13.0 min to readCloud ServicesThought Leadership

Managed Cloud Services: everything you need to know

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Jaime AjamiRegional Services Portfolio Strategist, North America
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There are many ways you can get support with your cloud-based services and grow your capabilities in this area. The managed services model is often mentioned as a useful option. How does it work and when to use it? I will go over the different variations and how they can contribute to your business in this article.

One of the frequently used options when it comes to IT support is outsourcing. This typically involves hiring an external service provider to handle specific tasks or functions, rather than using in-house employees to manage those responsibilities.

Organisations often use outsourcing to gain access to specialised skills, human resources or experience they might lack internally. They might also choose to use outsourced support to reduce costs, improve efficiency or free up employees’ time to focus on other work.

But when your business calls for a more comprehensive technical approach and additional support with your IT strategy, you may wish to opt for managed services instead.

What is a managed service provider?

A managed service provider (MSP) is a business that provides organisations with outsourced, ongoing help for maintaining, securing and optimising their IT infrastructure. MSPs are usually engaged for extended periods of time and paid a fixed monthly fee.

Among the service offerings that an MSP can provide are:

  • On-premises, cloud and hybrid IT management
  • Remote monitoring, security and network monitoring, patching, incident response and remediation
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • FinOps services for optimising cloud consumption and costs
  • Infrastructure optimisation and modernisation
  • Migration planning and support
  • Software license negotiation support
  • Consulting services

Managed service providers can provide as much or as little support as you need – from being available to help with periodic issues, to managing services 24/7, to acting almost as a part of internal IT and infrastructure teams.

In addition, a managed service provider can support you throughout all the different lifecycles of cloud adoption, and across every part of the cloud computing stack. This includes help with the infrastructure layer, the operating system layer, the application layer and other components that need to be managed as part of your cloud development and operations strategy.

How do co-managed services work?

Co-managed services are a subset of managed services, whereby IT management responsibilities are shared with the MSP’s clients. They are based on a partnership between the MSP and its client’s IT team and/or independent business units. It’s a model that lets organisations customise the level of support they receive – they can keep specific responsibilities internally while also being able to access the MSP’s specialised skills and experience as needed.

By collaborating and combining their individual strengths, the two businesses can achieve a “best of both worlds” synergy for optimising the client’s technology infrastructure. Because some responsibilities are shared, co-managed services can be more affordable than managed services.

What are the different types of managed IT support?

Managed IT service providers assist with a wide range of technology needs. Here are some common support services offered through these engagements.

Break/fix support

Once the standard for IT support, this model involves monitoring IT infrastructure for issues, and then responding to resolve them. It’s typically a reactive approach to addressing IT issues but provides basic-level peace of mind for your presence in the cloud.

Based on your requirements and the MSP’s capabilities, break/fix support might be provided only during working hours or 24/7/365. You can negotiate terms with the managed service provider, defining expectations through operational-level agreements (OLAs) and service-level agreements (SLAs).

Cost/usage optimisation

Working with an MSP that supports your financial operations will help you to identify and incorporate best practices for optimising and reducing spending, e.g. through right-sizing or implementing best practices. It will also help you to understand the value of every dollar you spend in the cloud – giving you insights and clarity into how your IT utilisation contributes to business profits and growth.


A managed service partner can offer a range of services to keep your business secure in the cloud. These can include:

  • Multiple layers of protection to safeguard your infrastructure from cyberattacks and security failures
  • 24/7 monitoring and alerting for your systems
  • Rapid response services to defend and restore compromised systems, and minimise data losses and downtime
  • Close coordination and real-time collaboration with your in-house security teams

Using advanced automation and artificial intelligence, a managed service provider can integrate many different data sources from across your organisation to proactively monitor activity in your IT environment. This can help you to detect and resolve most potential cyberattacks and other security vulnerabilities in near-real time.

Backup and disaster recovery

Engaging a managed service provider for backup and disaster recovery gives you access to modern and cloud-ready levels of data protection. It's also a good way to gain fine-grained control over your backup and recovery efforts, and to meet regulatory and compliance requirements. With the right partner, you can enhance your RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (recovery point objective), which can help you reduce or prevent backup failures and speed up recovery after an outage.

