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Outsourcing upgrades offer many advantages

Jun 16, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Why it could pay to outsource upgrade projects to specialists

Outsourcing supplier SevenSpace recently announced that it has expanded its relationship with private equity firm The Carlyle Group to include migrating the financial company’s Microsoft Exchange 2000 service to Exchange 2003, and to deploy a global VPN infrastructure. The deal is an example of the clear advantages of using an outsourcing partner for upgrades and VPN implementations.

Upgrading a corporate e-mail infrastructure – even from one version of Exchange to another – is a significant undertaking. Given that upgrades happen so rarely and that an organization virtually never performs the same upgrade (how often did you upgrade from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000? Just once, right?), there is often no prior experience in-house to tap. This is where an outsourcing partner can help.

Service providers, by definition, specialize in specific technologies and are familiar with the nuances of each of their specialty areas. In the case of e-mail, an Exchange service provider will do Exchange upgrades for all of its customers and perform test upgrades using its dedicated laboratory environment and specialized staff. Due to the level of specialization, the Exchange service provider is far more qualified to design the upgrade, watch for issues, perform the upgrade, and recover from any problems than an organization that does these complex tasks once every 5 years.

VPN installations are similar to upgrades. In general, a VPN is designed and installed by an organization once, and then rarely changed until a quantum leap in technology forces an upgrade. While a service provider is likely to design, install, and manage VPNs for many organizations, most organizations will only do it once every few years. The result of these dynamics is that a service provider is often far more qualified to perform the work than the internal IT team.

These traits of an outsourcing arrangement are difficult to quantify, although they clearly relate directly to overall value. How much time, energy, and pain does it take to work through these issues without the resources available to the service provider? For example, a small company I know that moved offices recently is facing many challenges surrounding telephone systems, telephone lines and Internet connectivity. It is getting the run-around from the various organizations involved in switching the company’s services at the old location to the new one. An outsourcing supplier would have been able to take that headache away.

I’d like to hear about your experiences with outsourcing and other service providers? Do you have tales of woe or exemplary performance? If you drop your thoughts into my mailbox, I’ll have some stories for you over the next few weeks.