Business relies on IT. It’s the connective tissue of all of your operations and processes. It supports you in your growth and development.
But, if IT isn’t properly managed, supported and planned, it can also hold your business back.
That’s where a managed service provider (MSP) comes in.
With this guide, we aim to provide you with the baseline information a business owner needs to have regarding managed services in order to make strategic decisions about how to best address your IT needs. In it we will cover:
What are managed services?
Managed services describe a solution where an IT service provider delivers unlimited IT support and monitoring of your network for one flat fee. It’s a popular model employed by businesses who see IT as a strategic asset to their business development.
In order to better understand why managed services exist, it’s important to look at what came before.
The end of the break-fix era
The managed services model grew out of traditional break-fix, or hourly, IT support. Formerly, you paid for the IT services and support you needed. This usually meant that when something was going wrong, a dead server or a sluggish network, for example, you would call an IT provider and pay by the hour for them to resolve the issue.
When your IT worked fine, this appeared to be a great cost-cutting model. But the moment anything went wrong, those savings would evaporate.
The break-fix model made it difficult for smaller businesses to be proactive or strategic with their IT. This resulted in larger company’s having CIOs who could guide the overall IT strategy, while smaller companies were forced to rely on keeping their current infrastructure working for as long as possible.
The beginning of something better
These pain points, in addition to the growth of the “as a service,” or OpEx, pricing model, resulted in the creation of managed services. Managed services offer many benefits over break-fix , including reducing overall operating and support costs as well as providing you with on-demand assistance. And because of what can be included in this new pricing model, it also made newer services available to businesses that may not have been able to afford them before.
While managed services have been around for long enough to now be considered the primary method of IT support, there are still plenty of businesses on break-fix. One of the biggest drivers of companies moving to managed IT is the concern of budgets ballooning because of outdated IT infrastructure, according to Spiceworks “The 2020 State of IT.”
64% of companies say the need to update outdated infrastructure is the primary driver of IT budget increases
This pressure to update is difficult to achieve for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), so the value opportunity of managed services is a big driver for a transition.
What can managed service providers do for your business?
One of the great things about managed services is each provider can add their own flavor to what is included in their offering. But as a baseline, there is a set of services that you should expect:
- Remote monitoring
- Help desk and support
- Infrastructure maintenance
- Patching, updating and user management
- Consultation and planning
- Solutions to improve your cybersecurity posture
- Business continuity strategy
Proactive monitoring that keeps you operational
One of the biggest benefits of managed services is that you have a staff of dedicated professionals monitoring your network and endpoints. This monitoring is able to be done remotely, and it helps to prevent threats from impacting your network and developing into larger, more disruptive problems.
This results in an overall reduction of downtime. Which is good news for your business, since an hour of downtime can cost more than $300,000 an hour.
Support that gets your staff back to work faster
A great feature of managed services that you can rely on is unlimited, prompt support.
Any time an issue occurs, you can contact your managed service provider and get their help to find a solution. Usually, there are a few different types of support your provider will offer:
- Client portal and ticketing
- Remote chat
- Voice chat
- Screen control
- In-person support for severe issues
Client experience is paramount when it comes to support. For example, the ticketing portal should be intuitive and offer ticket tracking and your partner should have a clear ticket escalation protocol for quicker resolution. Resolution should be very important for your managed service provider, as 33% of customers say first-stop resolution is the most important factor in great customer service.
33% of customers say that resolving their problem in a single interaction is the most important factor in good customer service.
Maintenance to secure your peace of mind
As great as technology is, it’s also prone to malfunction and failure. And when we’re talking about things like servers or crucial network hardware, the price tag of a replacement is often out of budget.
Managed services help your business get the most out of expensive technology purchases by supporting and maintaining them through their lifecycle. Everything from software updates and patching to component replacements is included in this maintenance, and a managed service partner will have the resources and skills to keep your vital hardware operational.