Fully managed services

With an outsourced provider offering a full set of managed services for your cloud infrastructure, your organisation can access support wherever and whenever it’s needed. You can turn to the MSP for additional expertise in any aspect of IT management – in effect, it can become a full partner to your internal team as your infrastructure requirements change.

There’s a lot of flexibility in such arrangements. Using a responsibility assignment (RACI) matrix, you can work with the MSP to define who is responsible for what. And, as your needs evolve, your working relationship with the managed service provider can be adapted to those new requirements.

What are some important elements of starting an MSP partnership?

Here are some pointers for starting your cooperation in the right way:

  • Needs assessment

    Working together, the MSP and your in-house IT team should identify the key IT needs and develop a plan to specify who is responsible for what. Decisions are based on which areas could benefit most from external support, which are better managed in-house, and which should be jointly managed.

  • Service Level Agreement and/or Service Level Objective

    Developed collaboratively, the service level agreement (SLA) will spell out performance expectations for each of the responsibilities identified in the needs assessment. The SLA and/or SLO can include specific targets for metrics such as uptime, incident response times, incident resolution times or other performance areas.

  • Support levels

    Typically, your IT department retains control over day-to-day IT management while the co-managed service provider might be responsible for tasks such as monitoring, incident responses and resolutions, help desk services, patching and updating and resource optimisation. However, each engagement can (and should) be customised to your specific business needs.

  • Continuous improvement

    Working both on their own and together, the client and the MSP manage their responsibilities while adapting or updating services as needed to meet growth, cost management and innovation goals. Both should have clear, regular communication strategies and common goals for continuous improvement and modernisation.

Who can benefit from working with an MSP?

You might consider working with a managed service provider if your IT team has the required skills and experience but has limited bandwidth to manage all your IT needs. An MSP can also help with large or complex modernisation, transformation or migration programmes that require specialised skills and expertise. Your company might also benefit from managed services if you’re dealing with short staffing or recruiting difficulties or facing an immediate need for skills you lack, all of which can make it hard to innovate.

In addition, MSPs can help businesses competing in tough markets with digital-native startups: managed service providers can bring advanced IT knowledge, skills and innovation that are hard to maintain or retain in-house. Even very large enterprises with extensive in-house expertise might have skill gaps that a managed service provider can help fill.

Who is an MSP not right for?

Your organisation is not likely to benefit from working with an MSP if you aren’t interested in cloud adoption or have a small IT environment with little need for growth or innovation. In such circumstances, you will probably be able to manage your IT needs with only in-house employees or the support of a part-time IT contractor.

Organisations with strict security and compliance requirements might also prefer to keep their IT management responsibilities in-house rather than to engage with an MSP. This option provides such organisations with greater control over their IT infrastructure.

What are the advantages and considerations when it comes to managed IT services?

Advantages of managed services engagements

There are several benefits to working with an MSP:

  • Flexible costs

    Business customers typically pay a fixed monthly fee for support from managed IT service providers. This can simplify budgeting by shifting spending from capital expenditures (CapEx) to operational expenditures (OpEx), and can reduce unexpected costs from unforeseen issues related to information technology. While you could see additional operating expenses, your overall capital expenditures may decrease due to your reduced responsibility for factors including – but not limited to – staffing, skills development, hardware or optimisation and innovation improvements.

  • Scalability

    Organisations that work with a managed service provider gain support to proactively adapt their technology stack, scaling services up or down according to their needs. This provides increased speed and flexibility – both of which are vital for keeping up with changing business demands and needs, evolving technologies and shifts in the economy, market and customer base. Moreover, it enables companies to add key skills or capabilities on demand faster and more affordably than they could by recruiting and hiring additional staff.

  • Improved security

    To serve their customers effectively, managed service providers need to stay up to date on cyber threats, security skills and security technologies – including the use of automation and AI for near-real-time monitoring, threat prevention, detection and response. This ensures that their business customers have the tools and support they need to respond to fast-evolving cyber attack strategies, ransomware and other threats

  • 24/7 support

    Managed service providers can typically offer around-the-clock support in whatever area an organisation needs help. This can be especially valuable for small and medium-sized businesses with a skilled in-house IT team that might not be available at night or during weekends and holidays.

