The IT services industry is undergoing a sea-change fuelled by one element in particular: increased use of technology. Just over 10 years ago, Facebook had just hit the mainstream and the term “blogging” was voted the “word of the year”. Today Facebook and blogging are the norm, while connected devices bring us round the clock updates to smartphones, smart watches and even smart buildings. Consumers and businesses alike are always on the lookout for the next technology trend which will transform our daily lives. From meeting customer demands to driving business growth, virtually any company is dependent on technology. That dependency also brings challenges for companies who need to keep up to date with the latest developments in IT so that they remain competitive. A failure to embrace the latest and greatest technology trend is effectively accepting defeat.
With a technology imperative being so entwined with companies’ bottom-lines, it is reassuring to see that the importance of effective IT has not been lost on many of them: CompTIA’s Annual Trends in Managed Services report found that 68 per cent of IT and business professionals are using an outside IT firm to either manage one or more of their IT functions or provide implementation, integration or other IT project work. Indeed, a further one out of every two respondents admitted that they would consider employing an outside IT firm in the next two years. A reaction to the call to technology arms, such a statistic is being borne out in the fact that more and more companies are turning to managed service providers (MSPs) to meet their increasing IT service demands, leveraging outside expertise to keep up with technology.
Delivering network, system, e-management and application services across a network to multiple applications, MSPs work in tandem with businesses to introduce new technologies capable of revolutionising the way the company services their clients. Making the most of an MSP can, therefore, be the difference between excellent and poor client engagement and insights for a business. Enlisting an MSP gives a company the capacity to invest in their core business goals, safe in the knowledge that their IT concerns are being appropriately managed. But it’s not just the addition of the solutions that MSPs provide; IT teams also benefit from the competitive edge of their expertise. MSPs are trained in the latest updates and innovations in IT and are in possession of an arsenal of the best solutions, which can be tailored to each company’s individual needs. Yet as MSPs grow within a company and expand their footprint on the IT infrastructure, they, in turn, must look to scale network management systems. The cloud offers such capacity to scale and optimise operations.
But why do 93 per cent of businesses utilise the cloud for some, or all of its company software? In optimising operations, four key benefits emerge for MSPs when utilising the cloud:
Benefit 1: Flexibility
First and foremost, utilising the cloud brings greater flexibility to MSPs when managing unified wired/wireless networks. Scaling and optimising resources can be achieved from a single geographic location through the cloud, granting MSPs more control of their customers’ infrastructures. The centralisation of IT applications reaps a multitude of benefits for the company; be it the avoidance of the duplication of IT functions or, indeed, the reduced cost of volume discounts from using one supplier, the MSP. In addition, not only does the cloud allow MSPs greater control of resources, it also saves resources. Faced with fluctuating resource consumption as a result of customer contracts, cloud-based services bestow the additional advantage of elasticity. Such elasticity, when combined with zero-touch provisioning, can address varying demand, deploy additional resources and connect new wired and wireless networking devices in minutes. The need to dispatch staff is therefore removed, and MSP customers can – confident in their IT services – thereby concentrate on meeting their business aims and growing profits.
Benefit 2: Better staff management
The deployment of a unified wired/wireless cloud managed networking platform leads to greater simplicity, meaning a reduced training burden on MSP staff. The need to invest large amounts of time and resources in training staff to be experts in operating the platform is mitigated significantly. Such a phenomenon not only saves companies money, it also permits IT staff the time to enhance their own skill-set and engage in learning and development, beneficial to the company as a whole. Consequently, MSPs can utilise more general teams to manage the daily delivery of end-to-end services, facilitating time for up-skilled experts to concentrate on growing the business and developing further innovation.
Benefit 3: Automation
Automation allows MSPs to respond to customer demand in a more timely and agile manner. In addition, it further frees up time and resources to focus on business growth and strategy. The key to integrating automation into MSPs’ business models is pervasive application programming interface (API) technology. Built into network nodes and centralised management, APIs allow applications to directly program the network infrastructure. As a result, cloud-managed solutions based around automation enable MSPs to become more agile and responsive to customer needs, offering more innovative services and models.
APIs are a huge growth opportunity for MSPs and their customers alike. With APIs playing an increased role, the operations model will become more stable: companies will be able to further leverage their infrastructure and MSPs will be able to optimise and grow their offerings.
The cloud, by accommodating flexibility, improving staff training, and delivering automation capabilities is the bedrock of integrated and all-inclusive network management offerings for MSPs. The cloud is the means by which IT departments can better manage their networks. The cloud is the means by which, in turn, companies can get ahead and drive profits, unfettered by a dated and unfit-for-purpose IT system. In an environment where only those that are able to provide a more robust, efficient and scalable offering will succeed, the cloud provides MSPs with the competitive edge that will differentiate them from the competition, providing a customer service that is tailored and specific to IT needs.
Thomas Borrel, director of Product Management, ExtremeCloud at Extreme Networks