The business landscape is becoming more competitive and having the right operational strategy in place can help organizations differentiate themselves, improve margins and free up resources to invest in core priorities. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular are realizing that they can adopt a managed services approach to many mission-critical operational functions, including technology training, cybersecurity/compliance strategies, workflow and process improvements, policy development and implementation, and onboarding new technologies. MSPs investing in professional services practices will be uniquely positioned to provide SMB clients with affordable, high-quality alternatives to trying to carry out these functions with thin or non-existent in-house expertise. For smaller companies that may not have dedicated staff, these unique, value-added services can complement managed IT, security, SD-WAN and other MSP wares.
The Internet of Things
The rise of connected devices has been spinning up for years now – but IoT devices are finally crossing the chasm into the mainstream, with 10 billion of them expected to be deployed by the end of next year, according to Iota. A full 22 billion are expected to be in the field by 2025. Much of the business investment will come from “smart manufacturing” deployments, logistics/fulfillment and transportation – but everything from connected video displays to product sensors to smart lightbulbs and thermostats will find their way into a range of offices going forward.
All of this promises to revolutionize how businesses collect, manage and use data to inform strategic operational decisions. However, as with any emerging technology, there’s a substantial gap between the possibilities and practicality. Among other things, implementing an IoT ecosystem requires a solid cybersecurity strategy, an end-to-end device management stack, and options for managing bandwidth and connectivity – a tall order for many resource-constrained SMBs. Fortunately, the right MSP can help businesses bridge the gap by designing and deploying IoT solutions that add long-term value to their operations.
Digital transformation is continuing for organizations of all sizes as they look to harness the power of virtualization, DevOps and on-demand everything to accelerate their businesses and gain competitive advantage. To support these efforts, the rise of multi-cloud architecture will be the most significant trend in cloud for 2020.
Multi-cloud refers to the strategic decision to use multiple private and public cloud providers to meet different technical or business requirements. More specifically, applications and microservices can be built using component services from different cloud providers, depending on their specific requirements. There are multiple benefits of this approach, ranging from avoiding vendor lock-in and building redundancy, to segregating for security and exploiting best-of-breed solutions.
However, building these new platforms takes expertise in planning, migrating, optimizing and securing infrastructure across multiple cloud vendors – and multi-cloud being a new area, many businesses are at loss for where to turn to acquire it.
Automation can dramatically reduce workloads in IT and server environments. As standard processes become increasingly automated, look for complex and proprietary automations to become new sources of competitive advantage for MSPs. From onboarding to helpdesks to billing – and everything in between – opportunities for automation scripts to drive new efficiencies abound.
MSPs are perfect partners to help companies through all of the stages of this digital transformation journey. Managed planning services include evaluating infrastructure needs, assessing vulnerabilities and planning for disaster recovery and business continuity; migration involves selecting applications and services to implement in the cloud; optimization requires evaluating tradeoffs between performance, agility and efficiency, on the right combination of platforms; and, security requires protecting apps and data from breaches, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and the remediation of malware threats.
2020 promises to provide plenty of opportunities for managed services to play a crucial role in companies’ growth trajectories through professional services, IoT and multicloud rollouts. If you are looking for a good company to join forces with, contact us today.
About the Author
Lori Hannan is the Product Manager for the MSx Managed SD-WAN Service for TPx Communications, a leading provider of UCaaS, Managed IT services and Managed Connectivity services, with approximately 30,000 customers and 53,000 customer locations across the U.S. Hannan has more than five years’ experience in SD-WAN technology and networks. She recently launched a second managed SD-WAN solution for TPx, which has been a great success. Previous to her network career, she worked with a variety of voice solutions and also launched a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) cloud-based managed solution.
Most people have heard the term “MSP.” While a majority understands that it stands for “Managed Service Provider,” very few have a good grasp of what it really entails. As a result, many customers have ill-informed expectations.
To help clear up any misunderstanding, I spoke with Erik Nordquist, TPx’s Product Manager for MSx Security Services and MSx Datacenters.
Erik, what do TPx customers really get with our Managed Firewalls and Managed SD-WAN solutions?
For Managed Firewalls, our security specialists monitor customers’ firewalls 24/7 in our own SOCs (Security Operations Centers) to make sure the firewalls are up and operating. In case it’s down, we open a ticket and engage the customer to make sure it isn’t an ISP issue. If it’s the ISP, then we work internally to make sure there isn’t an issue with our circuit.
