Behind the Growth of Managed Network Services

A recent study by MarketsandMarkets predicts the global managed network services market will grow from $29.47 billion USD in 2012 to $58.39 billion USD in 2018. Industry experts attribute this predicted growth to a greater awareness amongst businesses about the critical nature of their networks and leveraging outsourcing as a tool to increase performance, reduce downtime and improve technology and virtualisation management. Here’s what’s up and coming in 2014 for this area of managed services.

What are Managed Network Services?

Managed network services are gaining momentum because of advancements in cloud computing, big data and mobility services. Managed network services enable enterprises to outsource their IP-based communication network and other in-house networking functions to third-party specialists.

Managed network services providers handle a range of support for organisations of all sizes. This includes remote infrastructure management, monitoring, patch management, performance tuning, optimisation services, periodic auditing and high-level IT reporting to aid the infrastructure planning and optimisation process.

Managed Network Services’ Return on Investment

There are several key business benefits that organisations can expect to achieve when investing in managed network services. These include:

  • Cost Reduction: Managed network services replace functions and processes in organisations that carry significant recurring costs. Organisations can reduce recurring in-house IT costs by 30 to 40 per cent by using managed network services, while gaining a 50 to 60 per cent increase in efficiency, according to research by MarketsandMarkets.
  • Access to Human Capital: Managed network services give organisations access to specific skills they may lack in-house, such as networking, security or communications. With a partner that specialises in managed network services, organisations also ensure these skills are up-to-date and scalable as organisational needs change.

A skilled partner can handle any networking needs, including configuring switches, connecting desktops and networks with routers, and setting up WAN links. These tasks, albeit critical, take time and experience that your internal staff may not possess. Training your in-house IT team requires a significant time and monetary investment that can stretch limited IT resources. These resources could be better devoted to core business competencies.

  • Enhanced Security and Lower Risk of Downtime: With a dedicated managed network services provider,organisations can increase their level of security and reduce network downtime. A managed network services partner can ensure network components are properly configured, including routers and switches, and install firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Your partner can also ensure these critical services, software patches and protections are up-to-date and maintained, and sensitive data is adequately protected with encryption.
  • Network Optimisation: Optimising your network effectively involves assessing existing infrastructure on a regular basis, conducting feasibility studies and audits, drafting service proposals and scoping, designing, implementing and testing various solutions.

A managed network services provider can take charge of these core functions to free up time for your C-level and IT staff to focus on primary business objectives. These partners bring extensive expertise in planning and provisioning to ensure your organisation makes informed decisions grounded in research and analytics.

Leveraging a managed network services provider is financially and strategically effective for organisations. Organisations can choose the level of support that best suits their unique business requirements and goals. With a dedicated partner,organisations can realise an increased level of flexibility and agility regarding IT infrastructure and technology needs.

Managed Services in 2014 – How is it Evolving?

Managed services as a topic in and of itself doesn’t always get the attention topics such as cloud and mobility do. That’s largely because managed services covers such a large umbrella of technology services that it can often be absent from conversations about specific solutions. It’s important to relate these single solutions back to managed services because it changes the way they are consumed, designed and supported. Take note of the following predicted managed services trends for 2014 and how you can use them to improve business.

Enterprise Content Management

More than 60 per cent of midsize businesses are using Microsoft SharePoint to organise and share information, according to Forrester. TechNavio anticipates the global enterprise content management (ECM) market to increase to $9.6 billion in 2014. ECM can help businesses improve records management, search and e-discovery and document capture. A managed services provider can help integrate organisations’ disparate data and management systems to improve content workflows and accessibility. And as Ovum expects mobility, social media and cloud computing to transform ECM in 2014, business can take advantage of a managed services provider to help incorporate these additional capabilities into a complete ECM solution that fully allows anytime, anywhere access to content of all types.

Managed security services

This year will be a particularly busy one for the managed security services — or MSS — market, according to Gartner. The research firm predicts the MSS market to grow from $12 billion in 2013 to more than $22.5 billion by 2017. Increasing security threats brought about by BYOD and mobile apps and advanced persistent threats (APTs) coupled with a lack of internal resources to manage all these threats is driving the MSS growth. Australia already suffers from a lack of skilled IT resources, and the IT security realm is no different — a major risk when threats are continuously becoming more numerous and complex. The result will be more organisations enlisting the help of a third-party security service or managed services provider that can address incident response and detect APTs. In some instances, these managed resources will work with in-house staff and, at the very least, will educate internal employees on how to best protect the business.

