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Managed Services: Importance and Types of Services That May Be Outsourced

Why are Managed Services required?:The decision to use managed services is typically based on business continuity requirements and cost controls. An organization can gain flexibility, continuity and important cost reductions when it outsources strategically selected functions to a skilled service provider.

These days most of the businesses are heavily depended on IT systems and this makes it essential to have experts who can handle the continual maintenance of their IT infrastructure. Many of the small and medium enterprises cannot afford to hire qualified, skilled and experienced IT administrators. For such organizations, managed services prove to be an effective solution as it helps them to concentrate on their core competencies for the business. In other words, the company’s personnel and financial resources work for core business concerns and the company only pays for IT based services it requires. The IT operations are handled by a qualified and experienced service provider who can takeover the ongoing responsibility for monitoring, troubleshooting and managing selected IT systems and functions. The managed service provider is in charge of network equipment and applications located at the premises of client organization. The systems are managed as per service level agreement, in fulfillment of the client’s specific business needs.

Some typical benefits of managed services may be highlighted as follows:

Cost Effectiveness as compared to in-house solutions: With the critical role of technology in day to day business operations, it is imperative to have domain experts for the maintenance of advanced IT tools. But it may be too costly for small and mediums enterprises to hire such talent. Also, the downtime caused due to breakdown of certain IT systems can cost a lost to the organization. Outsourcing the task of maintenance of IT systems proves to be more cost effective in such cases. A vendor also has efficient business continuity plans (BCP) to prevent or minimize the downtime.

Easier to predict the amount to be spent on maintenance of IT systems: With managed services, an organization has a choice of service levels and these may be priced on a per-month or per-device basis. This ‘subscription model’ offers more predictability in expenses as against the requirement based ‘time and billing model’ used by in house consultants.

Control retained by the business owners: Even if managed services are outsourced, a business does not lose control over the management of its IT systems and infrastructure. The business decides which aspects of IT administration will be handled by the vendor and what shall be the degree of control. It also gets continual information and reports pertaining to the management of the IT systems by the vendor. The efficiency of management can be quantified and evaluated through such reports.

Round the clock support by the vendor: Managed services ensure 24/7 support by the vendor. An organization does not need to wait in line for the resolution of any IT problem. It is the responsibility of the vendor to mitigate the downtime, if any, for its client organization. The vendor employs its own resources for the superior functioning of the IT systems. Any problems with the hardware or software will have to be fixed in minimal time and this gives complete peace of mind to the concerned business organization.

Types of IT based Managed Services

Apart from protecting critical business information through managed security, a vendor for managed services can provide:

Managed IP VPN – to assist the business in communicating with remote staff, customers and their partners.

Managed IP Virtual Private Network (VPN) is among the most widely used technologies for secure, high performance and cost efficient networking. Its typical benefits are cost savings, flexibility and the option of adding managed services like IP telephony at a reasonable cost. Managed IP VPN is an effective and flexible option for providing secure access to mobile staff and business partners as they link distributed sites and centralized application servers.

A managed IP VPN can transform islands of network resources into a unified, efficient and reliable communications system, improving the productivity for end users in the company. Also, managed IP VPN is secured, monitored and controlled by the vendor round the clock and organizations that use this managed service can effectively protect their distributed data and applications against external security threats.

Managed LAN – to monitor the internal network of the business
The cost of network maintenance and updates increase as the business expands and the network usage increases in the organization. Vendors offering managed services can manage a company LAN over the network, thereby helping to trim down total cost of ownership.

With managed LAN service, vendors can remotely maintain and monitor the internal network of an organization. Managed LAN services may include scanning desktop PCs for viruses, malware and spyware, performing PC hard disk backups and controlling LAN network devices. As per the SLA, the vendor may also offer first and second-line fault resolution and help desk services. Active LAN management can be ensured round the clock and timely reports pertaining to the performance and updates in LAN are provided to the client organization.

Managed Hosting and Storage – to manage and maintain the website and stored company data
With managed hosting and storage, companies can eliminate the cost of acquiring and maintaining floor space, equipment and hiring & training IT specialists. They can simply take advantage of the vendor’s investment in expertise, hardened facilities and guaranteed SLAs

The maintenance of official website and updating it regularly with new business offerings and other news pertaining to business can be a time and resource consuming in house task. Vendors offering managed services for maintenance and stored data on servers design and deploy their systems with optimum flexibility and with adequate scalability to handle peak requirements.

Managed Wireless and Mobile Computing – to enable employee mobility
Wireless data services considerably augment productivity and collaboration but many organizations lack the expertise to operate them effectively. Utilizing managed services for wireless and mobile computing can enable an organization to enjoy the benefits of wireless technologies without the resource consuming deployment effort and complexity.

Vendors offering managed wireless and mobile computing services can host wireless e-mails, scheduling and SFA servers in secure data centers for access by employees using laptops or handheld computing devices. Vendors with good wireless infrastructure can also offer managed mobile computing solutions including wireless LAN access and mobile application software hosting. Other managed services include end-user support and remote management for mobile computing devices.

The organizations that want to make the most of advanced technologies for their operations, can gain a lot from managed services without having to hire and train IT professionals. Managed services offer optimum solution for cost effective management of IT systems.

About the Author
This article by Frank Johnson is the first in his series on ‘Managed Services’. Frank is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services that help small to mid size businesses.

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