BEST PRACTICE: Managed Service Networks for Multi-Site Businesses
If you own and/or manage a network or chain of Convenience Stores, Fuel Stations, Quick-Serve Restaurants, Pizza Parlors, Auto Repair/Parts Stores, Drug Stores, Coffee Shops, Liquor Stores, Clothing Stores, Car Washes, or even Unattended Kiosks in a widely dispersed multi-site business – then you face significant challenges when it comes to managing your data network:
- First, you must maintain a PCI-DSS compliant Point of Sale (POS) System if you want to accept payment cards
- Besides a secure POS system, you most likely need other computer and electronic systems to run your business: e.g. a back-office computer, perhaps an ATM, security cameras and recorders, Fuel Dispensers, Secure Doors, Refrigeration Units, in-store electronic sales displays, etc.
- Technological advances such as the move to EMV (chip) payment cards, or the use of wireless devices like smartphones and tablets for POS, etc. necessitate rethinking all types of modifications to your network’s endpoints
- Your network must always be available, because disruptions mean you can’t process customer payments
- Even if the network is working, a slow network means customers may have to stand in line longer and may decide to shop elsewhere next time
- And the biggest challenge of all: None of your onsite staff at each remote endpoint is an IT Technician trained to monitor and manage a data network, nor would it ever be cost effective to staff each location with such a resource
Therefore, one fact is crystal clear: you have a network that needs real-time, round-the-clock monitoring, management, and support, and the only way to get that done is for it to be done remotely. That leaves you with two choices:
- Do it yourself (DIY) with in-house personnel; or
- Get a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to do it for you.
Let’s think about these two alternatives.
DIY requires two key elements. First, you must have highly-trained technical personnel who know how to monitor a widely-distributed network, troubleshoot problems when they arise, and can take appropriate action to resolve those problems. And, since this technical support needs to be available 24×7, that means you would need several of these highly-trained personnel on staff, working in round-the-clock shifts, plus additional staff to cover weekends, holidays, etc. Depending on the size of your network, this may or may not be cost effective.
Secondly, assuming there was any possible scenario where it might be cost effective to DIY, is your network itself engineered such that it allows the “visibility” to properly manage it?
That is, are all the network elements manageable – firewalls, routers, switches, carrier interfaces, or even beyond that, reaching to the operating devices themselves attached to the network? If not, then you have little option but to wait for something to fail, have someone notice, and then start the entire diagnostic and restoration process. That’s not very efficient.
So, consider the second option – hiring an MSP to manage your network.
At a minimum, the MSP solution is virtually certain be a lot more cost effective. Why? Because MSPs don’t just have a single network to support, but many. And that means the cost of the highly-trained technicians providing the network monitoring and support gets amortized over a large pool of clients, not just one. That economy of scale also allows the MSP to have better tools, better training, and a broader perspective of issues and resolutions. The bottom line: you get a higher quality solution for a lot less cost than to DIY.
Thus, the decision to use an MSP is an easy one to make. But how do you decide which MSP is the right one for you?
Your first consideration of an MSP’s capabilities should address the issue of network visibility. Does the MSP have a mechanism to ensure that all the network elements under management can be remotely monitored and their status continuously observed? If not, then once again, you are waiting for problems to happen and for someone to notice after-the-fact.
Since 2002, Acumera has provided comprehensive network management, cyber security, and process automation services for multi-site businesses. This is accomplished via a combination of specialized hardware, software, and very skilled people.
The hardware is called the Merchant Gateway, a small, onsite piece of equipment that serves as a managed firewall, router, and most importantly, as a software applications platform.
Upon this platform sits a suite of software applications that function as part of the AcuVigil™ Dashboard. This is a full-service network management system, monitored and maintained by Acumera’s Network Operations Center (NOC), staffed with highly-trained technicians 24×7.
Together, these three elements provide full visibility of your entire network, with real-time monitoring and alerts, and rapid response to resolve issues – many times fixing problems before you are even aware they’ve happened.
A key feature of the AcuVigil™ Dashboard is its ability to give both the Acumera NOC – and you – a unified view of your entire network and the status of every operating location. If all is well, the store’s icon is green. If there’s an alert of some kind, it turns yellow. If something is down, it turns red. And with a simple click on the icon, you can drill down and easily see exactly what is being affected and act.
Thus, each operating location in your entire network could be viewed holistically in terms of its comprehensive operational status, not just a single facet. Is the network up? Good. Is the POS working? Great. Are the refrigeration units operating properly? Excellent. Fuel tanks full? Perfect.
Acumera gives you an effective new way to see and manage your entire multi-site business – just as it does for literally thousands of other business operating locations. And it can do so for you with a higher level of service quality and at a much more economical cost that you could DIY.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 512.687.7400.
Acumera provides managed network security and automation services for the payment systems and operations of multi-site businesses. Our clients focus on growing their companies by using Acumera’s remote systems visibility, strong data security, and simplified compliance services. Since 2002, Acumera has been our clients’ trusted network partner. To learn more, see http://www.acumera.net.