An increasing number of businesses are choosing to outsource their IT network support to one of many managed service providers. While there are plenty of benefits – companies still often talk about limitations, especially geographical ones.
Generally, you’ve always needed someone to be able to put their hands on your network devices. Whether that’s to adjust settings, physically plug them in, or move them around to better suit the physical requirements of your IT system.
Now though, more and more IT infrastructure is being bought into companies on an ‘as a service’ basis. Does this mean that our IT support can also be delivered through the cloud?
What is ‘as a service’?
Buying ‘as a service’ is a pretty simple concept. Rather than paying for the software or device you need, you effectively lease a virtual copy. So, the days of MS Office installation discs and licence keys are looking more and more distant – now, most businesses choose to simply pay for what they need.
The software benefits are numerous. You’ll never have to upgrade. You’ll never need to migrate copies of software to new machines or users. Instead, you subscribe, buying as much or as little of the product as you need.
The thing is, this model isn’t just working for software, the big tech companies are making big moves toward offering infrastructure as a service too. Microsoft even have a series of predefined scenarios for how you can combine their Office 365 service with virtual exchange servers and a range of other hybrid architectures.
Increasingly, there’s simply no need for a managed service provider to ever need to touch your hardware. In fact, that ‘hardware’ is often no longer even hardware. In most instances, your exchange server will be a virtual set-up, running on Microsoft infrastructure in a huge data centre – alongside tens of thousands of other exchange servers.
What does this mean for MSPs?
For the managed service providers who have previously been at the other side of your town or city, ready to drop in and spend a couple of hours configuring new hardware, this represents an exciting new way of working.
Rather than needing to roll up their sleeves and disappear into your company’s server room, chances are, they’re going to be able to access all the admin tools they need from the comfort of their own desk. What’s more, there are increasing moves toward sophisticated networking systems that will mean this kind of remote management is possible for even your existing, on-site devices.
SD-WAN – or, ‘Software Defined Wide Area Network’ control systems are featuring more and more prominently in businesses – especially those that work across multiple sites.
In essence, an SD WAN system is an infrastructure overlay – one which allows you to control a huge range of devices making up the network, even if those devices operate using different protocols.
From a set-up point of view, SD WAN is enormously helpful. As long as someone can take delivery of a network device and plug it in, the SD WAN system can be used to handle configuration and the finer points of installation.
It’s obviously not just set-up that SD WAN helps with though. Management of the network becomes significantly easier – as a central, cloud-delivered WAN means you can grow your network with minimal effort – whether they’re in your office, in employee’s homes, or into the offices of contractors and freelancers. Virtually all deployment can be handled from your managed service providers admin portal.
User experience is improved too, rather than trying to optimize your network to run cloud-based services, you can run a number of cloud-based devices across a wide range of connection types, meaning performance and access is never compromised. In fact, SD WAN solutions can unlock a world of hybrid networking possibilities – making it possible to unlock some incredible money-saving possibilities for your infrastructure.
The short version of the story is this; whether it’s adapting the tech you already have – or rolling out new cloud-based tech, the world is relying less and less on hardware in your office – and we’re seeing more and more services delivered into your company, through your internet connection.
Will you support be delivered remotely via the cloud?
For some companies, there’s a sense of security and familiarity that comes with having a managed service provider based locally – especially when you’re trusting this partner with the backbone of your business.
The trouble is, having people visit your site is becoming less and less relevant or necessary. As systems become virtualized or capable of being managed remotely, it simply does not make sense to have a presence in your building. In fact, there’s an argument that says the actual building is becoming less and less relevant too – especially considering the remote working opportunities that cloud computing unlocks.
For now, managed service providers may benefit from being local to you – but as times change, you may find yourself increasingly working with professionals who are based in other parts of the world – delivering exceptional service, but unlikely to be dropping into your office for a coffee.
What will this mean for the service we receive?
It’s natural to feel a little shaky about the prospect of dealing with a company completely remotely – after all, we’re programmed to decide whether or not we can trust or rely on a person based on how we interact with them in person – rather than simply over an email.
The truth is, completely faceless businesses have provided services to our companies for a long time. We don’t need to talk to an engineer to know our internet connection is going to work – and, we take it for granted that our electricity supply with work without talking to anyone at the provider.
In an ideal world, IT support would perhaps be the same. Seamlessly running in the background, making sure our systems stay up and productivity stays high. While there’s a personal touch that’s being sacrificed, there are definite productivity benefits falling into place instead.