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ASP can take the sting out of managing your IT resources

MANY of us are familiar with renting property, cars, TV's and even washing machines, but renting your business computer system it is a different matter.

Managing the day-to-day problems of licensing, hardware failure, upgrades, and keeping the IT staff up to date on new products seems to be the way that most organisations prefer to go.

'Outsourcing', usually of people or services, is becoming a widespread term.

Imagine renting a complete system, and having it managed, with software upgrades and licences taken care of. Top this off with the servers that run the system being somewhere else, and you are probably talking to what is becoming called an Application Service Provider (ASP).

ASPs can provide an organisation with everything it needs to run smoothly with the latest technology. They are in their infancy here, but are becoming a big force in the US.

Recent developments with 'Thin Client' technology (using low power computers connected to a server) could even mean that users are connected to a server that is located and managed by someone else.

In the US, such servers are connected to their users via the Net, but the connection could be via private network (leased line) for more security.

The right agreement could include software maintenance, without the headache of managing roll-outs, and licence/inventory upgrades.

When considering 'kitting' out a site, a business should consider the IT requirements, and possibly renting the whole system on a 'per-user' basis.

Benefits of using an ASP are:

Increased flexibility - choose the number of computers needed, and the ASP does the rest.

Better access to quality IT support.

With an ASP agreement, you set the level of service, there can be no issues about hardware or software conflicts, as the ASP provides the lot.

For more information visit: ntserver/terminalserver/ (you can even run a Microsoft Office application over the Internet)

Nic Wood is managing director of IT consultancy Wood & Wood.