Patches, updates and user management
Your business has a lot of daily or recurring IT needs that can easily fall under the radar. New patches, software updates and user management fall into that category.
Patching is a difficult thing for your business to keep up with without professional resources. There can be any number of new patches each month for every operating system and application you use. But those patches are incredibly important, as 27% of organizations who have experienced a breach had that breach because of an unpatched vulnerability.
In addition to patching, updating your software infrastructure is an important task that is made very simple with a managed services partner. They have processes developed that make company-wide patching and updating simple without causing downtime.
User management is another tedious task that managed service providers are well-equipped to handle. A managed service provider will be able to manage your existing users permissions as well as their specific application suite. They can also take care of employee technology onboarding and offboarding so you don’t need to divert resources to the task.
Insight and experience for you to leverage
A great benefit that is easily overlooked when leveraging a managed service partner is their expansive industry insight.
Receiving support and management is definitely the primary benefit of managed services, but you also get access to an entire staff of IT professionals. That pool of knowledge can be a massive boon to a growing company.
“Before any project gets off the ground, you will need to be able to develop a sound business case to present to decision-makers.”
This is traditionally referred to as consulting or, for a more industry-specific term, virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO).
By leveraging that knowledge, you can develop IT strategies and processes that empower business development and carry you into the future.
A stronger cybersecurity posture
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of cybersecurity. In the last year alone, the headlines have been littered with horror stories of data breaches. It only takes one cybersecurity lapse to compromise your company’s data and devastate your reputation.
While it’s possible to handle network security on your own, it requires specialized (and expensive) staff and resources. Finding a managed services partner with a cybersecurity offering is a simpler, more scalable cybersecurity solution that benefits most businesses.
Cybersecurity is a complex, multi-layered issue. This is one area where it’s simply pragmatic to trust an expert. The moderate cost of cybersecurity protection from an MSP far outweighs the negative impact of a successful cyberattack.
“54% of security experts anticipate a successful cyberattack on their enterprise within the year.”
Get your employees up to speed
Employee education is one of your greatest risk sectors, and by extension, one of your greatest ROI opportunities. If you’re not convinced, consider this. 100% of government IT workers surveyed believe employees to be the single greatest threat to cybersecurity.
That doesn’t mean most employees intend to pose a risk. In many cases, employees simply don’t know best practices when it comes to security-conscious technology behavior.
The same goes for every other factor that can drive up IT costs, from downtime to productivity.
Employees need to know how to protect data, utilize available IT tools, and interact productively with IT support to lower IT costs and protect the business from accidental revenue loss.
“When employees have all the training, skills, and knowledge they need, your business will run more smoothly.”
Improve your worst-case-scenario
Few things will unexpectedly add to your IT costs like a disaster. IT disasters can run the full gamut — from natural disasters to unexpected power outages and even a massive cyber breach.
In other words, a “disaster” is anything that seriously impacts your IT infrastructure and business operations.
How you react in the face of a disaster, regardless of scale, can either set you apart from the competition or bury you beneath them. The deciding factor is typically your level of preparation. Smart CIOs make sure their companies have a complete backup and disaster recovery plan.
Everyone in your organization, from your IT support (in-house or outsourced) to customer service and sales should be familiar with your backup and disaster recovery plan. The less time you spend offline, the lower the impact on your reputation and your revenue.
“A well thought out and appropriately written disaster recovery plan can be the major difference in how fast your business can be up and running following an interruption in your IT operations.”
How managed IT reduces your IT spend
Every business must be mindful of expenses, and finding any way to save money is always a win. On average, mid-market businesses spend more than 5% of their total revenue on IT. So the real question is: how can you get the most bang for your buck from your IT spending?
Managed IT helps reduce and improve your technology spend in many ways, including:
- Maximizing your value to budget ratio: With a managed IT provider, you can work with them to find the right hardware and software solution for your specific needs.
- Internal teams can focus on high-value work: Your in-house IT professionals can work on high-value work to propel your business, reducing the need to add headcount for day to day operations.
