Understanding Managed Services

Managed Services – Proactive IT Support

The IT Support buzzword of today is “Managed Services”. It’s a concept that’s picking up increasing traction and for a very good reason. Every day, more and more businesses are evolving from a reactive IT model to a proactive IT model to save money and run more efficient operations.

But what does the term “Managed Services” actually mean? And how can you tell if an IT Support company is truly offering Managed Services or just using the buzzword as a marketing tool? With all the options out there, it’s important to know the difference between actual Managed Services and flat rate services merely packaged as Managed Services.

By definition, Managed Services allow businesses to offload IT operations to an IT service provider, known as a Managed Services Provider. The Managed Services Provider assumes an ongoing responsibility for 24-hour security, network monitoring, management and problem resolution for the IT systems of a business within a given timeline. This timeline is often referred to as a Service Level Agreement. (SLA)

The History of Managed Services

It all started with the Break/Fix Model. Meaning, you waited for your computer system to have a problem. It broke and you called someone out to fix it. Hardware and software companies wrote monitoring and logging systems into their programs, which enabled after-the-fact pointers to aid in resolution. Technicians would read through these logs, or use diagnostic tools, to see if an error was captured and then they’d work on resolution.

This model required an error to happen, then for the error to be reported by client, then for the technician to drive to the site and pour over logs to identify the issue. At best, this process took multiple hours to resolve. But often times, the error was no longer happening by the time the technician arrived and the logging had already been overwritten.

Over time, technology improved. Protocols such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and others were developed to keep better records for longer periods of time. These protocols were then used in real-time monitoring and alerting systems.

These systems now allow for 24/7 alerting and even remediation before or when the event is happening.  Modern tools allow us to detect failures in a system well before the system actually fails. It also allows us to perform preventative maintenance and security measures during scheduled times to avoid negative impact on the business.

Does My Company Need Managed Services?

Fortune 500 companies are not the not only companies that require efficiency and effectiveness. A whopping 80% of small businesses fail within their first five years and much of that failure is related to inefficient use of technology. As reliance on IT grows and systems become more complex, the need for comprehensive IT support will only increase exponentially.

If your company falls behind on proactive maintenance, backups, asset management and security – the odds of system failure increase and so does the likeliness that you’ll face an IT-related issue that negatively impacts your business.

For instance, if your phone system, accounting package, customer relationship management system, email or network system were to go down, you’d be facing impacts like marred credibility, embarrassment, decrease of office morale, diminished productivity and/or financial loss. Often times, businesses only focus on the financial side of this equation and miss the much bigger impact of client and employees trust.

Managed Services vs. The Break-Fix Philosophy

The Break/Fix Model actually rewards the IT Provider. In that, they make money when the system fails! For this reason, you might find that they’re only treating the symptoms rather than solving the real problem. In the Managed Services model, however, it is in everyone’s best interest to never have an issue.

Managed Services also create a philosophical shift in the way a business deals with its technology. Instead of following the old-school tradition of Break/Fix, there’s a proactive focus on keeping systems running optimally and moving maintenance to after normal business hours, so employees and clients are not affected.

In today’s business environment, no business has the time or can take the risk of running the Break/Fix Model. The costs of downtime in relation to the full and actual loss of productivity is just too high. The full and actual loss shows itself in security risks, client embarrassment, low employee morale and many other negative potentialities. Businesses must realize they are technology dependent and work to become technology strategic.

Does Managed Services Cost More Than Traditional Break/Fix Services?

Actually no! Surprisingly, most Managed Services cost less than traditional Break/Fix services, especially when you consider the true cost of downtime. 24/7 network and security monitoring, proactive maintenance, immediate access to Help Desk Support Engineers and the prevention of major issues allow a Managed Services Provider to be more efficient than a Break/Fix company who is constantly making you wait while their rolling a truck to visit customer sites. Therefore, the Managed Service Company can offer a “better” service and actually cost much less.

The Real Benefits Of Managed Services

Put in simple terms, one of the biggest benefits of Managed Services is discovering and fixing problems before they can negatively impact your business.

Prevent Issues
A proactively-serviced computer network will always run better than the alternative. A “managed” network will make a tremendous impact in all aspects of operations. You will reap the benefits of fire prevention rather than constantly fighting them.

Reduced Costs
Businesses are better able to control and reduce their overall operating costs thanks to the flat-rate billing structure of the Managed Services model. By contrast, issues often go unreported and unresolved in the Break/Fix Model as companies attempt to avoid big bills. This usually results in issues growing worse and costing more to fix.

Help with Vendors
Managed Services Providers also manage all of your vendor relationships, issues with internet slowness/outages, printers, phones, cell phones, websites are dealt with directly with the vendor by the Managed Service provider. As a result of this “always-eyes-on” network monitoring 24 hours per day, businesses experience an additional level of comfort and security.

What to Look for in a Managed Services Company

Choosing the right IT Provider can literally keep you from being one of the 80% of small business that fails. Below is a list of essentials for hiring a Managed Service Provider.

  • Do they take a consultative approach to partnering with you? Many IT companies sell products that don’t have your best interest in mind. They push whatever is most profitable or happens to be the “flavor of the day” rather than what’s best for your company.
  • Do they have a full team of experienced professionals? There is often strength in numbers. Small teams can only provide limited support in terms of client load and skill sets available.
  • Do they have a fully staff Help Desk? In the Managed Services model, issues can be resolved remotely about 75% of the time. You don’t want to wait for someone to drive to your location (and bill all of that time) for an issue that can simply be resolved in minutes remotely.
  • Do they have a Full Team of Field and Project Engineers? You need a partner that can handle the next big thing so you don’t get left behind.
  • Do they have a real Remote Monitoring and Management Tool (RMM) with trained staff to manage the product? Many IT Providers are just using the language and don’t really have the essentials to pull it off.
  • Do they offer a comprehensive offering of solutions? Today’s systems are largely integrated. Therefore, having the same vendor is paramount in quick problem resolution. For instance, the overall knowledge and needs can also be taken into consideration when sizing a data circuit, phone system, website and office printing equipment.
  • Do they offer Fixed Rate Pricing? The Fixed Rate Pricing Model puts the burden on the IT Provider to perform well and quickly. Whereas the Break/Fix Time and Material Model has no real penalty for making mistakes and moving slowly.
  • Do they finger point at other vendors? Finger pointing often clouds the issues and prolongs the problem.
  • Do they use Geek Speak? Every industry has jargon, but using Geek Speak does not end in clarity for all parties. It often is a sign of weakness on the part of the IT provider.
  • Do they try to lock you into long-term contracts with no way out? Often times, a bad decision with long terms can be disastrous.
  • Do they offer Money Back Guarantee if they don’t perform? Both parties having accountability or “skin in the game” is essential to a good partnership.

The list could go on and on. But the most important things to look for in a Managed Service Provider is someone that has experience in the business, is widely reputable and who really understands your needs. Your business is probably the single most valuable asset you have and you don’t want to put it at risk.

For more information please contact me and I will be happy to assist. My contact information is below.

Phillip D. Long

Receiving information immediately