues to items one and three, and we took corrective action. And then earlier this week, our web integrator worked with our cloud service provider to activate a new caching system as well as a new content delivery network (CDN) system. So far, the enhancements and site fixes are holding up well (fingers crossed).

Calling in the Experts

But what steps are we taking to ultimately ensure our cloud-driven web sites don't face the perfect storm again? And how can we resolve the issues more quickly if problems do pop up again?

For starters, you can bet that I will spend less time updating our sites with new plugins; instead, I'll leave that activity to the professionals. Next, our sites ultimately need a third-party service provider.

In the SMB market, that would mean calling in an MSP. But for us, that means calling our parent -- Penton Media -- for help. Penton has an internal IT team that scales some of the web's largest IT media sites. Although Penton acquired our media sites in August 2011, we still run a bit of a rogue operation -- hosting our sites in a third-party data center, etc. But going forward, I plan to lean on the Penton IT team -- help, help -- much in the way that an SMB would leverage an MSP for cloud services guidance.

Know Your Value

For MSPs, I don't see much valuing in basic cloud monitoring for customers. Telling a customer that a major cloud (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc.) is down isn't of much value since only the cloud provider can really turn its service back on. But I do see big value in root cause analysis. When your customers experience cloud issues, what's the root cause?

  • faulty end-point devices?

  • bad network connections?

  • hardware problems on the server?

  • application-level problems?

  • database problems?

  • something else?

Often, SMBs can't get those answers on their own because big cloud providers aren't set  up to explain performance issues in layman's terms. That's where MSPs enter the picture. Even in the age of cloud computing, you can be the filter who describes what's right -- and what's wrong -- with your customers' systems, regardless of where those systems reside...
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