When we provision the firewall, we make sure it is provisioned properly and that it adheres to best practices. We make all the necessary changes but keep the old configurations, with the new configurations being stored off-site in case there is a need for an audit or for disaster recovery.
If any vulnerabilities are discovered (not common, but can happen), then we update the firmware to close off the vulnerability. If there are bugs, we work to resolve them. If the hardware has issues, we work to get the hardware replaced. The customer never needs to notify the vendor – we do that for them. If any scans or compliance issues come up, we help resolve those with the customer.
If there is an issue on the network, we troubleshoot for the customer to best determine where the problem is. We also provide reports about what is happening on the customer’s network – for instance, what their web usage looks like. With the MSx Optimum Firewall service, we maintain customer traffic logs for 4 months.
All of these things can happen at any time – day or night. If a customer wants to make a change or just has a question, they can open a service ticket, send an email, or call the SOC team to speak with someone.
When we are managing a third-party circuit, since we are an authorized contact, TPx can open tickets if there are problems with the circuit and can work with the provider to troubleshoot the issues. This way the customer only has one company to contact and doesn’t have to lose time by dealing with multiple parties.
Can you share some more benefits of managed services?
We deal with most issues that come up, which frees up the customer to concentrate on other areas. In general, this is what managed services is all about. An IT person may have general knowledge in all areas but not really specialize in one single area. TPx has experts in all areas that we manage, and we have the systems in place to offer enterprise-level services that would otherwise not be available to smaller businesses. Instead of hiring expensive IT people that are hard to find these days, customers can look to us to do this work.
Why should businesses choose TPx over other Managed Services Providers?
TPx is large enough to get the job done right and agile enough to get it done on time. TPx puts an emphasis on using market-leading technology while providing excellent customer service around the clock. Our services portfolio is designed to be a one-stop-shop for IT and security, so customers can eliminate the complexity and headaches that come with dealing with multiple vendors. Very few providers in the U.S. can offer a product portfolio scope of a nationwide managed services carrier like we do. Our trained and experienced staff watches over our customers 24/7/365 so that if an issue arises, it is resolved quickly and effectively. Our solutions are designed to provide enterprise-level quality and customization without an enterprise price tag. We offer incredibly flexible cost options for customers, based on their service level needs and service commitment lengths.
Thanks for your insights, Erik!
You may feel overwhelmed with all the cybersecurity and IT pressures of today’s digital environment, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let us give you a hand with your IT and security – schedule a free consultation with our specialists or call 888-407-9594.
About the Author
Lucie Hys is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at TPx. She is currently leading the marketing efforts for the company’s MSx suite of managed services. She has been working in marketing for more than 9 years, with the last four focusing on the cybersecurity industry. Lucie graduated with an MBA from Florida Gulf Coast University. In her spare time, she is an avid fitness enthusiast and a passionate traveler.
Is TPx getting out of the access business? Given our unwavering focus on managed communications and IT services delivered over the top (OTT) of our customers’ existing bandwidth, we hear this question from our channel partners a lot. The answer is, absolutely not! But due to the trajectory of our industry, we think about access differently than we used to. And our channel partners should, too.
We have a rich history of providing access services on a regional basis under our former brand name, TelePacific. For years, many channel partners in the West and Southwest viewed us as their go-to provider for connectivity services.
More recently, after changing our brand name to TPx and expanding nationwide, channel partners understandably began to question our position on access. Are we in or out?
We’re most definitely in. Rest assured, we’ll continue selling and supporting access, but not in the same way we did before. Access is an enabler for our managed services, UCx and MSx, which are our strategic services going forward.
This change in mindset is a critical step in our company’s evolution, and it’s one that many forward-thinking channel partners are mirroring because they see change afoot.
A Complete Solution – With or Without Access
Access is just the conduit by which other services are delivered. The conversation is no longer about whether or not you can get bandwidth – it’s about whether that bandwidth will adequately support today’s high-value, mission-critical business applications. And since TPx is one of the top SD-WAN providers, we can ensure that any connection – whether we’ve provided it or not – is robust enough to address that challenge.
