With an unlimited IT budget, most CIOs would prefer to have an IT administrator at every branch location.But given that unlimited IT budgets are about as common as a 90-degree winter day in Chicago (sans global-warming speculation), they need to find other solutions in most cases. Cost is typically what drives organizations to have a central IT staff managing dozens or hundreds of branch locations.And as I discussed last week, 45% of organizations manage their branch locations from a central locations; another 16% augment the central staff responsibilities with service providers.Nonetheless, about one-third of the participants in Nemertes\u2019 recent Convergence & Next-Generation WANs benchmark say they use a distributed approach for managing their branch offices. As a reminder from last week, here is how companies manage their branch offices:* Centralized - 44.93%* Combination Central & Distributed IT staff - 15.94%* Combination Central IT staff & service providers - 15.94%* Distributed IT staff - 11.59%* Service provider - 7.25%* Distributed IT staff with service provider - 4.35%Only about 12% of organizations assign IT staff members to manage a set number of locations in a region, or less commonly, at each location. In either case, they monitor and manage the IT infrastructure, and they are predominantly midsize organizations. The average number of locations among organizations who adopt this strategy is 125. Those with more locations or with a global footprint also rely on service providers to assist with troubleshooting - totaling about 4.5%.The upside to this approach is that there is a local IT presence typically within driving distance. The downside, though, is that there may not be one person or a team responsible for monitoring and assessing network performance as a whole, or from a high level.Other companies adopt a \u2018combined\u2019 approached, whereby they use the central IT staff to monitor and manage some locations (defined by size or location), and a distributed staff to monitor and manage others. More than half (56%) of the organizations that fall into this category have revenues in excess of $20 billion.Typically, organizations that use a combined approach centrally manage locations as far as they can geographically. Then, they assign IT staff members to locations that make sense - either because they\u2019re too far to deploy a central IT staff member to troubleshoot a problem, or because there are so many problems with the local infrastructure that a local presence is required.For more information on branch office best practices from the benchmark, please visit nemertes.com.The bottom line: It\u2019s imperative to assess the number and type of branch office locations, and select the management style that meets the budget while still effectively managing and monitoring the IT infrastructure.