For overworked IT teams, managed network services are a lifesaver.
Rather than monitoring network logs, troubleshooting switches, and working overtime to mitigate vulnerabilities, you can engage a trusted partner to manage your network for you.
But not all providers are created equal. It’s hard to evaluate one provider against another if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
In this article, we’ll explain managed network services from top to bottom—including how they intersect with cyber security managed services. Then we’ll give you the tools to find the right provider for your organization.
Let’s dive in!
1. What are managed network services?
“Managed network services” refers to network support and maintenance provided by an expert partner. Since this model is outsourced, it offers significant efficiencies through economies of scale—plus access to career experts in networking who would be difficult to hire in-house.
These services are typically part of a larger managed IT/cybersecurity offering that covers end user devices, servers, infrastructure, cloud services, and so on. That said, some organizations may only need the network services portion. A good provider should be flexible, ready to adapt to your needs and your existing IT team.
So what do managed network services cover? Pretty much everything network-related:
- Network design
- Network implementation
- Network management
- Network security
- Troubleshooting and support
- Network upgrades
2. Why outsource network services?
The more complex your operations, the more challenging it is to support your network needs. Some organizations have the resources to manage their network in-house, while others can’t justify the expense and headache of maintaining their own network team. Given the convergence of IT and cybersecurity practice, and the high salaries of IT and cyber professionals, it’s getting harder every day to support your network with staff resources.
Managed network services solve this problem. They give you a single provider and budget line item, an SLA, and expert resources handling every aspect of your network. For many organizations, these services are a no-brainer—particularly when bundled with cybersecurity and other IT services from a single provider (like Corsica Technologies).
3. What equipment is typically covered in managed network services?
Managed network services should cover all equipment related to your network infrastructure. Not every network has every type of device, but here are the main ones typically covered.
- Modems. These devices connect your network to your ISP. Sometimes a modem is housed in the same package as a router.
- Firewalls. These essential devices check network traffic against predetermined rules to detect and block malicious activity.
- Routers. Routers sit between networks, where they look at data packets and forward them to the appropriate network.
- Switches. Switches sit between devices on a network, where they look at packets and forward them to the appropriate physical device.
- Wireless access point (WAP or AP). This is a radio device that provides internet access to devices like laptops or mobile phones.
These are the most common network devices covered. Other devices may include bridges, different types of gateways, repeaters, and hubs. A good provider will align their hardware coverage to your needs.
4. What services are included?
Managed network services cover everything related to your network infrastructure and performance. Ideally, these services should cover cybersecurity as well, as it’s impossible to manage a network safely without an integrated security practice.
Here’s everything that’s typically covered.
24x7x365 monitoring, troubleshooting, and support
Things can go wrong on a network at any time. That’s why 24x7x365 monitoring is essential, and a good managed services provider will cover this responsibility.
However, monitoring alone isn’t enough. When something does go wrong, who’s going to deal with it?
Look for a managed provider who not only monitors the network but supports it too. This type of provider will notify you, but it won’t be your responsibility to address the issue. Your provider will cover it.
Network services should never operate in “reaction” mode only. Proactive maintenance is an essential part of preventing outages and security incidents. This is why the best network services providers don’t only respond to alerts—they actually plan for the future, keep equipment up to date, and conduct maintenance before problems arise.
Ongoing performance optimization
Today’s businesses demand more from their networks than ever before. Between VoIP and video calls, cloud applications, and universal internet usage, business networks are often strained to the breaking point.
The result is laggy video calls, dropped connections, lost work in the cloud, and a negative impact on productivity.
Hence the need for ongoing performance optimization. A dedicated provider will review network performance continually, identify weaknesses, and devise plans to address them. Your provider will also implement the changes and provide any necessary support.
Network security services
Gone are the days when you could treat IT and cybersecurity as separate things. Every IT responsibility is also a cybersecurity responsibility—because every network, device, and user can be targeted.
A good provider will include managed network security as part of their services package. They’ll recommend and implement essential controls, such as:
- Identity verification
- Access control
- Email security
- Zero Trust controls
This list is not exhaustive. Your network may require unique controls. Your managed provider should understand your situation fully so they can advise and implement accordingly.
Network performance analytics
Modern networks are too complex for manual analysis. You need automated systems that report on network usage and performance in quantified terms.
But having automated analytics isn’t enough. Do you know what to do with that data?
A managed network provider works with this data every day. They know what they’re looking at, and they can easily compare your performance to an acceptable baseline. They can spot issues—and opportunities for improvement—that internal IT is too busy to handle.
5. What types of networks are typically covered in managed services?
A good managed provider should tailor their network services to fit your needs. Depending on your scenario, you may require:
- LAN (local area network) services
- WAN (wide area network) services
- Cloud-based network services
- WLAN (wireless local area network) services
- CAN (campus area network) services
- SAN (storage area network) services
- EPN (enterprise private network) services
- VPN (virtual private network) services
If you’re not sure what type(s) of services you need, reach out to a managed provider like Corsica Technologies.
Hint: We’ll be happy to explore your current setup, diagnose any issues you’re facing, and chart a path for the future of your network.
6. Why outsource network services?
If you have an in-house IT team, it can be hard to let go of network services. Your team knows your landscape—or we hope they do! But it’s getting harder and harder to cover network services in-house.
