Does Networking as a Service Make Sense? – Datto Briefing Note

The “as a service” moniker is appearing everywhere. Everything from storage to compute to networking is now being offered as a service. More and more companies are opting to have service providers provide their core infrastructure services – as a service. Does it make sense to extend these services to include networking? Let’s take a look.

There is a dearth of companies using IT infrastructure as a core component – but that have little to no IT staff. A company may hire IT professionals as they grow larger and as their service provider costs increase, but it is still very common for a company to do quite a bit of business without any need to hire a traditional IT person. You just need someone who is able to sufficiently articulate your company’s IT needs to the appropriate service provider, and also savvy enough to monitor what the service provider is doing. Depending on your needs, you can even outsource that last part.

Ten to 15 years ago, a small company of five employees would need a series of IT services. It would typically install an Exchange server so it could have email and a shared calendar. The company would also need some type of way to share files, so it might purchase a small business NAS appliance. Each of these purchases would cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, and would then need maintenance and backup.

Today such a company can simply contract Google apps or Office 365 for all of those same needs. You get email, a shared calendar, and sync and share services to take the place of the file server. Those savvy enough to know that this data needs to be backed up will contact one of the various cloud providers to can take care of that as well – all without buying any traditional IT equipment.

The only IT infrastructure the company really must purchase is an Internet connection, and this is where a lot of people get lost. What type of Internet connection do I need? Do I need a symmetrical connection, or will an asymmetrical DSL line or cable modem do the job? What’s an asymmetrical connection, anyway? The only thing I know is one is definitely less expensive than the other. Do I need a firewall? What is a firewall? Do I need IPv6 support, or should I use NAT? Should I use wireless, or should I use a wired connections at my desk? How in the world do I get a wired connection at my desk? Is wireless secure? Should I turn on my guest wireless access? Do I even know to ask these questions?

The list of questions regarding your network infrastructure goes on and on, and doing the wrong thing can absolutely lead to wasted money, lack of success in your business, or even total failure due to insufficient security. Why shouldn’t you outsource this crucial part of your infrastructure?

A managed service provider can put all of these pieces together and support them for you. It can help you decide between Office 365 and Google apps. It can make sure that you buy only the services you need and none of those you don’t. The provider can also know the questions to ask and the answers to give regarding all of the networking questions above. It can then supply any necessary hardware without any significant capital outlay, instead building it into your monthly service fee. (It’s not much different than getting a free phone by signing up for a three year service agreement with a wireless provider.)

Each managed service provider (MSP) needs a variety of products. The provider can resell Office 365 and Google apps, of course, but then someone also needs to backup those services. So It would need a service to do that. Some customers might have needs large enough that they need their own hardware on-site, so they should have some products to handle that requirement. The provider should also be able to support cloud servers, since that is becoming increasingly common. Finally it should have a networking product that they can provide as a service, since that is the final foot in the door.

Until this month, Datto was a company that offered all but one of these services to MSPs. Now they have acquired Open Mesh, a company that is providing networking services via MSPs to over 80,000 networks. Now the Datto product line can include their networking appliances, switches, and Wi-Fi access points. This rounds out their already extensive product line. Armed with Datto’s Open Mesh solution, service providers can not only remotely configure and manage an organization’s network, they can manage and configure hundreds of customers network, all from the same interface.

StorageSwiss Take

There are companies that will compete with Datto in each of their product categories, but it appears that there are no companies that will compete with them in all categories. This offers MSPs a unique service, allowing them to get all of the IT infrastructure that they need for an individual client from one place. A Datto MSP can protect a customer’s on-premises data, cloud based data as well as manage and configure their networks. Datto also says that you can purchase, configure, and manage all of their products from a single portal.

W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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