What to Look for in a Database Managed Service Provider

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Overall Definition of a Database Managed Service Provider

A database managed service provider, also known as an MSP, manages a client’s technical infrastructure, databases, and/or systems. Services offered by an MSP encapsulate everything from managing infrastructure and data to cybersecurity. And as technology changes, database managed service providers have the dedicated breadth of resources needed to develop their services and software to provide clients with optimal service.

Therefore, when you are vetting a managed service provider, you will also want to consider whether that company is offering traditional managed services or next-generation managed services. The offerings vary vastly and with a next-generation database managed service provider, you will find more value in access to a strategic partner to help guide you along your data journey vs. the “keep the lights on” mentality offered by a traditional database managed service provider.

Services You May Often See with a Database Managed Service Provider

At a high level, a database managed service provider (MSP) delivers services on an ongoing basis to support network, application, infrastructure, and security in their company’s data center. Though a variety of custom services are offered by many database managed service providers there is a collection of services that every enterprise database managed service provider should offer.

Database Assessments

When first engaging with a database managed service provider, it is common for the provider to first complete an assessment to better understand your environment and goals and get a baseline of the systems so that performance can be measured over time. Assessments provide an enterprise view as well as a holistic overview of your data environment so management and the DBAs can better prioritize, and plan needs around the data systems. Within this assessment, business goals, system objectives, service level agreements will be defined, and the provider will capture and analyze configuration, performance, and metadata for the current applications, instances, databases, and servers.  Additional aspects may be included within that assessment depending on what the database managed service provider offers.

Database Monitoring and Management

Database managed service providers will monitor server and database health for your environments to guarantee that your servers are performing well and staying available. Monitoring database servers can be pro-active and re-active, and the goal of a managed service provider would be to pro-actively detect and prevent as many outages or disruptions that could occur. When considering a managed service provider, inquire as to whether they use dynamic thresholds, apply machine learning, and base their monitoring and alerting templates on the workload of the systems. An example of this would be if the alerting thresholds would be different for Tier 1 versus Tier 3 systems as well as for OLTP versus OLAP.

Database Maintenance

Database and system maintenance are essential to the core health of any database system and should include database patching, indexing, statistics, etc. These key aspects that are included in the maintenance are tasks that your database managed service provider can focus on and take care of so that your team can stay on track with your business goals and high-value tasks. Even if your database server is hosted on the Cloud, which provides backups and some maintenance, there are still other critical tasks that must be performed by your managed service provider to keep the systems healthy and protected.

Capacity Planning

A critical aspect of optimizing the performance and cost of any deployment is right-sizing servers and database instances. A database managed service provider should be optimizing and right-sizing the instances and database instances monthly based upon the application workload, resource consumption, and growth of the business. All of this is especially true in a Cloud environment where it is a utility compute model that is charged based on usage.

Performance Tuning and Troubleshooting

Any database managed service provider that you choose should be experts in troubleshooting and optimizing your database instances, such as SQL server instances, and code. When looking for optimal performance tuning, the more skillsets that your database managed service provider contains the better. With a high skill set in performance tuning, the more money you will save over time as you will be able to right-size the server instances and reduce your licensing costs while increasing the performance of the systems for the business users.

Consulting Services

You may not only want your database managed service provider to monitor and manage your system, but you may also want them to act as your strategic partner to prepare for and guide you through business growth. Many next-generation database managed service providers offer consulting services that are constantly reviewing the database instances’ health, workload, and capacity to ensure systems are ready to process business workloads. Overall, the database managed service provider should have a diverse data team that houses extensive knowledge that will allow them to work with your team on creating and implementing the next-generation systems and initiatives around data.

24/7 Database Support

Critical issues can happen at any time – whether day or night, weekends, and even on holidays. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that you are engaging with a database managed service provider that supports your systems 24/7 and is on-call at any time. It is almost impossible for one or two DBAs to effectively support an environment 24/7 throughout the entire year. If there is a system outage, no matter the time of day, you will want to make sure that your managed service provider is available to get your systems back up and running especially if your business operates, or offers services, at any time of the day.

Security Services

In a day-and-age where cyberattacks are a risk, managed service providers make sure to keep your data, and the data of your customers, safe. Managed Service providers monitor and make sure that your data is safe by building up your systems with security in mind. Once they begin supporting your systems, they would be effectively monitoring and protecting all your database systems.  

Reasons to Invest in a Database Managed Service Provider

As your company grows, so does the data, and with a growing business, the need for database management becomes critical to keeping your databases available, secure, scalable, and capable of taking on the necessary workload.

