If you’re a small to medium-size business, you’re likely in need of an efficient and secure IT environment. However, it can be difficult to afford the time and expense necessary to fulfill these needs solely via an in-house IT solution. We’ve worked with hundreds of growing businesses and have plenty of experience balancing the scale of budget and resources. Our clients often ask, “What are IT managed services?” and “What can IT outsourcing do for me that my in-house IT department can’t?” To this, we answer, “it depends.” The following sections review our answer to, “What are IT managed services?” We will cover the technical and operational elements we consider to be included in an IT managed services offering.
What are IT managed services?
Experts estimate global spending for IT services will increase to a record $966 billion in 2017 as more and more businesses embrace IT outsourcing. While this number is increasing, so are the varying levels of services being consumed. Each managed IT services provider is different and may offer different versions of IT support. It’s important your business understands what services it needs to ensure the IT outsourcing provider can meet your unique demands. A proper IT managed services provider firm should perform a deep-dive assessment of your technology infrastructure and communicate where your IT environment is failing to meet the security and operational needs of your business. The IT consulting provider should also be transparent about their ability to meet the needs of your business. Your IT environment may need hardware replacements and security upgrades to make it suitable to your specific operation and compliance requirements. Or, you may simply need a more operationally mature IT partner capable of maintaining a proactive IT strategy that facilitates your business goals. In other words, you must be familiar with your needs to identify a valuable IT managed services provider that suits your organization. The following sections review our answer to, “What are IT managed services?” We will cover the technical and operational elements we consider to be included in an IT managed services offering.
Proactive IT consulting and planning
Today, small to medium-size business can no longer rely upon a break-fix method to manage IT without suffering long term consequences. Your business needs to know when the technology you use reaches its End of Life (EOL), how a business move or expansion will affect your IT, what security threats may exist in your network, how to defend against CryptoLocker, and much, much more. A managed IT services provider should act as a source for technology support as well as an IT consultant for your company. Principals from the IT outsourcing provider’s firm should meet with your company’s decision makers to discuss both the long and short-term objectives of your organization. A thorough assessment of your IT environment should also be performed before a managed IT services contract is signed. The IT consultant should provide a detailed report of your IT environment and identify any projects or purchases necessary to remediate immediate IT concerns or meet the provider’s technology standards. The most important element of proactive IT consulting is communication. Both the IT solution provider and your business must work cohesively to ensure the partnership is successful. A managed IT services provider should provide or act as a virtual Chief Information Officer. Thus vCIO services should be integrated within the managed IT services provider’s offering. Frequent communication is key. Your IT consultant should have a clear forecast of your business activities to provide proactive IT management.
Remote Monitoring and 24/7/365 emergency support
A vital component to a true managed IT services provider is the ability to remotely monitor your company’s network all day, every day. The IT partner’s Network Operations Center (NOC) will notify its team when a network threat exists. This process will allow the IT services provider to be aware of and remedy IT issues before they affect your business. For example, when your company begins to approach your server storage limit, the managed IT services provider will be alerted and work with your business to expand your storage capabilities or archive data as necessary. Without a proactive way to manage such simple IT tasks, your company can suffer from network failures that result in costly downtime and customer frustration. If an emergency does arise after business hours, your managed IT services provider should be able to identify and respond to the issue within a specified time outlined in your Service Level Agreement (SLA). Essentially, remote monitoring and management (RMM) and 24/7/365 customer support work together around the clock to ensure your network is as efficient and secure as possible.
Data security and continuity
Today, nearly every business relies upon data. Financial data, customer data, sales data, the list continues. Much of this information is valuable to your business and your customers and can result in serious legal and financial consequences if it is lost or found in the wrong hands. For businesses today, security remains the top priority as 77% of companies believe IT security is an immediate priority for their business. Your managed IT services provider should implement a proactive data security and continuity plan capable of meeting your business’s security and compliance needs. This plan should consist of both technical measures and security protocols that combine to create a structured data security strategy. A law firm may be subject to compliance restrictions regarding the storage of client data. For example, some firms are still unable to store some sensitive data in the cloud. Such an organization may require a combination of both an onsite and offsite storage solution and the firm’s IT managed service provider should work as a business partner to determine what solution would provide the most value in both the short and long term.
Predictable IT billing and costs
One of the most appealing elements of managed IT services for small to medium-size businesses is having a predictable IT budget. Your IT consultant will be responsible for outlining the yearly IT costs necessary to maintain your company’s IT environment. These costs will include a flat, monthly fee to cover your IT support needs, as well as the predicted costs necessary for any additional IT projects that will be performed. Businesses without such proactive IT budgeting may face emergency hardware replacements or IT remediation projects that can impede employee productivity and result in frustration throughout the organization. A managed IT service provider with a higher Operational Maturity Level (OML) will be more likely to have the efficient processes in place to strategically monitor and manage your company’s IT environment. While the IT consultant may require your users to follow specific procedures they’re not accustomed to, such protocols should work to improve the overall operations of your business. An IT provider with established processes is likely more experienced and adept at handling IT issues in an effective manner.
IT knowledge and resources
A wide breadth of IT knowledge and resources is one of the most challenging elements for a small to medium-size business to maintain in-house. An IT professional with CIO level experience is expensive to maintain and your business is hostage to that individual’s skill set and schedule. An IT managed services provider will likely have a team of IT technicians and project services engineers that your business can utilize. The combination of various resources and IT professional input can help ensure your business receives a well-thought out and executed IT solution. In addition, your IT outsourcing provider will manage your company’s technology vendors. The managed IT services firm likely has established relationships with vendors and can receive discounts on the hardware and software the firm purchases. Technology is constantly evolving and so are the ways managed IT services providers work to serve businesses in need of effective IT support and consulting. While some elements of managed IT and consulting may change, the primary goal stays the same: To serve as an IT partner to your organization capable of aligning your technology with your business goals. If you’re a small to medium-size business in need of an IT solution capable of supporting your company’s growth and goals, you may be a viable candidate for IT managed services. If you’re suffering from…
- Unexpected, extended downtime
- Lagging IT support and resolution
- Unexpected IT expenses
- Costly IT projects
- Security risks
- Lack of IT knowledge and resources
- Or any other IT pains…
At Aldridge, we’re no stranger to change. We know that as your business grows, so do your IT needs. Our technology professionals can help your organization navigate the ever-evolving terrain of information technology in a strategic and cost-effective manner. Contact an Aldridge firm representative today for a free IT consultation.