Outsourcing the management of your network could result in improved efficiency and reliability.
Internally managed networks are unlikely to be as cost-efficient as those that are outsourced because the service-level agreements will not be as rigorously managed as those of a service provider, says Leon Hendricks, CEO of DLK Group, a black-owned ICT professional services company.
Leon Hendricks, CEO of DLK Group
"Often, when corporate or institutional networks are overburdened by use, the tendency is to blame Telkom's grip on bandwidth as a primary cause, with the result that management is persuaded to buy more bandwidth," he says. "While the status of South Africa's bandwidth woes is a contributing factor to sluggish network performance, efficient network management and disciplined procedures on use of the network can make a major difference in performance.
"Often these processes require unpopular restrictions on network use but, if business efficiency is to be achieved, stricter measures must be put in place and managed. This is easier for an outside service provider to do than it is for internal IT staff."
A driver of effective network management outsourcing should be to bring down costs. This can be achieved by putting processes in place and standardising and streamlining the infrastructure to facilitate remote network performance monitoring and management.
Buying more bandwidth to address the performance issue will not solve it. You need to manage usage downwards. The more bandwidth you give users, the more they will use it for non-business related activities. You need to put in disciplines and procedures that award network priority to business needs.
Hendricks says that employees have become so used to using their employers' communications' infrastructure to browse the Web for personal needs - sometimes downloading bandwidth-heavy videos that have little to do with their work - that there will be resistance to any attempt to curb this.
If service-level agreements on improving network performance are to be rigorously adhered to by more efficient management of users' access, among other things, this will be more easily achieved by external service providers than internal IT staff who have relationships with their fellow employees.
Key to the success of this outsourced network management is gaining the understanding of what the access needs of the business and its employees are. It is as important not to throttle the business with impediments to network access, he says, as it is to manage those who hog the enterprises bandwidth for non-essential use.
"If you understand what work people do, how they go about it and how much network they need then it is straightforward to align these needs with the rules and processes of the organisation, and manage its impact on the technology."
The cost savings that would be part of the SLA for a network outsource service providers would come from savings on buying more bandwidth, improved productivity from faster access to the Internet, efficient remote management and lower call-out charges, and better productivity from users with restricted opportunities for inappropriate Web browsing.
Hendricks says that for outsourced network management to be effective in driving down costs there must be standardised components on the network that can be centralised and managed remotely.
"This means fewer man hours spent fixing individual desktops on site. These resource savings mean more of the budget can be invested in constantly refreshing the technology that is vital to operating in dynamic and competitive environments."
Also, having centralised, disciplined management processes in place also means that data back-ups, anti-virus updates and software upgrades are done, which ensures that the IT infrastructure is more dependable.
Managing network security issues also requires being abreast of the latest technologies, requiring specialist skills that many organisations cannot afford on a full-time payroll, whereas a service provider can share these skills among clients.