With budgets still tight, it is a safe bet that more than a few of you intend to look into managed services as a way to save money and safeguard valuable resources in this new year. Users who have examined managed service options say there are a host of pitfalls.With budgets still tight, it is a safe bet that more than a few of you intend to look into managed services as a way to save money and safeguard valuable resources in this new year.Pundits herald managed services as the future, arguing that it makes sense for carriers to assume the job of caring for things such as routers and security devices, letting you focus your limited money and staff resources on core competencies.But users who have examined managed service options say it isn't as simple as that. There are a host of pitfalls:\u2022 Leaving the driving to others doesn't always amount to savings, despite upfront promises. Once you get done checking off the options you want and the service levels you expect, you can end up close to where you started.\u2022 If you're going down this path because of staffing issues, you have to be careful you get what you bargain for. A carrier might indeed have a person on hand at 2 a.m. to meet its 24-7 coverage guarantees, but can that person do anything more than answer the phone and log the trouble ticket? Says one banking customer who was considering this option: "We found after-hours crews rarely knew how to get into a device and fix it."\u2022 While managed services can be effective for static environments, if your environment changes much, the process of managing the service provider can become more complicated than it is worth. Take security management. It's no secret that intrusion-detection systems generate reams of false positives, but can you risk a third party making decisions about what is real and what is dangerous? What if it accidentally shuts down a critical link? If you have to be involved in most of the decisions, it doesn't represent much of a gain. \u2022 Carriers often outsource components of their managed services. One of the largest companies in the business is said to rely on a third party for the security in its managed VPN service. So what are you buying? And who are you dealing with when problems arise? As one reader said, some carriers are becoming service brokers rather than providers of homegrown, integrated offerings.This isn't to say, of course, that you should turn your back on managed services. As the technology evolves some of the mystery evaporates and you can more comfortably offload the care and feeding of certain elements to a third party. The trick is discerning what and where this is possible. The lesson from people who have looked closer is, do your homework carefully.