Reaching Out For Management

Strategic outsourcing is looking better every day as companies try to find ways to manage the thickening layers of technology they must adopt in order to remain competitive in today's business environment. One solution is partnering with a Management Service Provider (MSP), as a way to ease the burden of managing the enterprise LAN and WAN.

By Lynn Haber | Posted Aug 29, 2001
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Strategic outsourcing is looking better every day as companies try to find ways to manage the thickening layers of technology they must adopt in order to remain competitive in today's business environment. One solution is partnering with a Management Service Provider (MSP), as a way to ease the burden of managing the enterprise LAN and WAN.

Aware that it could no longer afford reactive network monitoring and management practices, Commercial and Architectural Products Inc., dba Marlite, a Dover, Ohio-based manufacturer of specialty systems and related interior building products, now contracts for network management services with Intellinet Corp., a business technology services company. Atlanta, Ge.-based Intellinet, a business partner of MSP, Silverback Technologies Inc., provides the manufacturer with on- line monitoring, reports, software patches and a pager system that contacts Intellinet any time of the day about network-related problems.

"We're a mid-size company but have the same network issues of a Fortune 1000 company. However, we don't have the resources to purchase network and systems management software or hire the expertise to administer the network," says Gary Zell, MIS manager at Marlite.

So, instead, for a monthly fee of $2,200, or about $26,400/year, Marlite gets proactive network management without having to make a hefty up-front capital expenditure or assume reoccurring costs for staffing, training, software updates, etc.

Prior to signing up with an MSP, Zell reports that the corporate network was sluggish. He admits that the company didn't have any good management tools to monitor the health of the network. "We just didn't make network management a priority until there was a problem," he says.

Marlite, a company with 300 employees has a primary manufacturing site and about five remote locations, or distribution centers, located nationwide. The corporate network consists of a Frame Relay network, hubs, routers, four servers and an internal network running 10/100Mbps Ethernet. The IT staff consists of three people.

Not having the expertise on staff to optimize the corporate network, outsourcing makes good business sense to Marlite. Today, Zell uses Silverback's web-based portal to get a view of the network or gather historical data. Silverback's InfoCare service gathers information about Marlite's network and downloads the information in a database at the vendor's site. InfoCare delivers information on faults, assets, performance and security across networks, systems and applications, according to the company, via a software-based solution.

Filling A Need
MSPs, vendors who offer management services on a subscription basis where the vendor assumes certain authority and responsibility for the network, applications and systems, provide businesses with a good tactical solution to their management needs, according to Cory Ferengul, senior program director at the Meta Group. "As an outsourcing option, MSPs give customers a good chance succeeding," he says, compared with more traditional outsourcing where clients outsource everything.

In fact, a management strategy that includes MSPs can help companies achieve specific goals while containing costs.

The City of Santa Clara, for example, located in one of the most high-tech intensive states, has good reason to outsource--it avoids having to compete for scarce and expensive IT talent. "The city has always preferred to outsource because it's very difficult to us to find technical staff in Silicon Valley," says Walter Shipilov, IT director with the city.

While the local government entity has been outsourcing IT functions for a least a decade it was only nine months ago that it signed on with a MSP for network services. In fact, about 18 months ago, the city put together its first IT department in order to look after its own interests.

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