5 Things to Look for in a Microsoft Azure Managed Services Provider

Stacy Cote

Working with a managed services provider (MSP) can dramatically streamline your IT operations and capture multiple other benefits. It’s a simple concept: managed services allow you to outsource your IT operations or augment your capabilities to get more out of your Microsoft Azure deployments. Yet choosing the right partner is a critical step in maximizing the value of a managed services provider relationship. Here are five questions to ask that can help you identify the right Microsoft Azure MSP for your needs.

1. How deep is their Microsoft Azure expertise? 

Partnering with an MSP gives you access to a deep knowledge pool of talent to assist with every aspect of Microsoft Azure, without taking on the costs of full-time staff. When you’re choosing a managed services partner, look for one with an advanced status—such as Connection, an Azure Cloud Platform Gold Partner. Experienced Microsoft Azure partners not only bring key certifications and best practices to the table; they also have years of experience with planning, deployments, and management that can help you navigate Microsoft Azure from pre-sales to purchasing to then, onboarding. 

When you’re assessing an MSP, look at:

  • What is their partner status with Microsoft?
  • How large is their Microsoft Azure Practice, and what talent mix do they offer?
  • What certifications and experience do the MSP and their team members have?
  • Will their solutions and services mix support your specific needs? For example, do they offer application performance monitoring or regular, real-time reporting?

2. Do they offer end-to-end support? 

An MSP can be a partner throughout the lifecycle of using Microsoft Azure. An MSP often begins working with you during pre-sales to conduct an assessment that helps better determine your needs. They’ll audit your existing IT infrastructure and processes, determine the business case and outcomes you’re working toward, and assess your overall level of cloud readiness. From there, they can implement best practices for planning and migration. 

Through proactive monitoring and management, they can eliminate the day-to-day demands of making the most of Microsoft Azure. Finally, an MSP can help you optimize an existing Microsoft Azure instance, by evaluating what you have in place and making recommendations to help improve your existing operations. Determine whether a partner offers the services and insights needed to both help you now and evolve with you as you grow.

Evaluate the following factors:

  • What planning and cloud readiness services does the Microsoft Azure MSP offer?
  • Does their service mix provide the solutions you’ll need to support priority applications?
  • If you want to grow and evolve over time, does the MSP have consultants who work to better optimize existing Microsoft Azure deployments?

3. How do they manage communications and technical support?

One of the most important points of value a managed services provider brings to a Microsoft Azure deployment is their talent. It’s helpful to determine how those individuals will communicate with your team. Look for a partner that offers a dedicated account manager; as a single point of contact, this individual will understand both your business needs and the company’s larger offerings to ensure you’re getting the most value.

Consider identifying the technical and customer support model. Who do you call if you experience an outage or have a question about adapting your Microsoft Azure configuration? The best MSPs will offer 24/7 support through a variety of channels. Connection provides around-the-clock coverage through phone, chat, and email to provide you maximum flexibility in getting the support you need to keep things operating smoothly. Questions to ask include:

  • Will we work with a dedicated account manager?
  • Does your organization offer 24/7 support?
  • What customer service channels do you leverage?

4. Do they provide the services you need?

It’s also important to assess whether the prospective partner offers the services you need. Microsoft Azure MSPs offer the ability to access proactive, round-the-clock monitoring for your systems and applications. Advanced monitoring can include aspects such as application performance, system health monitoring, log monitoring and alerts, and more. In addition, MSPs can provide support such as operations management, configuration support, identity and access management, and backup and disaster recovery support. By understanding the full scope of available solutions, you can better understand how an MSP is positioned to support you throughout your journey with Microsoft Azure. Questions to ask include:

  • What Microsoft Azure solutions and services do you offer?
  • How can you help me plan, prepare, and manage my deployment?
  • What solutions do you offer to support evolving needs and changing business environments over time? 
  • What services do you offer to optimize existing Microsoft Azure instances for enhanced performance or better alignment of features to our needs?

5. How do they help optimize costs?

A significant factor that drives companies to work with MSPs is the potential for costs savings. Typically, an MSP can provide a wide range of services at a more competitive price point than hiring full-time internal staff. However, they may be able to offer additional cost savings as well. An MSP may be able to offer an initial incentive, such as Connection’s free three-month Microsoft Azure managed services trial. In addition, MSPs may be able to offer their clients exclusive pricing and discounts for longer-term commitments. One area where MSPs excel is by using analytics to understand your usage and help you accurately forecast cloud demand. From there, it’s easier to “right-size” a solution to your needs so you pay only for what you’re using, and then have the option to scale up or down as your needs evolve. Questions to ask include:

  • What’s the typical savings that you can offer customers?
  • Are you running any specials, promotions, or exclusive pricing?
  • Do you consolidate billing to simplify management?

Choosing a Microsoft Azure Managed Services Provider can be the first step to fully embracing the cloud, and asking the right questions can help you find an experienced partner that’s right for your needs. Learn more about how Connection’s Microsoft Azure MSP solutions can help you reach your goals. Get more information about our current promotions, including a free Microsoft Azure Migration, $1,000 in credits, and a three-month free managed services trial for qualifying businesses

Stacy is the manager of Microsoft Cloud Solutions Program Operations at Connection. Stacy is a Microsoft Certified Professional with software licensing experience across all Microsoft product lines and five years of specialization in cloud products. In her free time, Stacy enjoys cooking and spending time with her three children.