Like Plumbing And Electricity, Wi-Fi Has To Work

As we discussed last time, it’s now absolutely clear that Wi-Fi is essential to the operations of just about every organization everywhere. Wi-Fi has become the new edge of the network, and productivity, cost control, mission – in short, everything – is in jeopardy without an appropriate and properly-functioning Wi-Fi deployment.

Like plumbing, electricity, and the roof over the office, Wi-Fi must just work.

The core challenges to consistency in this vision have been the rapid evolution of technology, the technical expertise required to select, configure, deploy, and operate wireless LANs, and the requirement for cost control across a perpetual planning horizon. 

Assurances and outsourcing

Many firms, in our experience, have never been able to make optimal use of their Wi-Fi resources as its very difficult to get all of this right with in-house staff alone.

There’s the learning and experience curve, budgets, and rapid changes to product technologies and operations that require continuous investments of time and money. Developing expertise in technology, finance, and operations of course can address these problems, but most organizations see the network as a cost, and not profit, center, so the resources required are thus more appropriately allocated to their core business operations.

That’s why managed service providers are today seeing increasing demand for their offerings. 

Think of MSPs as the evolution of value-added resellers (VARs). VARs are just that; they serve primarily as a distribution channel for a given vendor, with their value-add primarily being technical support to their customer’s technical and operations staff. 

MSPs also usually offer equipment, along with the planning, installation, and configuration required, and then go further by providing (even turnkey in some cases) ongoing operations – management, troubleshooting, continuity, lifecycle planning, and more.

An MSP consequently brings a number of advantages to the marketplace, as follows:

  • Expertise – Let’s face it, there’s a lot to learn about any given Wi-Fi product today. While some are indeed better thought-out than others, optimal use of products and their underlying technologies can require a significant amount of time. One of the key benefits of advanced economies is the availability of expertise – consultants being the classic example here. MSPs function a lot like consultants, but establish an ongoing, operational presence, usually replacing some activities historically provisioned in-house. Many MSPs can, in fact, assume total responsibility for one’s wireless network, and even beyond into other elements of IT.
  • Leverage – A real advantage of working with an MSP is that these suppliers build an experience base far larger than would be possible in any given end-user organization, as they leverage their expertise and efforts across multiple clients and sometimes even very large client bases. This means they’ve very likely seen it all – no matter what the issue or problem (or opportunity), they know how to respond quickly and efficiently. They build close relationships with their vendors. And they live in a very competitive market, so they are always incented to provide exceptional pricing and service quality that truly benefits their clients. Note also that those clients can often move quite easily to a new MSP should such ever become unacceptably false. 
  • Lifecycle management – Finally, effective and successful MSPs are always thinking ahead. It’s not just about what’s required today, it’s about watching usage, technology, and cost trends, and suggesting modifications to configuration parameters and/or operational procedures, feature and equipment upgrades, and new capabilities as appropriate to a given client – based on multi-client experience in obtaining optimal results. 

The benefits of establishing a relationship with an MSP can thus be enormous. Less in-house staff is required. Routine management tasks are outsourced. There’s no need for continual education as to the state of technology and vendor products. Troubleshooting is automatic in many cases. And growth is cost-effective with demonstrable benefits.

Farpoint Group has long advocated that any resource deemed to offer strategic advantage should be provisioned in-house. While some organizations might still deem their networks thus, most, we believe, simply want their organizational circulatory system to function optimally under any conditions and over time.

This is the real value of the MSP – outsourcing the routine, dealing with exceptions in real time, and leveraging their expertise across multiple organizations to lower costs. Next time, we’ll look at how to build the business case for wireless as a service, and how to decide if the Utility Model offered by MSPs is right for you.

All posts in this series:

1) Deploying Wi-Fi As A Service Makes Sense, Here’s Why

2) Like The Plumbing And Water We Depend Upon, Wi-Fi Must Just Work

3) CapEx and OpEx: How Outsourced Wi-Fi Changes IT Budgeting

4) How Does An Organization Prepare Itself For Outsourced Wi-Fi?

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Craig J. Mathias is a Principal with Farpoint Group, an advisory firm specializing in wireless networking and mobile IT. Founded in 1991, Farpoint Group works with technology developers, manufacturers, carriers and operators, enterprises, and the financial community. Craig is an internationally-recognized industry and technology analyst, consultant, conference and event speaker, and author. He currently writes columns for Boundless, Connected Futures, CIO.com, and various sites at TechTarget. Craig holds an Sc.B. degree in Computer Science from Brown University, and is a member of the Society of Sigma Xi and the IEEE.

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