by August 1, 2009 0 comments

Building an in-house data center requires a significant IT budget, time,
expertise as well as IT equipment. And after you build one, you would need to
spend on costs and resources required for regular maintainence of the data
center and also have tight physical and network security. This means companies
whose core business is not related to IT, would constantly spend a significant
amount of their time and money on IT related operations. These are some of the
reasons why managed data center services has become a hot trend over the past
couple of years in India. By outsourcing data centers, enterprises not only save
on costs but can easily gain access to latest devices and some of the latest
technologies such as WAN optimization, virtualization, Cloud computing, DR, etc.

The oldest form of data center outsourcing is taking a hosted server from a
Managed Service Provider and its most common application has been using them for
web hosting. Now the latest trend is in using an MSP server farm for executing
processor intensive tasks. More about this can be read in the ‘Managed Cloud
Services’ section of this story.

A prominent issue with outsourcing the management of data centers is security
of data. Trust remains a big challenge as the whole data would reside at the
MSP’s premesis. So while outsourcing your complete data center, it is always
good to check policies for data security that an MSP follows at its data center.
Other issues would be what security mechanisms they follow? How often they test
the security of their organization?

Managed backups
Managed backup services is one of the most sought managed services and has
been around for a long time now. A major change in this area has been the shift
to online backups from tape. The common reasons for such a strategy are that
tapes can be stolen, data recovery time is longer as compared to online, where
data can recovered within minutes by the client itself, usually through the use
of a web interface. Other services range from basic online backup solutions,
where a client will be installed on the machine and an automated data backup
solution will directly backup all the data to service providers’ servers. Client
enterprises can monitor all processes through a web interface and can also
restore data as and when required. In more advanced services, a disk backup
solution is setup by the MSP at the client’s end, which takes all the backups
and replicates it to the MSP’s servers after specified intervals. There are some
intersting licensing models available in these types of services, such as the
ones where you can pay for the space you use and choose to replicate data at
more than one location at the service provider’s end.

Managed DR services
Disaster can arrive in any form, man-made or natural, and in recent times
there have been enough instances of how important it is to provision for
disasters. There are three types of services provided by Managed Services
providers: Cold DR site, Warm DR site and Hot DR site. In a cold DR site,
enterprise data is mostly kept in tape drives and it could take a subtantial
time, to bring a cold DR live in case of a disaster. In a warm DR site, recovery
time can be anywhere between 15 mins to 12 hours. Here data syncronization to
MSP servers is not in real time but done at particular intervals. A hot DR site
also refered to as a parallel data center site and is a real-time replica of
clients’ data at the MSP premesis. Now work area services are also offered as
part of Managed DR services. Here, MSPs provides alternate work enviornments to
compaines, in case their entire infrastructure is hit by a disaster. However,
having a DR site is not enough. Enterprises need to constantly test these sites
to make sure that they work properly in case of disaster. Many companies achieve
this by running their entire operations through the DR site on weekends. Of
course, this can only be achieved if you have a real-time hot DR site in place.

Managed Application Hosting
This refers to the process of deploying a company’s applications on an MSP’s
data center. The advantage is that you do not need to buy costly network
infrastructure or have a team monitoring and maintaining the application server
after an application has been deployed. Instead you just need to pay for the
capex on servers and opex on other services you use. Also with the application
hosted on an MSP’s premises, you can do 24×7 monitoring, provision for backups
and recovery, and High Availability for business critical applications. Also you
do not have to worry about the security of data either. When subscribing to
Managed App Hosting, it is advisable to include the application availability
clause in SLAs, especially if the application is mission critical for your
enterprise. Such services are no longer limited to hosting web applications;
even applications such as ERP, Mail Server, databases, etc can be hosted on MSP

Datacenter Co-location Service
In such a service, an enterprise can place its entire data center at a
service provider’s premises. In this model, the data center equipment is owned
by the company and it has the choice to get it managed by the service provider
or not. The advantage here is that the company can save data center space costs,
plus, it doesn’t have to worry about other parameters like physical security,
temperature control, etc. Another benefit of this service is that if an
enterprise decides to re-locate to a new office, its data center and
applications running on top of it are not interrupted at all. Also, if a company
decides to expand its servers or other infrastructure, it can simply rent more
space. This is different from ‘complete data center outsourcing’ as there a
company doesn’t have an IT task force, and it can choose its infrastructure to
be managed by the MSP. With such an arrangement, a company doesn’t have to worry
about issues like business continuity, skilled workforce, immediate problem
resolution, etc. Pricing for such a model can vary according to factors like the
amount of bandwidth needed, physical space required, amount of cooling required,
physical security and quantity of power required, as well as the amount of UPS
or generator support needed.

Additional costs might be added if the enterprise opts for other managed
services such as patch management, data backup, security services, etc.
Similarly, you have ‘platform as a service’ (PaaS) model where everything is
owned by the service provider and the enterprise only pays for what it uses.
More details about this can be found in the ‘Managed Cloud Services’ section of
this story.

Managed Print Services

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