AISN’s FAQ page answers frequently asked questions about managed hosting, choosing a provider and the benefits of outsourced hosting.

Why outsource my IT hosting?

AIS Network moves businesses into the 21st Century. Our managed hosting frees organizations from buying and hassling with servers, so those companies can run their businesses more efficiently.

We started our hosting business back in 1993. Remember the way IT management used to work back then—in the 20th Century? The vast majority of small- to mid-sized businesses ran their mission-critical servers in-house, often ad-hoc. Frequently, those servers were tucked away in poorly ventilated closets with little or no physical security (not to mention the challenges of virtual security).

Back then, servers hosted in-house were costly, onerous, complex and not always dependable, mostly due to the lack of knowledge and resources needed to keep them in top-running condition. Businesses committed to high up-front IT costs—easily exceeding $10,000 for the units—plus the burden of all operational costs and staff time tied to server maintenance and upgrades. Those mission-critical servers were not maintained 24x7x365 and unanticipated downtime was not unusual. There were always worries about power and space availability, and the failure of one or more servers meant potentially catastrophic consequences—especially to the bottom line. This was all before managed hosting, or “outsourcing” of mission-critical servers, had evolved significantly into a more widely accessible and affordable alternative ideally suited for small- and mid-sized businesses.

Today, with radically new and efficient technological approaches to hosting and virtualization, the 21st Century is ushering in a sea change that is transforming IT management. Increasingly, businesses are losing the old-style, “do-it-yourself” bias of the last century. They’re no longer shelling out big bucks for hardware and hassling with in-house server management. Instead, they’re dumping their aging IT assets to embrace emerging solutions such as managed hosting, virtualization and cloud-based computing.

Why? Because these more reliable outsourcing options have finally become accessible and affordable. And, within the next decade, you can expect that their growing appeal will become uniformly mainstream. During that time, managed hosting will become an even more important market with a broadening range of relevant uses.

What’s the value-add of managed hosting in today’s market?

By 2012, 20% of businesses will own no IT assets. (Projection from Gartner, Inc., “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2010 and Beyond”)

Quite simply, today’s managed hosting companies are putting the IT service infrastructure heretofore enjoyed by only big corporations—the “enterprise class”—into the hands of much smaller companies. Small- and mid-sized businesses can now realize all the enterprise class benefits of redundancy, reliability, and cost-effectiveness at a price point that is far more reasonable than managing servers in-house.

Managed hosting companies’ access to highly trained technical experts and deployment of radically superior server hardware and software—in addition to any special relationships that they may have with industry-leading technology partners—allow them to provide cutting-edge, highly scalable hosting and virtualization services that far exceed small- and mid-sized businesses’ in-house capabilities.

When businesses decide to outsource hosting of their mission-critical servers, they are responding to a strategic opportunity—one that will boost their corporate competitiveness while enabling them to recoup a large savings and improve productivity. As budgets tighten further over the next decade and outsourced hosting gains widespread acceptance, there will invariably be a trend toward small- to mid-sized businesses opting to own no IT assets at all.

Isn’t it cheaper to host in-house?

There are times when do-it-yourself makes absolute sense, and we always will help you determine if it does. Our No. 1 priority is to be a valued service partner with our clients. However, when it comes to something as mission-critical as your IT infrastructure, putting your applications and data in the hands of hosting experts, who can manage assets reliably and affordably over 24x7x365 with an industry-leading, 100% guaranteed Service Level Agreement (SLA), can be, you will soon see, one of the smartest business decisions you make.

Unlike in-house hosting, outsourced hosting gives you the same level of transparent, protected access and service at a lower cost and much higher redundancy level (fault tolerance). Mostly, this is due to economies of scale in a managed data center, where we centralize and steward your servers and only focus on those dedicated resources. Here’s a snapshot of the many clear advantages of outsourced hosting over in-house hosting:

The AIS Network Hosting Advantage vs. In-House Hosting

Category Industry Average AIS Network Hosting In-House Considerations
Hardware Life cycle management: One to four servers with an 18-month life span
    • Continuous hardware upgrades

 

    • The latest equipment maintaining your servers—with state-of-the-art features for the highest performance

 

    • On site hot spares, service personnel and replacement equipment

 

    • Does it cost to have spare parts lying around?

 

    • Do you have a parts inventory and strong vendor support with 24x7x365 monitoring of your servers?

 

    • Can you continuously return or replace equipment as it becomes obsolete?

