IT Managed Services is a relatively new term, but the concept has been around for decades now. We used to call it Outsourcing, but I suppose over the years this has been synonymous with sending all of your services overseas. Thankfully, this is no longer as popular and businesses are now looking to keep all the services and data here in the UK. This is good for IT Managed Service Providers such as Unleashed, and the companies they service.
The IT industry love TLA’s (Three Letter Acronym), in fact I seem to have been surrounded by them for as long as I can remember; I used to be in the Royal Navy and they loved them! However, more recently, we seem to have moved from TLA to FLAB (Four Letter Abbreviation), with this in mind, I would like to introduce you to one of these FLAB’s that you may have heard of – SaaS, or Software as a Service, and this has been the main driver behind modern day IT Managed Services.
It seems that today in the UK, SaaS is everywhere – you can even order a pizza or a kebab using one of these systems! It seems everybody from primary school children to pensioners have smartphones, and they’re using cloud services in everyday life.
IT Managed Service Providers (another TLA – MSP) are offering businesses everything from cloud based email to manufacturing software solutions. But why are we seeing this shift? I am sadly old enough to remember the days of mainframe computers the size of a small office and dumb terminals, then we moved to personal computers, and a server for every application. We are now moving back to a mainframe-esque infrastructure, and for one simple reason: cost!
IT Hardware has always been expensive to buy, expensive to run and expensive to upgrade. As software products got more intelligent they required greater computing capacity to run quickly, so your business had to upgrade server hardware frequently and that was expensive. It also meant that hardware was under-utilised so software vendors introduced Server Virtualisation which enabled multiple software applications to be run on one single piece of hardware. Now we have Storage Virtualisation and Network Virtualisation. I won’t go into what these are here!
But the biggest revolution has been high speed Internet connectivity. This has meant you can connect to anywhere from any location at any time that suits you, and this has meant a big shift in the way we work. It has also had a big implication for software vendors and cloud providers. It means that every new software application can be run directly from a data centre to anyone that has Internet connectivity and, in the UK, that basically means most of us!
So what has this meant for business? Basically, it means you no longer need to have server hardware on the premises. It means you can increase/decrease your computing capacity at will. All software upgrades, patches and fixes are done at sources so you don’t have to worry about them. These cloud servers are normally backed up (this is something you have to check) and in some cases your data is replicated to other data centres – happy days! You can even get them to charge you monthly per user. This means no more capital expenditure for server hardware or problems getting money out of the banks!
However, a word of warning; whilst everything I have said is true, it is not so straightforward to setup. There is a lot of work to be done by you and your IT Partner of choice. First thing I would recommend before you venture down this route is that you carry out an IT Strategy review to see if it is cost effective and the best way forward for your business.