Managed IT Services: The Definitive Guide for Small and Medium-Size Businesses
08 Apr 19 by
What are Managed Services?
When you think of hiring an IT company or your looking for business IT support, “Managed IT Services” may not be the first phrase you think of and with good reason. “Managed Services”, in our professional opinion, has to be one of the most poorly developed concept names on the planet. Even though managed services is used mostly in a technology capacity, the name isn’t really reflective of the service. In this Guide to Managed IT Services, you’ll learn what Managed Services were, what they’ve become and why you should choose a managed services provider today.
The Types of Managed Services
Typically, Managed Services are often delivered by an IT Service Provider, or, better yet a “Managed Services Provider” or “MSP”. That doesn’t always have to be the case however. There are waste MSP’s, power MSP’s and even supply chain MSP’s, but most often the term relates to IT functions. In order to understand what an MSP does, it makes sense to take a look at how we got to the MSP model today.
The History of Managed IT Services
In the past, Fortune 500 companies, like most small businesses, had I.T. equipment like routers and switches and servers that would break too. If Ford’s production line shut down because of a router connected to their supplier, they couldn’t get parts in time. Imagine what that would cost in terms of time, productivity and dollars! There was also no way to know if something broke or was going to break, you learned the internet was down when the production line stopped. Big Business and Government needed a better way.
Network Monitoring & Management and SNMP
Enter SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol). Manufacturers and developers seeing this need built SNMP into their hardware and software which allowed a few users to quickly and easily control hundreds of devices instead of a few allowing organization scale and support. The concept of Network Monitoring and Management was born. Technicians could see ALL of the log files from all their routers in one location and review errors before a device suddenly stopped. This solved the issue of scale, but problems still remained: Reliability. With SNMP, things still broke. The “Things Break / We Fix It” or “Break/Fix” model was common and needed improvement.
The Problem with the Break/Fix Model
Ford’s primary business is making automobiles, not managing internet connections between their hundreds of locations. Even with the ability to scale, companies realized they needed to outsource to experts, but they also needed a way to control costs and reduce outages. On one hand, keeping a dedicated team for things that might break a few times would cost a fortune and on the other hand, an outage of a single day could blow the IT budget for an entire year. Furthermore, even if they spent all this money to get the network redone with SNMP, they didn’t have the expertise to properly manage it.
Service Level Agreements Arrive
Companies needed a way for the Managed Services Provider to feel the pain if something broke and the concept of “Service Level Agreements” was born. Ford would pay to put in these complicated networks, but the MSP would service it, monitor it, and, if there was an outage, promise to fix it within times specified in the contract or else the Service Provider w
ould be on the hook for the service outage, hence the name, “Managed Services”. Other Services were added over time, like Backup and Disaster Recovery, Network Security Services, Server Management, Help Desk and more. It wasn’t just monitoring anymore, it was a bunch of bundled “Services” managed by Service Providers. It’s easy to translate that model to power outages, poor water quality or a Break in the supply chain and how the “managed services” nomenclature makes sense.
From Fortune 500 to Small Business Managed Services
As the Managed Services Model matured and made its way downstream, more and more devices and software solutions were developed for servers, computers and even mobile devices to address and scale service delivery and support business units. Applications became more complex, integrated and critical. A suite of tools, called remote monitoring and management tools or “RMM”, that bundled many of the common Managed Services functions like remote support, service monitoring, SNMP, log monitoring, backup control, and scripting and automation controls became common place in the enterprise. Crowded markets in the enterprise pushed RMM tools down market and into the smb space and IT support companies were finally able to use these RMM toolsets to take the concept of “managed services” down-market as a service differentiator.
Managed IT Services Enters the Small Business Market
By 2003 Email and File servers were required to be in business. Microsoft, hot on the heels of it’s incredibly successful Windows 2000 server line releases, introduced Small Business Server 2003, putting the tools of the enterprise within reach of every small business. Finally, any business that wanted to take control of their files, email, VPN, database and even internet browsing, was able to. By 2005, nearly every small business had a line of business application that used to run their business and an email server that could never go down. Servers were now ubiquitous.
