What are Managed IT Services?
IT managed services let you offload specific IT operations to a service provider, known in tech parlance as IT Managed Services Provider. The IT managed service provider assumes ongoing responsibility for monitoring, managing and/or problem resolution for selected IT systems and functions on your behalf.
IT managed services providers can offer services such as alerts, security, patch management, antivirus monitoring, data backup and recovery for different client devices: desktops, notebooks, servers, storage systems, networks and applications. Offloading routine infrastructure management to an experienced IT managed services professional lets you concentrate on running your business, with fewer interruptions due to IT issues.
IT managed services providers usually price their services on a subscription basis. Depending on the services they provide, pricing is usually based on the number of devices, with different packages priced at different levels. Some provide helpdesk support onsite when required.
Basic services often start with a monitoring service, which notify your provider of problems before they affect your business, usually resolving the issue before it can bother your business. At the upper end of the spectrum, service providers’ offer fully managed services that cover everything from alerts through problem resolution.
Performing an initial assessment of your current IT environment and management requirements helps the IT managed services provider and you decide what services and service levels you need.
Why Should You Care about Managed IT Services?
Just like larger companies, small businesses need technology to operate efficiently and to compete effectively. But as reliance on IT grows, the resources to support an increasingly complex IT environment may not. In many small businesses, IT resources are scarce, and can be quickly overwhelmed with the day-to-day responsibilities of keeping an IT infrastructure up and running.
If you fall behind in keeping up with things such as backups, patches and security, the odds are that you’ll face an IT outage or another problem down the road that will negatively impact your business. For instance, if your e-mail server, customer relationship management system, financial application or network goes down unexpectedly, you face substantial productivity and revenue losses as a result.
MSPs act as an extension of your IT department, taking care of routine IT infrastructure monitoring and management around the clock—freeing up your IT staff to focus on higher-value projects. By proactively monitoring and maintaining your systems, an MSP can help you avoid many technology problems before they affect your business. Should an issue occur; an experienced MSP can troubleshoot and resolve it quickly and efficiently.
Unlike traditional outsourcing situations, where you surrender complete control of your IT assets, you decide what you want the service provider to take care of, and what you want to handle. You retain full visibility into the process and management of your systems. In addition, the MSP subscription model gives you more expense predictability than a consultant-type time and billing model.
What to Consider
IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer a wide range of different services. Many focus on managing specific areas and functions, such as storage and related management services, or desktop management and help desk services. Some provide management services for server hardware, operating systems and middleware, but limited support for applications such as e-mail. Many provide onsite services as required, but may have limited regional or local coverage areas. With these requirements top of mind, evaluate MSPs that map to your IT, look for ones that want to audit your system before giving you pricing and the range of services they offer. MSPs should be looking for your business and budget requirements and provide you with a flexible, proactive approach that can adapt with you as your needs evolve.
Thank you to Laurie McCabe for help with this article