How SMBs Can Tap Managed Service Providers to Reduce Cost

Paul Mah
Slide Show

How IT Can Save SMBs Big Money

If there is an evergreen discussion theme at conferences or other gatherings of IT managers and executives, it's on ways of reducing costs while upping productivity.

We all know the IT situation in many typical SMBs and SOHOs: They are perpetually understaffed or completely lacking an IT department. This situation may arise as the result of rapid growth or the opening of remote offices where low headcount rules out the hiring of a dedicated IT staffer.


One option for such SMBs would be to rely on the services of external vendors, also known as managed service providers (MSP), for their IT expertise. To learn more, I spoke with Eric Townsend, director of MSP and SMB Marketing at Intel. Townsend has 18 years of experience working with enterprises and small businesses across industry verticals including health care, retail, manufacturing and services. I wanted to hear of some ways where small and mid-sized businesses could reduce cost by working with MSPs.


Intel vPro Technology


The secret sauce, according to Townsend, is Intel's vPro Technology. vPro defines a set of hardware features in an Intel PC that include Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) remote management capability. What is important here is how Intel AMT sits below the operating system (OS) to facilitate advanced features such as encrypted remote power up/down, console redirection, out-of-band policy-based alerting and VNC-based KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) remote control.


One possible downside is that Intel vPro support must already exist - non-compliant PCs cannot be easily upgraded. A silent revolution of sorts has been happening on this front though; Townsend pointed out that there are 85 to 100 different SKUs out there that support the technology today.


Power Reduction


We've talked about saving power by ensuring that workstations are switched off after work. Obviously, mileage will vary based on differing compliance and enforce levels. Townsend brought up the same point, pointing out how switching a computer off over the weekend will see 140 days of power saved over the year. From an operations perspective, Townsend highlighted how such power savings result in a direct impact on the bottom line when extrapolated over the three years of a computer's lifespan. The implicit advice here: An MSP managing vPro-enabled machines can remotely ensure that PCs are switched off to make the power savings a reality.


Minimize Downtime


It is no secret that site visits are particularly troublesome and costly affairs, especially for SMBs with branch offices at remote locations. This is where vPro shines by allowing in-house IT staffers (or MSPs) to remotely diagnose and rectify PC-related issues without the need for making a physical trip. Indeed, the hardware-embedded VNC Server means that it is actually possible to perform a reinstallation of Windows 7 over the wire; connectivity is maintained even when faced with the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death).


To give an idea of what this translates to, Townsend cited MSP savings of $50 to $220 per trouble ticket. Obviously, the ability to quickly get workstations back up and running translates into savings as well. "For every hour that I am down, it impacts the job that I can do. For someone that is a lawyer, who is paid by the hour. Being impacted by two hours is a big deal," says Townsend

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