Managed Hosting for SMBs Managed Hosting can provide state of the art IT without the need for capital expenditure - ideal for small & mid-sized businesses

Managed Hosting – Is it Right for Your Business?


Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | Staff Writer

Many small and medium businesses (SMBs) have adopted a do-it-yourself approach to managing IT, only to find themselves woefully unprepared in developing and managing a truly robust, secure, and viable web infrastructure. Professional managed hosting seeks to fill this gulf by offering SMBs an enterprise-class web infrastructure designed to integrate seamlessly into in-house IT departments.  But is managed hosting right for your business?
 
Consider the following:

W
eb presence and your business. The web, as a major platform for marketing, sales and service, is a critical part of any business strategy. When considering managed hosting, businesses need to evaluate how much of their annual revenue is connected to their web presence, and whether it’s through lead generation or direct sales. Other important questions to consider include whether the web serves as a major platform for delivering products and services, amount of online marketing spend, and volume of traffic driven to the site.

Cash flow. Does your firm lack sufficient capital to fund a viable IT model? Managed hosting can provide IT services without the burden of a large upfront capital investment, allowing SMBs to solve their technology problems without the typical cash flow barriers.

Security, privacy and compliance. SMBs need to take a close look at their security profile and consider whether managed hosting can offer viable security solutions.  The challenges of coping with security threats, data privacy concerns and security compliance mandates affect firms large and small, but SMBs may be particularly vulnerable to data leakage and the nature of today’s always-changing data and network security threats. Consider whether your firm is prepared to deal with a serious security intrusion, and how working with a professional managed hosting provider can reduce the threat of network security breaches.

Downtime. Most SMBs lack robust disaster recovery (DR) plans, which means system failures and human error can lead to extensive and costly periods of downtime. When considering managed hosting, it’s important to consider the following questions: how much downtime has your firm had in the past year, and how much of it can your firm tolerate before it begins to seriously affect revenue? How much redundancy do you have in your present infrastructure? Is there a secondary site that can be used for recovery? How often is your DR plan tested?

Core competencies. SMBs need to be able to define their core competencies and determine what IT expertise they can afford in-house, and which operational burdens can potentially be shifted to a managed hosting provider. When SMBs define their core competencies, they become more strategic by aligning IT with their business goals.

If managed hosting is right for your business, here are some important considerations to make when selecting a managed hosting provider:

Methodology. A mature hosting provider should be able to provide your firm with a well-defined best practices framework or methodology for how it delivers hosting services.

Proactive support. Although reactive support is important, pay special attention to what the hosting provider is doing to prevent problems. Has the provider made significant investments in redundancy and security? Do they have the tools to gauge when your infrastructure needs a boost, or a plan for how to scale your online presence? Can the provider offer specific details about their best practices?

IT integration. Can the hosting provider act like an extension of your IT department? What are their service and support response times like? Do they maintain an active line of communication  if there is a problem? Who will be the primary respondents and what is the escalation policy? Does the provider offer regular account reviews, planning sessions, and maintain an updated book of processes and procedures?

Scaling.
Scaling is a major challenge that a good host provider should be able to handle. Consider whether the host can scale up or down and expand or adapt during fluctuating seasonal spikes. Look for a host that is agile and ready to act on-demand.

Customisation. What level of customisation, if any, can the host offer your business? Most SMBs require some level of customisation, so you will want to see if the host provider offers expert consultation and a model that is not one-size-fits-all.  
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