According to a survey conducted by ThinkStrategies, a consulting firm that follows the managed services arena, adoption of various forms of IT out-tasking went from 32% of survey respondents in 2007 to 63% in 2008. "In these tough times, the last thing you need to be doing is building out your own facilities, adding to your operations costs in hardware, software and energy costs," says Jeff Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies. "There's also the added long-term investment those facilities represent. Those capital expenses are fixed and you cannot escape. In this marketplace, you want the greatest liquidity and as much flexibility as possible."
Datacenters represent a particularly great capital expense, when you consider not only the servers but the network infrastructure and even real estate required. On top of that, it takes specialized expertise to operate datacenter infrastructure for peak efficiency, particular the servers that are the lifeblood of the corporation.
Given these factors, Managed Hosting services present an attractive alternative for many customers. With Managed Hosting, a third party service provider owns and operates your server infrastructure in its own datacenter. Customers load whatever applications they require on the Managed Hosting providers' servers and typically access them via a high-speed Internet connection.
"Unless you really have a unique set of proprietary needs, using a third party Managed Hosting provider who has greater skills, greater scalability and economies of scale, and gives you greater flexibility, is attractive to any company - whether small, medium or large," Kaplan says.
Assessing Managed Hosting Providers
Of course customers can only gain the benefits of a Managed Hosting offering if they choose a provider that has the experience and expertise to effectively deliver the service. The challenge, then, becomes assessing the various Managed Hosting providers to decide which will offer the best level of service. Among the attributes customers should consider are:
One of the benefits of a Managed Hosting service is that you should be able to take advantage of the latest server technology; if not, it could cost you money in terms of the capacity you'll get out of each server. Additionally, newer servers are more cost- and energy-efficient, Kaplan points out.
The best applications running on the fastest server infrastructure won't do customers and end users any good if the network connecting them fails to keep up with demand or, worse, fails altogether. Look for providers that offer highly stable, reliable network connections, with redundancy and multiple points of presence.
Similarly, only providers that operate multiple datacenters can guarantee uptime even in the face of a disaster and, even then, you should ask lots of questions about failover capabilities, says Richard Jones, Service Director, Datacenter Strategies for the Burton Group consultancy. "What are the Managed Hosting firm's disaster recovery plans? Will they share those with you and work to integrate with your plans?" he asks. And it's obviously helpful if the provider's datacenters are in locations that are in sync with the regions in which you need service.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
"The Managed Hosting firm should clearly state its prices, service levels, and their penalties should they fail to deliver in their offering to you," Jones says. Typical SLAs guarantee that the service will have a minimal percentage of downtime, perhaps no more than 2% or 3%. If downtime exceeds that threshold, financial penalties kick in. "Penalties are usually in the form of fee rebates or credits. These fees will be based on what you negotiate to meet your needs," Jones notes.
With demand for Managed Hosting services on the rise, it's only natural that a number of new players are coming on the scene to meet the demand. "There is a risk of a proliferation of players, which creates added competitive pressures that could result in an industry shakeout," Kaplan says. That means customers must evaluate not only the functional capabilities and service quality of potential providers, but their financial standing and long-term viability.
All Managed Hosting providers purport to be experts in their field but a thorough examination of their staff can help separate the players. Look at criteria such as average staff tenure and turnover rate. It's also helpful to look at whether individual staffers hold various technical certifications, from Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) to Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), among many others.
Managed Hosting Pricing Options
While it's always tempting to go with the lowest-cost provider, Jones advises caution. "The old adage 'you get what you pay for' always applies," he says. If you get quotes from three contenders and one seems too good to be true, it most likely is and you'll regret it in the long run. Focus on negotiating the right service levels for your needs, Jones says.
Finally, a Managed Hosting provider should be able to provide a list of at least five good references for you to check out. "Any hesitancy or excuses in responding to this request should be a red flag," Jones says. "A good Managed Hosting provider will explore to understand your business and its needs and supply references that closely match what you are looking for."
The PEER 1 Difference
In all of these areas and more, PEER 1's Managed Hosting and Colocation services stand above the crowd. When you combine the feature set of the PEER 1 Managed Hosting service with the performance of its server and network infrastructure, you'll find PEER 1 offers a value proposition so compelling it makes the Managed Hosting decision an easy one.
Following are the top 11 reasons to consider PEER 1 for your Managed Hosting needs.
1. FastFiber Network™
Most Managed Hosting providers lease network bandwidth from one or more carriers. PEER 1 doesn't need to because it owns and runs its own network. Our FastFiber Network comprises more than 25,000 miles of fiber, 21 points of presence and peering relationships with more than 500 ISPs around the globe, including many Tier 1 providers. Those relationships mean PEER 1 can easily withstand a failure in one or more parts of its network without customers missing a beat. PEER 1 also maintains a presence in leading carrier hotels, making it easy for customers to connect to the FastFiber Network at Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet speeds and experience superior performance, with low latency, at all times. We even have our own content delivery network on top of our FastFiber Network, to help further increase performance.
