Managed services can ease the headaches

Boring, repetitive and mundane. Those were the words Roberta Fox, senior partner with the Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group, used to describe managing remote access services in-house.

“It is necessary to provide access to corporate applications and information but it is a low value to have in-house IT and network professionals managing and maintaining this type of technology,” Fox said.

Paul Rowe, vice-president of enterprise marketing for Bell Canada in Toronto, added doing it yourself also involves buying all the equipment such as gateways and SSL VPNs to support remote access.

“A managed service takes that away. You get a cost structure that is defined and consistent, you get service levels which are well defined and you also have the expertise of a company like Bell,” Rowe added.

He said total cost of ownership studies show that a company can save a minimum of 15 to 20 per cent on a managed service versus doing it yourself. Fox said the biggest saving and the most important value-add is companies can take technology staff that manage remote access and have them work on putting in new solutions that can help their business generate new revenue.

For firms looking to outsource remote access, Rowe said Bell has two services that provide remote access either through a network-based VPN or a browser using SSL technology that simulates an office environment.

Mid-sized companies tend to be the biggest consumers of managed remote access offerings, because they don’t have the in-house expertise to manage their own remote security, but larger firms are also potential customers, Rowe said.

“We are making more and more inroads with high-end customers in finance, retail and manufacturing. We are showing them there is a total cost of ownership business case for them to take their large do-it-yourself shops and outsource it. That is becoming more of a trend,” he said.

Fox agreed that there is a trend but said the main challenge for managed remote access services is making sure security is properly configured and aligned to whatever the end user policies are. She said there needs to be access level, transport level and management level security.

“If I were the customer, [I would say] ‘here is my security policy, prove to me your solution is as good as our own existing technology before we switch over,’” Fox said.

Rowe said Bell Canada offers security services that are layered on top of the remote access services such as a firewall and individual authentication. Another preceived drawback to managed remote access service, Rowe believes, is the loss of direct control. “When the manager of the remote access service reports back to you in your organization you can reach out and touch them and deal with them on a regular basis. That comfort is what do-it-yourself [provides].”

He added in order to get companies comfortable with outsourcing their remote access services it is really important to partner with a company that has a very established track record of providing services and being accountable with the results they deliver. Fox added customers should make sure that providers of managed remote access offerings are in it for the long haul.

“From an enterprise perspective, you [can] become dependent on outsource providers,” she said. “If you are going to be in this particular area and then change directions and don’t continue this service, [companies] have to be prepared to take [remote access management] back themselves.”

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