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How upgrading your network can deliver a competitive advantage

Published: June 2nd, 2016 By: Lynn Greiner

In 2014, Gartner reported that the average cost of network downtime to an enterprise was $5,600 per minute. And even if the network isn’t completely non-functional, high latency can potentially impact productivity, especially in these times of increasingly connected and mobile applications. With these changes in the way businesses operate, the networks that underpin them must also change, adding faster connections, wireless support, and better security and management.

And that can get expensive.


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The wires in the walls might be forever, but the rest of the gear has a finite life, as manufacturers release new models and discontinue older ones, and as industry standards evolve. Even if it “still works,” the question arises whether it works well enough to drive the business at today’s speeds and, possibly more importantly, whether IT staff can keep up with demands of managing and supporting more equipment, more technology and more users. Laggards run the risk of losing the race against the competition as the rest of their industry speeds past them.

Yet adopting new technology as it emerges, appealing though the thought may be, can be difficult for a number of reasons. One, of course, is cost. Network equipment isn’t cheap, and migrations can bleed dollars from already-squeezed IT budgets. And there’s another key barrier to upgrades, even if the financial resources are available: the expertise needed to implement, support and manage them.

Compete to win

“To compete, companies must get their hands on the latest and greatest technology and integrate it into their products, services, and workforce. Yet when it comes to acquiring the know-how to make the most of new technology, there’s a glut of need and a crisis of resources,” Accenture consultant Ariel Bernstein points out in the company’s Technology Innovation Blog. “Companies want to be the first to use a new technology to get ahead of the competition, as always. But the market doesn’t produce many skilled individuals to use and further develop a particular technology until there is already considerable demand for it. ‘Skills gap’ may be the dirty word (or dirty phrase) of this era, but it’s really just a function of the fact that companies want to use technology faster than the market develops skilled people to do it.”

So how can a company update its network to keep it ahead of the competition? Throwing vast amounts of money at at a problem that you might never be able to solve through a do-it-yourself approach seems counter-productive; the goal is to support business success without unnecessary spending. Even with a generous budget for network upgrades, finding staff with the right skills to work with new technology and keep it humming along, securely and reliably, can be beyond difficult (and expensive – the law of supply and demand is in full force). Yet without a solid network infrastructure, employees are handicapped in doing their jobs, and that can hit the bottom line, hard.

The answer could be in managed services.

Managed network service providers can help deliver everything from designing and building wired and wireless networks through to their management, updating, and security. They can advise on appropriate cabling that matches corporate needs, yet fits its budget, and guide customers to state-of-the-art equipment that won’t become quickly obsolete. Then they can build and configure the network. And once they’ve done all this, they can run it according to customer directives, allowing corporate IT to concentrate on business-enhancing innovation, rather than basic plumbing.

Innovation can translate to cost savings

That could lead to substantial savings; a survey of Canadian business leaders conducted by research firm Vision Critical last year found that the time spent by in-house IT organizations simply managing often outdated technology totals more than 200 hours per week. And once a company exceeds 500 employees, that number more than doubles. Add the lost productivity when outages occur, and the cost becomes frightening.

With a managed service, customers win because the provider can afford to hire those hard-to-find experts, and pay enough to retain them, since their cost can be spread across many accounts.

That’s especially important with security. Again, customers potentially win. A 2015 report by IT market research firm IDC concluded that managed network services go unexpectedly offline 26 per cent less frequently and experience less downtime due to security breaches. When they do go offline, managed networks require 23 per cent less time to be restored.

Cloud-based services allow companies to monitor their networks through a portal, from anywhere, and to make use of a centralized management platform to eliminate the inefficiencies generated by the multiple point products that are frequently used by in-house management teams

The topic is important enough that IDC has produced a free booklet: Solving the Growing Complexities of Network Management: Network as a Service. It notes that, in 2015, Canadian IT administrators reported 75 per cent of their IT budget and 72 per cent of their time was spent providing essential IT services and support, leaving little room for optimization, analytics and architecting, and points to managed network services as a solution.

With a modern network, properly managed and secured, a company can concentrate on its core business, free from the distractions of trying to maintain connectivity and security in our increasingly connected and insecure world. And the fewer distractions, the more competitive it can be.