 

Traffic Midrange of 100,000 hits per day
    • 9-way direct Internet Carrier grade backbone connectivity (Equal to 64 T1s)

 

    • Practically unlimited bandwidth on a redundant fabric

 

    • Flexible, scalable and burstable connectivity to 100 Mbps per connection

 

    • Does your site have the right architecture design to manage traffic?

 

    • Does your site employ Border Gateway Protocol to maximize efficient routing?

 

    • Do you have the certified staff to continuously monitor and update your network infrastructure and optimize it for your business needs?

 

Bandwidth & Network Two T1
(approx. 3.0MBps of dedicated synchronous communication)
    • Our 9-way direct Internet backbone connectivity provides approximately 64 x T1s speeds

 

    • State-of-the-art fiber networks deliver the highest speed and scalability with the option to increase to other providers if necessary.

 

    • Multiple providers and equipment in redundant configurations provides the highest reliability

 

    • Is your connectivity provider reliable?
      How much does it cost to purchase connectivity from multiple providers?

 

    • How long does it take to add more bandwidth?

 

    • Do you have fail-over routers in the event of component failure?

 

Facilities Unspecified
    • N+1 UPS (uninterruptable power supply)

 

    • Standby generators with auto-fail over switching

 

    • Redundant security systems

 

    • State-of-the-art fire detection and suppression systems

 

    • Have you invested in multiple generators, UPS, and cooling systems?

 

    • Do you have multiple fuel tanks with contracts for refueling in the event of a long-term electrical outage?

 

    • Do you have a fire suppression system that will not damage server hardware?

 

Support Three full-time staff (on-site less than 50% of the day)
    • 24x7x365 real-time monitoring in our network operations center

 

    • Supported by trained, industry-certified, experienced staff

 

    • Offers a menu of IT infrastructure options to support client needs: from operations and strategy consulting options to backup and disaster recovery services

 

    • Can you support your solution with current staffing levels? How will staff turnover affect your platform stability?

 

    • Is your IT training budget adequate to keep staff current?

 

    • Do you have a disaster recovery plan?

 

Additional Considerations. Beyond the areas of cost and reliability, organizations should consider the following when evaluating the difference between outsourced hosting and in-house hosting:

    • Internet Traffic Contention. Even if you have dual Internet connections, unless you’ve optimized and have sufficient redundant connections, your internal network traffic will impact your ability to access key mission-critical applications and data reliably. Further, does your current architecture include a fail-over strategy in the event that one connection is unavailable? AIS Network’s facility, for example, has a nine-way, fail-over connection to multiple providers that all connect to the Internet backbone.

 

    • Network Performance, Peering and Capacity. Latency and traffic hops will degrade the experience of customers who are trying to connect to your servers. Further, costs for bandwidth and other restrictions will impact your customer’s experience if you are not using a Tier 1 network provider with extensive peering relationships. Any explosive growth in your business may be eroded or stopped if you are using a carrier that can’t handle the bursting bandwidth.

 

    • New Technology Innovations. Innovations happen continuously in technology. Are you aware of the latest trends? Perhaps you are, because you’re here, but for most businesses, unless you devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to research and development, hire leading engineering talent or are part of vendor beta programs, your system is destined to fall behind the technology curve. Our continuous technology life cycle management and staff with deep industry involvement allow us to make sure that you have the latest and greatest technology on your project.

 

    • Redundancies. For companies that are very intolerant of downtime and require the highest level of application availability, a top-tier hosting provider like AIS Network will be able to provide extensive, redundant fault-tolerant hosting offerings in the areas of hardware, connectivity, power, fire detection, fire suppression and support.

 

    • Security. Concerned about security? You should be. Disasters happen suddenly and unexpectedly—whether they are natural or man-made. Reliable off-site protection in a data center that is built to withstand terrorist attacks and natural disasters will safeguard your mission-critical data.

 

    • Compliance. Facing regulatory pressures? Our facilities and service architecture are currently SSAE 16 Type II-certified. Further, we are currently operating as a Tier 4 data center as certified by the Uptime Institute, an industry-recognized standards organization for data center design and security protocols. If you need a specific industry certification, we can work with you to meet your needs.

What key benefits does outsourced hosting offer?

In the technology industry, there’s a popular saying, “Better, faster, cheaper—pick two.” The idea is that you can build a product that is “better,” “faster,” or “cheaper,” but you cannot succeed in achieving all three goals simultaneously. Outsourced hosting breaks that myth significantly by providing it all: “better, faster, cheaper—pick three.” Now add “always on” to that list.