When you look at outsourcing network services, several benefits jump out immediately.
A) You get rock-solid network reliability
A managed provider will give you a well-defined SLA for network uptime and support response time. Since the agreement is governed by a contract between two businesses, rather than a relationship with an employee, you know you’ll get the promised results.
B) You get flexibility and scalability
What happens if management decides to open a new office location, or your company acquires another company? Network requirements can change overnight, and it’s difficult to respond to them with an in-house team managing on-premises equipment. You get flexibility and scalability when you outsource—particularly when your managed provider offers cloud-based network services.
C) You save money
Consider the fact that the average network engineer salary in the US is $95,000+ (2023).
Remember that you’ll need more than one network administrator to keep things cooking.
Now consider the fact that the average network security engineer makes $115,000+ (2023).
And these are just the averages. You don’t want average—you want a top-tier professional, a person who stands above their peers.
It’s incredibly difficult to hire and retain these resources. They can make a great salary anywhere they go. When you outsource network services, you get a single line item, a firm contractual commitment, and a guarantee that top professionals are handling your network.
D) You can refocus on your core business
Unless you’re a combined MSP/MSSP (like Corsica Technologies), your business isn’t IT or cybersecurity.
Rather, your business is the reason your organization exists.
Whether it’s selling cars, approving mortgages, teaching children, or administering your local county government, your organization has a primary purpose. IT is just a supporting function that ensures you deliver on your commitments.
When you outsource network services, your team gets back the time, energy, and peace of mind that your network was stealing. Then your team can refocus on your core mission. In today’s overloaded work environment, that’s huge.
E) You get clear line of sight to network spend requirements
Does it ever feel like your IT budget cycle is a rollercoaster ride?
All IT costs, including network costs, should be predictable. This is why the best managed network providers offer an IT roadmap. This document shows where you’re at today, where you need to go, and what level of investment you’ll need to get there. It looks out 3 years, which gives you ample time to understand evolving trends in network services (and how they affect you).
Hint: This 3-year IT roadmap is one of the best things we offer here at Corsica Technologies.
F) You get network services and cybersecurity bundled together (or you should, anyway)
IT and cybersecurity are no longer separate concerns. Every IT responsibility is also a cybersecurity responsibility.
When it comes to network services, that means your managed provider must cover network security as part of their services.
But not every provider does. Some just want the network design and management component. They’ll outsource security to a third party.
Guess what happens when you have an incident?
That third party notifies your network services provider, but they don’t do anything to remediate the situation.
That’s not good. Ideally, you want a partner who doesn’t only offer the managed network services component. You want one who also covers network security with their own expert team. This provides integrated strategy and lightning-fast resolution when an event occurs.
7. What to look for in a managed network services provider
Maintains expertise and certifications
Your provider should have demonstrated expertise and up-to-date certifications relevant to networking. Look for certifications like:
- Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching
- Cisco CCIE Security
- Cisco CCDE (design)
- Cisco CCNP Cloud
- CompTIA Network+
Knows your industry and compliance requirements
Do you know how industry regulations apply to your network?
Your managed provider should know.
For example, if you’re in a regulated industry like healthcare, your provider should audit your wireless network security controls for compliance with HIPAA. And this is just one example.
Make sure your provider has reference clients in your industry and proven expertise achieving compliance with applicable regulations.
Offers a strong consulting perspective
Managed network services should cover your network from top to bottom. It’s not enough to have “boots on the ground” monitoring and managing your network. You also need that 50,000-foot perspective on where you’re at today, where you’re going, and how to get there.
This is why a good managed provider will offer robust consulting as part of their services package. Look for:
- Network assessment and planning
- Disaster recovery and redundancy
- Network security completely integrated to managed services
Offers the right SLA(s)
How much guaranteed uptime do you need from your network? And what kind of response time do you need on tickets?
Your managed network provider should offer the service level that your business needs. Make sure to be your own best advocate as you explore options.
Today’s networks don’t look the same as they did five years ago—or even last year. Best practices in network design, management, and cybersecurity are always evolving. The right provider will:
- Stay on top of these trends
- Understand them completely
- Advise on what they mean for your organization
- Implement the necessary changes
3-year roadmap defining network strategy and spending
As we mentioned above, no one should suffer from unexpected spend requests in IT.
When it comes to managed network services, the right provider will include virtual CIO services in their package. A virtual CIO is a fractional IT executive who consults on your current environment and advises on the future. When you work with Corsica Technologies, this expert gives you a 3-year roadmap that outlines your future IT journey. It’s an essential component in optimizing your network for evolving business needs.
Monitoring and reporting
This is the minimum you should expect from a managed provider. At the very least, they need to monitor your network for performance issues and threats—and they should report on their findings regularly.
But if that’s all you’re getting, you’re not getting enough.
The takeaway: Choose the provider who’s right for you
At the end of the day, you can’t do business without your network. And someone has to manage it.
Maybe that’s your internal IT team—provided they have nothing else to do, and they’re domain experts in network security.
More likely, though, you’ll benefit from an expert provider handling your network from top to bottom. This way, you get access to expert resources in networking and cybersecurity, plus you get a single partner who takes ownership of your network. Ultimately, this helps you rest better at night.