  • Space for strategic initiatives

    Engaging a managed service provider can do more than relieve the work burden and stress of overloaded in-house IT employees. By reducing internal work demands, companies can free up time and give staff more opportunities to make long-delayed improvements, work on value-adding projects or further develop their professional skills. Such opportunities can improve team morale and employee retention rates, which are critical benefits in the face of the ongoing global IT skills shortage.

Considerations when thinking of working with an MSP

There are some areas to think about before embarking on a managed services engagement.

  • Continued need for in-house capabilities

    To facilitate business growth, you still need in-house expertise. So don’t look at MSPs as a way to replace your current IT department. In fact, if you’re struggling to grow, transform or expand the skills of your in-house team, an MSP can provide a vital bridge to those goals.
    Moreover, this could provide an opportunity to shift your work culture in positive ways. Some MSPs strongly encourage their customers to embrace adoption and change management while working together – this helps IT teams and other users become accustomed to new technologies, responsibilities and operations.
    Keep in mind that it’s important to communicate clearly about what a managed service arrangement will mean for employees. The scope of the managed service provider’s responsibilities is entirely up to you as the client.

  • Importance of a culture match

    Not all managed service providers are equal. Finding the right partner starts with first clearly identifying your own business needs and requirements, then looking for an MSP whose technology skills and capabilities align with those needs. Think about more than just technology too: managed service providers have a range of working styles, communication strategies and business cultures – you want a provider that can deliver the right ‘fit’ for your organisation. Open communication is the key to success here.

  • Time commitment

    If an MSP doesn’t live up to its service level agreements with your organisation, you might need to search for a different provider and begin a new relationship all over again. This can be time-consuming and costly, wasting valuable resources that could be better invested into growing your business. So, make it a priority from the beginning to choose an MSP that understands your business needs and challenges, and can demonstrate it has the skillsets that can best support you.

Coming to a decision about support services

A managed service provider can add real value to your business, remove a lot of the headaches and fill in any knowledge or skills gaps in your IT infrastructure management or digital transformation projects. It is essential to assess your own needs first, as well as the capabilities of any MSP, before embarking on a relationship. In essence, having a good MSP can help you to achieve more, be better informed and add capacity to stretched resources. An effective managed service provider can help your business make better use of your data, work more efficiently and achieve more of your goals.

Here at SoftwareOne, we have the knowledge and experience to guide your journey into the cloud no matter which cloud platform you choose. One of our greatest strengths is that we’re vendor-neutral, with accreditations across all three hyperscalers – we’re an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Tier Services Partner, a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Partner and a Google Cloud Partner.

We understand how to remove complexity and risk during cloud transformation. And we can tailor our managed cloud services to meet the unique needs of your business, because we work with organisations of all kinds across every industry.

Our managed services are designed to remove complexity and risk, and can be tailored to the unique needs of any business. We bring capabilities such as expertise in FinOps, enterprise-ready data protection and a proven methodology for modernisation, optimisation and cloud migration.

Our seven Rs approach toward cloud migration assesses your current IT infrastructure and your cloud goals to determine which modernisation strategy is best for each workload and application. Optimising your cloud presence takes more than a straight lift and shift: it means considering what you want to achieve and assessing how you can best accomplish that in the cloud, whether that means rehosting (lift and shift), refactoring (updating applications to be cloud-native), repurchasing, rearchitecting, relocating, retaining or retiring.

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Make the most of your cloud

Visit our cloud managed services page today to learn more about how SoftwareOne can help you achieve your cloud transformation goals. Or get started with your cloud journey now by getting in touch with one of our cloud managed services experts.

Make the most of your cloud

Visit our cloud managed services page today to learn more about how SoftwareOne can help you achieve your cloud transformation goals. Or get started with your cloud journey now by getting in touch with one of our cloud managed services experts.


A bald man in a gray shirt is posing for a photo.

Jaime Ajami
Regional Services Portfolio Strategist, North America