The uptime problems of the enterprise now became the challenge of the small and midsize business (SMB). Perhaps more so because for an SMB, a single missed email or prolonged outage could make or break a business. IT support became critical for the SMB. Internal IT became a part of the corporate structure and a key position in all organizational charts.
Business IT Support Needed Change
For medium sized organizations, hiring an in-house “IT guy” or even a few people meant that he needed to know everything about all your IT Systems, understand the business in depth, apply business needs to technology outcomes, plan and deliver increasingly complicated IT projects, help everyone with their day to day support issues and also never get sick or take a vacation.
For smaller businesses, hiring an in-house IT expert full-time was far too expensive. But owners still needed boots on the ground to repair things. IT support was typically handled by a “Pro” IT guy that could be called when there was a server outage, virus outbreak, or some critical business system failed and they typically billed by the hour.
The “Pro” was usually self taught or learned on their day job. If a server crashed, you’d call your IT Guy, and, if he was good, understood the issue, was not working elsewhere AND if the backup was relatively recent, he’d be able to help you get your server and office recovered. If it was in-house IT, they typically spent thousands of dollars on support incidents and days on the phone because they were in over there head and working all night. Ironically, the “Break/Fix” IT Guys that were the worst at keeping things running, made the most money and the “Break/Fix” IT Guys that were good, were too expensive to keep once they learned everything because they realized the IT business was about prevention, not cure.
Even if your IT Team was decent, issues would reappear, backups failed, servers died and viruses infected networks all because customers didn’t want to pay for the IT Guys to ensure that everything was fully operational. Small and medium businesses needed a way to control costs and ensure uptime and Service Providers and consultants needed a way to convince their customers that they needed to spend money on prevention rather than cure.
Managed IT Support is Always Available for Always-On Systems
System outages, which were common place in the 90’s and 00’s, were becoming increasingly unacceptable for all businesses, big and small. Email could NOT be down, the EMR could NOT fail and the server that ran the manufacturing line could NOT stop. What the enterprise workforce expected reached the SMB too. While virtualization entered the mainstream with the validation of VMWare and the arrival of Hyper-V in Server 2008, complicated technologies like iSCSI, SAN, Fiber Channel, DAS, NAS, Clustering, High-Availability and Disk-Level backups were suddenly added to the tech arsenal of the small business. That “Break/Fix” IT Guy, or the full-timers that ran IT needed to up their game or businesses needed to outsource. Businesses demanded more.
For many small and medium sized businesses, hiring a Managed Services Provider was the answer. In the way that many businesses who outsourced their finance roles, outsourcing internal IT became the way for businesses to win. Businesses could hire a team of experts to install complicated hardware and software solutions on their behalf. They could deploy the software quickly and effectively to all of their employees, the MSP could ensure that the servers stayed running, secured and patched. Using RMM toolkits and increasingly sophisticated remote access tools, much of the day to day support could be handled over the phone. In fact, much of the work that needed to be done could be done without even interrupting the user at all! Servers could be monitored by teams 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Because of Service Level Agreements (SLA), the Managed Service Provider was now on the hook to bring the servers back up quickly. For the MSP, since they were paid on a flat fee basis, they could spend their time ensuring that all of the work that they knew really needed done; applying security patches, testing and verifying updates, ensuring backup and DR was working, making sure that firewalls and AV were secured and up-to-date was. No more walking into a client environment to find the backup failed, the AV was no longer up to date, or the server hadn’t been patched in a year. Always Available Managed IT Support could now work with Always-On Systems.
The Cloud, Compliance, SaaS and the Modern Managed Services Provider
By the ‘teens it was nearly impossible to find an established business that DID NOT have a server in an office somewhere. Software and Application vendors, however, frustrated with working with so many customers that wouldn’t pay for support contracts and saddled with managing so many varied installations, turned to the cloud for their next generation of products. The cloud and its ability to abstract many of the difficult technology concepts like WAN & CDN’s, High-Availability, Provisioned IOPS, Auto-Scaling and Load Balancing combined with the increasing power of the “Mobile Phone” truly brought Software-as-a-Service and the “App” to the masses. Today, we’re in the world of the Hyper-Niche.
