Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Building a mobility solution: DIY or Managed?

The majority of enterprise mobility solutions deployed in the UK have been completed with the involvement of a specialist third party organisation, coming into existence as managed solutions.

Yet, organisations have the option to keep development in-house, and those companies big enough to employ their own experience IT staff may feel that a DIY approach to enterprise mobility offers the best option. The decision making process is further compounded by the decision to either self host or third party host your final solution. So is there a simple answer to this complex question? Below are some of the key considerations.

Carefully assess your in-house capabilities
It’s important to closely study the capabilities of both in-house teams and third party suppliers when moving towards an enterprise mobility project. The underlying objective should be to minimise risk within the development and rollout process so the solution can be completed on time, on budget and with the support of all the field worker users.

Consider a work share project approach
Due to the complex multi-element nature of enterprise mobility solutions, unless your business has a sophisticated mature and scalable IT department with R&D capability, pure D.I.Y should not be considered. However engaging a mobility specialist with a mobility configuration tool for agile deployments and undertaking certain elements of the project in-house or “work share” is becoming more practical and prevalent.

Do not under estimate the support impact
Supporting large numbers of geographically dispersed users of mobile technology can be challenging, if you are planning to support your mobile users, ensure you have a service desk that can cope with the increased numbers, and make use of remote mobile device management software solutions to minimise the down time of your mobile users. Using specialist third party support organisations to deal with fieldworker support is certainly on the increase and can reduce significantly fieldworker down time.

Consider the efficiencies of third party hosting
Over the last 18 months software as a service SaaS has become more prevalent with major software organisations such as Microsoft offering a rental model for the majority of their software applications that are hosted and managed on third party servers. Therefore IT infrastructure (servers) hosting is becoming a key consideration. Building your own server infrastructure to be resilient with high availability from scratch requires significant capital expenditure, takes time and requires responsive support team to deal with any issues. A third party hosted service can be up and running quickly and can also be scaled easily if your business grows. For smaller organisations renting the software and server environment will definitely be more cost effective than outright purchase and self hosting.

Benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS)

Over the last 18 months software as a service SaaS has become more prevalent with major software organisations such as Microsoft offering a rental model for the majority of their software applications which are hosted and managed on third party servers. Software as a Service (SaaS) is the term used for delivering software applications using the internet or a wide area network as the delivery mechanism. SaaS can be implemented rapidly and removes the need to purchase expensive server infrastructure. The SaaS model is being used to provide a whole host of software applications from email to enterprise mobility solutions.
Revenue based payments

SaaS is delivered to organisations as a subscription model, usually billed on a per user per month basis for a fixed term of usually 3 years. Billing is on a “pay as you go” basis, that is, businesses only pay for the users who have benefited from the software during each billable month. Naturally this removes large upfront payments and potential annual licence, support and maintenance charges.

Third party hosted
Investing in expensive infrastructure is no longer required since SaaS software applications are now third party hosted. As a result there are no capital costs for hardware, licenses, databases or ongoing overheads of either third party or internal IT support staff or software and hardware maintenance and upgrades. Software applications are accessed via a web browser or a mobile device via a wireless network connection keeping your user IT requirements simple and low cost and easily managed.

Predictable projectable costs
SaaS provides agreed pre-defined fixed charges. This enables you to project and predict your annual costs and helps with annual budget provisioning.

Multi-Tenant Efficiency
Some SaaS solutions use secure multi-tenant architecture (for example Microsoft Exchange email SaaS). This means that the cost of all software, infrastructure and expertise is shared by a large number of customers. This multi-tenant architecture offers reduced implementation times and economies of scale making the overall solution more cost effective

Increased Accessibility
Being internet based, your applications are accessible not only in the office but from home a hotel room or from any of your businesses international locations if you have them.

Flexibility and Scalability
SaaS, provides businesses with a high level of flexibility. Since, the software solution is delivered via the Internet; SaaS completely eliminates installation and setup at the customer’s end. Users can be up and running very quickly. Also as your business grows all you need to do is request your service provider to add more users. Because hosted solutions are designed to scale, initially you could start with 10 users and after 1 month add say another 3,000 users without any issues, thus providing your business with ultimate flexibility.

Availability and Security
SaaS providers are in the business of providing uninterrupted reliable services. Vendors understand that data must be backed up religiously, and information security is a paramount concern. Skilled resources, network redundancies, stand-by power, up-to-date security and intrusion detection are a necessity in providing an enterprise class service.

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