MNS providers' SLA performance wins MVP.
A shift is occurring in how companies manage their network operations--they are doing less managing. They are shedding or considering detaching internal management of their wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs) and Internet security functions, and out-tasking with external managed network service (MNS) providers. Indeed, market analyst META Group predicts that by the end of 2001, every Global 2000 company will use some form of managed network services. This allows internal information technology (IT) groups to focus on the core competency of their business, not firefight networking issues.
Several factors are triggering the move to managed network services.
* There are not enough qualified and trained IT professionals. IT labor demand will continue to outstrip supply, according to one analyst, with the shortage of labor growing at 5% to 6% over the next few years.
* With new technological advances unveiled daily, companies find keeping pace with--not to mention paying for--escalating business needs increasingly difficult, With an MNS provider, companies typically pay for IT services on a monthly subscription basis, avoiding technology risks and costly upgrades.
* Growing companies are expanding their number of network sites around the country and the world, putting heavier burdens on in-house network administrators to supply around-the-clock support.
* Businesses are demanding higher quality and are looking to MNS providers that offer quality and guaranteed performance. In their service contracts, some MNS providers guarantee customers availability each month or they do not pay that month's fee.
DECIDING ON THE BEST OPTION
When deciding to partner with an external service provider, determine the best resource for subscribing to or buying managed network services. One option is an outsourcing relationship, which is characterized by the transfer of a customer's equipment and personnel to the provider. This arrangement, however, often involves difficult-to-break, long-term contracts and some risk based on loss of control.
One option for buying MNS is through an out-tasking relationship. This involves the purchasing of specific managed network services on a subscription basis. It is characterized by short-term contracts that adhere to aggressive service-level agreements (SLAs). An MNS provider offering out-tasking delivers managed network services to IT departments and other customers who manage their own technology assets. They eliminate the need for companies and individuals to buy, maintain or upgrade IT infrastructure management systems.
A key issue for IT professionals involves a fear of releasing direct control of their network. Some MNS providers work with companies to give or take as much control as needed and offer a number of tools to help IT professionals monitor their network activity. For example, the use of proprietary or commercial tools can provide internal staff with the means to track the network at all times. The MNS may offer a Web portal, for example, which gives the network manager a real-time "window" into network information.
The flexibility offered by Web-based tools further eliminates the need for the internal IT staff to focus resources on daily activities, such as troubleshooting. IT professionals gain the ability to focus on bigger issues, such as aligning technological growth and development with corporate business objectives. This creates more time for strategic planning and smarter decisionmaking in allocating IT resources.
SELECTING AN MNS
When evaluating an MNS provider, companies should use the following criteria:
* Does the MNS provider have experience and a large customer base? Of critical importance is that the provider have the expertise to remain successful. The last problem a company needs to worry about is that the service provider monitoring its network runs out of funding and closes its doors.
* Does the MNS provider focus on customer service? A network engineer at the MNS provider's network operating center must be available to speak to a customer at any time and address his needs.
* Does the MNS provider offer aggressive SLAs? A customer needs to know what degree of performance to expect from his service provider. A worthy MNS provider must be able to offer a money-back guarantee promising 99.5% uptime.
* Does the MNS have a set of proven, highly scalable tools? The most important service for an MNS provider to offer its customers is a robust set of time-proven tools. The tools must also be scalable; otherwise, new customers added to an MNS provider's network would decrease the performance of the tools and increase problem-detection time. This will lead to end-users detecting a network problem long before the MNS provider has even reacted to the issue.
More options are available today than ever before to determine how best to address network needs. While operating, monitoring and maintaining an in-house operation represents a proven option, out-tasking managed network services offers organizations a viable alternative.
Circle 254 for more information from NetSolve
Tysdal is president and chief executive officer of NetSolve Inc., Austin, TX.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2001|
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