Thought Leadership

Top Cloud Managed Service Provider Guide for Cloud Option Evaluation


Mainstream Technologies offers data center cloud services, managed IT services, custom software development, and cybersecurity services. Based in Little Rock, established in 1996, Mainstream has earned a reputation for delivering quality, reliable, and professional IT services for both public and private-sector customers across the United States.

Cloud computing can’t be ignored

Cloud computing is a broad term that describes the ability to access software and applications as a service via the Internet.  It has proven itself to offer significant savings to organizations of all sizes over traditional methods.  Whether you consider it for your primary operations or for a secondary or backup option, the value that the cloud offers can’t be ignored.

There are three models available; the private model, which is commonly referred to as collocation, the public model which is referred to as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and blending the two approaches which is the hybrid model.  Since your data and systems are the lifeblood of your operation, you should be familiar with each option so if you consider the cloud, you’ll be sure to make an educated decision for your business.

The difference between the private and public models boils down to ownership.  In the private cloud model, you own or lease the equipment.  It’s all yours.  The equipment can be hosted in your own facility or it can be collocated in a remote data center.

In the public cloud, you outsource, rent space, or rent equipment from a third-party provider.  The hybrid option blends the two approaches to get the best of both.  Each model is unique and has its own advantages and disadvantages.

An analogy

A simple analogy to illustrate the differences between a private and a public cloud is to think of the private cloud as owning or leasing your own home, while the public cloud is akin to renting an apartment within a complex.  Either option will keep you dry and warm but the advantages and responsibilities differ.

Private Cloud – owning/leasing your home:
  • Advantages
    • You have complete control and flexibility
    • You can customize it any way you want
    • You are the only one with a key to the front door
  • Your Responsibilities:
    • Higher initial costs for your down payment
    • You’re responsible for maintenance and upkeep costs
  • Disadvantages:
    • Owning your own home impedes your mobility.  Your investment requires that if you do choose to move, there is a financial impact
    • There is a significant initial investment required
    • Good credit is required
    • Owning a home implies that you accept all of the liability and associated costs for mitigating that risk
Public Cloud – renting in an apartment complex:
  • Advantages:
    • You aren’t required to provide the initial investment that purchasing a home requires
    • Generally, you pay a monthly rent with an initial 6-month commitment
    • All maintenance, upkeep costs, and risk are the responsibilities of the landlord
  • Responsibilities:
    • You have no direct control of the apartment
    • You’re limited by the landlord’s operating  restrictions
    • All maintenance and repairs are performed on the landlord’s schedule
  • Disadvantages:
    • You have no control over who your neighbors are
    • Getting an early release from your contract may prove difficult
    • Once you sign an agreement, you may find the apartment doesn’t fit your lifestyle needs
Cloud Models
Private Cloud

A private cloud is a virtualized environment where the network infrastructure, architecture, and software applications are owned by you and are solely dedicated to your applications and data.[1]    You maintain complete control and responsibilities over all aspects of the infrastructure; oversight, maintenance, security, and regulatory compliance.

A private cloud can utilize equipment leases from 3rd party providers, however, all leased equipment is dedicated to your use.

For organizations handling sensitive data, like patient records, financial data, or credit card details, the private cloud offers substantial security advantages since all systems and data are contained in your environment.

Private Cloud Advantages:
  • You have control and oversight of all maintenance, security protocols, regulatory compliance, and enforcement for all hardware and software.
  • You have the complete freedom to make changes to meet business demands
  • Since you have full control, you have the ability to establish your own security strategy
  • In the event of an outage, you have complete control of restoring service.
  • Virtualization technologies make it easier to adjust your infrastructure to keep up with the evolving needs of your business.
Private Cloud Disadvantages:

For large companies that have internal resources, are sufficiently capitalized, and have strict compliance requirements the private cloud is preferable to the other models, however, there’s still a place at the table for the public cloud due to the cost-saving benefits it offers.

  • Your investment requires planning to assure that your future needs are met.
  • There is a significant initial investment required for infrastructure and facilities.
  • You are responsible for all maintenance, security protocols, regulatory compliance, and enforcement for all hardware and software.
  • Ownership requires you accept all liability and the costs associated with mitigating risk.
Public Cloud

If you use a public cloud, you outsource your infrastructure (hardware and/or software) and its upkeep to a third party.  They provide the computer, storage, network, and other resources on a pay-as-you-go basis.   This rental agreement varies by provider.  Some offer a monthly agreement while others offer a “pay-for use” structure.  Rackspace and Go Daddy are all well-known public cloud providers.[2]

Since you’re using someone else’s resources on demand, with today’s cloud elasticity, scaling up or down, is as easy as increasing or decreasing your rental agreement or you may initially enter into an agreement that allows you to scale without notification.

