Can HP Turn Infrastructure Solutions Into an SMB Mobility Play?

The mobile explosion is causing a major disruption in businesses—and holds the promise of helping SMBs boost employee productivity and customer engagement. SMBs are rapidly picking up on that promise: SMB Group’s 2012 SMB Mobile Solutions Study shows that 80% of small and medium businesses (1 to 999 employees) already use mobile devices and services to support business operations.

Our study also reveals SMBs are rapidly moving beyond basic mobile collaboration solutions (such as email, contacts and calendars) to deploy more business applications. For instance, they’re equipping employees with mobile apps such as CRM, time management, expense management and analytics, and providing mobile purchasing, payments, and scheduling apps for their customers.

HP Infrastructure Solutions for a Mobile World

With adoption of new applications poised to double over the next year, SMBs will also be faced with new infrastructure and management challenges. Recently, HP announced new virtualization and infrastructure solutions that it is positioning as a solution to help SMBs prepare for and meet some the challenges that mobility brings to the forefront, including:

  • HP StoreEasy NAS Appliances. This is a file consolidation play designed to simplify data management, including the  chore of managing the additional data that new mobile applications will generate. HP is positioning StoreEasy as an alternative to continually adding and individually managing new file servers, and a way to improve security, availability, and responsiveness. StoreEasy can be deployed with Windows tools that many SMBs are familiar with, eliminating the need to learn a new storage system.  SMB 3.0 provides native file de-duplication conducted at the block level to save space; and secure data encryption to protect application data as it is moved across networks.  Pricing starts $5,192 for 8 terabytes.
  • HP StoreVirtual Storage, a virtualized storage environment designed to help larger medium businesses (99 – 1000 users) provision solutions that are re-engineered for mobile access in a virtualized environment. Companies can use StoreVirtual storage to test, deploy, upgrade, and add apps and storage without reconfiguring systems; and to migrate data between virtual and physical locations without taking systems down. Built with HP’s LeftHand operating system and HP ProLiant servers, StoreVirtual Storage supports heterogeneous client and server virtualization solutions. Pricing starts at $11,500.
  • Citrix VDI-in-a-Box with Personal vDisk and HP ProLiant Gen8 Servers is intended to give mobile VDI users more flexibility and efficiency.  HP claims the solution reduces image and storage requirements and adds 50% more users per server than prior HP VDI offerings.
  • HP M220 Access Points, to help deploy and manage a wireless network more easily and reliably. The solution enables SMBs to configure up to 10 access points via an Easy Setup Wizard (with a choice of 5 common configuration set-ups). The SMB or partner can manage all access points via a Web interface. Pricing starts at $389 per access point.

HP simultaneously announced some enhancements to its “Even Better Than Zero” financing program for SMBs, including a new 90-day payment deferral option.

Perspective

There’s no question that as mobile solutions become more critical to SMBs, they also fuel new infrastructure requirements for management, security, storage and performance on the back-end. As shown on Figure 1, in addition to cost concerns, SMBs see data, network, device and transaction security, and management as top barriers to moving ahead with mobile solutions.

Figure 1: Top SMB Challenges to Moving Ahead with Mobile Solutions

With the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) and consumerization, more types of devices to manage, more apps and more data, these issues will only become more taxing.

HP is addressing some of the requirements that mobile brings to the forefront with solutions to help SMBs streamline VDI deployment, more easily provision and manage wireless LAN bandwidth, and enhanced on-premises storage options.

But, this announcement does not provide a full picture of HP’s mobile management vision for SMBs–and leaves many questions about HP’s mobile management strategy for SMBs unanswered. For instance, many SMBs would like to offload data storage and management to a cloud provider. What does HP have in this department, and how does it complement these solutions?  The announcement also fails to shed light on how HP can help  SMBs tackle other key mobility related infrastructure issues, including mobile device and application management, and the need to compartmentalize personal and business apps and data.

While HP has put a relevant mobile veneer on its infrastructure story, it needs to paint more comprehensive picture of its full mobile management and infrastructure strategy and portfolio, from on-premises to cloud–along with the guidance SMBs need to figure out which solution(s) will best fit their needs.

A Closer Look–Dell Managed Services for SMBs

Last April, I participated in Dell’s Managed Services launch for SMBs. At the event, Dell had a couple of customers on hand who were both very satisfied with the service. Later in the year, Dell asked my colleague Sanjeev Aggarwal and I to conduct a Dell-sponsored research study to learn more about how Dell Managed Services was working out for a broader group of early customers. This project was very interesting one for me because I’ve been looking at how managed services and cloud computing can benefit SMBs for quite some time.

Dell’s goal for this study was to get a better understanding of why SMBs are turning to managed services and why they chose Dell. Most importantly Dell also wanted to quantify time, cost and productivity benefits that customers are realizing from using Dell Managed Services. For the research, we conducted both in-depth one-on-one interviews with Dell Managed Services customers, and we also fielded a Web-based survey.

