When searching for a managed hosting provider, the availability and quality of management services concerns businesses most. While many managed-hosting companies offer a full menu of management services, commitment and quality levels tend to vary widely between firms. While one provider may do a great job of handling software-related tasks, another may drop the ball on infrastructure management.
Since different businesses have different priorities, it's important for any prospective managed-hosting customer to survey the market and find the provider that excels at the tasks it needs most. Earlier this year, technology-research firm Gartner Inc . examined the managed-hosting industry and prioritized the leading players' strengths and weaknesses. Using that report as a guide, we have compiled the following list of five common management tasks and the hosting providers that do the best job at each.
1. Infrastructure Management: Businesses that need a managed-hosting provider to assume firm control over infrastructure resources will want to check out service offerings from Terremark Worldwide Inc . In 2007, the company acquired Data Return, a small independent Web-hosting provider. Gartner claimed that the takeover bolstered Terremark's infrastructure-management capabilities. "Data Return has a track record as a risk-taking visionary with significant engineering expertise, [a] highly automated infrastructure and very good customer service." On the downside, the report criticized Terremark for its limited North American service footprint and limited market presence.
2. Application Management: IBM Corp . is the choice for companies that need management of complex software systems. "IBM can provide excellent application hosting and management for ERP, CRM and other complex systems, supported by the legacy Corio platform," the Gartner report stated. Customers, however, must be willing to put up with IBM's notoriously complex contracts featuring often inflexible terms.
3. Security Management : For many businesses, security is the top reason for using a managed-hosting provider. Gartner commended CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) for its "broad and deep" security offerings. The research firm also noted that CSC "has made significant strides in improving the quality of its products and customer service portal." Not so good is that "communications between different operation and products groups can be poor, leading to tasks 'falling between the cracks,'" the report observed.
4. Open-Source Product Management: More companies are embracing open-source technologies , and it's important for these firms to find a hosting provider that knows how to manage such resources. Gartner suggested that Rackspace Hosting Inc . is well suited to work with customers on open-source projects. "Operations and engineering competencies include very strong expertise with open-source technologies," the report stated. Rackspace's failing is its limited product and service selection, plus a restricted number of on-demand offerings.
5. À La Carte Managed Services: For businesses that want to be able to select individual managed services, and not be forced to pay for features they don't need, AT&T is a good choice. Gartner said the provider "is the leader in the à la carte managed services, 'colocation -plus' approach." On the other hand, the report warned that customer service is weak, yet "improving gradually."
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