If you don’t have the internal resources to build and support a private cloud, the public option is a viable approach. The public cloud doesn’t require an upfront investment in infrastructure, so if the computing needs contract over time you aren’t left with an unused asset.

If you plan to put a heavy workload on the cloud that has the possibility of rapidly expanding, the public cloud could be your best option because it can be easily scaled to meet the demand.

The disadvantage of the public cloud is when there’s a service outage or disruption, the resolution is out of your hands.  It’s the responsibility of the provider to restore service.  In effect, this could put you in the position of managing service levels rather than managing your technology.

Public Cloud Advantages:
  • Your start-up and operating costs are minimal compared to the private option.
  • You have the ability to ‘move’ your business more easily without the capital investment.
  • You have the flexibility of scaling up or down based on the needs of the business.
  • All maintenance and upkeep costs are the responsibility of the provider.
Public Cloud Disadvantages:
  • You have no control over who your neighbors are.
  • You may have restrictions on how and what you can do.
  • Getting an early release from your contract may prove difficult.
  • Once you sign your agreement, you may find out the infrastructure is insufficient to support your goals.  You must understand your applications and how they integrate.
  • All maintenance and security are the responsibility of the provider.  In the case of an outage, you must rely on your provider for resolution
Hybrid Cloud

As you can see the trade-off between the private and public models is cost and control. When you select the public model, you give up direct control and oversight of your data’s security, system performance, and the costs associated with those activities.   However, since both options offer desirable features, more and more organizations are using a hybrid private-public solution.

In some cases, it may be advantageous to consider a hybrid system rather than an exclusively private or public model.  System design should account for the reality that data sets within an organization may differ in their security needs.  Acknowledging this may lead you to conclude that there are opportunities to reduce storage costs for low-security data.

For example, a business may store archived data in a public cloud, while keeping confidential employee and client data in-house in a private cloud.  A hybrid approach gives you the scalability and cost savings of the public cloud option while also providing the maximum control and security of a private cloud.

Hybrid Cloud Advantages:
  • Recognition of data categories creates the opportunity for blending the benefits of the private/public cloud options
  • Reducing the need for dedicated hardware for archived data i.e. ‘storage units’
  • Flexibility and reduced costs for storing archived data
  • The hybrid model may offer more complexity to your system design than you wish
Hybrid Cloud Disadvantages:
  •  The hybrid model may offer more complexity to your system design than you wish.

Ultimately, the model you select depends largely on the nature of your business and the data you collect.  Regardless of your preference, cloud technologies streamline and reduce costs for providing information to your organization over traditional models.

Evaluating your Cloud Options

The evaluation process should be designed to create clear expectations from all parties and weed out providers who have the potential of supplying insufficient or substandard skills.[3]

Forrester has developed ways and means to help define and execute an outsourcing strategy.  An example of their key steps which are applicable to evaluating your cloud options includes:[4]

  1. Involve business stakeholders beyond the immediate task at hand when designing the sourcing strategy.  Define the sourcing goals and objectives. Make sure that everyone clearly understands the reasons why cloud technology is being considered, and what constraints the organization has.  It is imperative the business needs and priorities are understood.
  2. Clearly define the current state of operations to determine the improvement basis.  Detail the current services, business requirements, quality expectations, any complexities that may exist, the existing cost for the service, and specifically define the service or services which are being considered.
  3. Define the optimal operational mode to identify your goals.  Outline the current and future business requirements for service delivery, the scope of future services, and service level expectations.
  4. Be prepared that your service management will cross services and units within the organization. Create a standardized service management process and employ tools to develop a way to measure success.  Define the overall process responsibilities, and identify the entry point for a potential third-party service provider(s).  This will be the beginning of building your vendor management organization and processes.
Questions for Prospective Cloud Providers
  1. What service level options do they offer, and how do they handle scaling?
  2. What are the security measures they employ (physical, electronic, network, data)?
  3. What accreditation and certifications have they achieved?
  4. Request a list of references and be sure and follow up with each one.
  5. Request an annual performance report of scheduled and unscheduled downtime.
  6. If they are local, request a tour of their facility.
  7. What are the industry regulations your company must comply with and how will the provider help you meet these requirements?

Jeff Pracht
IT Business Development Manager
(479) 715-8629 Office
(501) 529-0008 Mobile

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[3] Outsource Maturity,  A Provider’s Perspective,  9/6/13, John Burgess, Mainstream Technologies
[4] Reconsider Outsourcing To Accelerate IT Maturity, Forrester Research, Inc. blogs, April 18, 2013.

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