Consider the following: We no longer go to Blockbuster to rent movies. Because Blockbuster didn’t recognize the existential crisis it was in, it became too late for it to evolve its business model. By contrast, look at the transformative change that Netflix has undertaken. Not only did it move away from mail-order DVD rentals and pivot to streaming content, but more radically, it’s now creating its own content! Blockbuster’s business was decimated because they stuck with the status quo while their competitor evolved – and that’s a danger that any business must take action to avoid.
So, when our customers or channel partners ask us to quote standalone bandwidth, we’ll be looking to change the conversation to discuss how that access enables our higher-value strategic services that address business problems and improve productivity. We believe that by providing a complete, fully-managed solution (whether we’re providing the access, or going over the top and managing it for the customer), our contribution to their success in growing their business is even more meaningful.
The following realities support this position:
- A vast majority of our prospects are already locked into contracts for Internet services with their existing provider(s).
- Many of the companies (e.g., CLECs) we used to compete against only a few years ago are gone.
- Access continues to be commoditized, and is often plagued by high construction costs and installation delays.
- 5G is on the horizon and will facilitate access much more efficiently.
- SD-WAN has emerged as a powerful force for enabling quality of service (QoS) across multiple networks.
In this environment, it makes more sense for all of us to embrace OTT services paired with managed connectivity.
This position might be a tough pill to swallow for some of our channel partners, especially for those who have made a great living by selling access. However, it’s one that we’ve come to believe is critical to our survival – and our channel partners’ survival — given the sea change occurring in our industry.
Managed Connectivity is the Future
For us, managed connectivity is the future. And if OTT isn’t possible, then we can use any mix of last-mile access solutions, including:
- Fixed wireless assets
- Ethernet fiber connected back to our nationwide NNI network
- Resale of High Speed Internet Access, both DIA and broadband from competitive providers
- Copper or other TDM facilities
- Existing connections that customers already have from TPx
We can use our managed SD-WAN router on top of those connections to ensure QoS and create a solid foundation to deliver our UCx and MSx solutions.
We believe that managed connectivity combined with OTT services is the model of the future for companies like ours, serving small and medium businesses (SMBs) that don’t have sophisticated resources to procure and manage technology.
It’s time for all of us – service providers and channel partners alike – to evolve our product sets and revenue mixes. Our fortunes in the past will not serve us well into the future. TPx leadership has the vision to see this outcome and the wherewithal to make the transition. As our valued channel partners and customers, we encourage you to join us for the revolution.
About the Author
Nate Bledsoe joined TPx in June 2018 as Vice President of the company’s new Managed Connectivity line of business. His mandate is to accelerate the successful growth of TPx into a nationally focused provider of comprehensive, integrated managed services that are enabled by a broad set of access options. Previously, Bledsoe was Managing Partner of CloudPeer networks, CTO of Magna5 and COO of X5 Solutions.
Reliable network connectivity is consistently at the top of the list of requirements for any IT professional. More and more companies are moving to hosted unified communications and other cloud services, and the performance of those services is highly dependent on the speed and quality of the Internet connection. There are many connectivity options out there, but the one that businesses are increasingly turning to is Over the Top (OTT).
What is OTT?
In an OTT set up, a business contracts for Internet services with their choice of provider, which is often the Internet connection they already had. Then, they use a separate provider to deliver their cloud services over that broadband connection. This is similar to “cutting the cord” for your home entertainment, where you use your existing cable provider for Internet access, then stream your movies or TV shows from an app instead of watching the cable provider’s content.
OTT provides you the flexibility of choosing your own Internet Service Provider (ISP) to meet your unique business requirements. It allows you to have more control over your network configuration and reduce costs, which can be especially beneficial for small to mid-sized businesses.
The QoS Quandary
Although OTT is a flexible and cost-effective solution, it may also come with some challenges that your business should be prepared to address.
If your voice service provider can’t control your Internet connection, it is unable to control the Quality of Service (QoS). QoS criteria give priority to specific types of network traffic (such as voice or video), specific applications, or even types of users (such as employees vs. guests). Using an OTT connection means your voice provider can’t guarantee QoS for voice traffic, which may hinder the real-time communication of a phone call. This can cause jitter and latency, both of which can impact audio quality:
- Jitter is an inconsistent arrival of data between two endpoints. Because the information (voice) is divided into packets, each packet can travel by a different path from the sender to the receiver. When packets arrive at their intended destination in a different order than they were originally sent, the result is a call with poor or scrambled audio.
