If you happen to be a company manager, you undoubtedly receive many phone calls each day from determined salesmen who are out to convince you that they have the next great technology trend available-for-sale, and your company just can’t do without it. If you’re like most managers, you don’t pay a lot of attention to such calls, even though some of them might actually have merit.
Those that deal with managed services generally do have something worthwhile to offer, because managed services are something that can benefit almost all small to medium-size businesses, as well as corporate giants. There’s a lot to be said for having some company function outsourced to a third party which is theoretically expert at that function, because it can provide a number of benefits for your company.
Advantages Provided by Outsourcing
As mentioned above, managed services will generally focus on a single function that the third-party vendor can do extraordinarily well, and they can offer service to you at a cost below what you would ordinarily have to pay yourself. For instance, a Help Desk function might call for two or three people to manage all incoming calls at your small business, and you’d have to set them up with all the proper equipment, as well as a dedicated room or office to work in.
A managed services provider would almost certainly be able to provide that same function for you at a much lower cost than you would be paying for the three employees, the equipment, and the dedicated office. Once you get past the startup phase and things start running smoothly, you’ll have the same predictable cost each month for services, instead of wildly fluctuating costs.
How an IT Managed Service Provider Would Work
Remote monitoring and management tools are used by most managed service providers in order to maintain a watchful eye on system performance, as well as the overall health of your IT infrastructure. The mission control center for a managed service provider is normally in operation 24 hours a day, and any problems with servers or other devices, as well as software, can quickly be responded to.
Also, at the mission control center, regular maintenance is routinely being carried out, including system backup and disaster recovery processes, application of security patches, the installation of malware and virus protection software, and automated tasks such as deletion of temporary files.
Another big part of the MSP services to your company will be a help desk function, which responds to both your employees and customers of your company, to resolve any issues which happen to come up. With all the services being made available on a routine basis, the costs to your business of having IT services provided, will almost always be far less than it would be to manage them with in-house personnel.
Alternative Methods of IT Management
If you were to manage your own IT services in-house, it would almost certainly cost you a great deal more than it would to have the function outsourced. Many small businesses which might have perhaps 20 or 30 employees, feel that a single person can manage all their IT services. This one individual would have to be responsible for maintaining all desktops and laptops in the company, for providing server support and infrastructure support, and for accommodating all users of the helpdesk as well as management.
If you do have a single person working to support your entire IT function, this person would undoubtedly be overworked in a short period of time, and prone to making errors or having oversights that could cost your company. You’d also have to think about what would happen if this single person goes on vacation, or is sick for an extended period of time.
Of course, you would have the option of hiring another person or perhaps even two more people to offload and share some of the responsibilities, but now your salary requirements will triple to three times what they originally were with a single individual.
The On-demand Support Model
As an alternative to having knowledgeable and skilled in-house personnel, some smaller businesses have chosen to keep a moderately skilled person on hand for desktop and laptop support, and for running routine IT functions.
When there’s a major issue with some hardware or software breaking down, they have an on-demand support center which they call to receive more technical support. The problem with this model is that the technical support people you call aren’t really very familiar with your system, and are often unable to walk you through specific repairs that will be necessary when you have some kind of breakdown.
Beyond that, many such on-call support people can’t immediately respond to your issue, so you’re left waiting there with a system outage, hoping that a support person will free up and help resolve your issue. The basic problem with this kind of model is that it’s reactive not proactive, and in far too many cases, it simply does not justify the high cost of technical support.
Managed Service Providers are a Clear Winner
For the vast majority of small to mid-sizes businesses, a managed service provider is the absolute best financial choice you can make for managing IT services. This is the only service model which is proactive in nature and is constantly monitoring your network infrastructure for breakdowns, or for security breaches. Better than any kind of in-house arrangement you might have, or any kind of on-demand technical support, a managed service provider will save you money, and give you the best service for your IT function.
It can be a difficult prospect to get a small business owner or manager to accept the fact that managed IT services might be a good move for his company. Most owners of small business companies have gotten to the point where they were successful by relying on their own judgment and their own capabilities.
That makes them reluctant to place the entire future of their business technology in the hands of someone else, even if that someone else is an expert in the field. This is easy to understand, because owners and managers like this have achieved a certain level of success in business by being in control, and they have a natural aversion to giving up that control.
However, there are certain ways to appeal to such owners and managers, even if they are generally reluctant to relinquish control of their IT service and the business technology which supports the company. ‘Type A’ personality managers for instance, are generally very independent people who have highly competitive natures. By appealing to the competitive nature of a Type A personality, and by showing them how managed IT services provide a competitive edge over their rivals, they can sometimes be won over.
Type B personality managers usually find static routines distasteful, and they prefer to be more creative and more innovative in finding business solutions. This is a tailor-made situation for the cutting-edge advantages offered by managed IT services, because it appeals to the creative nature of the Type B manager.
Regardless of personality types though, any manager who is considering a commitment to managed IT services, will need to be able to see the security, efficiency, and stability which the process brings to their company. In addition to seeing the value proposition which managed IT services provides for companies, the company owner or manager has to recognize that having IT infrastructure completely handled for them is a major undertaking that they need to be completely committed to.
Here are some other considerations that a business owner or manager might want to consider before plunging in to managed IT services.
Is Your Business Large Enough?
Some business owners have the idea that their company simply isn’t large enough to warrant managed IT services, possibly because the total number of employees and the company is less than 10, and most IT work is carried out on laptops and spreadsheets.
In truth however, any size company regardless of how many people are employed, is large enough to have its IT services managed by an efficient third-party provider. Any business will run much more efficiently when technology is maintained and monitored by experts in the field.
It’s also worth considering that any business which is online is subject to cyber attack by the criminal-minded individuals who abound on the Internet, and if you don’t have the expertise to protect your company against these possible incursions, you could suffer serious damage. Even a small company would benefit by having its business-critical data protected by a third-party which is expert in cyber security.
How Does Managed IT Services Save Money for Your Company?
Many small business owners have the notion that all investment should be earmarked for marketing and sales, as well as toward improving their core operations, rather than for a non-income generating function like IT. These are the kinds of managers who only worry about technology when it’s not working, or when it has somehow become broken.
For these managers, technology can be repaired by calling in a service technician when some kind of disaster strikes, or by simply replacing the broken equipment at the local hardware store. The problem with an approach like this, is that when you just wait for equipment to break and call in a service technician, you’ll be paying top dollar for the time that service technician is on the job.
On top of a steep hourly rate, you’ll also have to pay for replacement of any hardware which is broken, and it may not even be possible to replace the hardware immediately. The bottom line on why this approach is far less than ideal, is simply that it’s a reactive strategy rather than a proactive one. A proactive strategy is what a managed IT provider would implement, constantly monitoring equipment for potential failure.
Another obvious flaw with this strategy is that your servers and your applications may run slowly, and your employees’ computers may take forever to boot up at the beginning of a day, simply because they’re not optimized for performance. You may also have machines which are infected with malware and you don’t even know it.
When you have non-technical employees dashing around your facility trying to fix technical problems, you will definitely lose efficiency and productivity from your workforce. One last problem with the ‘run until it breaks’ approach is that your customers will undoubtedly notice how slowly you respond to them, how poor your technology profile is, and how responses are generally mismanaged. Even worse, if your system experiences downtime often enough that customers notice it, they may just take their business elsewhere.
Managed IT services will avoid all these nasty scenarios, and save your company a bundle of money, just by being proactive, and by doing things right ahead of time.