Three Requirements for Turbocharging the Benefits of Managed Network Services for Clients
The term managed network services (MNS) refers to the practice of outsourcing the responsibility for the overall management of one or more business-related networking needs to a managed service provider (MSP). Managing your MSP often seems like a mystical combination of art and science. But there are tangible, measurable business and technical advantages to outsourcing this function.
Some quick definitions are in order:
- The “client” is the business entity or enterprise organization that owns or has direct oversight of the system being managed.
- The “managed service provider” – or “MSP” – is the entity delivering the managed network services. MSPs enable clients/enterprises to outsource all aspects of the delivery, management and maintenance of business services.
The benefits of managed network services are all about greater efficiencies in terms of cost, operations and staffing to the client. MNS frees up IT teams to focus on the needs of the business without having to deal with the day-to-day aspects related to network monitoring and management of the infrastructure.
In our previous post, Capabilities to Look for in Managed Network Services and Providers, we examined some of the capabilities to seek out in managed network services and managed service providers. In this entry, we’ll take a look at three of the key requirements needed to enable these capabilities from the MSP’s perspective.
1. Secure Access and Efficient Control
Typically, managed service providers remotely manage a client’s IT infrastructure and/or end-user systems. They require secure bidirectional access in order to conduct even the most basic of management activities.
While virtual private networks (VPNs) will work, they are far from optimal for the kind of operations that MSPs routinely conduct. Advances in cloud technologies provide the ability to drive far more versatile remote access mechanisms without compromising on security.
Further, this access needs to be responsive across the entire managed services ecosystem – all the devices, network elements and systems that make up the service delivery infrastructure. Delays in access directly affect the mean time to repair (MTTR).
Today’s advanced managed service providers offer solutions with single sign-on capabilities that relieve administrators of the need to track multiple security credentials to access remote devices in such distributed environments.
2. Management of Multiple Customer Networks
Which brings us to the next point: managed service providers need to simultaneously manage multiple client environments, but they must ensure the integrity and security of each interaction at all times. As a result, MSPs often cope with multiple consoles and dashboards. This brings about inefficiencies, as the operators are forced to juggle activities across a range of interfaces.
Look for MSPs that leverage advanced IT operations management (ITOM) platforms. These advanced ITOM platforms allow MSPs to view events and other data at multiple customer environments in an aggregated fashion and create efficiencies otherwise not realizable. Incidents can be grouped and viewed in order of severity, by service-level agreement (SLA) commitments or other prioritization schemes.
In this way, network operations center (NOC) staff can remediate problems, provision services and maintain systems from a single interface in a far quicker and more efficient manner than they could if they had to be constantly jumping across multiple consoles and interfaces.
3. Automations and Workflows
Automations and workflows help MSPs reduce MTTR and improve staff efficiency, consequently increasing customer satisfaction and lowering NOC costs.
Custom MSP-specific workflows reduce MTTR by automatically routing problem tickets directly to the specialist groups that have expertise in addressing that type of problem. Workflows can also be set up to allow single-click access to offending devices from within the ticket to further effect remediation.
Customer-agnostic data can be gathered from across multiple locations and across operational instances. This directly facilitates the artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) capabilities of ITOM platforms to derive insights into the operation of the managed infrastructure. These insights can be used to develop workflows and automations to create operational efficiencies that benefit both the MSP and end-client with more effective management.
Pulling It All Together
As a managed service provider, the ability to rapidly diagnose and fix issues is key to maintaining the SLAs governing the managed network services agreement.
In order to do this, from an access perspective, MSPs need a solution that can provide secure, remote contact to multiple environments while also delivering a streamlined, efficient and integrated operator experience.
Look for solutions that are cloud-based, multitenant applications that can centrally monitor and remediate across distributed customer environments. Further, the solution must also provide for automations and workflows that are integral to providing superior managed network services – and thus for providing clients with the full benefits of managed network services as well.