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Managed Services: Safe At Home

As more businesses allow employees to work from home, a new IT challenge -- and opportunity -- arises. It's impossible for employers to offer on-site, full-time tech support to all of their stay-at-home workers. But the rise of managed services -- including remote monitoring and pro-active administration -- can bring order to these highly distributed workplaces.

The trend toward telecommuting is undeniable. More than 40 percent of American and Canadian companies let their employees telework, according to WorldatWork, a global HR association. As energy prices continue to fluctuate and businesses increasingly focus on environmental issues, the march toward telecommuting will surely accelerate.

Home Networks Become Complex
As a small business owner myself, my home office includes a network with multiple nodes -- three PCs running a mix of Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP; and my trusted MacBook Pro running Max OS X.

Now, multiply that IT complexity across hundreds of home offices and you'll understand why many small, midsize and even large organizations struggle to keep their home-based employees online and productive.

That's where managed services enter the picture. Increasingly, managed service providers (MSPs) and VARs (value-added resellers) use remote monitoring and administration tools to troubleshoot small and mid-size business networks.

The New Executive Suite
The managed services trend is now spilling over into the home market, where entrepreneurs and executives now demand the same level of IT service and support that they experience within corporate offices.

Small business owners and midsize business executives need to rethink their IT outsourcing strategies. In fact, all IT projects and network administration decisions must now include the extended enterprise -- including home offices and mobile devices.

The old corporate network as we know it is dead. The clear line between your enterprise and your employees' homes are gone. Going forward you need an IT architecture that blankets all of your employees -- regardless of where they're working.

Make Your Move for 2009
As you negotiate IT service contracts for 2009, ask your IT consultants and integrators how they're addressing the growing trend toward stay-at-home workers.

And make sure your IT contracts for patch management, security, storage and other automated services cover those telecommuters.