Jul 06 2021

Managed Vs. Professional IT Services: How They Support Campus Reopening Plans

As universities and colleges ramp up planning for campus reopening, here’s a look at which IT services can be outsourced.

As universities and colleges gear up for a new academic year, campus planning is at a fever pitch.

Many higher education IT departments are feeling the pressure to roll out multiple initiatives that were deferred by the pandemic. For those who are scrambling to prepare for the fall semester, managed and professional services can offer a way to ease the load. But what’s the difference between the two? And which one is right for you?

The Difference Between Managed Services, Professional Services and IT Outsourcing

Higher education institutions face many decisions when looking to streamline their IT infrastructure. While professional and managed services both rely on external organizations to assist with certain aspects of the IT system, they offer different functions.

At CDW•G, for example, professional IT services may encompass the planning and implementation of IT projects.

Meanwhile, managed services support the ongoing maintenance and optimization of diverse systems. When combined, these two service offerings can effectively help higher education institutions maximize their IT investments and cut expenses, while helping teams with personnel shortages achieve their goals.

To be clear, professional services and managed services do not operate in the same manner as “IT outsourcing,” which is contracting out a functional role or department to a third party.

What Are Professional Services?

Professional services tend to be associated with project-based consulting work, generally to perform tasks such as assessment, design, implementation and migration of a specific technology.

Typically, these services have a defined contractual scope with a clear start and end date. They are usually short-term projects that take anywhere from a few weeks to months to complete.

What Are Managed Services?

Managed Service Providers can help higher education institutions in areas such as application, IT security and help desk support.

Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, for example, hires CDW•G to provide 24/7 support for the institution’s Cisco equipment.

“If we need general support, advice or guidance on a product or to troubleshoot an issue, we have one point of contact,” Lincoln’s CIO Justin McKenzie told EdTech Magazine: Focus on Higher Education. “It gives us the ability to connect to expert-level people quickly.”

When Professional Services and Managed Services Make Sense

For IT departments, managed and professional services can act as a force multiplier.

“Many of these departments may lack the specific expertise needed to implement new systems, or they may just be stretched too thin,” says Ben Mason, a CDW technical architect. At many colleges, IT staff must engage with a broad and heterogenous mix of systems and applications. “These are not large staffs,” Mason says, “and yet they need to support an incredibly wide range of technologies and systems and capabilities.”

Some are merely shorthanded, while others struggle to assemble the skills necessary to support complex initiatives. As campus planning ramps up, many find it necessary to undergo various upgrades, even if they lack the appropriate expertise.

“Very often, these organizations have aging technology, and at the same time they may lack the internal skills needed to design, deploy and modernize,” says Matt Tourney, team lead of physical security solutions at CDW. “They’ll look to outside providers like CDW to help provide that full lifecycle support — to consult with them, to figure out what their needs are, and to design a new solution.”

Using Professional Services and Managed Services for Campus Reopening Plans

To understand the value of service offerings in the higher education landscape, it’s helpful to consider three specific use cases for back-to-campus planning.

  • Physical security. The responsibility of managing and securing access controls, video cameras and other aspects of physical security is increasingly shifting to the IT department.

“Today, just about every physical security system — whether it’s a camera, an access control for a door or even a public address speaker — they all have to be connected. They run on top of networks, and they have to be secured,” Tourney says.

As universities plan for reopening in the fall, this area becomes a top priority. “From a higher ed perspective, physical security is a must,” says Mark Roeser, a CDW•G higher education sales manager. “Students and parents are researching student safety, which means that being able to showcase that a school is physically safe can boost enrollment.”

RELATED: Here’s how universities are using analytics and AI to curb enrollment drops.

As a service offering, CDW Amplified™ Physical Security deploys, integrates and manages physical security systems that improve safety and security. The service helps universities and colleges find opportunities to enhance business operations through advanced analytics.

  • Licenses and warranties. For a university that’s invested in dozens of technology solutions, licenses and warranties can become unwieldy. When that happens, managed services help cut through the clutter.

Most manufacturers offer warranties, but they can be limited in scope, and you may have to wait a while for repairs. CDW’s expanded and extended warranties allow faster response times, accidental breakage coverage and onsite repairs. With custom maintenance contracts, university IT leaders have experts on call and break/fix agreements that cover repair or replacement.

“It’s an ever-shifting ecosystem with all of the vendors out there and all of the different technologies. There are always new programs, new ways that warranties are consumed and purchased,” Mason says. “It takes some expertise to keep up with all those changes.”

Consultants can help formulate a sanitization strategy that ensures device collection and disinfection plans meet government standards, guidelines and requirements.

With device hygiene services, “you can leverage best practices,” Mason says. “Our professional services team can make sure that devices are up to snuff, that they meet the standards of hygiene and are functioning the way they should.”

LEARN MORE: These emerging technologies are tracking COVID-19 in higher ed.

Addressing the Security Risks of Professional and Managed Services

For those looking to use managed and professional services, it helps to go in with the right frame of mind.

“A lot of customers have trouble relinquishing access to someone else. They might view that as a security risk — they don’t want anybody else touching their environment,” Roeser says.

In fact, handing over complex and time-consuming tasks to niche professionals often leads to a higher level of security overall.

“Often, it’s actually more secure with an outside expert managing systems, rather than managing it on-premises but without the expertise,” says Roeser. “If you don’t have the skill set needed to set things up the right way, to have all the checks and balances and controls in place, you may be more secure if you use outside expertise to manage that.”

As higher education institutions plan for campus reopening, these services can bring the necessary expertise to the table, while freeing overburdened IT staffs to focus on mission-critical tasks.

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