Key considerations before you jump onto the Managed Hosting Bandwagon
Article by Nitin Mishra
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What your organization must consider before moving to a Managed Hosting Services Provider
Choosing a managed hosting services provider is a strategic decision for most organization that requires due diligence and considerable thought. It is always beneficial to evaluate and map your specific requirements with the solution offering from your provider before signing on the dotted line. In this blog, we have outlined some crucial factors that you must bear in mind before opting for managed hosting services from a service provider.
Reliability of the provider’s facility
The very foundation of your hosting service is the data center facility of your service provider. Unlike in colocation where you manage and maintain your hardware yourself, in managed hosting all this is done by your service provider. What it essentially means is that the performance of your infrastructure will remain the same irrespective of the location of the data center facility.
What you need to check, however, is whether the data center facility where you are hosted has redundant electrical and cooling infrastructure. Ideally the data center should have N+1 redundancy, which essentially means that facility is fully equipped to operate to the desired performance levels and has one spare equipment(s) to fall back on in case of an outage or unplanned downtime. A well maintained N+1 data center facility could deliver 99.99% availability for your hosted infrastructure.
Your hosting service provider must be ‘carrier neutral’ in order to ensure streamlined operations for your organization. Carrier neutrality is a must when you are looking at managed hosting service options. You must enquire about the reliability and redundancy of the Internet connections that your provider has – poor Internet connectivity will have an adverse impact on your business.
You can also ask your service provider if they offer Website Performance Optimization (WPO) technologies such as WAN acceleration or TCP acceleration as these can significantly speeden up the website or application delivery.
When evaluating the network and security offerings of your hosting service provider consider population of network devices as well. Network population density is the number of customers sharing the same infrastructure through which the traffic passes. When you service provider tells you that they a multi-tenant infrastructure, it means that there is a layer of infrastructure that is shared across multiple customers. A shared network infrastructure can affect the performance of your IT infrastructure if high performance is a key criterion for your organization choosing a managed hosting service provider.
Security here means physical as well as logical security. The physical security pertains to the data center where your infrastructure is hosted. Most data centers offer physical security in the form of 24x7 security staff onsite, electronic and biometric scanners, video cameras, restricted access, identity based authentication etc. In a dedicated managed hosting environment, only your service provider will have access to your infrastructure. Your service provider will log all physical access to the hosted environment.
Logical security for your infrastructure focuses on login and access levels. Your service provider should access your environment through SSH or VPN to ensure a secure interaction with your data. You should also enquire with your service provider on who has access to your servers, how are passwords stored and given and how often are the passwords changed. You should ask for a copy of ISO 27001audit from the data center provider to assess the quality of the data center environment where you are hosting your infrastructure and mission critical applications.
Check if your service provider provides you protection from cyber threats and DDoS and if your provider has firewalls and intrusion prevention systems, methods that can prevent people on the Internet from breaching your security and getting into your network.
If your hosting service provider is also able to provide you with a 24x7 Security Operations Center (SOC) facility along with managed hosting, you are protected against most threats and malicious activity that may cause your business to lose millions.
After assessing the security level/policies of the data center environment where your infrastructure will be hosted, you should ask your service provider about the hardware used to host your business. Ask questions about the specific hardware being used, why is it a right fit for your business, will it be able to scale up in tune with the growth of your business, is it covered by warrantee and is it tried and tested. Also enquire about the technical support that you would get if in case some hardware malfunctions and the spares in stock.
Inquire with yours service provider about management and monitoring of the hardware/infrastructure. Pay special attention to what constitutes monitoring – your provider should be able to monitor CPU Usage, memory and disk usage and at the same time allow you have access to your log files, running processes and ports responding. These features help determine if the applications are functioning properly and minimize the probability of unplanned downtime.
Technical support and IT management capabilities
In case of an emergency, make sure that your provider has a 24x7 support staff based at the data center facility. Technicians should be reachable by email and phone should a need arise. If possible speak with their Tier II engineers, put forth some hypothetical situation and analyze their response to resolving the probable situation. Alternatively you can ask for references (previous customer implementation) to speak with before you give your consent.
You should also quiz your provider on whether they support all the major OS/DB/ network components. Do they have agreements with the technology/hardware providers for engineering and technical support? You should also ask your hosting service provider whether they have the capability to implement complex solutions and provide technical support specially if your company is a financial services institution or is in the pharma sector.
Assess your service provider on their ability to provide support for using IT as a tool to facilitate business change, transformation and growth.
Financial standing of the service provider
Make sure that you understand your service provider’s financial condition, how they are audited, the number of years they have been in business, and their overall performance track record. A lot also depends on the hosting services provider’s capacity to invest in state of the art and secure infrastructure for their customers. Building a world-class datacenter with all the services is capital intensive - Assess your provider’s propensity to invest in upgrades, security patches, and technology refresh.
Cost is an important criterion for choosing your hosting services provider. Going with a provider who promises less cost does not mean that you are making the correct choice. Lack of support, insufficient product lines or unreliable data center facilities can result in much greater cost for your business in the long run. Go with a service provider who is experienced, has a history of successful implementations, has credibility in the market and has customers as referrals to vouch for its services. It is very important to understand the trade offs your organization will have to make if you choose to go with a service provider who offers you low costs.
Choose a managed hosting services provider that has a domestic as well as global presence. If you are looking for a hosting and a DR service from your service provider ensure that your DR site is located in a different seismic zone than your primary site. If your business were planning to expand its footprint outside India, it would be advantageous if your provider can also provide global hosting so that one can have single widow access to IT infra including global requirement.
Managed hosting can prove to be an ideal option for your business when you want your IT team to focus on more strategic issues facing the company rather than just managing and maintaining the IT infrastructure. With an ideal managed hosting service provider as your partner, you can be rest assured of having a robust, high performance and highly available IT infrastructure that supports the growing needs of your business.