Selecting the Right Service Provider: Different Service Provider Types

Antonio Piraino

More companies are choosing to take advantage of cloud computing and managed services. But choosing service providers can be a complex task.  What criteria should you use to make an informed decision? This has been the subject of a series I’ve been writing for the Vendor Forum at entitled “How to Choose the Right Service Provider for Your Needs.”

Here is a summary of the first article in the series, which covers the different types of providers and how they are evolving in today’s landscape. First, you have to understand the different types of service providers. 

Not all service providers necessarily provide pure cloud computing services. Some focus on data center operations and colocation services to large enterprises, the Federal government, and even to other managed service providers (MSPs).

The compelling advantage of using these providers is being able to spend a monthly operating cost, instead of having to spend capital costs up front to build a large data center.  (OpEx vs. CapEx, if you will.) There are also dedicated hosting providers, who are often customers themselves to the colocation providers.

Over the past five years, there has been a mass migration to virtualization and cloud infrastructure services taking place. Then there’s infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). Public cloud providers offer more discriminatory pricing for IT infrastructure based upon resource allocation per workload. 

More importantly though, for developers and independent software vendors (ISVs), this is an optimal place to finally test and develop those applications that would have otherwise remained hidden, underfunded and unattended. Similar to IaaS is PaaS – Platform-as-a-Service. These services offer a coding environment, complete with existing libraries and tools, for developers to work within.

Shared hosters typically offer small-to-medium businesses the ability to register domain names, and host the baseline web pages on shared infrastructure.  At the high end of the scale, managed hosting providers add a layer of support and management expertise to the mix, freeing up businesses to focus their attention on their core expertise.

The term “MSP” is often used interchangeably with hosting providers, but in truth, a managed service provider differentiates itself through on-premise and off-premise management as necessary, providing support for specific applications or entire IT infrastructure that may be too complex or expensive for a business to run themselves.

MSPs give companies a flexible platform for development, staging and full production that is managed on a virtual private cloud. It is the agility, flexibility and speed to deployment that is most compelling to IT administrators and business units who want to rapidly set up applications on the fly.

Finally, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers provide an overlay to the facility and infrastructure providers, as well as application development teams. Many MSPs and hosting providers are toying with variations of SaaS offerings, and more and more apps bazaars and apps catalogs are making their way into the lexicon of the average third-party service provider.

SaaS remains the fastest growing segment of the cloud market. With these broad definitions in mind, my next write-up will discuss how the size and form of the business should help companies determine what managed services to use.

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