- Latency is the time it takes a data packet to travel from point to point on the network. Each step your voice traffic takes through the network will add to its latency. High latency will cause an echo or unnatural delays in an audio conversation.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could use an OTT connection but still prioritize the voice traffic? You can…
OTT with Managed SD-WAN for Better Broadband
Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) enables businesses to build high-performance WANs using relatively low-cost and commercially available broadband Internet links. For example, a business with a remote office may have to spend thousands of dollars in construction charges to get fiber to their location. Instead, that business can use the existing cable Internet service from their existing ISP without fear of quality issues. The SD-WAN network makes the most of these links by providing businesses with end-to-end application performance and availability.
Managed SD-WAN is a powerful solution for companies who use their own broadband. SD-WAN manages your connection and ensures your voice and video have the right amount of bandwidth, without compromising QoS or continuity. Let’s take a look at some key features:
- Optimum network usage — Use the most optimum network at all times. SD-WAN will select between available network connections, using the “best” transport for a given application.
- Security — Encrypted connectivity secures traffic while it’s in transit across any connection.
- Flexibility — Scale bandwidth up or down on a moment’s notice. Redistribute bandwidth to accommodate flash conditions or new applications. The SD-WAN controls the allocation of bandwidth, not the carrier. Therefore, you can ensure that critical applications such as VoIP receive the bandwidth they require when they need it.
- Greatly reduced costs — Today, broadband Internet performance is often comparable to MPLS. In many cases, this eliminates the need for costly MPLS networks. Your Internet costs can be as much as 90 percent less!
- Fast office moves or adds — Get a new office online in minutes, not the weeks and months that you’d have with MPLS or some Internet circuits. Once installed, SD-WAN lets you perform moves, adds and changes in minutes.
A growing number of personal and business apps are eating through bandwidth at an unprecedented rate. Protecting voice and video communications needs to be a priority, but it can present a major challenge for most network administrators. Voice is the lifeline of any business and needs to have 100% availability and quality. SD-WAN offers a simple, elegant solution that allocates network resources for all business-essential applications while also ensuring that your voice and video communications get the highest priority – and it does it all on the connection of your choice.
About the Author
Matt Mair is a Senior Solutions Marketing Manager at TPx. His role includes marketing and communications for Managed SD-WAN, Unified Communications, and TPx Complete – an industry-first bundle of essential business services. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.
In the midst of the hectic work days we all experience, it can be a challenge to stay ahead of ever-changing technology. It’s time to get inspired and see what’s coming down the pike. Here are a few interesting industry news items that you may have missed in the commotion.
Is 2018 going to be “the” year for WebRTC?
A panel at this week’s Enterprise Connect conference posed that exact question. If you’ve ever used voice or video communication in a social media app, or if you’ve used the guest join feature of UCx, then you’ve already experienced WebRTC in action. But where else could WebRTC be applied? How about in healthcare, for a remote doctor’s visit or therapy session? Or in education, to create a virtual classroom? Check out this article on No Jitter to get the full scoop.
SD-WAN and security go hand-in-hand
When SD-WAN first started to hit the streets, most companies only thought about it as a network connectivity option. Now that they’re more comfortable with what SD-WAN can do, they’re realizing that it’s not a security concern – in fact, it enhances their existing network security infrastructure. Network World has more details on this revelation.
Enabling digital transformation with mobility
“Digital transformation” is more than a trending buzzword: it’s happening everywhere. When your plumber or electrician walks in to your house carrying an iPad, or when you pull up a store’s app while you’re out shopping, you’re experiencing digital transformation. When done correctly, digital transformation makes it very easy for a customer to interact with you – and mobile devices are the key to this paradigm shift. Read more on SearchMobileComputing.
What emerging technology is most inspiring to you? Do you have any other favorites that we haven’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author
Stacey Kendall is a Product Marketing Manager at TPx Communications. Her role is focused on marketing for TPx’s suite of Communications & Collaboration offerings, including the UCx Hosted Unified Communications Service and SmartVoice SIP Trunking. Stacey holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a specialization in Information Technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She resides in the greater Boston area.