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Showing posts from November, 2008

Can You Reach Your IT Manager On Thanksgiving?

As Thanksgiving approaches on November 27, many U.S. companies are heading into an extended four-day holiday weekend. If you're an executive or CIO ask yourself the following question: If your web servers, databases or network infrastructure failed over the holiday weekend who would you call for help? Despite the proliferation of smart phones and ubiquitous network services, many IT staff members are impossible to reach over holiday weekends. And commuting into the office for an IT or network emergency is the last thing most employees have in mind when they sit down for Thanksgiving turkey. Secure, Safe and Sound On the other hand, I will rest easy this holiday weekend because our company depends on multiple managed service providers (MSPs) -- a group of companies that remotely monitor, manage and troubleshoot our Web servers, databases and network systems. In most scenarios, our MSPs mitigate an IT or network issue before it becomes a major problem. We pay a flat monthly fee to o

Sizing Up the IT Management SaaS Market

Our prior commentary on SaaS and Managed Services: Big Service Providers Plug In does a good job pointing out how various service providers are attempting to deliver a widening array of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions and managed services. This trend is being driven by two major forces. First, the commodization of traditional transport services. Second, the shift in customer attitudes regarding IT management. Service providers can no longer differentiate themselves based on the quality of their transport services. As a consequence, service pricing, customer loyalty and profitability of this mainstay business continue to decline. To compensate for this erosion of their traditional transport business, service providers are seeking to deliver a new generation of value-added services which can give them greater 'stickiness' with their customers. It's a Win-Win Scenario At the same time, customers are seeking to offload, or out-task, a broader assortment of IT managemen

SaaS And Managed Services: Big Service Providers Plug In

Quick: Name the world's most successful software as a service (SaaS) companies. Most readers will likely mention ... then perhaps NetSuite, two key players in on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) and accounting software, respectfully. and NetSuite certainly have momentum in their markets. But consider this: Big service providers and broadband providers like Cablevision and Verizon Business may be the best-kept secrets in both the SaaS and managed services markets. With each passing day, I notice big service providers launching more and more SaaS and managed services offerings. Increasingly popular options include: Managed and hosted unified communications Hosted Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Notes Managed routers, switches and network infrastructure Increasingly, big service providers provide both the pipe (broadband) and the applications flowing through the pipe (email, groupware, CRM, enterprise resource planning, and so on). When Big

Redefining Vendor/Customer Relationships

My colleague, Joe Panettieri, reports that Dell has won its largest managed services agreement ever with the state of Georgia. This contract illustrates how Dell, and other technology vendors, are shifting their go-to-market strategies to respond to customers' changing IT management needs. Anyone who follows the technology industry knows that Dell has been struggling to keep pace with HP when it comes to computer sales. What few casual observers have recognized is how Dell has amassed a new set of remote management capabilities via a series of acquistions over the past year and a half. Why Managed Services Matter During that time, Dell has acquired SilverBack Technologies, Everdream, EqualLogic and MessageOne to serve as the foundation for a new portfolio of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and managed service capabilities . Dell understands that it will have a difficult time outpacing HP and other technology vendors on the strength of its products alone as laptops, desktops and serve

Managed Service Scenarios: Choosing the Best-Fit Solution

Are you puzzled about how to choose the best-fit managed service solution for your particular business needs? As a basic guide, the following are three typical high-level scenarios for deploying managed network services . Scenario 1: Customer Owns Network and Shares Management Responsibility Companies that already have an internal IP network can continue to manage it while out-tasking the management of onsite equipment -- usually known as customer-premises equipment (CPE), used for the managed service (see Figure 1). The Roles and Responsibilities are as follows: Managed service provider -- Sets up, maintains, and administers the equipment needed for the managed service, including company-owned equipment such as servers. Company -- Managed service customer maintains and administers its internal network. Scenario 2: Service Provider Owns the CPE; Customer Can Share Equipment Management with Service Provider Some companies do not own a LAN, either because the location is new or the compa

Managed Services: Branching Out to Branch Offices

Companies with branch offices are facing a technology paradox: On the one hand, businesses are expanding their branch office locations by 6.8 percent annually. On the other hand, only 15 percent of those remote locations have on-site technology staff members, according to Nemertes Research. Those stats beg the following question: How do you empower branch office employees with the proper technology when you can't afford to staff those remote offices with more IT staff? The answer (as our regular readers already know) is managed services. Increasingly, companies are moving their IT assets out of remote offices and into either (A) a centralized data center or (B) an Internet cloud. The march toward centralizing and virtualizing IT has some benefits and some challenges. Next Generation Empowered Branch The good news: Centralizing applications and IT infrastructure can make networks easier (and less costly) to maintain. The bad news: Accessing centralized applications from remote offic

The IT Management Implications of SaaS Growth

THINKstrategies recently unveiled the initial findings of its fourth annual Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) customer survey , in conjunction with Cutter Consortium , which revealed that 63% of the responding organizations are using a SaaS solution -- almost double the 32% who were using SaaS solutions in 2007. Over the past four years, we have seen tremendous growth of the SaaS market spurred along by rising frustration with the challenges of deploying traditional software products and the hassles of keeping enterprise applications up and running. Our surveys were the first to find widespread interest and substantial adoption of SaaS in 2005. Changing workplace requirements have led to more workers needing to access applications and corporate data remotely, which has also led many organizations to adopt web-based SaaS solutions. The Shift Away from CAPEX But, the most important consideration has been the financial savings generated by shifting from upfront capital investments in perpetu