Customers no longer want to pay for expensive hardware or deal with long term contracts, they want access to their data all the time, wherever they are, on whatever device they choose. Workers, once tethered to the confines of a corporate office because of the nature of a client server application and the constraints of the VPN, now perform their day to day functions without ever having to step into HQ again. Cloud based products and apps are everywhere, always on and always available. The challenge of availability has been nearly conquered. But as the challenge of availability diminishes, the challenge of security rises.
For many businesses, there will always be a need for a physical location and securing that location. From the security cameras down to the nest thermostat, all run on the network and will fundamentally require increasing complexity, control and segmentation. For other businesses, the challenges of regulation, PCI, HIPAA, SOX, FINRA, ISO 27000 compliance, and even the NIST Cybersecurity Framework will need to be systematically applied to not just one or two applications, but to dozens. The power of machine learning will be applied to effectively and systematically to exploit your people through spear phishing, voice spoofing, and ransomware. Custom Exploits-as-a-Service will allow perpetrators to attack organizations ad-hoc and as the cost of these tools get cheaper and cheaper, small and midsize businesses will be targeted more and more.
The consolidation of cloud based applications into fewer and fewer infrastructure vendors, combined with an explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices and client endpoints means that security, through ensuring availability, will be the domain of the Modern Managed Services Provider. This change won’t happen overnight, but the wheels are in motion. Now is the time to prepare.
The Modern MSP: Your Technology Solutions Provider
We’re in a hybrid world right now. Some customers spent a lot of money building out an advanced internal infrastructure. File, Printer, Network Access Controls and many Legacy applications still reside in customers offices and have better features and controls than their cloud counterparts. While many legacy applications and custom-built software is being superseded by cloud-based, micro-niche solutions, that doesn’t mean everything is cloud ready.
There are decades of legacy data that resides on equipment that is way beyond End of Life and either cannot or should not be upgraded. Yes, technological debt is coming due but bandwidth still isn’t enough for many systems, like security cameras, image processing, CAD and video generation. Some systems, like security and access control, assembly line operations, and even business decision systems should probably not even be connected to the cloud at all.
So what does this mean for the Modern MSP and your business today? It means you need a partner that can straddle the history of technology legacy AND prepare your enterprise for the security and compliance challenges of the future. We see 7 key areas that the modern managed services provider must excel in to meet the risk and uncertainty of the business of tomorrow: Security, Strategy, Infrastructure, Communications & Interoperability, Business Continuity, Training & Compliance and Support. You’ll need not just a Managed Services Provider, but a Technology Solutions Provider. A team of people that assemble and secure all of these components in a meaningful way, and can provide a technology solutions “stack” that exceeds the needs of your enterprise.
Security: ‘Cyber Crime Is The Greatest Threat To Every Company In The World’
Ginni Rometty, president, chair and CEO of IBM said famously “cyber-crime is the greatest threat to every company in the world” and for good reason. At Proper Sky, we believe that security should be the underpinning of most, if not all, executive decision making when it comes to systems and processes. Sacrificing security for freedom and cost-saving is unaffordable. The right people looking at the right data at the right time, all the time. As we add more and more systems, become more and more geographically dispersed, and the ‘simplicity’ of apps continues to conceal their sophistication, enterprise security will be THE bench mark that separates the winners from the losers in the coming decades. When you’re small, the cost of a cyber event – both in real dollars and in broken trust with your customers – can be devastating. According to Symantec & Inc Magazine up to 60% of small businesses fail within 6 months of a Cyberattack. And a full 22% of small and medium businesses cease operations IMMEDIATELY after a ransomware infection. Security is no longer an enterprise concern.
Locking everything down behind a firewall, in your office, on your server is no longer the strategy. As an Executive, you’ll need to think about how to secure the payload that attackers want, and then build the walls that protect them. It’s no longer a case of IF there is a breach, but WHEN. Security today goes well beyond the old. The concepts of prevention, while still valid, need to be supported by Incident Detection and Response. Executives will need their IT departments to consider an entire suite of security solutions that form the basis for a 21st century security architecture: Advanced Endpoint Security, Malware & Security Protection, Application Control, DNS Web Filtering, Security Policies, Identity and Access Management, Single Sign-On, Two-Factor Authentication, Security Information Event Management, Certificate Management, Unified Threat Management, Web Content Filtering, Surveillance & Access Control and much, much more. The breadth of these solutions can be staggering.
