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How to Easily Evaluate Managed Hosting Providers (MSPs)

Managed hosting has evolved to include more than just hardware in a remote data center. Providers offer services like virtualization, performance monitoring, security management, load balancing, and other valuable solutions that are an integral part of your operations. Simplify and significantly speed up the search for the perfect managed hosting provider (MSP) by determining your current needs, as well as those that you may want to soon add as your business evolves.

Here Are a Few Key Differentiators to Help You Compare and Evaluate Managed Hosting Vendors:

Quality of Physical Infrastructure

Bear in mind that a managed hosting provider is only as good as its physical facility and the technology powering and connecting the infrastructure. At the very least, the data center facility must have redundant power sources, high speed internet connectivity, efficient cooling, and robust security.

Search for a center with N+1 redundancy, which is a form of resilience that ensures your system will be available should a component fail. According to Scott Gottesman, an IT professional writing for TechTarget.com, “The [N+1] formula suggests that components (N) have at least one independent backup component (+1). The “N” can refer to many different components that make up a data center infrastructure, including servers, hard disks, power supplies, switches routers and cooling units.”

Another consideration is going to be the power and reliability of the provided internet connections. If the MSP has a facility with state of the art equipment, great—but that doesn’t mean much if slow internet causes data bottlenecks and a suffering business. Don’t be afraid to ask what internet, power, and connectivity partnerships the MSP has in place.

Quality of Security 

You know that data security is vital today’s interconnected world. Your evaluation of a MSP’s security must focus on two fronts: physical and logical. While you ask about the facility’s on-premise infrastructure, be sure to ask for a complete listing of its physical security measures, too. Anything less than 24/7 staff on site is inadequate, and automated measures such as electronic and biometric scanning, electronic security, or even a mantrap are all recommended to keep your data secure. Onsite access records are a valuable addition for physical protection, in case an incident does occur.

Logical security is equally important, focusing on virtual access levels and login control. Each MSP you evaluate should provide security measures, such as access through a virtual private network, two-step authentication, and 256-bit encryption to ensure that all of your data remains protected. Access log records and constantly rotating passwords are a must. Ask if they provide DDoS protection, and whether they have an intrusion prevention system (IPS) and an intrusion detection system (IDS) to mitigate various types of malware and attacks. Lastly, ask each prospective MSP what type of third-party verification or certificates they possess to prove their expertise—especially if you are in a business where compliance is a concern. If necessary, request an SSAE 16 audit, which requires a written assertion regarding design and operational capacity of the MSP’s systems.

Hardware and Software Options

After you’ve verified that physical infrastructure and security are sound, ask what types of hardware and software will be used to host your business. Reasonably new equipment manufactured by a recognizable name-brand is ideal, as it will have been tested before release, proven reliable by many industry users, and will still be supported by the original equipment manufacturer. Check for the types of operating systems and database options the vendor offers, as well as whether they support custom applications.

BackUps

When it comes to your data, the only surefire way to protect everything in the case of an event is going to a reliable backup and disaster recovery solution. Ask the MSP how often they perform data backups—the more frequent, the better—and where they store those backups. Offsite backups will protect against natural disasters that may occur near the data center.

Managed Hosting Services

Managed hosting providers are going to provide their own database administration services. You’ll want to ask what types of databases they support. (MySQL, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL Server are most common.) Request information about the intricacies they include in these services, such as day-to-day care, standard maintenance, monitoring, troubleshooting, and advanced design architecture for your required configuration. Aim for an MSP that constantly keeps track of your performance, including capacity monitoring, load balancing, and database clustering.

Support

Make sure your prospective managed hosting provider offers support 24/7 with technicians that can easily be reached by email and phone in the event of an emergency. Automated responses or access to only one tech will not do, as this can prolong an issue longer than need be. Visit the data center in person to meet the techs and engineers that you’d be working with on a day-today basis (if you signed an agreement). Finally, ask for references, testimonials and case studies so you can hear directly from other organizations they’ve supported in the managed services you seek.

Putting It All Together 

You might find you have other questions relating directly to your company’s particular needs when comparing managed service vendors. Finding the right MSP takes time and requires multi-department alignment, but strategically (and proactively) planning for a scalable infrastructure and ensuring business continuity will make a huge difference in the long run. The process should include in-depth research—and ideally an in-person meeting onsite, so you can see what and who you’re investing in.

OnRamp, a leading managed hosting provider, customizes solutions for organizations across all verticals, with a specialty in security and compliance. Contact our experts to address any questions or concerns that you may have regarding a managed hosting partnership.

Photo Credit: cameronjames6 Flickr via Compfight cc

This post was first published on onr.com. 

Carolina Curby-Lucier

Marketing Manager at OnRamp
As OnRamp’s Marketing Manager, Carolina leads the content strategy, SEO, product launch, and communication efforts at OnRamp. With experience in managed hosting, cloud computing and VoIP, she translates complex concepts into simple terms that potential customers and partners can understand and use to build compliant IT solutions.

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