As many businesses begin to re-draw their digital transformation roadmaps in the wake of Covid-19, today’s end-users are looking to evolve how they structure their IT services, and more critically, streamline whom they buy these services from.
For the Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and IT Service Providers (ISPs) responsible for such digital strategies, agile, resilient and secure data centre capacity is crucial – especially for those delivering disaster recovery, business continuity and cloud services. Here, the role of the data centre operator is, in many respects, simple but critical. Their primary requirement is to deliver power, cooling, connectivity, and secure physical infrastructure to support MSP service delivery.
Challenges in the face of digital transformation
In recent years much has changed. MSPs and ISPs are faced with a host of challenges, including the need to keep pace with the speed of constant technological change. There’s also a highly competitive marketplace to contend with, where often vendors and other service providers, even those that a business is partnered with, can compete on the same tenders.
Other challenges include the need for greater resilience of the IT facet and thereby increased levels of due diligence, where customers will want to see their whitespace before signing contractual agreements. Finally, with accelerated digital transformation, there is a need to future proof while meeting strict SLAs regarding data, security, and uptime.
The role of the data centre operator has, therefore, become even more critical for MSPs and ISPs planning to scale and grow. And with more end-users now looking to their external suppliers as trusted advisors, in-house technical expertise, agile critical infrastructure and dynamic service have become key differentiators for those providers in the channel.
Digital architectures are changing
According to research from Accenture, over three-quarters (77%) of executives state that their technology architecture is becoming critical to the overall success of their organisation.
One key area of growth for all MSPs is digital security, and research from Datto into the impact Covid-19 found 84% of MSPs report advanced endpoint security, data loss protection (79%) and password management policies (72%) as the most requested services by their customers. Having a partner that specialises in state-of-the-art physical infrastructure and security is vital for MSPs, and will likely form a major component of their services, especially those around zero trust approaches to data security.
Research from Gartner also states that by 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premises, colocation, cloud and edge delivery options, compared with 20% in 2020. This dramatic shift in IT infrastructure is redefining how MSPs are delivering end-user services.
Mission-critical IT, whether deployed on-premises, hosted in a colo, or indeed at the edge of the network is, therefore, paramount for end-user digital transformation. Now, as more MSPs and ISPs are called upon to expand their service portfolios with capacity for AI, machine learning and edge infrastructure, all of which require integration with cloud services, the support of specialist colocation providers have become vital. But what are the considerations for choosing a colo?
Key considerations for outsourcing
As with any service provider, cost is a key aspect of the decision-making process. MSPs cannot, however, put a price on reputation, so reliability, connectivity, security, and efficiency all play important factors. Efficiency, especially in the form of power usage, can be critical, and the more energy efficient a data centre provider can be, the lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the user. A data centre provider with a lower PUE can provide a cost-effective and scalable platform to support MSP growth, something highly appealing where cost and consolidation are influential.
Diverse connectivity and low latency are also determining factors, and MSPs will often seek out carrier-neutral colocation providers who have access to dark fibre rings, 100Gb wavelengths, and who can deliver enterprise-level connectivity solutions. Many end-users are moving towards hybrid IT environments with a mix of on-premise infrastructure and cloud, so real-time access to data and application availability are indeed business-critical.
Size, in terms of scalability, alongside physical security and customer experience, are also crucial. Many MSPs are looking to partner with operators that have a demonstrable track record in supporting their key customer demographics. Further, with human error, network, and power failures key causes of outages there is also a need to meet strict compliance and regulatory standards, and to provide policies for zero downtime. For any service provider, it pays to have a data centre partner who can consistently meet strict SLAs.
Finally, speed of deployment and dynamic service is crucial. Any Managed Service or IT Service Provider will tell you that adding value, or having the ability to go the extra mile, can be the very difference between a customer renewing their service agreement or migrating to another provider. The trust that a data centre operator can act as an extension of your team, can understand complex infrastructure deployments, or who can meet strict timescales, especially where speed of installation, security and operational reliability are concerned.
The need for new partnerships
As the business landscape continues to change, so have the ways in which data centres are looking to support the MSP and ISP communities. Cost predictability is always a key factor, but so too are the pressing needs to consider technical competence, alongside environmental factors – especially as sustainability moves to the top of the business agenda.
In the wake of Covid-19, MSPs are looking to their data centre providers as trusted advisors, and often, as an extension of their technical or sales teams. The right operator can help an MSP win business, answer complex technical questions, and instil confidence in the end-user at every stage of the journey.
Further, transactional relationships have become a thing of the past, and long-term collaboration has become a focal point of business discussions. As such, many MSPs are looking for providers that can support their growth across different geographical regions and can continue to do so in a low cost and environmentally sustainable way.
Finally, trust and transparency are vital, especially in a channel where tenders are often taken in-house, and where partners can find out that they are competing on the same bids. In essence, by partnering with a data centre operator that focuses solely on colocation, and without its own services division, MSPs can avoid many of the complications associated with challenging tender processes, while developing mutually beneficial relationships that are designed to support long-term growth.