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January 8, 2024 Outsourcing IT Infrastructure Management in 2024

Shifting risk to a third party is a big reason businesses are embracing IT managed services.

By Art Nichols

On the surface, a national rental car agency seemed to be thriving. Its retail network had grown to a robust 1,200+ stores and its brand was among the most recognizable in the business.

In the back office, however, things weren’t so rosy. Because of a reliance on outdated and unreliable legacy IT systems, the company was struggling to keep pace with the demands of the digital age. Voice systems were archaic, clunky and detracted from the employee and customer experience. Wi-Fi connectivity was unreliable and expensive to maintain. Managing a patchwork of multiple IT systems and vendors was a huge hassle. And because of all this, the company was at risk of losing market share to more tech-savvy competitors.

Rather than continue along the same unsustainable path, the company decided a major IT overhaul was in order. But instead of burdening its own IT staff with such a daunting undertaking, it opted to hand responsibility for designing, implementing and supporting key aspects of its network, communications and security to a managed services provider (MSP). That decision was quickly validated. Thanks to the MSP-orchestrated IT upgrade, its’ IT infrastructure is now streamlined, secure and more than capable of supporting a growing retail enterprise, its employees and customers with resilient, powerful network and communications capabilities. New digital tools have reduced costs, elevated customer experience and bolstered employee productivity.

For companies across the industry landscape, there’s an increasingly strong business case for entrusting aspects of IT infrastructure to a managed services provider. That explains why in results of a survey conducted by 451 Research, more than 50% of respondents said they currently use MSPs to support their cloud environments, and 73% expect to rely more on managed services over time. 

IT managed services essentially involve the outsourcing of a component of IT infrastructure — cybersecurity, network, unified communications, etc. — to a third-party provider. The customer pays a recurring or per-usage fee for a solution that includes hardware and/or software, plus management expertise, packaged in a service “wrapper” whereby the provider assumes responsibility for implementing, monitoring, maintaining, updating and troubleshooting the underlying elements of the solution to ensure the customer gets an agreed-upon outcome.

Today, for example, organizations can turn to an IT managed service provider to outsource their entire communications network such as software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN), cybersecurity (with a solution such as Security Service Edge, or SSE for short), a unified communications platform, and the list goes on.  

Organizations gain an expert tech partner when they outsource management of IT infrastructure to a managed service provider.
Organizations gain an expert tech partner when they outsource management of IT infrastructure to a managed service provider.

Services like these are gaining appeal for their ability to provide an organization with:

  • Greater cost certainty, by shifting a capital cost to a more predictable operating cost. The capital cost for IT investments becomes the responsibility of the MSP.
  • Access to the latest and greatest hardware and software, supplied, maintained and updated as needed by the MSP. This addresses risks related to equipment failure and tech obsolescence.
  • Resource maximization. Handing certain IT responsibilities over to a third party enables IT and cybersecurity teams to focus on higher-value activities that drive revenue. Instead of managing these increasingly sophisticated systems themselves, organizations can adopt a trusted extension of their team through their managed services partner.
  • An answer to IT talent scarcity. IT managed services relieve organizations of some of the recruiting and retention pressures they face amid today’s IT talent shortfall.
  • Sophisticated security. With a managed cybersecurity service, organizations get an expert to assess their security environment, implement a multilayered strategy to address any identified risks and manage and monitor systems 24/7.

As compelling as the business case for IT managed services might be, there are practical questions for organizations to answer before they commit to outsourcing. One is where to start. Really the decision boils down to addressing what your organization views as the most glaring IT deficit or vulnerability. Given the real and escalating risk of cyberattack, the increasing cost and complexity of those attacks and the prevailing shortage of cybersecurity talent, many organizations see managed network security services as a logical starting point. Whatever the case, it’s about assessing, then methodically addressing your biggest IT risks. An IT overhaul can and probably should happen in phases rather than in one big swing, with each phase triggered by an event like a pending data center exit, cloud migration or large IT capital outlay.

Then there’s the question of who: finding an MSP you’re confident can fulfill their responsibilities based on track record, resources and skillset. One that fills the role of consultative partner, subject-matter expert, risk manager and problem-solver.

It’s all part of a process where the endgame is simplification, risk-mitigation and, with fewer IT distractions, the newfound freedom to focus on the stuff that really matters to your customers and your business.

Art Nichols is Chief Technology Officer at Windstream Enterprise responsible for network evolution, hardware and software certification, and technical product development for all business units in Windstream Enterprise.

 

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