Three offices, three different states, 100 employees. They needed a secure, managed wide-area network (WAN) to link them – fast -- and didn’t have the staff to do it themselves, recalls Bo Breneman of DVFG Companies.

“We had a very short timeframe to put these systems in place, and no one in the office to do it,” she remembers. In a company that sells life, property, and casualty insurance, investment products, and health care benefits -- and works with sensitive customer data -- finding a trusted partner to configure a secure network was a must.

Breneman, an IT director, solved the problem by bringing in Evolve IP, a Wayne, Pa.-based managed technology service provider.

Faster, better than homemade

“They were awesome,” she says, handling the company’s wiring, phone systems, offline exchange, backup, and customizing their T1 and data service between regional offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. “They did follow-up, they made additional suggestions, things we didn’t even know to ask them. They made it easy,” she says.

Breneman is not alone. According to a May 2008 survey by Forrester Research, 21 percent of enterprise firms surveyed used managed services to handle their network and telecommunications needs in 2007.

For smaller firms, the needs can be just as great. External WAN management can help small businesses achieve the same level of service and security as a much bigger company, without the price tags that come with in-house staffing and duplicative hardware.

“If you’re a business with multiple locations, you may wonder, ‘Do I need three networks? Or one?'” notes Scott Kinka, senior vice president of network services for Evolve IP. With a WAN, he notes, businesses can do more with less -- video, voice, and Internet connections -- but not without dedicated, knowledgeable staff.

“It requires know-how that existing staff might not have,” Kinka adds. “The answer to everything used to be, just get more bandwidth. But this is not always the solution now.” Offices may not need as much connectivity as before, but they need systems that can manage fluctuations in demand for voice, video, and Internet data traveling over the same systems. Making this work, he says, “requires different management.”

A good option for small businesses

While small and mid-sized businesses often seek out hosted services for many individual functions, such as an Internet connection, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), or even the newer multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), “It’s difficult in the WAN world to purchase a hosted service,” adds Guy Fardone, Evolve IP’s chief operating officer and general manager.

Breneman adds that working with an external managed provider has given the company’s network a custom-made quality they never could have achieved themselves. “I can access my system from home through the tool bar on Windows, and make changes to it,” she says.

The bottom line?  An externally managed WAN can save you time, money, and worry.