Businesses are becoming more familiar with managed services over the last several years, and are turning to them more often for management of certain IT functions like email hosting, storage, backup and recovery, and network monitoring.
The demand for managed services shows zero signs of slowing down. An increasing number of small and middle-market businesses leverage managed IT services for a variety of reasons today. It lets them gain access to newer technologies, realize better uptime, and free up internal IT staff to focus on more strategic projects.
While managed services are not a one-size-fits-all solution, they do offer a clear-cut solution to a number of significant business challenges faced by businesses of all shapes and sizes.
In this post, let's review what managed services are, why're they're useful, and when you should adopt them.
Definition of Managed Services
Managed services is the practice of outsourcing day-to-day technology responsibilities to a third-party as a strategic method for improving operations and accelerating a return on technology investment. Truthfully though, “managed services” is an umbrella term for a variety of different kinds of offers.
A Managed Services Provider (MSP) is a company that either provides on-site, or in most cases, remotely manages a customer's IT infrastructure and/or end-user systems. This is typically done on a proactive basis and under a subscription model.
An MSP can handle any number of crucial tasks including remotely monitoring and managing networks and services, providing IT strategy, and helping procure equipment. It can also provide necessary cybersecurity, data backup and recovery services, unified communications and more — as technology evolves, so do the services of manager service providers.
However, one concern of MSPs is cybersecurity. Threats can now arise inside and outside a company's network making businesses more aware of their exposure to hacking or ransomware events. This is why it's crucial for businesses to pay close attention to cybersecurity and the possible threats that can occur.
Benefits of Managed Services
A managed services provider can be essential for safeguarding a business's most valuable asset — time. By giving managers more time to focus on core competencies and important business functions, a business can greatly increase productivity.
Small- and middle-market businesses must balance a range of challenges in managing their IT function because they usually don't have the skills or resources required to fully meet their needs. To address this issue, many businesses have turned to the support of managed services providers (MSPs).
Here are the top drivers why SMBs are leveraging managed services:
Need for greater technical expertise
Systems getting too complex to manage internally
Want to focus internal resources on core business operations
Need to reduce cost of internal IT support
Want help using technology to drive business forward
Need expertise specific to industry vertical
Now that we've outlined some of the reasons why companies are turning to managed services, let's review how you can work with them to achieve ideal results.
How to Work With a Managed Services Provider
We get it — at first the thought of outsourcing a section of your business is probably uncomfortable, maybe even overwhelming. To get you a bit more comfortable with working with a managed IT services provider, we've compiled a list of things you should look for in a potential MSP.
This is one item that you'll want to find out earlier on in the process — it's the best way to protect you and your business from any unforeseen expenses later on in the partnership. The goal here being not to be surprised with any unknown costs at the end of the month.
Also, if you have a clear idea of what your business needs are, it'll save you quite a bit of time as managed services providers can differ on how they provide services. Good news though, the MSP should be able to assist you with this process.
All businesses are focused on growth, even further, driving new and sustained revenue growth. When selecting a managed services provider, you'll want to choose an MSP that'll assist with your growth plans. As your business experiences growth, you'll naturally add more staff, so you'll want an MSP that'll make it easy and affordable to add new workstations, employee accounts and/or locations.
One thing is certain, technology will continue to change and evolve. You need a managed services provider that's able to adapt to both growth and change. This means the MSP has a plan to keep your business current with technology, based on your budget and needs.
Help desks are one of the most popular managed services out there today. It's important to understand though that all help desks are not created equal. One critical, and easily identifiable, difference is where the help desk is located. Is the help desk U.S.-based or in a geographic area prone to natural disaster?
Additionally, it's important to know what the operating hours are for the help desk. You should have a 24/7 help desk service because technology never sleeps, and neither does commerce. If your entire email network goes down on Christmas day, you're going to need to call the help desk, and if no one is there because you didn't invest in a 24/7 system, you're going to regret it.
We recommend that you make your communication expectations clear to the managed services provider from the beginning. Let them know that you expect to be included in certain events or items related to your company's IT. Good MSPs want you to be involved and will have set procedures on how they communicate to keep you in the loop.
Here are some standard practices you can ask about:
Reports: Are they included in your service and at what intervals will they be provided (quarterly, monthly, weekly etc.)?
Meetings: Do they offer recurring meetings as a way to stay up to date?
Troubleshooting: This is more personal preference, but do you want your MSP to come to you when there's a problem or do you just want them to handle it?
How to Know When It's Time for Managed Services
A study by CompTIA found that nearly two-thirds of organizations are using managed services for at least one IT function — not too surprising considering the many options managed service providers offer and the increasing dependency on technology.
MSPs provide a wide range of services and features, but they also compliment in-house IT staff. Does that mean outsourcing some or all of your IT needs to a managed service provider is right for your business though?
Below are some helpful items to consider when evaluating your managed services options:
Do you feel like your in-house IT team could use extra-time to focus on big-picture projects like business development, strategic efforts or employee productivity?
Are you looking to move your data to the cloud?
Is your business large enough to justify a full in-house IT team (troubleshooting, security engineer, software development, etc.)?
Do you currently have a disaster contingency plan for your data?
Do you like the idea of a fixed monthly fee for all of your IT needs?
Could your employees benefit from a more collaborative and flexible communications system?
Do you have remote workers? Do you plan to have remote workers in the future?
Does your business work with sensitive data?
Do you see your IT needs elapsing your current IT solution?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there's a very good chance that it might be time for you to consider a managed service provider for your business.