The case for enlisting a third party to manage aspects of data center IT infrastructure grows stronger as IT talent and resources grow scarcer

By Carl Orleman

Your company has invested heavily to modernize its compute-and-storage environments as part of its ongoing digital transformation journey. Now, however, a lack of internal bandwidth and know-how is threatening to disrupt that journey. What to do?

It’s a predicament that all too many organizations find themselves in today. In findings from a soon-to-be-released report from Forrester Consulting and Windstream, 59% of U.S.-based IT, finance, operations, and security leaders indicated their organization lacks IT capacity, creating a significant barrier to successful transformation projects. What’s more, even among those who said their organizations do have adequate IT capacity, almost two-thirds — 65% — indicated their teams lack the specialized expertise needed for a successful digital transformation project. And because of these limitations, close to two-thirds said their organizations’ digital transformation projects have stalled.

These findings certainly support what I’ve observed in my work with enterprises in a range of industries. Amid one of the most significant IT staffing shortages in history, many are struggling to successfully execute data center modernization initiatives to protect and manage what is among their most valuable competitive assets, their data and the infrastructure required to keep it secure and accessible. The DIY approach to digital transformation simply is not working well enough.

What can enterprises do to bring initiatives aimed at modernizing key components of data center IT infrastructure like network and security to the finish line? Many, in fact, are enlisting the help of a third-party IT managed service provider, or MSP for short. In results of a survey conducted by S&P Global/451 Research, more than 50% of respondents said they currently use MSPs to support their cloud environments, while 73% expect to rely more on managed services over time.

Now more than ever, companies are outsourcing management of some aspect of their IT infrastructure to an MSP, paying the provider a recurring or per-usage fee for a solution that could include hardware and/or software, along with responsibilities for assessing, implementing, monitoring, troubleshooting, maintaining and updating the systems encompassed by the solution.

For many enterprises and their IT teams, it’s a welcome — and long overdue — shift in responsibility and risk, supported by a strong business case built on the following nine factors:

  1. Greater cost certainty. With an IT managed service, the capital cost for IT investments required to provide that service become the responsibility of the MSP. The fee the customer pays for the service becomes a more predictable operating cost.
  2. Access to the latest hardware and software, supplied, maintained and updated as needed by the MSP, who assumes the risk related to equipment failure and tech obsolescence.
  3. Help filling the skills void. Nearly two-thirds of data center operators have problems recruiting or retaining staff, according to the Uptime Institute. Working with an MSP relieves an enterprise of some of that recruiting and retention pressure.
  4. Access to sophisticated security solutions to protect your data. The global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, according to IBM, a 15% increase over three years. Managed cybersecurity services built around the latest generation of cybersecurity approaches (such as secure access service edge, or SASE) provide a powerful counter to the increasing frequency and sophistication of today’s cyber criminals. With these services, an enterprise and its data center operation get a cybersecurity expert to assess their security environment, implement a multilayered strategy to address any identified risks, and manage and monitor their systems.
  5. A technology partner to support your organization on its digital transformation journey. More than just a vendor, your MSP should assume the role of a consultative partner with your IT team, serving as an on-call advisor, subject-matter expert, sounding board, risk manager and problem-solver.
  6. Simplifying the vendor portfolio. Using IT managed services enables an enterprise to consolidate IT products and services under a single vendor.
  7. Extending and fortifying the skillset of your organization’s IT team. By partnering with an IT managed services provider, enterprises gain access to a full bench of skilled resources with specialized expertise to supplement your own IT team’s skillset.
  8. Newfound freedom for your internal IT team to focus less on reactive IT task management and troubleshooting, and more on what really matters in the big picture: serving your customers and employees, and growing your business with technology.
  9. Maximizing uptime, minimizing outages. More than half (55%) of data center operators reported they have had an outage at their site in the past three years, according to Uptime Institute. What’s more, outages are becoming costlier;  more than two-thirds of outages end up costing in excess of $100,000. Having a reliable partner who’s proactively managing and monitoring server and network operations and maintenance helps to minimize the risk of disruptive downtime, ensuring your mission-critical systems stay online even during peaks.

With so much riding on your organization’s ability to protect its data and IT infrastructure, and on its ability to reap a strong return on its investments in digital transformation, there is indeed a powerful case to be made for an organization that operates a data center to forge a meaningful business relationship with an IT managed services provider. You just have to be sure you’re getting a true technology partner who’s readily accessible, is as hands-on as you need them to be, and has the resources, expertise and commitment to stick with you throughout your digital transformation journey.

Carl Orleman
Channel Chief of Partner Sales | Channel, Alliance, and Managed & Professional Services
Windstream Enterprise

Carl Orleman oversees the channel, manages services and professional services organizations for Windstream Enterprise. He has 20+ years of experience producing significant revenue growth for companies like Lumen, CenturyLink, Level 3, Global Crossing and Verizon.