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The Advantages of Outsourcing Network Services to a Managed Service Provider (MSP)

Posted January 6, 2014

Telecom is changing. The marketplace is seeing a major shift in the way that businesses are spending. Buying behavior is moving away from one-time purchases to subscription-based managed services and this paradigm shift includes infrastructure as a service (IAAS), platform as a service (PAAS), and software as a service (SAAS).

Could Managed Network Services Be Right For You?

There comes a point when every organization must make a decision about its network management. For small and midsize businesses: Should we really be managing our network ourselves? For larger enterprises: Which aspects of network management should we outsource?

If your business has a network that meets any of the following criteria, then it is time to consider managed network services:

  • Connects multiple offices, stores, or sites
  • Is growing beyond the capacity of current access lines
  • Must provide secure connectivity to mobile and remote employees
  • Could produce cost savings by integrating voice and data traffic
  • Needs to be ready for more traffic from video and other high bandwidth applications
  • Is becoming more difficult to manage and ensure performance and security, especially given limited staff and budget resources

What is MSP?

In a managed network services solution, you outsource the day-to-day operation and management of your network to a managed services provider. Outsourced network management and services offers a viable option for most communications, including:

  • Network connections: Broadband Internet access—including T1, bonded T1, business Ethernet, DS3, DSL, cable, and wireless broadband
  • Remote access: Virtual private networks (VPNs) based on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) that use the Internet to provide remote sites and users with secure access to an internal business network
  • Voice: Carrying voice and data traffic on the same circuits
  • Network security: Comprehensive management of security elements to mitigate network intrusions, attacks, viruses, spam, and other threats

Managed services providers, or MSPs, typically offer these managed services based on a subscription model, which allows the customer to select and customize the level of service their business requires. The monthly subscription fee may incorporate any combination of services, including bandwidth, network services, hosted voice seats, email and file sharing, data storage, server infrastructure, equipment and service level agreement (SLA) performance levels as outlined in a service contract.

Why Not Manage Your Own Network?

Of course, it is possible—but not always easy or cost-effective—for organizations to internally manage their own networks. There are some decided advantages to outsourcing to a managed service provider.

Those who choose to use an MSP can reduce their overhead costs while increasing their network services and can implement a distributed network without having internal distributed resources. Likewise, they can support dynamic business growth even with restricted budgets and staffing levels, and can quickly implement new technologies to remain competitive.

Using an MSP allows businesses to deliver managed services to more remote workers and deliver high-quality, high-availability services 24 hours a day. Using an MSP also allows employees to stay focused on the business and keeps them up to date on cutting edge technologies. For example, many businesses will find that they can save up to 50 percent by consolidating their voice and data services onto a single network or hosting their server and application infrastructure offsite.

Business Factors:

  • Reducing network overhead costs while increasing network services Implementing a global network service without internal global resources
  • Supporting dynamic business growth with restricted budgets and staffing levels
  • Needing to respond quickly to time-to-market demands Implementing new technologies to maintain competitiveness
  • Supporting new business operations and markets or integrating acquisition

Network Operations:

  • Managing, maintaining, and upgrading network infrastructure and management systems
  • Delivering high-quality, hiqh-availability network services to meet 24-hour demand
  • Defining and monitoring Quality of Service (QoS) and Class of Service (CoS) parameters to prioritize voice traffic and ensure call quality
  • Securing data, transactions, and communications to keep up with the latest security threats, as well as meeting privacy and security regulations
  • Delivering services to more remote offices and workers

Staffing:

  • Finding, recruiting, and retaining certified network professionals
  • Helping staff stay current with new technologies and skills
  • Focusing employees on core competencies and mission-critical processes, rather than network support

Given the difficulty of these challenges, outsourcing network management is rapidly becoming the preferred alternative for many organizations.

Which Provider Is Right For You?

After deciding to explore managed services, the next step is finding the right managed network services provider. With so many types of providers offering a range of services and management models, the choices can be confusing. Understanding the different types of service providers is the first step in making the right decision for your organization.

IT managers may initially think of the large telecom carriers as potential managed network services vendors. It is important to note that although large carriers sell hosted network services to small and mid-size businesses, their real focus is on large enterprises networks. Even for large enterprises with geographically-dispersed locations, services, and network needs, the managed network services offered by large carriers may not be the best-fit or the most cost-effective solution.