- Reducing downtime: If your business is down, you’re losing money. Using managed IT services is the best approach to avoiding downtime.
- Keeping IT costs predictable: You’ll pay a monthly flat fee for support and monitoring as well as know at the beginning of the year any other capital costs you may need to include for hardware updates.
Working with a managed service provider
Before you partner with a managed service provider you should take the time to get to know each other and have a strategy for working together.
Set goals and align your strategy
Working with an MSP is a partnership. That means that you need to consider them a part of your overall business strategy. This “seat at the table” mentality ensures that you get the most out of managed services. When first partnering, work diligently to set goals for both your company and the MSP so that you can hold each other to them. And make sure to create a cohesive IT strategy that takes into account your overall business strategy.
Prepare for the worst and focus on the best
Unfortunately, in today’s technology-driven world, an IT disaster is likely to happen at some point. When investing in managed services, it is essential that you find a provider that is prepared for disaster. Any MSP that knows this will be ready to talk to you about a disaster recovery plan, including the recovery point objective (RPO) and the recovery time objective (RTO) that you want to set. This means they will either have a recovery policy in place, or they will be ready to work with you to create a customizable plan.
Top of the line technology
Technology, like your business, is bound to change. You need a managed service provider that is adaptable to both growth and change. A good MSP should have an affordable plan to ensure your company is as up to date as possible. If they don’t, they stand to be a potential deterrent to you in the future. It isn’t enough for a provider to offer you today’s cutting-edge technology. You need to be sure that they will keep you on that cutting edge.
Check-in and continually assess
The key to continually getting the most out of managed services is to stay aware of how your MSP performs both now and in the future. The longer a relationship lasts, the more relaxed your expectations may become. It’s important to regularly assess how your MSP performs and how their services have been vs the previous period. This tactic helps keep you engaged in the relationship and helps keep your MSP honest.
Growing with your business
As with any other solution your business deploys, managed services need to be able to serve you now and in the future.
Whatever your growth or expansion goals, the last thing you need is to be held back by technology. As a whole, managed services are well suited to scale up and down with your needs. Below are a few key ways this is made possible.
A company full of IT professionals
We said this before, but because an MSP has a staff entirely made up of IT professionals, it gives them access to a robust amount of resources.
By having a large staff of specialized IT professionals, managed service providers can scale their services up and down to support dozens of businesses of varying sizes. So no matter how your IT needs change over time, an MSP will have the resources to support your business.
A large service catalog
With managed services, certain services fall into the a la carte category. These services are usually specialized or only relevant when certain solutions are in place.
Things like cloud support, virtualization, and unified communications are examples of services that are considered a la carte. This means that as your business scales up and changes you technology needs, more of your MSP’s service offering becomes relevant to you. This scalability ensures you have access to the solutions you need when you need them.
A finger on the pulse
An MSP’s specialization is entirely in the IT industry. Because of this, they are aware of industry trends and innovations. And these innovations can give you cutting-edge solutions that can transform your business.
By having a finger on the pulse of the IT industry, MSPs get access to new solutions that you may otherwise never know about. In addition, because of their scale and focus, they can purchase and implement solutions that would otherwise be completely beyond your IT budget.
Find the right MSP for you
Working with a managed service provider is an excellent way to ensure that your company’s IT operates smoothly and efficiently. The proactive, holistic nature of MSPs allows you to perform day-to-day tasks and emphasize continual service improvements that ultimately make it easier for your employees to do their jobs. When your internal IT team is freed from the burden of common IT challenges, they have the time to focus on innovative efforts to improve your core business.
In order to see the full benefits of managed services you need to find the right partner. It’s important that you spend plenty of time vetting and interviewing any MSPs you’re considering partnering with. An alignment of philosophies and business goals can help to streamline the relationship and make communications more natural and effective.
We hope this article gives you the information to go out and find the right IT partner for your business. And if you need anymore help, reach out to us at ISG Technology.