For the sake of your business, expect more from your AWS managed service provider

AWS has been vocally encouraging managed service providers (MSPs) to provide their customers with proactive site reliability engineering (SRE) for several years now. Their justification is clear, and fair; it helps businesses “reduce costs, improves business agility, increases security and empowers organisations to focus on their goals.”

Yet, the percentage of organisations adopting ‘next-gen MSP’, as AWS refers to it, remains low. Most are still opting for ‘AWS Management’ – the old school IT break/fix support model. This reactive approach, a hangover from a bygone era, can be hugely detrimental to organisations operating in fast moving cloud environments. So, the obvious question is, why has it remained so popular?

Well, it’s partly because that’s how things have always been done. But, it’s also because it appears (albeit falsely) to be more cost effective and convenient. With AWS Management, businesses will pay a smaller fee for the monitoring of their site, as no proactive improvement work is being carried out. As their MSP will not be seeking permission to make changes to their infrastructure on a regular basis, it becomes a kind of insurance policy that can be forgotten about until it’s needed.

False Economy

The problem with this break/fix approach is service providers are not actively taking steps to prevent things from going wrong in the first place. They are just there to patch things up when they do.

They won’t be digging deeper to find the root causes of problems, so there’s almost an inevitability that organisations will face issues in the future when their infrastructure expands. When small issues grow, they can become major problems that cripple a site – and the overall cost of site reliability engineering is likely to skyrocket as a result.

Being proactive isn’t just about stopping things from breaking though. It is also likely to generate cost savings for the business – enough to significantly outweigh the fee paid to a next-gen MSP.

We regularly perform more than 400 standard checks on cloud infrastructures to monitor a whole range of things – from compliance and security to resource utilisation and cost management. These insights allow us to optimise the cloud infrastructure, and deliver savings of anywhere up to a third of the overall cloud computing bill. But, cost savings are still not the biggest reason to ditch AWS Management and become proactive.

Better Business Performance

By being proactive, organisations will be constantly improving site and app performance, which will result in improved business performance. For example, when we deploy cloud native tools it provides end-to-end visibility over the customer experience. This shows us where issues lie, and where enhancements can be made to improve that experience.

These constant improvements will also allow the site to scale up with ease when traffic grows, especially during peak events like Black Friday or Christmas. This was evident when physical retail stores closed following the Covid-19 lockdowns. We had clients who saw the volume of stock sold online every day reach twice the level you would expect to see on a typical Black Friday.

This was the case for European outdoor clothing brand Regatta. A proactive approach to SRE meant it had already cut website response times in half by the time when we went into lockdown. And when major retailer’s websites struggled – with several deploying emergency queuing systems to cope during this period – Regatta was able to scale up and meet that additional demand comfortably.

The MSP Checklist

So, when it comes to site reliability you should be looking to partner with an MSP that will help you cut costs, improve business performance and protect the long-term health of your organisation.

But how do you know if your MSP is or isn’t going to provide you with the level of service you require? To help you answer this question, here’s a checklist of things to look out for.

  1. Ongoing guidance

A next-gen MSP should be offering consultative and advisory services that will help organisations adhere to the principles of the AWS Well-Architected Framework. Are they prepared to run educational workshops and hands-on training sessions, such as Immersion Days?

  1. Business outcomes

Instead of simply focusing on the health of individual resources, a next-gen MSP will be focused on business outcomes. Are they asking questions about the business strategy and roadmap – and looking to align their services and technology where possible? They should be using their expertise to help organisaitons succeed in four key areas: planning and designing; building and migrating; running and operating; and optimisation.

  1. Advocates of AWS services

Is your MSP advocating the use of AWS services? By utilising cloud native services, businesses will shift more responsibility towards the cloud provider and reduce the management overheads for the organisation. This will also allow MSP time to be allocated more effectively.

  1. Application monitoring

Is the MSP looking to monitor application performance as well as the general health of the infrastructure? Next-gen MSPs should be proactively identifying performance and scalability issues both within the infrastructure and application architecture. This will help organisations head problems off before they become operational issues.

  1. Broad professional capabilities

Does your cloud partner have the ability to deliver complex AWS architecture projects, assist with application refactoring and more? This requires a broad skillset which includes solutions architects as well as site reliability and DevOps/ platform engineers. You should not need to engage another agency for this type of work.

If you’re confident your MSP can support you in all the above ways, you will have the reassurance that your cloud partner will not just provide a safety net – but will actively help your business grow and achieve its goals.





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