Finally, now that you have these controls in place, how will you test them? One of the lessons that the world continually teaches technology providers and application developers is that security isn’t a one time thing. It requires constant vigilance and rapid action. Changes need to be documented, endpoints need to be secured and patched, servers, firewalls and networks need to be scanned. The risks on your risk assessment, need to be addressed. Security doesn’t just happen on ‘patch tuesday’. The Modern MSP considers security and reality to be the foundation of good strategy.
IT Strategy: Putting it All Together
Security should be a core consideration for all businesses, but as a business owner, where do you start? Every business is unique and there is no silver bullet. However, just because there isn’t a simple solution doesn’t mean that one can’t be built for your business. A modern MSP works with executives to identify and translate their vision and business objectives into a series of actionable steps that can reduce an organization’s technological and security posture, increase productivity and save money.
The modern MSP works as a partner for your organization. In the traditional model, businesses looked to technicians as “technical plumbers”, resources to deploy in the event of a “tech leak.” These were not true partners. As your business grows and your technology needs increase, however, you need a partner that can put all of the pieces of your business, the ones that depend on technology, together in a way that maximizes your investments in people, processes and tools.
How do you get the data from the CRM to integrate with your Ordering System AND keep them running? How do you track the performance of your marketing platform with the new appointment reminder system for your patients? How much does a single no-show cost you or what does a single missed phone call mean for revenue? Can your MSP put this together? If not, they’ll need to.
As Executives add more and more solutions to their “stack”, they’ll need increasingly sophisticated partners that can not only secure access to those applications but integrate them all together in a meaningful way. Today’s MSP’s will look at not only increasing security and maximizing productivity and uptime, but they’ll be depended on to provide information that will help companies drive business decisions. Businesses will need Managed Service Providers to help “glue” their systems together, and to integrate services that can help small businesses both leverage their investments in technology and provide a competitive advantage over their peers.
Infrastructure: Crucial, Available & Hardened
So how does the Modern MSP approach infrastructure? Legacy and On-Premise availability is much the same. Every business will continue to need more and more switches, routers, firewalls, printers, phones, access points, tablets, printers, computers and more. As businesses however, you’ll come to expect more from your infrastructure. Security will be an underpinning of the modern business network. The expensive and complicated world of the MPLS gives way to the Software-Defined WAN. An MSP will help make your internet faster, more reliable and cheaper while providing increasingly sophisticated network-segmentation, access control and monitoring.
At Proper Sky, we believe that ALL systems that have legacy data and can be moved to the cloud, should be. Cloud service providers like AWS, Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud Platform offer resiliency, security, protection and business continuity that small businesses could only dream of years ago. In a hybrid world, businesses that have critical systems that cannot be moved to cloud will need partners that can monitor, secure and isolate those systems while making them as highly available as possible.
Finally, Managed Service Providers will rely increasingly on sophisticated network segmentation that provides things like employee phone browsing on the corporate network while making sure that your network won’t be hacked by an internet connected fish tank or a compromised NestCam. Even small networks will become increasingly sophisticated as more and more Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices get connected to your corporate networks. The modern MSP will know how to make crucial systems available and secure and the less important ones isolated and relegated.
Communications & Interoperability: A Million Apps, A Single Vendor
As your business grows and the internet matures, the breadth and width of available solutions will continue to expand while the quality and complexity of cloud based systems will continue to expand. Just look at Office 365. In 2011, the first version of Office 365, we had an online version of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync. In 2019, with the release of “Microsoft 365”, businesses now have access to Exchange, SharePoint, Skype, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Teams, Publisher, OneNote, Yammer, Project, Visio, PowerBI, Forms, Sway, OneDrive, StaffHubs, Azure AD, Microsoft Intune, Mobile Device Management, Azure Rights Management, Windows Virtual Desktop and more. And while this list addresses Email and a number of productivity tools, it does not address Spam, Phishing & Security Filtering, Email Archiving & Compliance, and Email Backup. And that’s “just email”.