At the other end of the managed services spectrum are small “boutique” providers that offer hosted services under a Bring Your Own Bandwidth (BYOB) model, where customers arrange for network links and equipment. This model does not provide the benefits of a provider’s dedicated MPLS network or support for network-based QoS and managed security services.

For most organizations, the right MSP can be found in the middle of the spectrum—in an MSP that maintains its own network and offers an extensive array of managed services. With this type of MSP, you can choose if you want fully managed network access, voice or security services, or a combination of individual services that match your business needs and internal network management resources. In addition, this type of MSP can scale its services to fit as your organization’s needs evolve.

Best Practices Criteria

When searching for an MSP, you will likely find several companies to consider. How do you evaluate these providers and their service offerings to make the best choice? The following best practices provide helpful decision-making criteria.

Service Offerings
The MSP should focus on understanding your unique service needs and meeting them with a business orientation that goes beyond offering all customers a “cookie cutter” solution. The provider should offer network connectivity in a variety of access speeds from DSL to DS3, allowing you to select the right speed for each user or remote location. The broadband access service should offer a high-speed “always on” connection in a nationwide connectivity solution that is easy to deploy, manage, and support.

Network, Voice and Security Operations Capabilities
The service provider should support and proactively monitor its data, voice, and security services on a 24/7/365 basis from multiple redundant Network Operations Centers (NOCs) and Security Operations Centers (SOCs).

Certified Professionals and Industry Partnerships
Delivering high-quality managed network services requires highly knowledgeable and skilled network professionals, as well as partnerships with leading equipment and network capacity vendors. Ask a potential MSP about the professional certifications held by its employees and its participation in vendor partnership programs.

The Importance of Service Level Agreements
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are a valuable tool for assessing how well a managed services provider maintains high levels of network performance and availability. These measurements guarantee overall network uptime, as well as response and resolution times for network problems.

 

MSP Comparison

Why MegaPath

As a leading provider of secure access and managed network solutions, MegaPath combines the best broadband connectivity, voice, VPN, cloud, and security technologies with unmatched network design, deployment, monitoring, management, reporting, and support capabilities.

MegaPath managed network services reduce the cost and complexity of securely connecting remote sites and users to your network while providing a single point of contact for network operations and management.

The Value of a Cisco Master Managed Service Channel Partner

MegaPath is one of only a few Cisco Managed Services Channel Partners to receive the Master designation, granted in recognition of the highest level of network management capability. MegaPath is also a member of the Cisco Powered program, which means we use Cisco equipment to deliver selected network services, we meet Cisco standards for network support, and we achieve Cisco standards for interoperability, service reliability, and service quality.

The Value of Industry Certifications

The strength of an MSP is determined in part by the skill and knowledge of its employees—especially those who design, operate, and manage the network services. Amongst our technical operations and engineering employees, nearly 20% hold at least one vendor or industry certification. That number jumps to nearly 50 percent in our broadband, security, and voice network design engineering teams. These certifications are an important indicator of expertise, because they provide objective validation of an individual’s depth of training and experience in solving complex network issues.

As a Cisco Managed Services Channel Partner, MegaPath focuses on attracting and retaining a high number of Cisco-certified employees. Four of MegaPath’s network engineers hold the prestigious Cisco CCIE certification, which is recognized as the highest level of technical achievement within the networking industry. MegaPath employees hold other Cisco certifications for network operations, including Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). MegaPath engineers also hold other well-respected certifications, including:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) for network security
  • System and technology certifications from vendors, such as Juniper® Networks, Avaya®, Nortel®, Toshiba®, Microsoft®, and Aventail®/ SonicWALL®
  • IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and project management certifications for overall managed services operations

Before deciding on a managed services provider, consider MegaPath, one of the largest facilities-based providers of managed services in the United States providing voice, broadband, network security, and managed IT services to enterprise and SMB customers. MegaPath combines its leading services with unparalleled network design, deployment, monitoring, management, reporting and support capabilities. And, MegaPath’s hosted services are on-net to our nationwide, MPLS-enabled, all-optical IP network that provides high Quality of Service (QoS) to customers across the country.

 

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