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From ISP to MSP: a brief history of Claranet

Working in the Internet industry is never dull. The rapid pace of change is relentless, with new technologies, new competitors and new customers appearing on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. Every so often though, it's good to stop and think about where you've come from and how much progress you've made over the years.

Last week Claranet won 'Managed Services Provider of the Year' at the Data Centre Solutions Awards. Winning awards is always nice, but this one was particularly good because it was based on independent votes from the industry, our customers and other people and organisations. I've also just started my 9th year working for Claranet, so these two things combined made me stop and think about the Claranet I joined compared with the Claranet I continue to enjoy working for today.

When I joined in 2006, Claranet was well known in the industry as a pioneering Internet Service Provider (ISP), particularly for Claranet's flat rate dial up Internet access. Sometimes I speak with people who still have the perception that Claranet is solely a provider of internet access for individuals and small businesses. In reality we offer much more, but this traditional customer group of individuals and small businesses, who take connectivity (and some other small scale services), are still catered for, though this arm of the business operates under the name of Claranet SOHO (Small Office & Home Office).

Informed consumers: how IT decision makers best leverage MSPs to optimise their IT strategy

In order to optimise their IT strategy, IT decision makers need to learn three things: firstly, generally they can’t accomplish everything they’d like using only in-house resource, secondly, they need to understand what services an MSP (Managed Services Provider) can offer, and thirdly they need to view their chosen MSP as a trusted partner for the relationship to be as fruitful as possible. If you manage to do all of these things, you become an informed consumer, and your organisation will benefit because the IT strategy supporting it will be stable, flexible, future proof and cost efficient.

By leveraging the expertise of an MSP, IT decision makers not only have access to an extended operational IT team who can take away some of the rigmarole of ‘keeping the lights on’, but also, they gain access to a consultative partner who can guide their business through the process of cloud adoption, migration, and work with them to develop technology roadmaps for the future.

The great thing about becoming an informed consumer is that you begin to understand the benefits of working with an MSP, by getting to see the processes which underpin their results. This in turn allows you to contextualise the monitoring data provided by an MSP and take these insights back to other areas of your business. It is of utmost importance that an MSP helps you in this process, by guiding and transparently showcasing its inner workings, keeping you in control.

From keeping the lights on to lighting the way – the changing role of the CIO

In recent years the CIO’s role has changed from simply delivering an organisation’s IT, to performing an essential role, supporting and facilitating business strategy, directly contributing to the generation of revenue and profit.

With this change the CIO has also seen a shift in reporting lines. A few years ago the head of the IT department would report to the CFO/FD as IT was seen as overhead rather than part of the strategic outlook for the organisation. Increasingly CIO’s are now reporting directly to the CEO/MD. This shift clearly underlines the way in which businesses are viewing IT as a vehicle for helping an organisation achieve its goals.

CIOs are now not only being tasked with “keeping the lights on”, but also supporting customer acquisition and retention, and helping the organisation reach its revenue goals, while at the same time completing major enterprise projects and product innovation efforts.

E-commerce, PCI DSS compliancy and the managed services provider

One of the biggest barriers to managed services adoption according to the Claranet Research Programme is data security, with seventy-one per cent of respondents saying it was an important concern to consider before migrating to a cloud provider.

For businesses reliant on e-commerce, the safeguarding of customer financial data is crucial in retaining customer trust. Without it nobody will buy from you, and it doesn’t matter who it is in the e-commerce transactional chain who messes up; if a customer bought from your site, any problems will be blamed on you.

Consequently the thinking amongst many IT managers seems to be that the closer data and process is to their chests, the safer it is, so they try to keep as much in-house as possible.

However, this logic isn’t necessarily sound. While everyone in a the e-commerce transaction chain (below) must be PCI DSS compliant in their own right, the burden of actually making sure all the key tenets of PCI DSS compliancy are enforced all the time, along with the management of internal infrastructure produces more pressure on in-house IT departments, ultimately leading to data security issues.

The adoption of mobile working practises are set to increase in 2013 – what does it mean for your business?

2013 promises to be an interesting year for businesses as they increasingly adopt new technologies and correspondingly adapt their strategies and operational practises. 75% of the 250 senior IT decision-makers recently interviewed as part of the Claranet Research Programme predict the use of mobile working to increase over the next 18 months. This statistic indicates a clear shift toward the adoption of mobile working practises in 2013, but what do companies thinking about adopting and adapting need to consider?

Firstly: the benefits. There are numerous advantages to an organisation adopting mobile working capabilities, including increased productivity, the ability to work in real time, a reduction in the necessity for office space and happier employees with a better work/life balance. All of which can affect the bottom line in a positive way.

Some of the reluctance to fully embrace mobile working is due to the inherent problems it creates. A company must resolve these issues completely in order to facilitate a successful strategy, because a half-baked solution only creates issues of its own. If the move toward mobile working isn’t handled correctly security, functionality and accessibility issues can cause both employees and organisations to suffer.

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