Cloud services managed for you

As we’ve written before, consuming cloud through a managed services provider can help organisations leverage best-practice, enterprise-level technology and delivery methods. Having your cloud services managed for you by expert IT providers lowers risk and frees up internal IT staff time — it also makes the integration more seamless. With the recent rise in organisations using a multi-cloud approach — where businesses consume at least two different types of cloud services —, businesses will increasingly need a provider to procure, design and manage these different cloud service providers and platforms. This includes overseeing all the SLAs, performance metrics and billing for you.

5 Key Questions to Ask a Potential Managed Services Provider

Yes, there’s no one-size-fits-all as far as expectations for a managed services provider are concerned. Every organisation is different, every scenario is different, and every managed services provider fills a niche.

But all managed services outfits must meet certain standards and expectations. Just like choosing a new car is a matter of preference, you need reliable brakes. We’ve found most managed services providers worth their salt offer five key competencies. Be sure you ask these questions of any potential managed services provider.

1. How can you help our organisation as the time comes to scale and implement customised solutions? Unfortunately, as you already know, no process is permanent. Providing you with a solution that addresses your problems is, in reality, only a portion of the managed services provider’s role. You need a managed services partner that can work with your business as it evolves and stay at the vanguard of technological progress.

Of course, many managed services providers will claim to do so and provide some examples of evolving with other clients. One of the most important methods to staying agile is a flexible service level agreement (SLA). Here’s where the rubber meets the road. If a managed services provider won’t offer a customised SLA, your scalability is limited. And if you see problems in the early stages of your managed services contract, a 90-day opt out clause will help you escape a bad business relationship.

2. How can you keep costs reasonable? When you shell out money for a managed services provider, you should expect human and technical capital that equates to a lower total cost of ownership than going it yourself. Ask about the technical expertise you’ll receive from your managed services provider. The managed services provider should offer qualified technicians to fill the gaps in your employees’ technical skills. Besides keeping headcounts lower, you can, in turn, dedicate your employees to higher-impact projects.

3. Who is my dedicated, local representative for certain issues? You may make a strong connection with a managed services provider’s rep, but what if that point of contact isn’t local — or even living on the same continent? For such a critical business relationship, you’ll want periodic face time. Beyond your main contact, ask about the teams that will provide on-site support. Are they within an hour’s drive? Or in the event of a technical emergency, will you face a significant wait for them to arrive?

4. How can you help me integrate IT solutions? Don’t assume your existing infrastructure and processes should be scrapped. A competent managed services provider will assess your technology, your business and your ambitions to determine what services should be integrated. Be sure any managed services provider you’re considering will provide such an assessment and work to integrate improvements that will provide the best-cost solution and quick user adoption.

5. Do you offer a guaranteed response time? A flexible SLA is a must for scalability, and it must include a guaranteed response time in the event of an incident or emergency. If a managed services provider gives you a line about “You can count on us to be there when it counts” but won’t put that commitment on paper, walk away. Your organisation can’t count on a verbal agreement when it comes to your operations or customer-facing technology going down.

Managed services providers that can fully answer these five questions will leave your organisation better-placed to take advantage of the cost efficiencies, scalability and IT streamlining that can come from managed services.

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Managed Services Contract

Managed services are supposed to make your life easier, not complicate it. Signing up with a managed services provider that’s going to lock your organisation down instead of allowing it the very flexibility you sought in the first place could result in a loss of business agility and evolution for years to come. To stay truly agile and adaptable as an organisation, consider these three avenues for getting the most out of your managed services contract.

  1. Customise everything you can

Cookie-cutter managed services contracts do not a positive business impact make. Your business is unique (right?), so it needs a unique managed services agreement to ensure it can grow or slow as it needs to over the years. Contracts with 90-day, no-penalty opt-out clauses and SLAs tailored to your needs make the most sense for business agility. And don’t get locked into one way of delivering your service; having access to various delivery models lets you pick the right fit.

  1. Discuss the business benefits, not the technical details

Do you and your prospective managed services provider speak the same language? A managed services provider that only talks technical jargon likely can’t translate the true business benefit of its services. You want a managed services provider that can tell you how its technology and processes can reduce your downtime, strengthen your security and free up your internal IT staff for other projects. The ability to leverage other skillsets from the managed services provider forspecial IT projects that can add business value is another feature to seek out.

  1. Learn who you’ll be dealing with on a regular basis

Even with industry-leading technology and delivery models in place, a managed services contract can still go pear-shaped if the people administrating it are awful. The people who will head up your managed services delivery will either become crucial assets to your organisation that you look forward to communicating with regularly, or they will become a dreaded part of your work life.

