What You Need to Know About Managed IT Services
Curious about switching to managed IT services for your business, but not fully up to date about it? Read on to learn all about it!
No company operates without computers nowadays. Computers, networks, printers, and cybersecurity are all integral parts of business infrastructure, and when they stop working or don’t work well, it affects everything.
Many small businesses have an IT department or rely on outside technicians to come in and help when things stop working. Others use what’s known as managed IT services–a contract-driven business agreement with a company that can provide phone or on-site technical help when it’s needed.
The managed services industry has grown over the years as technology has become a necessary part of company infrastructure. Let’s look at how it all came about.
The Beginning of Managed IT Services
25-30 years ago, only companies that had large computing infrastructures could afford to have internal computer engineers, help desks, and network specialists. Most other businesses operated under a “break/fix” model: when a computer broke, they called someone to come fix it.
Traditionally, the company that sold the computers was the company that sent the technician to perform the repairs. Larger companies like Dell also provided support alongside computer sales as well. Regardless of where the help came from, most small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) operated on a reactive basis.
The Evolution of Managed IT Services
The reactive, or traditional, model of IT services gave way to a more proactive model about ten years later. By this time, the idea of a computer workstation on every desk and a network containing printers and servers was far more common. Technology design and growth became an integral part of a company’s business plan.
At this time, businesses recognized not only a need for break/fix support, but also a need for growth planning, data management, disaster recovery, and issue prevention. Service providers then offered an advanced model of support, including monitoring services, computer preventive care, and backup/recovery services. They also tracked software updates and handled new application installations.
Alongside this progress in IT management came admin services built into server software and network management devices. If the server detected a problem, it could alert an administrator immediately.
In 2006, two pioneers of managed services published books on the subject:
- Palachuk, Karl. Service Agreements for SMB Consultants. Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 978-0976376026.
- Simpson, Erick (15 August 2006). The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice. Intelligent Enterprise. ISBN 978-0978894306.
These two works helped propel managed services businesses to high levels of business partnerships. IT services now include vastly improved and precise data collection, prediction models, and prevention strategies.
Today’s Managed Service Providers
MSPs are now part of a mature industry of IT services. Here are some of the services available to a business interested in outsourcing their IT services.
These services include maintaining a business’s internet connections, managing bandwidth, and conducting use analysis to predict future needs.
A company’s network is the backbone of productivity. Slow network traffic, dropped data, or transfer errors can mean severe losses. MSPs can analyze network health and fix any problems it may have.
In the age of cyberattacks and data breaches, companies must be diligent about their network and data protection. MSPs install firewalls, configure servers and routers, and monitor for suspicious activity.
Many companies also issue their employees laptops to work on outside of the office. These open up a world of security issues and generally require a virtual private network for access.
A fun fact about a powerful physical server is that it can be several servers performing different tasks. A service provider can create and configure those virtual machines and ensure that they are performing their best.
A company’s data must be available at all times, and depending on the industry, protected by regulatory standards. Data protection and risk management are services that MSPs offer, along with security standards compliance. One of the benefits of managed IT services is that they are very competent at specialized applications such as these.
As going paper-free becomes a norm rather than an exception, computer data storage needs grow. An MSP can help manage that data, make it available when needed, and anticipate future usage.
Many MSPs can install and troubleshoot IP phone systems, configure voicemail, offer employee training, and manage additions.
As employees continue to use their own phones for work, security compliance, mobile VPN access, and confidentiality rules are MSP support offerings. They tailor the company’s needs to all mobile phone operating systems.
Among the offerings of modern MSPs are phone support (business hours, or 24/7), desktop computer troubleshooting and support, and on-site technical services.
Modern Soft Services
Among the programs that MSPs offer in addition to the hands-on technical services, are a suite of “soft services” designed to help businesses make the most of their technology infrastructure. Some of these include:
These services can be low key or high-touch, where a tech consultant works closely with employees to determine goals, craft strategies, and define process standards.
Client Success Advocate
These MSP employees work to ensure that companies gain success from their IT service provider. They encourage collaboration and open communication between the MSP and their clients.
Technology Lifecycle Management
This soft service takes the burden of updating hardware and software off of the client and places it under the umbrella of the service contract.
How to Succeed as an MSP
Within those above-mentioned service offerings live a whole world of modern twists. Successful MSPs are those that have stayed forward-thinking in their approach to IT. They have embraced cloud technology, they have remained current with IT technology trends, and they have fostered an understanding of mobile technology and social media.
They also understand that while standardization is key to running a consistently successful IT services business, the individual is what makes the difference to both the client and the service provider.
Ultimately, using managed IT services is a wise decision for business owners who may be overwhelmed by their technology. For others, it’s a sensible strategy that they have built into their business plan.
If you enjoy reading about technology and business, please check out our other articles: there’s a wealth of useful and timely information on our site.