Next week, on February 25, I’ll share with you the key highlights about what we learned in our research during a webcast, “How to Solve Your IT Management Dilemma.” During the webcast.  I’ll discuss key study findings, including:

  • The business and IT demands that small and medium businesses are facing.
  • Why they are turning to managed services.
  • The measurable results that customers are getting from Dell Managed Services in terms of time and cost savings, and productivity gains.

For example, on average, respondents’ annual downtime decreased by more than 50% after deploying Dell Managed Services, and 89% say the service is freeing up time so that they concentrate resources on more strategic business requirements.

The webcast which will also feature Tom Myers, President, The Myers Group, Inc., one of Dell’s Managed Services customers, talking about his first-hand experience with the service. Jim Roth, Director, Dell Small and Medium Business Services, will provide participants with links to the two research papers that document the findings in detail.

By the way, in my post last year about the service, I also suggested that Dell should come up with something a bit less clunky than “ProManage Managed Services” as the name of this solution—and I’m happy to report that they’ve done this. Based on results from this study, it also looks like Dell Managed Services is helping to lift the IT maintenance and management burden off SMBs’ shoulders, giving them more time to focus on running their businesses.

What are Managed Services, and Why Should You Care?

(Originally published in Small Business Computing, September 25, 2009)

Technology insiders tend to throw around technical terms and business jargon, assuming people outside the industry understand what it all means. By its nature, technology vocabulary is often confusing and complicated, and insiders often add to the confusion by over-complicating things. To help add a sense of clarity to the confusion, each month, Laurie McCabe, a partner at Hurwitz & Associates (a business consulting firm), will pick a technology term, explain what it means in plain English, and then discuss why it may be important to you. This month, Laurie takes a look at managed services.

What are Managed Services?

Managed services let you offload specific IT operations to a service provider, known in tech parlance as a Managed Services Provider. The managed service provider assumes ongoing responsibility for monitoring, managing and/or problem resolution for selected IT systems and functions on your behalf.

Managed services providers can offer services such as alerts, security, patch management, data backup and recovery for different client devices: desktops, notebooks, servers, storage systems, networks and applications. Offloading routine infrastructure management to an experienced managed services professional lets you concentrate on running your business, with fewer interruptions due to IT issues.

Managed services providers usually price their services on a subscription basis. Depending on the services they provide, pricing is usually based on the number of devices, with different packages priced at different levels. Some provide customer support onsite when required. Basic services often start with a monitoring service, which notifies you of problems, which you resolve on your own. At the upper end of the spectrum, service providers offer fully managed services that cover everything from alerts through problem resolution.

Typically they perform an initial assessment of your current IT environment and management requirements to help you decide what services and service levels you need.

Why Should You Care?

Just like larger companies, small businesses need technology to operate efficiently and to compete effectively. But as reliance on IT grows, the resources to support an increasingly complex IT environment may not. In many small businesses, IT resources are scarce, and can be quickly overwhelmed with the day-to-day responsibilities of keeping the IT infrastructure that the business depends on up and running.

If you fall behind in keeping up with things such as backups, patches and security, the odds are that you’ll face an IT outage or another problem down the road that will negatively impact your business. For instance, if your e-mail server, customer relationship management system, financial application or network goes down unexpectedly, you face substantial productivity and revenue losses as a result.

MSPs act as an extension of your IT department, taking care of routine IT infrastructure monitoring and management around the clock—freeing up your IT staff to focus on higher-value projects. By proactively monitoring and maintaining your systems, an MSP can help you avoid many technology problems in the first place. Should an issue occur, an experienced MSP can troubleshoot and resolve it more efficiently.

Unlike traditional outsourcing situations, where you surrender complete control of your IT assets, you decide what you want the service provider to take care of, and what you want to handle. You retain full visibility into the process and management of your systems. In addition, the MSP subscription model gives you more expense predictability than a consultant-type time and billing model.

What to Consider

MSPs offer a wide range of different services. Many focus on managing specific areas and functions, such as storage and related management services, or desktop management and help desk services. Some provide management services for server hardware, operating systems and middleware, but limited support for applications such as e-mail. Many provide onsite services as required, but may have limited regional or local coverage areas.

If you are looking for more comprehensive services, including alerts, monitoring and management services for a wide range of client, network, servers and applications, Dell offers ProManage-Managed Services for SMBs. The service offers small businesses a choice of service levels, priced on a per-device, per-month basis. Most services are provided remotely, but Dell and its channel partners supply onsite service when required.

With so many different types of MSPs and offerings, the MSP label can be a confusing one. So, when considering managed services, think first about your requirements. How satisfied you are with the level and quality of support that you have today? Where are the gaps, pain points and inefficiencies in IT infrastructure management? How do downtime, outages and other problems impact your business?

With these requirements top of mind, evaluate MSPs that map to your IT, business and budget requirements and provide a flexible, proactive approach that can adapt with you as your needs evolve.

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