Personality conflicts are possible anywhere, but take a look at your prospective managed services provider’s track record when it comes to the human element. Are the managed services provider’s people affable, approachable and accessible? Do they clearly communicate, whether it’s about a daily task or a potential service issue? Is there a local presence and access to other managers, technicians or executives in the business with whom you might want to communicate?

Managed services should work for and with your organisation.  If the provider you’re considering doesn’t give you flexibility, a clear demonstration of business impact and the right people to do the job, look elsewhere.

4 Reasons Managed Services and Cloud Services Go Together

“Managed cloud” isn’t a term that’s caught on as much as IaaS, SaaS or hybrid cloud services. Maybe that’s because it isn’t offered by straight-up cloud services providers — it’s supplied, more often than not, by managed services providers, whose longer list of solution offerings might overshadow their ability to deliver secure, custom-fit cloud services. A few key reasons exist for adopting cloud services through a managed services provider.

1. They know about more than just cloud services

IT providers that supply managed services know how to make sense of disparate IT environments, legacy applications and old infrastructure. Their technology knowledge will extend beyond cloud to unified communications, mobile solutions, desktop optimisation and additional solutions that you might want to integrate with cloud services. With a managed services provider, you will likely get a more available, reliable cloud, in addition to best-practice, enterprise-level technology and delivery methods. Think about it: Does it make sense to deploy your cloud services through a cloud company that’s only been around for two years, or a full-scale IT provider that’s been around for 20?

2. Support from experts

Your cloud needs monitoring, maintenance, security checks, patches — and the list goes on. Who better to provide these services for you than a managed services provider with certified, experienced security experts and its own local data centres? A managed services provider with multiple solution offerings also means you can leverage an array of skill sets when needed. Perhaps you want to wrap a larger managed services contract around your cloud service and take advantage of desktop support and volume licensing. A cloud services provider can’t do this; a managed services provider can.

3. Integration, not interruption

Pure cloud services providers might know how to design and deliver your cloud, but not much else. Without a holistic approach to implementing cloud services, you might introduce serious business risks into your deployment. You might even wind up with the wrong cloud delivery model if you go with a cloud services provider that hasn’t taken the time to get to know your business and understand the full IT picture. A managed services IT provider, on the other hand, will do this work and offer a cloud solution that folds into you overall business-IT strategy.

4. Customised, scalable solutions

Many cloud services providers only offer off-the-shelf SLAs and contracts. That’s not the best way to keep your business agile. The way to get the most out of your cloud is through the ability to leverage economies of scale and on-demand resources with a tailored contract. Features such as flexible contracts with 90-day exit clauses and customisable SLAs are offered through the best managed services providers.

There are even more benefits to be had when electing cloud services through a managed services provider. When considering cloud, shop carefully before you buy, and linger in the aisle where the managed services providers are on display.

3 Business Benefits You Can Achieve Through Managed Services

Are you still tentative about dipping your toes into IT outsourcing? Perhaps you’ve yet to learn about the benefits you could start seeing today if you move to managed services for certain non-core IT functions. Here’s how and why managed services can have a positive effect on organisations large and small.

1. Lower, more predictable costs

There are several ways managed services allow organisations to better control costs. The most obvious cost efficiency is the potential for reduced overheads. No longer will you need to hire full-time staff for certain specialist IT skills or pay for training to skill up current employees. You’ll be able to leverage economies of scale, tapping into these skills on-demand via your managed services provider. Cost savings through managed services also come by way of a reduced need for repairs and maintenance. By having better upkeep on networks and servers, you reduce the chances of needing repairs.

Good managed services providers that offer flexible contracts and pay-as-you-go models with fixed monthly costs will also let businesses scale up and down when they need it. This kind of predictability lets organisations better control their budgets.

2. More streamlined IT  

The processes and automation that come from a managed services provider mean IT services can be supplied in a more organised way. The application of best-practice delivery models supplied by highly-skilled IT staff means there’s less a risk of a hodgepodge job being done across systems. The support of service-level-agreements also means you have a better guarantee of faster project delivery and higher performance. This equates to boosted efficiency, productivity and functionality for your business. In addition, consistent application updates, software patching and network monitoring mean you cut your risks of downtime.

3. Moving internal IT staff to more strategic pursuits

Nearly 80 per cent of IT resources go towards lights-on operations. With a full list of troubleshooting to-dos, it’s no wonder many IT departments still struggle to shift to strategic pursuits. Yet, these are the projects that can drive true innovation, which can lead to increased business value and, potentially, revenue. Bringing managed services into the loop can help fulfil the missing piece of your IT-business strategy. IT thus becomes less reactionary and more proactive, with the managed services provider supplying regular metrics and feedback that help guide business decisions.

