Managed services has become a popular buzzword in business environments, but with the myriad new features and benefits it offers over traditional break-fix repair, many are still unclear about what managed services actually encompasses.
In its most simple definition, managed services gives a 3rd party service provider complete responsibility for any aspect of your company, and is often related to IT support.
In this technology-focused age, businesses can live or die by the quality of their IT infrastructure. Entire companies are run electronically nowadays, and there are few that wouldn't suffer immense losses if their IT network encountered a major issue.
With managed services in IT, business owners no longer have to worry about data loss or computer problems; these are handled by experts and relieve owners to worry about what really matters to them - running the business.
Read on to receive answers to all your questions about managed IT support, and learn why this new method is quickly taking over from the break-fix model of old.
HISTORY OF MANAGED SERVICES
Understanding the how and why behind the development of managed services allows a clearer picture of its usefulness. Computer systems make immense strides year after year, but the tools to service the changing systems have had trouble catching up.
Companies who helped service small networks in the past have been hindered by the lack of tools to help with problems. Networks used to be developed as simple systems, usually built and serviced by a self taught technician. Maintenance was break-fix only, meaning when something went wrong, the company called and hopefully the technician would come and fix it.
As time went on, the most advanced support people developed procedures to periodically come on-site to do a review of the infrastructure, looking for hints of issues before they snowballed into huge problems. The trouble was, however, that the service technicians could only see what was happening on the day they were there. If something happened in the future, they would never know about it unless informed by the customer and then it was back to the break-fix method.
Along with this troubleshooting inefficiency, backup problems and other errors continued to occur. The only professional test of backup systems happened on the check-up visit, which frequently resulted in days or more of missed backups.
This system was also prone to human error, with the technician trying to be accommodating and frequently having to spend his time correcting end user symptoms and not being able to address the real issues. This inefficiency created a constant uphill battle for technicians, who were consistently trying to put out fires as more rapidly occurred.
Managed services begins with Fortune 500 companies and their huge networks
As large companies began to have equally large IT networks, they were the first to pave the way for managed services. Hardware and software vendors began to add new and better ways for systems to signal problems as early as possible using advancements in Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).
The first systems that could take advantage of SNMP to monitor networks and turn the data gathered into usable information were complex to manage, geared only to large networks, and too expensive for small businesses.
Luckily, by 2005, systems started to mature and allowed smaller companies to take advantage of this technology, effectively starting the widespread managed services movement.
The managed software that is in place today allows providers to work towards two major goals:
Everything on the monitored network that will result in an issue or risk will send an alert to the managed service provider in real time, when or even before it happens.
Every alert received is something important that needs to be addressed.
With this model of reporting, issues are made known and can be addressed before they become a huge problem. This allows managed service providers and technicians to get away from the "firefighting" method of repair, and instead truly manage networks to ensure maximum up-time and reduced risk.
WHY MANAGED SERVICES?
Large and small companies alike need technology to operate effectively, and as reliance on IT grows every year, the means to support it must evolve as well. Unfortunately, as these systems grow and evolve, many businesses (especially small ones with limited funds) may not have the resources to effectively manage their ever-growing networks. Small IT teams can quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of work necessary to keep everything up-to-date and running smoothly.
It is so easy to fall behind with important things such as backups, patches, updates, and security, and this greatly increases the odds that you'll face an IT outage or other huge issue that will negatively affect your business.
Imagine if your entire email server, customer relationship management system, financial setup, or network went down; you would likely face substantial productivity and revenue losses as a result. Employees are unable to do their jobs, and everyone involved scrambles to fix these major issues as quickly as possible to return to normal business procedures. This is a huge detriment to any company, and these situations are easily prevented using managed services.
Managed services also create a change in the overall philosophy of the way a business deals with its technology. Break-fix repair relies on waiting until servers, desktops, or other critical devices fail, then rushing to fix them as the company bleeds profit. A business operating under managed services, however, focuses on prevention rather than reaction, monitoring and resolving issues before they disrupt employees, management, and clients.
In today's highly competitive and fast-paced business environment, no company can really afford the risk and uncertainty that comes with relying on break-fix maintenance. Businesses are extremely dependent on having a reliable IT system.
Furthermore, having multiple vendors responsible for different parts of your system puts you in the difficult position of having to decide who should be contacted when service is required; business owners simply do not have time for this!
With traditional break-fix repair, the only way for an IT support company to make money is if something goes wrong, which is a double-edged sword. If they do the job too well, they will go out of business, which happens to about 80% of all small IT firms - they just don't make it.