Add text messaging, Voice-Over-IP and modern telephone systems, teleconferencing solutions, webex, your file sharing tools, team collaboration and chat software, social media, password management, and bring your own device and we’re just about warmed up with the end user. Now add your line of business applications, your CRM, ERP, your marketing tools, your EHR, your accounting package, your time tracking system, your payroll system and the list begins to pile up. Who will manage it all? How will you know when you let your employees go, you really, truly “got it all”? The modern MSP will be able to help you get a handle on the multiple silos of data you have spread around the Internet and help ensure that the right people have access to the right systems and data at the right time. From biometric fingerprint scanners to a seamless offboarding experience, we provide processes, tools, systems and solutions that get it all working together as seamlessly as possible.
Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery: Old Problems, Cloud Scale
In the past, equipment failure, prolonged outages. Natural disasters and an occasional virus are what backup was designed to address in the past, but the world has changed. What would it cost your organization if you walked in one day and everyone’s computers were encrypted? Or the server that runs your order processing system were down for 4 days and hackers wanted 50K to get it running? How would your customers feel if they couldn’t email you for a week? As an owner, when you look at your organization, it’s important to think about technology as not just a revenue enabler but also as a significant risk. Cyberattacks, breaches and IP theft aren’t just “geek problems”, they’re the stuff of nightmares. 58% of malware attack victims were small businesses and Cyber Attacks cost SMB’s an average of $2.2M! Business continuity and disaster recovery take on a whole new meaning in the world of ransomware.
While the cloud presents amazing opportunities for off-site backup, cloud based applications and more, the cloud can’t solve everything. Most businesses aren’t even aware that Microsoft doesn’t backup their mailboxes or calendars. Even Office 365 can be encrypted “in the cloud” and just because a vendor is cloud based, doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible to the same attacks either.
Today, MSP’s take the principles of the Cybersecurity Framework, HIPAA Risk Assessment, SOC II and work with you and your business to create real, practical and straight-forward backup and disaster recovery plans for not only the old physical threats of availability and outages, but the new world of cybersecurity threats and cloud scale. The results of a well-conceived and tested business continuity plan considers the inevitability of a breach, non-technical workarounds, independent software solutions and whatever else your business needs to ensure that your the 40% that makes it beyond the inevitable.
Training & Compliance: It’s the People Stupid
While there is no doubt a mystique when someone mentions the word “hacker”, it doesn’t take magic to hack a system, as a simple email will do. In the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) 88 of 99 breaches involved an email. At Proper Sky, we believe one of the transformative changes you’ll see from the Traditional MSP to the Modern MSP is the shift from just securing systems to actually training end users. People are an organization’s weakest link. No matter how good your perimeter systems and spam filtering solutions are, threats will evolve and people will be the target for overriding your safeguards. Technology Service Providers will help validate, test and train your people so that they not only understand the risks that are involved but to ensure the integrity of your safe guards.
The Modern MSP will provide Dark Web monitoring and automate testing for weak and easily compromised passwords. We’re going to see phishing and credential sharing tested randomly and employees scored, trained and counseled, not by HR but by IT. There will be increasing sophisticated Office “Lures” sent from legitimate peers that can convince users to enable macros. As we’re already seeing in auditing, account controls, adherence to policies and procedures, training users to verify who is on the phone and more, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that we’ll be seeing IT take a bigger role in training employees how to safeguard themselves and the organization’s assets.
Also, industries that have been lightly regulated in the past, can expect more in the future. HIPAA, PCI, SOX, GDPR, DFARS and FINRA will trickle further downstream to suppliers, supply chains and manufacturers. WIth increasing regulation and complexity, businesses will need to lean on IT as not only their technical counterpart, but to be there to help prepare their workforce for the technical and legal challenges they’re likely to face and to continually guide them through their risk assessments as well as implementing best practices. The Modern MSP will be your partner in Training, Compliance, and Policies & Procedures.
