Can Managed Services Enhance Your IT Operation?

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These guidelines can help you determine which IT systems absolutely must be managed within your organization and which can be managed through alternative means.

The next level away from complete control is co-managing. This is a hybrid model in which some of the work is performed by your internal staff while other elements are handled by an outside provider. Unlike the MSP model, you’re not turning certain portions of IT over to the provider completely; both your staff and that of the provider work together on the designated applications.

Co-managing keeps the internal IT staff more directly involved with the day-to-day operations. It can be a good solution when extra arms and legs are needed for applications that must remain in-house.

At the same time, it’s important to understand that the co-managing partner will likely be less invested in your business than an MSP would be. But if you’re looking for flexibility in staffing—especially on standard technologies, with an ability to scale up or down quickly—co-managing has a lot to offer.

The third model is the public cloud. One of its greatest assets is the ability to get up and running quickly. In some cases, where you’re purchasing a standard software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, you can start using it almost immediately. With others, such as storage or backup services, it may take a few days to set up the application and migrate the data over.

Another well-documented advantage to the cloud is the ability to shed responsibility for managing the equipment, and, in most cases, the software. The cloud provider will have its entire technical staff focused on keeping hardware and software operating within agreed-upon specifications.

Should an outage occur, the provider will handle it all behind the scenes. If your goal is to completely remove the burden of certain low-value IT operations from your staff, the cloud offers that capability.

The downside, especially with a public cloud, is that you may be sharing the environment with other customers. That configuration is obviously going to be less secure than keeping your data in a dedicated environment.

In addition, you don’t have any say in the hardware being used. That’s not really an issue for a SaaS arrangement, but if you are replicating data between your internal site and a cloud site being used for high availability, it could become a concern.

There is a fourth model: completely outsourcing the hardware, software and management of all of IT. This model was popular in the mid-1990s as a cost-cutting move, but has fallen out of favor as organizations have come to realize the significant role IT plays in driving business value.

· Know what success looks like. You would be amazed at how often success measures are not clearly defined. It’s more than a matter of setting service-level agreements or other metrics. It’s understanding how your IT organization looks, what it’s working on, how its time is being spent and whether you are actually succeeding in driving more business value. The better-defined the end game, the better chance you have of getting there.

It’s no secret these days that IT departments are being asked to do more—in many cases, much more—with fewer resources. On top of that, big data, mobility, bring your own device initiatives and other new challenges are forcing more conversations about what to leave in and what to leave out.

If you’re not looking at your infrastructure and determining what is core versus what can be handled on the outside, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to deliver the best value to the business.

It may take some time and effort up front, but making this determination will ultimately help you use your resources more effectively. It may even get you out of the office and into your hammock.

Patrick Zelten is the vice president of managed services for Forsythe, a North American IT integrator headquartered outside Chicago. He can be reached at pzelten@forsythe.com.

This article was originally published on 2013-09-26
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