Introduction to Managed Network Services

Many companies find it expensive to keep up with new Business Technologies -- or simply prefer to devote their limited IT or Telecom resources to the core business, rather than routine ongoing network management. Managed network services can quickly enable your company to evolve , by giving business decision makers access to leading network technologies and management expertise -- without requiring high initial capital expenditures (CapEx), or ongoing investments in technology upgrades. Deploying a Managed Service Solution When a company subscribes to a managed service, a service provider manages the network equipment and applications on the customer premises according to the terms of a service-level agreement (SLA) established to meet the company's unique business needs. Some managed services are also hosted, meaning that the service provider hosts the equipment in its facility instead of the customer's, and delivers services to company employees over the Wide Area Network (WA

Is Cash Flow Holding Your Technology Back?

At first glance, some small businesses are caught in a technology paradox: They need modern technologies to drive revenue higher. But they don't have enough cash to acquire that technology. A recent American Express survey found that more than half of today's U.S. small business owners are experiencing cash flow problems, reports . As a result, the top priority for most small businesses is maintaining current sources of revenue -- rather than building new ones. Have Your Cake and Eat it Too I say: Why not pursue both goals? Fact is, you don't need very deep pockets to leverage modern technology. What you really need is a predictable cost structure -- a way to know exactly how you're going to continue innovating without suffering from surprise IT costs. By now, you likely know where I'm heading: Predictable managed services contracts can help many of those worried small business owners get a handle on their IT costs. Our company, for instance, pays

Managing Enterprise IT Operations, from Afar

According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, their research results demonstrated that the potential for managing servers and other IT resources remotely is essentially underutilized. However, changes in the current business environment will increase the adoption of this approach. Plato, a wise Greek philosopher, wrote about how "necessity is the mother of invention." Certainly, that perspective is equally valid today. The motivation for utilizing the resources of a service provider can be considerable. A case in point: Fortune 50 companies, with budgets of $2 billion, can save as much as $500 million of their IT infrastructure budgets. How, you may ask? Apparently, it's mostly from reducing fully-loaded labor costs. Evaluation of IT Assets and Liabilities McKinsey surveyed 141 CIOs at multinational corporations, and 34 percent of them said that they anticipate utilizing some infrastructure management services over the next three years -- which is an increase from

Four Must-Have Managed Services: In Any Economy

I spent Thursday afternoon moderating a Webcast about the managed services industry. The discussion drove home the fact that small businesses will continue to embrace certain managed services regardless of the economy around them. My guests included: Gary Pica, general manager of mindSHIFT Technologies , one of North America’s top managed service providers William MacLeod, CIO, Accu-Sort Systems , a mid-size business that focuses on automatic data capture solutions Jim Alves, executive VP, product marketing, Kaseya Full disclosure: Kaseya sponsored the event but the Webcast did not involve any product pitches. Rather, we were exploring how small and mid-size businesses will depend on managed service providers regardless of the economy. MacLeod conceded that his company is "rethinking everything" -- nearly all IT projects and expenses -- during the current economic turmoil. But here's the interesting part: MacLeod mentioned several managed services that his company will co

Overcoming the Psychological Barriers to On-Demand Services

It is time for IT and business decision-makers to get over their fears of 'out-tasking' various aspects of their daily operations to specialized service providers. Today's turbulent economic climate, intensifying competitive landscape and changing workplace requirements demand that organizations of all sizes re-think their business technology sourcing strategies. What I believe is still inhibiting many IT or business decision-makers from adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and managed services are a few common misconceptions and interrelated fears. Gain New Perspective, with Sharp Focus For instance, too many IT and business decision-makers continue to resist a growing assortment of SaaS and managed services which can address their business application and IT management needs because they are concerned about losing control, sacrificing performance and/or dealing with additional security risks. While all of these are legitimate concerns, THINKstrategies has found that th

Closing the Business Video Communication Gap

According to Matt Cowall at Appia Communications , if you look around the business video communication landscape today, you'll see two extremes in predominant use within the marketplace. At one end are TelePresence and other highly sophisticated solutions. These are expensive and largely aimed at the enterprise market, but the quality of the video experience is excellent. At the other end are PC- and Web-based solutions. These products are inexpensive, but often lack the quality and reliability that business users require. Mid-Market Video Requirements Somewhere in the middle, SMBs and similar organizations hope for the best of both extremes -- high video quality and reliability at an affordable price. But a recent convergence of circumstances and next-generation technologies appears to be closing the gap in both directions, fueled by: The soaring costs, hassles, and inefficiencies associated with travel The slowing of the economy, which puts a premium on doing more with less The f

Managed Services Reality Check for Small Business Owners

Somewhere between the economic panic and the managed services craze their resides a simple truth: Now is the time for all small businesses to carefully consider their IT strategies for 2009. I'm tired of reading wild statements that say managed services and Software as a Service (SaaS) are immune to the economic turmoil. It's far more accurate to say we've reached an inflection point of sorts, where small businesses need to review what they spent on IT in 2007 and 2008 to help their planning in 2009. Traditionally, many small businesses acquired IT assets -- PCs, servers, networks, applications and other infrastructure that they ran internally. But those acquisitions required big lump-sum capital investments. During the current economic turmoil, we're seeing a shift in the market. Smart small businesses increasingly depend on IT services. Much in the same way that they pay flat monthly fees for broadband and cellular services, small businesses are embracing managed ser