The Outsourcing Continuum, Part IV: Fully Managed

In the fully managed model, you don’t own the equipment. You are paying for someone else to take on the costs for technology refresh and the expertise to manage and monitor the systems.

The physical environment is owned and operated by the service provider. You don’t have a staff of hardware engineers and you don’t have a computer room to manage or pay for. You don’t have to worry about upgrading your machines or the environment in which they reside. They will be in a robust physical facility with multiple sources of communication and power.

You don’t really care about the equipment, because it belongs to someone else and it’s their problem to worry about keeping it running. You are paying for a certain level of service as defined in the service level agreement (SLA). As long as the service levels are met you really don’t care how it gets done. This is more expensive than other models, but you have to weigh that cost against the resources that you would be dedicating to the acquisition, housing, management and maintenance of your systems.

With managed services you get the security of having your servers sitting in a hardened data center in the event of a disaster. In this model you are paying a level of service that you and the provider will define as a part of the negotiation and configuration discussions.

Typically you’ll pay for:

  1. A defined number of servers

  2. Connectivity from your office to the servers

  3. Reliable power and communications infrastructure

  4. Horizontal software applications, e. g. Operating systems, Database engine

  5. Regular updates to the software and hardware

  6. 24×7 monitoring of systems with alerts to let you know if there’s something amiss.

  7. Regular reports on service levels

Servers – The servers may be physical or virtual servers. More and more service providers are using virtual server environments. This trend will likely continue and you needn’t be concerned with the physical arrangement of the equipment. If you have a small number of applications you may only need one or two physical servers running multiple virtual environments.

Connectivity – As in the co-location model, connectivity to your office network and to the Internet is what’s needed to make sure that you can access the servers that are doing the work. There are myriad communication speeds ranging from the equivalent of DSL speeds up to the highest speeds available. You will have to work with your service provider to decide how much data you are going to move between your office and the servers.

This will determine how much bandwidth you need. If you have heavy traffic to a server based application then you’ll want to have more data bandwidth available on that side of the equation. If you have a lot of data coming in an ecommerce application, then you’ll want more bandwidth to accommodate that. If you’re just doing normal office Internet surfing you’ll probably need less bandwidth.

You should purchase the amount of bandwidth that you use on an average basis. There will be a surcharge for using more than that, but that can be mitigated by making sure that the surcharge is based on a 95% measurement of sustained usage. If you push a lot of data to your servers occasionally, that won’t cost anything extra.

Horizontal Software – Horizontal software is the software that is needed across all application platforms and systems. This includes the operating system with on-going deployment of patches and updates to current version as released from vendor. If you are using a database like Oracle or MS-SQL, the service provider should have a certified expert on staff to manage and maintain the database engine. You shouldn’t expect to have support for any applications that run using that database.