2. FirstCall Support™
When you call PEER 1 for support, you'll immediately be talking to an administrator-level technician, someone who more than likely can solve your problem. Rather than force you to talk with a level 1 support person who merely refers to online manuals in search of a solution, the PEER 1 support team consists entirely of personnel with years of experience in a range of technologies in Managed Hosting. Additionally, any technician can troubleshoot your server issues upon request. Our goal is always to solve your problem on the first call, without escalation; more often than not, we meet that goal.
3. Expert Solution Design
At PEER 1, we don't simply want to sell you a Managed Hosting service, we want to help solve your business problems. That's why, before you ever sign on for service, we will bring in a solutions engineer to help design a solution that meets your specific need, either on our own or in concert with your own technical experts. Whether it's a retail web site targeted at consumers or an application delivery platform for employees, we've more than likely already helped dozens of customers with requirements similar to yours. We'll help eliminate the doubt as to whether your solution will work as intended.
4. Guided Tour
Once your service is up and running, an expert PEER 1 technician will show you the ropes. Using screen-sharing software, our engineer will walk you through how to use all the features, functions and support options associated with your server, including all the management tools. You can learn how to set up e-mail and FTP accounts, get help in creating your first website or virtually anything else you'd like.
In the past few years, lots of hosting companies have come and gone. PEER 1, on the other hand, is a publicly traded company with a strong balance sheet and more than 10,000 customers. We've been in business since 1999 and have grown into one of the top five business hosting providers in the world. (Tier 1 Internet Infrastructure Market Overview, Dedicated Hosting, Winter 2009)
6. 100% Uptime Guarantee
The stability and reliability inherent in our FastFiber Network enables us to offer a very simple service level agreement: 100% network uptime. Simply put, that means we guarantee that the network connecting to your Managed Hosting service will never go down. The same goes for the power and HVAC systems in our datacenters. That's the kind of SLA that would be virtually impossible for an internal IT organization to offer - and one that few Managed Hosting providers do, either.
7. Routine Security Checks
All PEER 1 servers come with virus detection that we constantly keep up to date. On top of that, every two weeks a team of third-party security experts conducts a vulnerability scan on all servers, to ensure no configuration changes or malware has opened the door to a security threat. All customers get a report outlining the findings, with notes from our own engineers on the steps they've taken to address any threats. While other providers offer a similar service for an added fee, at PEER 1 vulnerability testing comes at no additional cost for all Managed Hosting customers.
8. One-Hour Hardware Replacement
Anyone who has run a datacenter can tell you a story about getting a call at 2 a.m., usually on a weekend, about a broken server component. With no spare on hand, you have no choice but to wait till morning and try to find somewhere to buy the new part. At PEER 1, if any piece of hardware fails we guarantee we'll replace it within one hour. We can make that guarantee with confidence because we stock spare parts for every server we own, something that's just not feasible for most privately owned datacenters. Additionally, given that every server has a backup on hot standby, you'll never miss a beat while we fix whatever is broken. And you won't get that 2 a.m. phone call, either.
One of the most challenging aspects of running a datacenter is consistently meeting the demand for computing power in a dynamic business environment. Maybe your new retail site is a big hit and the company is growing faster than expected, or perhaps a business unit needs to meet seasonal demand then scale back once the peak has passed. At PEER 1 we can quickly scale your server environment up or down as demand warrants. That enables you to start small, with a minimal investment, and add capacity in days or even hours as demand warrants. Our Managed Hosting success stories include the retailer Club Penguin, which grew from a 2-server solution into more than 100 servers in multiple locations. We'd like nothing more than to see your company enjoy the same success.
10. Speedy, Reliable Backups
All the data on the servers provided through the PEER 1 Managed Hosting service is backed up to a fully redundant storage-area network (SAN). That means you get faster backups - and thus a shorter backup window - as compared to providers that back up to tape. Restores are likewise faster and the whole setup is more reliable than tape, which has a much higher mean time between failures than SAN technology.
Managed Hosting services can be a cost-effective alternative to in-house datacenters for most any customer, small to large. But understanding the attributes that constitute a truly effective Managed Hosting provider can make a big difference in the service experience and, consequently, the success of your business.
When you consider the infrastructure and expertise that PEER 1 brings to bear in providing a truly reliable, scalable, high performance server environment, it really adds up to an 11th reason to choose PEER 1: Value. We take care of the difficult, complex and expensive aspects of running a datacenter environment, enabling your IT staff to concentrate on delivering strategic initiatives that differentiate your company. And we do it at a price that's not only competitive, but that you'll likely find attractive in these economic times.