By: Craig Hicks-Frazer

Managed Service Providers: The "Car Service" of the Cloud

Zscaler is a carrier-grade global security cloud network and we work with some of the worlds largest managed service providers, which gives us a unique insight into the questions and concerns organizations have in implementing cloud services - not to mention confusion. However, this confusion can be clarified by defining demarcation lines and risk tolerance in service delivery. Customers like to deal with providers that are experienced in defining service level agreements to ensure compliance with local legislation and corporate governance.

When delivering a cloud service, third-party customization at an individual account level may cause issues around things like data privacy. This is why Zscaler developed a user interface which enables every individual customer to uniquely define their policy to meet with the ever growing list of compliance, privacy and local legislation issues.

An analogy that works nicely is that of the car & the driver.

Do people buy cars?

Obviously the answer is yes and there are some out there like Jay Leno who do it for fun, but the vast majority do not buy cars for the sake of it; but rather for transporting themselves from point A to point B in a manner they find acceptable.

Here at Zscaler we can think of our cloud security solution in the same way. Our customers want to ensure their employees drive around the Internet in a recognized brand that provides them with the level of safety and comfort they require.

However, what some corporations expect is that the cloud provider should be held responsible for how the cloud is ‘driven’ by the employee in accordance with local laws. This would be not differant than expecting a car manufacturer to be held responsible for how we drive the car. No matter how safe you make your product, it is unreasonable to hold the manufacturer liable for the unsafe actions of the user.

When we return to the original requirement and remember the real need, we can start to think of alternatives.

If I desire to go from point A to point B, I can define that I want to do this journey in a car. However, if I don’t want the risk associated with car ownership I can choose to call a company who supply both car and driver. Now the journey from A to B can be made with the same ‘personal’ risk factors at play but none of the associated financial risks that come from being the owner & person in charge of the car.

This is where Managed Service Providers in a cloud environment can help organizations that want to safely travel from point A to point B without assuming all of the associated risk.

The Managed Service Provider not only helps ensure the right rules are deployed in the right place but also that the car is driven in an environment where other uninsured drivers are not present and passengers are not driven through dangerous neighbourhoods or inadvertently end up at a location on very much the wrong side of town…

Many customers want to operate this way & need a tight bond with a well-recognized partner. By default they will have access to a great deal of information about you, in the same way that a driver would know about all the places you’ve been.

A Managed Service Provider delivering and monitoring a web security service on your behalf will have the same level of visibility into where you’ve been, who you met with and how long you stayed there. Their knowledge of what was discussed in each interaction may not be visible (after all, who takes the taxi driver into a meeting), but when using the same chauffer, all the time, the level of knowledge they could amass over time would be significant.

An MSP is not just a provider, but also a partner with an organization that can be your remote eyes, hands and ears. You must chose someone who cares as much about your business as you do. Make sure they add a significant amount of expertise through their experience elsewhere so that your business benefits from lessons learned far from your door and above all work with them as a true partner.

In much the same way as the trinity between the passenger, driver and car manufacturer come together to provide a successful transaction in the transportation of an individual from point A to point B.

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