So many IT companies are promoting managed services because it puts them on the same page as your business, essentially partnering with you to become your complete IT department. The service provider becomes invested in your continued success, becoming a win-win situation for both parties.
MANAGED SERVICES PRICING
Surprisingly, managed IT services actually cost less than break-fix repair, especially when factoring in the cost of downtime that inevitably comes with this old method. Remote monitoring, remote maintenance, and the prevention of major issues allow a managed service provider to operate far more efficiently than a break-fix company that is constantly driving back and forth to customer sites.
Likewise, rush fees and after hours or weekend support to handle emergencies can add up quickly. The managed service company can prevent these issues before they happen, and handle most maintenance and service remotely. The MSP can therefore offer a "better" service without charging more.
Additionally, the monthly cost of managed services can be factored in as a business/operating expense, allowing most companies to deduct the service from their taxes to save even more money - something not available with the old break-fix model.
Managed services are generally priced on a flat-rate monthly basis. Depending on the services included, pricing is usually based on the number of devices with different packages priced at different levels. This makes it easy for a business to get the exact service they need, without paying for more than is necessary.
Features like on-site support and device leasing can even be added if needed to offer a comprehensive support package. Here at Techvera, we perform a free business consultation to determine needs and create a unique, personalized package to fit our clients.
(Check out our post on managed IT service costs to learn more about pricing)
THE MAJOR BENEFITS OF MANAGED IT SERVICE
Freed-up resources and a renewed emphasis on core business - Both business owners and internal IT staff would much rather focus on revenue enhancing tasks like product development or the creation of cutting-edge applications/services. This is one reason routine monitoring and maintenance tasks are often neglected by an internal IT person or team, which always proves to be detrimental much later. Often misportrayed as a “threat” to an internal IT person or staff, MSPs can instead relieve internal staff of mundane network operations maintenance, repetitious monitoring of server and storage infrastructure, and day-to-day operations and help desk duties.
A true partner sharing risks and responsibilities - The goal of an MSP is to deliver on contracted services, measure, report, analyze and optimize IT service operations, and truly become an irreplaceable catalyst for business growth. Managed Service Providers not only assume leadership roles, they enable risk reduction, enhance efficiency and change the culture by introducing internal IT operations to new technologies and processes.
Access to expertise, best practices, and world-class tools and technologies - MSPs have experience with a variety of businesses and organizations. Managed Service Providers can keep your business relevant and on track with continually evolving technology, support, and productivity demands. Let’s face it, no small or medium sized business can afford to fall behind with technology trends in today’s business world.
The benefit of a full-time, fully staffed IT department at a fraction of the cost - Most small business owners live and die by proactive management. They just haven’t had the budget, resources or access to on-demand expertise to be proactive with information technology management. A Managed Service Provider gives business owners and overwhelmed internal IT staff affordable server and computer support, remote monitoring of critical network components like servers and firewalls, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, and technology evaluation and planning.
Managed service providers can decrease the overall IT support costs by as much as 30% to 50% - Rather than being stressed about technology, business owners can instead get back to focusing on growing their business. All while enjoying the benefits of highly-trained IT experts boosting their network’s reliability and performance.
The Business Value of Managed Services - study findings from IDC research sponsored by IBM
BEWARE OF IMPOSTORS
Some companies will market their product as a managed service, but are actually trying to take advantage of the "managed services" hype and sell you an inferior package. Providing true managed services requires a substantial investment in both technology as well as expert staff to operate properly.
Some companies offering "managed services" are selling you a beefed-up break-fix service and will merely dial-in/remote access your systems to fix problems on your network. They offer no proactive maintenance or monitoring, and are simply offering break-fix services without a site visit.
Ensure that you're getting what you pay for with any IT company, and don't fall for impostors.
WHICH TYPE OF MAINTENANCE DO YOU HAVE?
If you answer "no" to any of the following questions, then you are utilizing a break-fix methodology to maintain your network, and may benefit from a managed service provider without costing you any more.
Do you find out immediately if your data back-up fails to run?
Do you know which equipment on your network is aging and might need replacing in the next 6 months?
Do you know if your server and all of your desktops have the latest antivirus updates installed and are functioning correctly?
Do you know if the latest security patches have been installed on your network?
Do you know who the heaviest internet users are, and whether they are downloading large files which can slow down the network, or accessing inappropriate web sites?
Do you know which PCs are running out of memory, affecting user performance?
Do you have one number to call for all of your technology service requirements?
Do you hear from your computer guys before there is a noticeable problem affecting your technology?