Support: From Cost Center to Differentiator
And while the world continues to change, some things never will: computers won’t boot; printers will jam; files will “disappear”; and powerpoint will never display properly on a Mac. The foundational component of all good MSP’s will continue as it always has… a phone call or ticket with the Help Desk and an empathetic person on the other end. As much as we want technology to be a panacea for all your business ails, you’re going to need support.
Gone are the days of calling up a monolithic support desk to have your issues “queued” and handled at the “first availability.” The real world depends on real-time solutions. Help Desk will be customer focused, results driven and the life-blood of a good IT department. Support won’t just be about tech nerds solving problems, it’ll be about getting your issue resolved as quickly as possible on your terms. In the world of the always on, the Modern MSP will resolve your problems in real-time, quickly and happily.
But being quick and happy doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for process and best practices either. By outsourcing to a Modern Managed Services Provider’s help desk, you instantly attain process, control, documentation and accountability that almost no internal team can replicate. The modern MSP is an organization that lives and breathes process and technology, when you combine these forces with an exceptional customer support experience, your business is strengthened.
The Business Case for Modern Managed Services
The Benefits of Managed IT Services
In a nutshell, Managed IT Services provide the following benefits for organizations, both large and small:
- Longevity: The tech your company uses should not only be considered when it breaks down. It should be supported and cultivated, so there aren’t any breakdowns in the first place. Supporting technological longevity is what Managed IT Services do best.
- Scalability: MSPs understand that scalability is important. The ability to scale up or down and having the cloud-based infrastructure that allows you to expand or downsize is crucial. At Proper Sky, for example, we apply blue-sky thinking to the cloud, so your business can adapt swiftly.
- Efficiency: You want to maximize uptime. You don’t want to have to deal with IT problems. You want to be satisfied. MSPs are designed to want this for you too – and can deliver it. ASAP.
- Compliance: For your business to be operational, you must be compliant with tech-related rules and regulations set by various governing bodies. Don’t worry about the administrative details, an MSP with compliance expertise will have you covered. From HIPAA compliance certificates to licenses with vendors such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, an MSP is equipped with right documentation for your upgraded tech.
- Alignment: The right MSP will deliver true value to your partnership, and will provide you with a comprehensive, best-fit plan which aligns best practices to your vision.
- More for Less: You simply get more for less. You get a team of IT professionals supporting your business at all times for one, low monthly fee. Often, for less than the cost of a single-salaried employee, you get a team of experts with years of industry experience and practical knowledge on helping businesses thrive.
Reduce Risk, Safeguard Savings, Expand Earnings
Every company has an accountant. Every company has an insurance broker. All companies need an IT partner. The technological landscape evolves so rapidly – and regularly, too – that knowing you have a supportive and attuned team behind you will ease the stress of running a business. We’re technological liability mitigators. Our goals are inherently aligned with yours.
Hiring an MSP like Proper Sky is all about reducing risk. At the core of what we offer as a Managed Service Provider is assurance – as well as insurance.
In terms of implementation, we proactively address business risk by creating a tailored plan to minimize failure. We do this by going into clients’ offices and looking at the current technological infrastructure, and analyzing what improvements could be made. Afterward, we upgrade computer networks, servers, operating systems, and the physical tech your employees use on a daily basis. Not only does this increase productivity output, but it’s also financially cost-effective. By swapping your one in-house IT worker for our remote team, we can make beneficial use of your tech budget, actually saving you money along the way.
As a small business ourselves, we relate to the financial triumphs and tribulations with running an enterprise, and understand the hidden costs involved behind every decision. It may be comforting to learn that Proper Sky always has been – and always will be – versatile when it comes to our clients’ budgets. We endeavor to make things work, no matter how constrained or relaxed your tech allowance is.
The financial advantages do not end there. The MSP financial model is also inherently superior: the old break-fix model of recent history demanded money from you – the client – on a constant basis. Cash was shelled out to first implement state-of-the-art tech and then again whenever there was a problem, no matter how minor or major. But, for a negotiated monthly fee, you will be saving money and your company at the same time. We don’t clean up the mess after a disaster has happened. By constant monitoring, we prevent disasters from happening in the first place.
