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Manged Services & the Cloud

Managed services has grown out of it’s formative years into a multifaceted solution that can scale to any size business. IT infrastructure can now be managed in a way that allows technicians to access any device belonging to it. Smart phones, network switches, routers, laptops, servers, printers, and the cloud itself can all be managed from a central NOC (Network Operations Center). In this way, a single operating technician can troubleshoot devices anywhere in an organization with the touch of a button.

The tools with which technicians can now utilize include the ability to reload entire operating systems, upgrade firmware & software, reset devices, lock down devices, and implement a variety of other troubleshooting techniques. Technicians rarely if ever need to be on-site any more these days. Some obvious exceptions are when a new piece of technology needs to be physically installed, or components need to be physically replaces, but the days of high-end consultants hanging out on site for days on end are coming… to an end.

“In the cloud” is just a easier way of saying that part of your business is located on a distributed server farm with redundancy and high availability resiliency built into your network, platform, software, or physical server architecture. See? I said there was an easier way to say it …for now think of the cloud as a wire coming from your computer and connecting “out there” to some computer/servers, etc, to deliver the application or data you need.

I’m not really big on info-graphics because I don’t like trendy buzzwords, or trendy ideas that reach pop-culture. I usually run in the other direction, that being said, occasionally I come across an infographic that is cool enough to mention. This one comes from SalesForce. It illustrates several points that I would like to make about the evolution of Managed Services.

cloud-evolution by

Click on the image to see it in full size – image credit goes to salesforce

The use of the cloud to access and control computers and other network attached devices within an interconnected cloud network is nothing new. I remember controlling devices remotely over a cloud network & serving cloud applications for IT purposes as far back as 1997 and I know that the origins of cloud control go back probably to ARPANET days in 1969 and probably further back then that if you consider the operation of traditional mainframes. My point is that it is not new. What is new is the very wide variety of technologies and well defined architectures that are now available for scaled use in nearly every conceivable IT environment on the planet. Cloud computing is accessible for SMBs & SMEs alike. It is indeed available for personal use at an affordable level and sometimes free. Cloud computing is ubiquitous and can be implemented on any level and to any degree.

What does this all mean for you and your business? Well, it means that you can have SaaS (Software as a Service); email, CRM, virtual desktop computing, accounting packages, logistics packages, etc. can now all be run from the cloud which means that updates, maintenance, scaling, & delivery all come from the cloud. High availability, backup, disaster recovery, & continuity can also come from the cloud as we’ll see next.

The Future of Cloud Computing Think Tank, hosted by Dell & VMWare

This infographic is a great illustration of typical discussions surrounding various implementations of cloud computing with providers and customers.

Not only can software now be delivered as a service from the cloud but also your basic IT infrastructure. While workstations, switches, and routers still need to be located on site, they can be managed from the cloud. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) allows you to take your servers, backup devices, virtual machines, and place them all in the cloud ie. (data center), and administer them from a centrally. If you oversimplify this mode of computing, you could say that it reflects the old centralized mainframe computing idea whereby all computers act as dumb terminals and receive their data & applications from the mainframe. Ironically, this is not far from the truth, however rather than going full circle, we have spiraled upward and are now reflecting some of the better points of the centralized computing model with many new advantages.

If you refuse the cloud computing model on any level than you are using a distributed model of computer architecture which allows great freedoms and flexibility, but requires a great deal of administrative overhead and has considerable hidden cost of ownership. In reality companies and governments have been using a mix of centralized and distributed computer models for the past 30 years or so. The most difficult thing for organizations to decide moving forward is what mixture of computing models is right for them. Affordability, flexibility, ROI, cost of ownership, security considerations, and a plethora of other factors are all on the table for business owners to contemplate. Most decision makers will find it helpful to work with an IT firm that can demonstrate the costs, benefits, opportunities, and integration plans for any IT infrastructure changes. Not all IT solutions providers are the same. Take your time and choose carefully, it can mean the difference between success & failure for your business.




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