Managing Distributed Environments

Today’s CIOs and IT managers increasingly deal with the complexity associated with managing satellite or branch offices and supporting mobile workers in dispersed locations across the globe. Let’s take franchises as an example of how remote offices and workers can complicate the IT environment.  Every new location adds new untrained employees and new equipment to manage.  Often, when something goes awry, even a minor problem can become difficult and expensive to solve. 

A large auto company or worldwide coffee chain might have tens of thousands of locations around the world.  At each location, the company must support hardware, software, and critical business applications that allow their franchisees to run.  In some cases, the franchisee may bring their own IT staff, and in other cases the franchise has no IT staff beyond the owner of the business.  In all cases, the franchise has some level of IT dependence on the franchiser for support or equipment.  Companies have lots of options for how to support their franchises and remote offices – but the methods they choose can have huge cost implications. Companies have three basic options for dealing with remote IT management: DIY, complete outsourcing or software-as-a-service:

1. DIY means that the IT department (often just one person) purchases and runs their own client PCs, servers, databases and network, and sets up systems management software to support their business needs.  Over time, they add IT staff and grow organically with their business.  For a franchise, DIY can be expensive – tracking assets as they move between locations, keeping devices patched and software deployed, and backing up critical business data can involve sending an IT employee to the remote location which is often costly. Plus, sending IT personnel into the field rarely offers a quick resolution in the case of an emergency. 

2. At the other end of the spectrum, some large companies elect to outsource their entire IT operation to a company such as IBM or HP EDS.  In full outsourcing deals, the outsourcer often takes over the entire IT infrastructure and staff from the customer.  However, full outsourcing deals can be very expensive and have the potential for poor CE due to price and long contract terms.

3. Increasingly, companies with multiple offices are evaluating software-as-a-service (SaaS) for remote IT management. The SaaS model allows customers to choose subscription-based services for remote management. With SaaS, management tools can be delivered over the Internet and housed in the cloud. Companies who use SaaS remote management can centrally track dispersed client assets, distribute software, manage patches and enforce IT policies. By automating remote management companies can avoid the administration burdens of manual management – without having to maintain the hardware and software used for the management.

To help CIOs and IT Managers, Dell recently introduced several innovative new services that can help companies leverage SaaS. 

About the Author: Paul Young