I’ve received a large number of off list messages in response to my earlier mail, with most all saying the same thing, that it is not always worthwhile/possible to outsource is you’re in a smaller town with limited capital and resources. One WAPA member (who also happens to be a client) has made a humorous comment:

 €œsometimes a bit difficult for some small town WISP’s where you have to be the GP, anaesthesiologist, surgeon, nurse and many more  – you can’t outsource everything!!!.. €

 

On the contrary dear friends. Firstly, remember that most WAPA members thrive in underserviced areas, which is as to why the consumers first choice of compulsory internet & voice connectivity is wireless. With this growth, resources become tighter, the need to move away from the conventional ADSL backhaul (as covered by a mail I sent out a few months ago)   becomes a great necessity, and the owner can no long afford the time to actually go up a tower because he has a 100 other tasks to do in the day.

 

Have you noticed that your days of climbing are coming to an end? Most of your duties are now administrative. You now have to RUN the company. You struggle to find time to even monitor your network and uptime. Sure you have all the fancy software to send you the notifications, but you’re too engrossed in signing and retaining clients, finances, hiring staff, delegation and deployment of the tech team, ordering and keeping stock of equipment and designing expansion plans for your network!if you’re not doing these listed tasks yet, then get ready, because this is what   you   will face very soon as you grow.

 

Case Study

I’ll give you an example from personal experience. At OTEL, we’re deploying a Neutral Carrier Grade VoIP Switch service called TVNO 2 (Terrestrial Virtual Network Operator). Since many WISPs use various network operators, but have an Asterisk box servicing their clients, many are looking for a more robust solution to cater for their growth. Asterisk can be tricky once you reach a higher volume of clients, and/or if you do not have a proper billing system in place (A2Billing is not exactly carrier grade stuff). Many want to upgrade now before they get too big and the system starts failing, which is expected to happen (proven in history ).

 

Now this service has taken the market by storm. We’re deploying switches daily across the country. Whether WISP is terminating calls through us of a myriad of other providers, it makes no difference. The switch caters for all.
Whilst the National Sales Manager closes the sales, the CTO (with a team under him) handles the deployment, I need to start thinking operations, on how will I be supporting this service!hire or outsource?
A difficult decision which took me a month to make, so I penned some advantages and disadvantages with my friend G:

 

Outsource or handle internally the Monitoring, Maintenance and Security of Linux based TVNO2 Switches nationwide

ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

Monitoring, maintenance and security of Linux is not our core activity. We need to focus on our core services which is to market, sell and promptly deploy new and innovative VoIP and Broadband services. I rather allocate the time and financial resources to do the above.

Outsourced company will see my confidential information. There’s a threat to the security and   confidentiality.

Hiring, training and supervising new staff to do this will add more tasks on my already full plate. If I do not pay attention, the service will start to suffer due to lack of supervision or poor staff skills.

Need to change mindset as the outsource company will have his own methods to get the job done, which may not conform to my way. But he will get it done.

If I outsource this monitoring, maintenance and security service of the TVNO Switches, I can sign an SLA with penalties, and bind the company to perform, or risk losing the contract.

Current staff may lose interest in achieving certain goals as they may let the outsource company handle many of the redundant tasks (which both companies can perform)

The headache of ensuring the correct personnel is handling the tasks listed is no longer our problem. The outsourced company will need to ensure that he has qualified and expert staff to properly manage the servers in order to meet his contractual obligations. This will result in increased efficiency and productivity in the TVNO2 service

The above may cause mis-communication and result in bad service.

I can streamline my business operations

Outsourced company is not providing services only to us, so we may not get 100% attention.

I will be saving Hiring costs (advertising for staff), time in interviews, effort of training, no manpower loss whilst training new staff, operating costs is saved, and I do not need to send new staff for training, thus costing much as well. Good overall cost advantage

Outsourcing may have hidden costs and time, like legal costs of signing the contract, regular meetings to ensure all is running well, etc

Can change outsourced company if they’re not meeting   their SLAs. More flexibility.. Can’t just fire staff if not performing. There’s a process which takes up time, energy and cost money to fire.

We may suffer from lack of customer focus, as we will not have the normal relationship we’ve had in the past. Client will be a number, but his job will be done or problem fixed promptly.

Will experience control in the business as I can dictate to outsourced partner what I need and how do I want it.

There can be several disadvantages, such as, renewing contracts, misunderstanding of the contract, lack of communication, poor quality and delayed services amongst others

Do not need to purchase on monitoring software, hardware, and other infrastructure. Outsourced company will already have this.

Outsourcing may cost more money per client, so need to weigh out that the advantages makes it worthwhile.

Get the assurance that my business processes are being carried out efficiently, proficiently and within a fast turnaround time.

The company may not be able to attend to your urgent needs immediately, so you may need to wait in line, thus causing frustration.

I can free up the cash flow, I will have a fixed amount to pay at month end with no hidden costs.

I’ll be sharing the business risks. I do not need to pay for mistakes made by outsourced company’s staff.

 

After careful consideration, we decided to look at outsourcing. We will place the disadvantages in an SLA with time limits, so we’re on calculated risks.   We were careful in our selection process.

 

A friend introduced me to a bunch of Linux experts. After setting up an initial meeting, I spent a day at their office to see their operations and explore synergies!. Pony tails, hands as smooth as butter, multiple 22 € LCDs per engineer, lots of coffee and a Google like atmosphere, needless to say I was impressed! these guys were passionate about their Linux and extremely knowledgeable.

A month and a couple of contracts later, we came to an agreement to look after all of our TVNOs nationwide. At a mere monthly cost to WISP at R499 per VoIP Switch, it’s almost a free service. Monitoring 24/7/365, Firewalling, maintenance/version updates and some other ADHOC services. A flippin good deal, but then I’m a good negotiator J, plus we have the large volume of TVNOs in the market.

We’ll be releasing the Enterprise version (current version is for Carriers) sometime this year, so its added business for them.

 

We’re already changing some of the larger TVNOs to High Availability, NAS on the cloud, and various other things!overall a good and informed decision.

 

What has this saved us?! A team of at least 3 highly trained professionals with an accumulated R100k pm monthly bill. We now have access to 22 highly trained Linux Professionals (for TVNO2 ) at a fraction of the price.

We’re considering passing some of our CORE network duties (also maintenance, firewall and monitoring) over to them from this month on, the optimal performance and impressive work rate is the deciding factor!

 

Use the above table and see where you fit in. Whether a WISP is large or small, it may pay to outsource. Ultimately, it comes down to what type of business owner you are!.if you struggle in letting go of some responsibility and let another person/company of your choice handle it, you may be bottle-necking your growth, as there are only so much you can do with your two hands, 10 fingers, and one busy head in a 24 hour day.

 

After all, we’re a long way to go for human cloning!I sure do wish I had another one of me to help!