What's your flavor?

Managed services offer variety and flexibility

As systems solutions continue to move to the network and foster integration, managed services will become the norm for users and a beautiful way for resellers to add value and new streams of recurring monthly revenue (RMR).
There's a flavor of managed services for everyone, from the boutique retail customers to enterprise end-users. There's video, access control and intrusion, energy management and even two-way audio as part of the portfolio. And the user can usually decide what they want to manage or what to outsource. There are so many opportunities and different ways to go and plenty of new and existing customers to grab with these services.

Shift your thinking to the service model

Managed services is part of the paradigm shift for systems integrators. No longer can hardware alone be the way to make money. Margins on equipment have dropped to paltry sums and commoditized across the board. Central station and third party monitoring RMR has plummeted, making it harder for resellers to garner needed margins from monitoring of signals alone.

All kinds of devices can be managed and hosted and the user may want to relinquish control altogether. Large access control systems are a perfect example. These users may not want to manage the cards and permission levels of security, but they may still have access to certain portions via the Web and a browser if necessary. There are all kinds of communications topologies to make managed services part of the fold. There's traditional network and Web-based control, cellular and GSM radio that can be managed; specific devices that enable control from equipment at the protected premises; as well as cloud-based and Software as a Service (SaaS).

According to Jonathan Ellis, vice president of Notification Systems of America Inc., Grapevine, Texas, his company has been tackling managed access control for some time and recently added video. "For us, the niche for managed services is our landlords and tenants. They are responsible for a lot of spaces and they can't be everywhere. Management companies are also using video services to remotely view contractors on site. Also, tenants are being held more accountable and the landlords are turning around and then offering the video services to their customers. Audio is also emerging strong, especially for people working late hours."
Notification Systems of America is also supplying managed video as a replacement to guards and while the $600 a month recurring charge to one customer may seem like a lot, "when the user compares that to the cost of a guard you can't touch it," Ellis added.

The list of different types of managed security services runs deep, according to Sharon Shaw, vice president of Integrator Support, LLC in Westminster, Colo. "The types of security services available include video verification; interactive video monitoring; remote video guarding; video business intelligence; hosted/managed access control; and non-emergency event monitoring (PDA Alert.) Becoming a service company is critical to all these models," she said. "You can successfully make managed services your differentiator but you need dedicated resources to make it work and staff has to be trained on the different service offerings, supporting technology and the return on investment for the customer. Managed services drive RMR and positively impacts the monthly cash flow for a company, which also leads to better credit worthiness and other benefits."

Just as we are getting accustomed to the concept of managed services, the model morphs into the clouds. Hosted video is emerging strong in the area of managed services, according to Jumbi Edulbehram, vice president of Business Development, Next Level Security Systems, Carlsbad, Calif. "I think there are three broad things happening-the first is hosted video, with it you don't have to store video on your customer's site. The second is the move to complete remote managed services-which saves money not having to send people out in the field. The third is the outsourcing of the entire service-including equipment, monitoring, responding and even the investigation of incidents."

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