Which of these three benefits — or others — are you hoping to achieve through managed services?

Why More Australian Organisations are Using Managed Services

The IDC Managed Services 2012 survey released in October revealed 75 per cent of respondents plan to increase their spending on managed services in Australia or spend the same amount in the next year. Other reports indicate the top 300 companies in Australia are using some form of outsourcing to optimise their business processes.

Why are so many organisations gobbling up managed services, especially in a cooling Australian economy? Even with budgets tight, smart organisations know managed services can reduce their total cost of ownership, mitigate risk and help them incorporate new technologies into their environment more quickly and cost-effectively than they can do on their own.

Access to a greater breadth of skills and technology at a lower cost

The very basis of managed services lies in streamlining IT processes and lowering costs while allowing organisations to focus on their core business. Managed services provide “on-demand” IT skills so that special projects or non-core business functions can be taken off the internal IT department’s shoulders. This means organisations don’t have to hire additional salaried employees or pay for overhead to leverage the IT skills they need. And, if you choose the right managed services provider, these IT skills should come by way of a flexible, budget-friendly contract guided by a customised service-level agreement.

Technologies like cloud — which increased in adoption amongst Australian enterprises from 43 per cent in 2011 to 58 per cent in 2012 —, mobility and unified communications are further driving organisations to seek managed services to handle implementations and connectivity. While these new technologies and the management of them come at a cost, they are the most primed to enable cost efficiencies and improvements in service for organisations down the road. Having a managed services provider to help with the integration, network configuration and management of these solutions can ensure they work and fold into your existing infrastructure seamlessly. Managed cloud especially enables organisations to leverage the full possibilities of scale, rapid provisioning and lower capex costs while having their infrastructure handled by the provider.

Less risk of downtime

One recent estimate puts the cost of one hour of downtime at $660. That’s just one hour, taking expenses, overhead and employee salary into account. It doesn’t even begin to cover the lost employee productivity or revenue generation during that hour, or the time the IT department spends trying to fix the problem. Painted this way, downtime can spiral into a complete business breakdown.

Managed IT providers can monitor and maintain servers and other infrastructure, network requirements and storage devices and provide help desk support to prevent or mitigate issues like downtime. It’s not just the potential cost savings— it’s peace of mind knowing you have a continual presence that can catch issues before they have a greater impact on the business, something organisations with busy or small IT staffs can’t always guarantee.

How do you plan to use managed services in 2013?

3 Things to Look for in a Managed Services Provider

Similar to cloud services, it seems like everyone “does” managed services these days. But there’s a difference between doing something and doing something right — and it can mean the difference between IT solutions that drive business value and ones that cripple your operations. There are a few traits that will set apart the best managed services providers from the average ones. To ensure you are getting the support and enhanced value you need from your IT solutions, look for the following features in your next managed services provider.

1. A local, transparent approach

A “big company” feel in a managed services provider might mean your business gets lost in the shuffle of other clients. Having dedicated, local managed services resources and an open approach to conducting business will help you feel more at ease about getting into a managed services relationship. You should be able to see the price book for IT solutions and know all the details of how the managed services relationship will be handled. Know how often and to what degree you will liaise with not only the provider’s service delivery manager, but also your account manager and any additional managers crucial to your managed services relationship.

2. Best practice IT solutions, with a few tweaks

“Best practice” is a term that’s bandied about a lot in the IT space, but when it comes to managed services, you want the promise of industry-led standards to guide your IT solutions. Delivery models guided by ITIL® are a must, as they will fully help you streamline and transform your business through managed services IT solutions. But having an ability to customise these methods of delivering your IT solutions is also important. Give serious weight to managed services providers that let you tailor your service-level agreements and don’t lock you into a long, iron-clad contract. Providers that offer 90-day flexible contracts and multiple service options are best for organisations that want to stay agile.

3. A seamless fit

Managed services IT solutions shouldn’t disrupt your business — they should enhance it. For that reason, it pays to go with a provider that takes the time to learn your organisation inside and out to deliver IT solutions that truly give better value. Managed services providers that know your business can match their service and behaviour to your brand and be able to react flexibly if your business needs change. Remember, your managed services relationship doesn’t have to be a one and done — you can use the experience to develop a long-lasting partnership that continually delivers better performance and uses IT solutions to optimise your business processes.

Even though managed services IT solutions should help you streamline, they should still be delivered via a model and with a budget that suits your business needs. Choose a managed services provider that listens to your business needs and works through the right way to fulfil them.