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

By Craig Mathias in · Solutions · August 2, 2016

Wireless as a Service represents the latest in a long line of IT activities and requirements that have converted capital expense to operating expense, moved into the world of managed services, and that are benefiting from the acceleration and concentration of experience in firms that support multiple clients and can thus offer superior service at a lower cost than would be possible in most cases for in-house operations.

But how can you tell if such an approach is right for your organization? 

Security used to be the filter here – if high security is a requirement (and when isn’t it?), then keep any activities with this requirement in-house. Such, however, is no longer the case – with every organization necessarily exposed to the Web, one’s Wi-Fi infrastructure must indeed be secured even when managed by a third party.

Just make sure requirements are carefully spelled out in any agreement with the selected MSP. And we thus conclude that every organization (OK, some government operations notwithstanding) is at least a candidate for WaaS.

  • The first step in making a decision here is to do a cost-benefit analysis. The nature of these vary from organization to organization, but essentially involve enumerating all required costs and risks, projecting these over a reasonable period (three to five years is common), and then looking at how each cost can be minimized.

Where high degrees of uncertainty exist, a best case/worst case analysis is also required. We believe though, based on our experiences to date, that the managed-services approach will usually be more cost-effective than attempting to obtain, retain, and provision all required capabilities and services in-house.

  • Next, the requirements for candidate MSPs must be spelled out in an RFP. Again, specifics vary with organization and mission, but usually include the specification of Wi-Fi scope and scale (coverage and availability), traffic mix and anticipated or estimated growth patterns (geography, users, devices, and applications), integrity (contingency, continuity, resilience, and fault-tolerance), service outage window maximums, and, of course, security.
  • Especially with respect to overall integrity, it’s a good idea to have a standby MSP available in the event of an absolute, total meltdown of one’s selected supplier. Larger firms might have two different MSPs managing different parts of their overall operation. And always remember that an agreement with an MSP represents a delegation of authority, not responsibility. Insist that the job be done as specified in any agreement, or move on. The beauty of any competitive marketplace is that only minimal pain should be involved in the unlikely event that such is absolutely necessary.
  • It is vital to specify and maintain lines of communication between operations staff and the MSP. Regular updates are a good idea, and the MSP should document any changes to network configuration or operational procedures as these are made. Advance permission might be required in some cases. Even in small to mid-sized organizations, MSPs should remember that the client always comes first, and that they have operational authority, not absolute control. 
  • Many MSPs can even provide turnkey solutions today. Make sure that upgrades are scheduled as required to meet not just growth requirements, but also technological risk and financial constraints. As always, be sure regardless to look for a Wi-Fi vendor that can accommodate non-disruptive upgrades.

The bottom line: One can save meaningful financial resources, reduce risk, and obtain significantly better results with the MSP model. Leading Wi-Fi vendors are now recognizing the importance of this trend; Aerohive, for example, recently announced their AdvantageMSP program that makes it easy for MSPs to offer Management as a Service and Wireless as a Service, and even to customize MSP offerings to meet new applications requirements, including monitoring, presence, location, and identity.

So, suppose you’re a retailer who needs a clicks-and-bricks loyalty program deployed across the entire chain. Suppose you run IT at a school and need upgrades and additions to accommodate new digital learning initiatives? Suppose you discover that thousands of IoT devices need to be added to your network over the next few years?

Daunting tasks like these can be much easier and, again, cheaper, in the hands of a managed services provider. 

This is why we see the managed-services approach becoming the preferred strategy for Wi-Fi users everywhere over the next few years. To our thinking, anyway, the arguments presented in this series of articles are more than persuasive.

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?

Craig Mathias (@farpoint1)

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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