Managed IT services basics
In the past few years, more and more businesses have been ditching those sweaty palms and anxiety-ridden days in favor of fully managed or co-managed IT services.
With an entire team of dedicated IT professionals with wide-ranging skills, a managed IT partner can help to alleviate the stress and uncertainty that comes with juggling IT needs and everyday business operations.
Common managed IT services include:
Network security assessment and support.
Managed network firewalls.
Implementing new technologies.
Furthermore, the range of services can be tailored to each company’s unique situation and can be as hands-on or hands-off as needed.
Sharing the load with a certified managed IT provider may be just the thing that saves your health and your sanity. The key is to find a managed IT provider that has the ability to work with specific needs and is familiar with the industry your company is in.
Now that there is an understanding of what a managed IT provider does, let's look at a few reasons a company should consider looking into some level of IT support.
Reasons to consider managed IT services
Many businesses find it challenging to deploy, maintain and protect their technology. Outsourcing these tasks to professionals eliminates future problems.
Think to yourself, "When does technology always seem to not work...?" If you are like the rest of the world, then the answer is when you need it most.
But technology does not have to be a hassle. Whether completely outsourcing your IT or supplementing a current IT staff, a managed IT provider will ensure that your network is running smoothly and efficiently, as well as make sure your data is backed up in compliance with your industry's standards.
This solution allows you to have a 24/7 support desk to quickly resolve issues to keep your business running, even after normal business hours.
It is expensive for businesses to be able to staff a whole IT department with an expert for every element of computer support. These companies may have one IT person (and possibly a sales person) who knows a little bit about IT and who's trying to support a whole network.
This is where outsourcing becomes a great tactic, as it allows the sales person to focus on selling and gives the IT position the tools and help to be successful.
The right tool set
Doesn't it seem like every time you turn around there is a new product or service in the technical world?
Technology is ever changing to better serve the end user. It is ultimately beneficial, but at first can be intimidating to learn a whole new system or figure out what best suits your business.
A managed IT provider has trained and certified professionals who know about the newest and the best technology for your business structure and industry.
Companies are concerned with data security, especially those that have to be compliant with specific laws.
A respectable managed IT provider has a network operations team that is monitoring a network 24/7; they're constantly looking for any alerts or problems. They make sure that backups are current and running properly, as well as protect the network from any viruses by using top of the line products.
When something goes wrong with your IT, everything grinds to a halt.
Time is crucial to every business.
A managed IT provider is there to prevent or reduce any downtime by monitoring the network. It also deals with all of the small IT problems like workstation setup or printer mishaps instead of a member of a division in your organization that should be focused of their tasks, not IT. By having your system outsourced to a service provider, productivity increases and IT stress decreases for everyone.
Outsourcing network support to a managed IT provider allows for predictable budgeting.
There is a monthly flat-rate for the provided services, which include enterprise setup, hardware, and software for the whole network.
Questions to ask when looking for a managed IT provider
If you’ve decided outsourcing your business’s IT is the solution, then there are a few crucial questions you should ask your potential technology partner to make sure you get the best IT solutions for your company’s needs.
What industries are their clients in?
Learning the types and sizes of businesses that a managed IT provider already serves can give you a better idea of whether or not they will also be a good fit for your business.
Be specific—ask directly whether or not they are familiar with the programs you use day in and day out.
A managed IT provider who has previous experience in your field will understand your unique hardware and software needs so they can spend more time optimizing technology for success and less time familiarizing themselves with foreign applications.
How flexible are their IT support options?
Your managed IT provider should not only foster company growth but also be able to grow with you, adapting their services to fluctuations in your business environment. Most managed service providers offer varying degrees of support depending on your business’s IT needs and budget.
A dependable service provider should be able to offer a variety of customizable solutions including:
Serving as your fully outsourced IT department or supplementing an existing IT staff.
Customizing a data backup and disaster recovery plan.
Providing expert consulting to help construct an IT plan that supports your company’s long term goals.
Does their company keep current network documentation?
Keeping a present-day detailed log of your network’s IP addresses, software licenses, drive mappings, DNS information, and more is critical for comprehensive IT maintenance.
Rather than storing this valuable data in some dusty binder that needs to be fished out of a back closet every time there is a change on your network, a dynamic network documentation system captures these updates in real-time, ensuring a complete picture of your network, 24/7.
Having this information chronicled in one easily accessible, up-to-date location allows a managed IT provider to be more resourceful and respond quickly to technical issues as they arise.
Will you get a dedicated account manager?
Unfortunately, many managed IT providers overlook the importance of appointing a dedicated account manager to oversee their clients’ unique service needs. Instead, they rely solely on technicians to not only manage customer accounts but also perform day-to-day IT duties.
While this may seem like a good idea on paper, the responsibilities of an account manager—such as answering questions regarding services or prices, scheduling face-to-face meetings, and developing lasting, successful partnerships with customers—are vastly different from those expected of a skillful service technician.
A managed IT provider with dedicated account managers provides clients with the most comprehensive support by letting both their techs and managers focus on what they do best.
Are their services preventative and proactive?
While the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may work for some things, your business’s IT infrastructure definitely is not one of them. For many businesses, growth is the name of the game; and your network will inevitably face numerous IT hurdles as it expands.
While it may seem prudent to slap some quick-fix Band-Aids on these problems as they arise, this "break-fix" strategy will eventually land you with a technological house of cards—wobbly at best and slated for inevitable collapse. A responsible managed service provider will also offer proactive services such as vulnerability management to identify and fix exploits before they can cause real problems.
Proactive and preventative IT management monitors your network for potential problems so that they can be taken care of before your company has an IT melt down on its hands. Simply reacting to a problem after the fact may not resolve the root of your network’s issues, leaving you vulnerable to even costlier fixes down the line.
Do your due diligence.
Taking the time to carefully choose a reliable managed IT provider can mean the difference between having an entire team of IT professionals dedicated to your business’s continued success, or a company that merely fixes your technological headaches as they crop up.