You’ve heard of application service providers (ASPs). Now get ready for a wave of management service providers.

Strategies vary, but mostly these companies monitor and manage their customers’ networks and systems, looking for problems. Like ASPs taking on application headaches, these companies take on IT management headaches.

At a time when qualified IT personnel are difficult to find and management software is often difficult to use, the idea of making it all someone else’s problem is becoming more attractive. Gartner Group Inc. analyst Stephen Elliot says the market for these services should reach US$2 billion by 2003. The size of the opportunity has resulted in a recent explosion of management service providers.

Part of the draw for enterprises is that management service providers can have IT personnel monitoring customers’ networks round the clock, said Paul Holden, director of technology infrastructure and support at Sedgwick Claims Management Services. His company’s WAN is monitored by NetSolve.

Gartner Group’s Elliot said those who subscribe to management services no longer have to worry about building, training and retaining an IT staff. The services probably will appeal most to small and midsize companies that don’t have the resources to maintain their own IT staffs.