Database managed service providers offer a variety of ways to help businesses of any size improve data security and assist with technological growth. And in many cases, engaging a database managed service provider can help to reduce costs through their subscription-based pricing model that allows clients to receive a service level agreement (SLA) that is customized to their specific needs. Therefore, your company does not spend your technology budget on hiring a large database consultant team and purchasing application monitoring and management tools/software. The managed service provider’s level of maturity and sophistication around their tools, processes, and team allows for the MSP to effectively monitor and manage the business’s database systems to which other organizations would not be able to support or re-create. With the managed service provider taking over the heavy lifting, you will save money by engaging with a database managed service provider, and the additional funds can now be invested elsewhere.

In addition to freeing up funds within your budget, your internal IT team is now able to focus on other strategic tasks to grow your business. While the database managed service provider is dealing with any productivity issues or low-value tasks, and the responsibility of keeping the systems available and running efficiently, you team staying focused on the projects that are helping your company to expand.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Database Managed Service Provider for You

When considering engaging with a database managed service provider, you want to first establish your enterprise goals so that you can guarantee that the provider you are looking to engage with aligns with your needs and goals. With so many varying offerings, here are some aspects to consider when vetting database managed service providers.

On-Shore vs. Offshore

Make sure to ask whether your database managed service provider uses onshore or offshore resources. In some cases, their service model may include a combination of the two. Businesses who select an MSP that leverages offshore resources for daily support often find themselves dealing with slower response times and not having critical issues rectified when needed. On-shore resources better understand local businesses, data, and diverse database environments that allow them to identify the root cause of your issues and present solutions more quickly. Therefore, reducing the downtime of any of your mission-critical systems. Next-generation MSPs are using automation to accomplish the commodity tasks that are typically done off-shore by other companies. But by onshore managed service providers applying automation, the results are 100% accurate and it avoids human error.

Proactive Maintenance

Every system needs to be managed and maintained to protect the data and account for a predictable, stable experience while the data and user volumes grow. Your business may require a database managed service provider who uses automation and intelligence in managing and monitoring systems that reduces resources while increasing the functionality. When considering your maintenance requirements, here are some questions to consider about your environment:

  • What is the best time to run your backups or indexing processes?
  • What other business processes or resource-intensive processes are running at the same time?
  • Are you meeting the SLAs for data loss and recovery times across all the servers and databases?
  • What objects need to be rebuilt weekly versus daily because of the different workloads and usage patterns?
Proactive Monitoring and Alerting

Data drives decisions and having the right data collection about your workload is critical for capacity planning, troubleshooting, and understanding your workload. Consider whether your managed service provider is applying machine learning or whether they are reviewing alerts on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to adjust the thresholds and identify anomalies in the systems. When issues do occur, your managed service provider should validate that the root cause analysis (RCA) documents are created for everyone, including members of your business team, to learn from the event that impacted the production. The RCA should have short and long-term recommendations along with quarterly reviews to determine if there are systematic issues within the environment.

DBA Support

Your Primary DBA will know your systems, workloads and be the central point of contact over time, but what happens when that primary DBA is sick or on vacation. A database managed service company can provide remote, expert DBA support, and access to a team of resources that can provide consulting around data strategy, optimizations, data analytics, automation, and presentation.

Industry Experience ­

Every industry has data maintenance and management needs unique to industry-specific regulations, privacy laws, and processes. The business needs of an enterprise in the healthcare industry are vastly different than the needs of an enterprise in the retail industry. By engaging with a database managed service provider that has extensive experience working with clients in your industry, you’ll not only have seamless management of your systems, but you’ll also be able to leverage their knowledge when it comes to utilizing the provider as a strategic partner and consulting with them on projects to grow your business. Most industries use the same technology platforms and 3rd party applications with each of those applications having a similar workload, configuration, and support profile independent of the company at which installed. By leveraging and managed service provider that has experience in your industry, you will able to gain efficiencies from the start of the engagement, and they will be able to better help you complete around the data analytics long term.

Response Time and Service Level Agreements

When you have a question, concern, or need to submit a ticket, how quickly do you expect your database managed service provider to respond? When vetting your managed service provider, inquire as to what their service level agreement (SLA) is and whether it aligns with your needs around availability and response time. If you have 24/7 database systems and your uptime is to the users is 99.999%, then every minute is important in getting the system back up and running. If the managed service provider cannot respond within an hour or for another eight hours, then they cannot support your SLA requirements. It is important to consider whether you feel your most common support needs could be effectively and efficiently resolved through this support method.

The Takeaway

Engaging with a database managed service provider is almost essential to growing your business. And there are quite a few aspects to consider when choosing which managed service provider is right for you. The best way to start is by defining your overall business goals and needs based on your business SLAs, budget, technology offerings, and needs, and then arranging a call with a database managed service provider to get a deeper understanding of what they can offer to see if it all aligns.

At Fortified Data, we offer next-generation database managed services that are customizable and unique developed to meet each client’s individual needs. With vast experience in all worldwide industries, there is no database that we have not managed, and no challenge that we have not been able to surpass.

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