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BUSINESS SOFTWARE

Are Managed Services Right for You?

Small and mid-sized businesses are outsourcing a variety of services these days, including voice, e-mail, and network services. If your business is supporting distributed sites with virtually no local IT support, this might make sense.
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You're at the helm of a small software company and you feel overwhelmed by what you need to organize. First of all, there's business communication, collaboration amongst your staff and clients that needs to happen, maintenance of your servers, and the list goes on. You know that in order to keep yourself profitable, outsourcing through a managed service might solve your problems. However, you wonder about security and control issues and if using these vendors can really save you the money they promise.

Using managed network services, especially in this downturned economy, is a choice many small and mid-sized businesses make daily. Turning to managed services for voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), network management services, e-mail, and collaboration can substantially lower in-house IT costs and can cut time spent upgrading and maintaining servers for the small business. In addition, these vendors include professional 24/7 support that will react in a timely fashion if the system is down. Although deploying these managed and hosted services may feel that you're sacrificing control, managed service vendors often offer physically digital secure data centers where data is continually backed up. In most cases, the managed service can offer more security for their data than what the small business can.

Pros of using managed network services

  1. Lower IT Cost -- According to Michele Pelino, analyst for Forrester Research based in Cambridge, Mass., businesses in the retail, production, wholesale, and transportation vertical markets use managed services to control their IT costs and keep their IT staffs streamlined by outsourcing their voice and data operations. In addition, managed services providers offer the software-as-a-service (SaaS), in which vendors provide software applications on a per user monthly plan.
  2. Simplify Operations -- Rather than outlaying tremendous efforts in money and time in server maintenance and software programs such as Microsoft Outlook or Exchange, managed network vendors can relieve this stress on the company's bottom line. Danny Essner, director of marketing for Intermedia, a New York-based provider of managed business e-mail services for small and mid-sized businesses, says that small businesses get "the best of both worlds" by having all of the benefits of using managed services with none of the direct costs of maintaining these servers and upgrading this software.
  3. Security -- Says Maysoon Al-Hasso, the vice president of marketing for Apptix, a Herndon. Va.-based provider of managed messaging and collaboration solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, "We offer control without all of the hassles." Managed service vendors provide anti-spam and anti-virus protection at all price levels and in the case of Apptix, their servers are housed in data centers with Cisco firewalls with 24/7 human and technical protection.

Cons of using managed network services

  1. Lack of Support -- The managed service provider may not place you high on the priority list when you call the Help Desk. Make sure you check the vendor's record of support before you deal with them. Maysoon Al-Hasso of Apptix recommends businesses to call the support desk on a Sunday at 8 p.m. to see if they are ready to take care of you.
  2. Security -- Check that your provider is as professional as they say they are. What kind of computers do they use as their servers? Intermedia uses Dell servers and has made a significant investment in their Cisco network, but other vendors may not have this level of server and back-up protection. 

Conclusion

Invest the time to see if your company is the right fit for a managed service provider and educate yourself on how using these vendors can possibly resolve your IT issues. The old days of enterprise software that is a significant annual investment are past and now businesses want SaaS service that provides them scalable options. For instance, if your company grows, it's a lot easier to click a button to move up a service tier than it is to invest in another server.

SIDEBAR: Managed Service Providers for Small Businesses

Apptix with over 186,500 subscribers, Apptix differentiates itself through its messaging, voice, and collaboration solutions. They sell business communications services such as Hosted Exchange, Hosted SharePoint, Hosted IP-PBX and also offers hosted VoIP solutions. Apptix is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for Hosting and Application Services.

Intermedia.net offers Microsoft exchange hosting, SharePoint hosting and e-mail archiving and compliance. In February 2008, Intermedia launched Secure Mail, which encrypts email and is industry compliant. They also offer two control panels: HostPilot and MyMailboxManager for greater mobile access and shared calendars to increase productivity and collaboration.

USA.NET Hosted Microsoft Exchange works with companies from five to 60,000 users who can benefit from USA.NET’s tiered approach to e-mail and e-messaging services.  Offers a scalable solution that fits your business and it is the only hosted e-mail provider that is Microsoft Gold Certified and SAS 70 Type II Audited.

Last updated: Apr 1, 2008




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