One company\u2019s journey toward outsourcingA few years ago, managed service providers and application service providers were the focus of the industry\u2019s hype machine, touted as the new darlings of the industry and pronounced as the future of computing. But it became evident very quickly that the swarms of xSP companies were in oversupply when the huge anticipated demand for their services didn\u2019t materialize.In 2004, the world seems to be in a different place. Outsourcing to service providers doesn\u2019t seem to hold nearly the risk that it seemed to have a few years ago. Perhaps we\u2019ve just gotten used to the idea, even though outsourcing has really been around for decades (they were called service bureaus in the old days).It is interesting to me to see the evolution within our own organization with respect to IT and outsourcing. As a small company, we initially had an internal person supporting our individual PCs in an ad-hoc manner. That person had other core job responsibilities and supported IT as needed. When things became more complex, requiring the addition of a LAN and other pieces to our small infrastructure, we still used the same internal person to support IT, but used an outside company to provide specialized support when our internal person needed help.We then grew and progressed to the point at which we hired a person whose main job was to support IT for the company. We continued in this mode for a few years. Then, due to a variety of factors, we eventually outsourced IT support. We still maintained our infrastructure internally, but the third-party outsourcer managed it and resolved any problems that arose for us.Now, we are headed into a new phase. We have outsourced our anti-virus and spam filtering to a local company. We simply didn\u2019t have the expertise in-house nor the bandwidth to implement internal spam filtering. And the price was right, which made it very cost-effective to use an outsourcer for this function.Plus, we will outsource the hosting of our IT infrastructure, including our Exchange servers. Instead of having application software installed on each client computer, our outsourcer will host our applications through Citrix\u2019s Metaframe using server-based computing. So we\u2019ll be using Web browsers to access our applications wherever we are, which we anticipate will be great for our remote workers and traveling employees. We haven\u2019t started this phase yet, but it will happen very soon, and I\u2019m anxious to see the results.One of the advantages of using service providers for us is that we don\u2019t have to worry about upgrading our software to the latest rev or patch level. With the outsourcer, we don\u2019t have to worry about upgrades - they handle it. Secondly, supporting remote PCs has always been problematic because there aren\u2019t always PC-savvy people on the other end to do the things that need to be done to bring a computer back to life. Thirdly, it solves some issues with access to applications that we faced as a small company. Fourth, our files are encrypted on the outsourcer\u2019s computers, which safeguards our files to a much higher degree than they would have been if kept internally. And finally, we don\u2019t have to worry about support - it\u2019s now someone else\u2019s problem to resolve IT issues. (Well, not ultimately.) Our people can focus on the jobs that they have to do, rather than being distracted by having to do IT support on the side.I\u2019d postulate that the type of evolution we experienced has also been experienced by some other small businesses - although as a disclaimer, results may vary. So as we step further into the realm of outsourcing our IT, we\u2019ll have to wait and see how this next phase turns out. The benefits certainly seem to hold a lot of potential. But will reality meet the expectations? I\u2019ll let you know. In my personal opinion, I think life will be better.