How do I make the case to upper management that outsourced hosting of our mission-critical data and applications is the way to go?

First, because many businesses rely upon their Web site as their primary public face and their IT infrastructure as their office backbone, Internet downtime is simply not an option. “Always on” is mission-critical to business performance.

Next, if you are dealing with aging IT assets, growing application portfolios to manage or capital spending cuts due to the economy, then you are like most businesses evaluating hosting solutions for your mission-critical data and applications, and we can help guide you through that process. IT departments everywhere are finding it’s tough to do more with the same or even less staff. That’s why hosting has major appeal. It minimizes your operational risk exposure, makes your business more efficient and agile, and knocks down the high fixed cost of IT.

Better—Hosting decreases your risk

  • Frees up your capital for other projects
  • Guarantees you’re always online (with a 100% Service Level Agreement)
  • Helps you avoid poor server purchasing decisions
  • Offers complete scalability, freeing you to upgrade your server or capacity without service interruption
  • Deploys your solution rapidly and provides expert monitoring, 24x7x365
  • Allows you to focus on growing your business by managing operational and strategic risks that you would not be able to handle in the event of a catastrophic loss

Faster—Hosting extends your resources

  • Cuts your labor/staff training costs to stay ahead of the technology curves
  • Enables you to tap more expert talent, faster and for less cost
  • Allows your people to focus on core business needs that accelerate business growth
  • Provides instant staffing for the “what if” scenario that may occur
  • Improves your access to new technologies while eliminating the need to hire more expertise
  • Offers increased flexibility, so that your IT can be more agile and move as the business does

Cheaper—Hosting delivers the best dollar value

  • Delivers consistent, affordable IT coverage 24x7x365 with virtually no downtime
  • Eliminates big capital expenditures on hardware and data centers
  • Frees up your IT budget and staff for other strategic initiatives
  • Enables you to better predict monthly IT costs and therefore reallocate precious resources
  • Grows with you as you grow—at the same superior service level and without requiring you to over-purchase capacity upfront
  • Provides a quicker return on your investment that’s provable

Clearly, just how much you improve your risk management and exposure, efficiency, and cost savings depends on the hosting provider that you select.

How do I choose a hosting provider?

Choose a provider based on its ability to provide a cost-effective architecture and high-quality customer experience for your envisioned use case. —Gartner, Inc., “Magic Quadrant for Web Hosting and Hosted Cloud System Infrastructure Services”

Because your IT is mission-critical, selecting the right hosting provider is crucial to your business’ success. There are a number of key considerations when evaluating a hosting provider as a potential IT partner for your organization. Keep in mind that the relationship you have with the IT provider you invest in and work with will be an intimate one, so it’s important that you’re comfortable will their ability to deliver mission-critical confidence on multiple levels. Ask yourself:

  1. How long has the company been in business? Will it be around in five years?
  2. Is the company profitable and financially sound?
  3. What is the company’s reputation for customer service and which experts will be on your business account team?
  4. Are they actively listening to you and working with you to understand your specific requirements?
  5. Do they provide unlimited 24x7x365 support or is it fee-based?
  6. Have they gone through a SSAE 16 audit and are they certified?
  7. What is the quality of the company’s data center? Its infrastructure? Its networking?
  8. What type of security will they provide and are they capable of installing patches quickly when faced with a security threat?
  9. What type of hardware will be used to host your business?
  10. Do they actually deliver everything that they guarantee (uptime, reliability, etc.)?
  11. Do they offer a range of hosting services that will meet all your needs?
  12. What are their capabilities for developing a disaster recovery program?
  13. Do they support the compliance standards that are important to your business?
  14. Are they actively investing in upgrading and growing their infrastructure?
  15. Are they actively investing in new product offerings and services?
  16. What monitoring portal do they offer their customers?
  17. What are their backup and reporting policies?
  18. Are they helping you to understand fully the costs, including any “fine print” items?
  19. Are they committed to helping you grow your business and your brand?
  20. Will you be able to sleep at night with 100% confidence that your IT infrastructure is in good hands?

If you are not asking the right questions, you will not get key information you need to make an informed decision about your hosting solution. Once you’re confident that you have greater knowledge about the hosting provider, you can move to the next phase, which includes getting a quote that you understand and checking the company’s references.

In the end, a hosting provider selection should be not solely based upon the pricing quote but rather based upon a unique combination of features and services offered at a price that’s right for your business. This is a mission-critical decision that you need to feel good about, and the hosting provider you choose should make you feel 100% confident.

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