Managed IT Services: A Bundle of Solutions
Managed IT Service Providers typically offer a wide array of solutions which fall under the IT Services umbrella. These solutions include:
- IT Infrastructure Design & Maintenance: Your IT infrastructure is comprised of the computers, network switches, and both onsite or cloud-based servers and data storage. How well that infrastructure is designed, installed, configured, and maintained plays an important role in how your business functions on a daily basis, as well as the opportunities for scaling in the future. For a deep dive into this subject and how an MSP can help, please see our guide on IT Infrastructure Design and Installation.
- Business Continuity: The concept of Business Continuity seeks to proactively address issues before they materialize into business disruptions. Disruptions can include a network crash, cyber attack, or equipment failure. It’s a concept that has replaced the old term, “backup and disaster recovery.” To learn more about Business Continuity and how an MSP can assist, please see our Guide to Business Continuity.
- Cloud Computing: Cloud Computing opens up significant potential for companies looking to do more with their technology. Some of the biggest advantages to bringing in cloud-based solutions is improving team collaboration, and being able to accomplish work at anytime, anywhere on a secure cloud-based server. For more information on Cloud Computing and how an MSP can help you utilize it, see our Guide to Cloud Computing.
- Help Desk Support: A Help Desk is a remote team of IT professionals who are available to assist your staff with any issues on a day-to-day basis. Help Desks offer support for your employees so they are able to get to work quicker, without pulling time and resources from your management team who may not be experts on any particular aspect of your technology. For more information on how a Help Desk can support your [LINK NEEDED] business, please see our article, “How Help Desk Support Increases Productivity.”
- Cybersecurity and Compliance: Having a cybersecurity plan is absolutely necessary in a day and age in which small and medium-sized businesses are being targeted by cyber criminals more than ever. A cyber attack can halt business operations and lead to losses, both terms of data and financial penalties from compliance authorities. Hacking, ransomware, malware, and viruses are among the risks that your business faces. An MSP can help protect you against these threats, while training your employees on best practices against social engineering threats like phishing. Learn more about cybersecurity for your business and how an MSP can help by reading our article, “An MSPs Guide to Cyber Security.”
What Engagement Looks Like: Putting it All Together
While implementing any one of these elements of IT into your business can certainly help, if they are not implemented with respect to an overall IT Strategy, the results may be less than stellar – potentially leading to less efficiency, higher costs, and more headaches.
For instance, when providing Managed IT Services for a Philadelphia based non-profit, we were able to save them $50,000 in one-time fees and over $275,000 a year in wasted technology spend. In real terms, we were able to save 1.6% of the total expenses for a $20M company by simply reviewing their vendor agreements and moving them to more cost effective solutions. IT isn’t about bits and bytes, it can really drive down costs in a meaningful way.
An IT strategy prepared by an MSP will provide coherence between all the different elements of an organization’s IT, along with the proper documented plans & procedures which:
- Provide efficient problem resolution when issues arise, and;
- Define a clear set of objectives for each element for accomplishing overall business goals.
The Process of Building an IT Strategy
An MSP can put together a cohesive IT strategy that will help you align technology with your business’ goals, while reducing redundancy and unnecessary costs. The process that an MSP will go through to build your IT strategy will go something like this:
- Initial Meetings: The first step in building an IT Strategy are meetings between high-level decision makers of your company and the MSP’s team. During these meetings, the MSP will provide you with more information about themselves, ask questions about how you deal with technology today, and determine a path to get you on track with your business goals.
- Strategic Development: Once the MSP has a clear understanding of your technology needs and business goals, they’ll work with their team to develop a roadmap to improving operational efficiency and productivity, strategize your technology to align with your business goals, and create a detailed financial plan to manage it all.
- Strategy Implementation: Once the strategic plan has been developed, the MSP’s team of IT professionals will implement short and long-term plans as your full-time IT department for a fixed, monthly fee. Your infrastructure will be maintained and monitored, as well as upgraded regularly for cutting-edge performance.
Every MSP will have their own process of building an IT Strategy. However, if they’re doing it right, it will follow the general path outlined above. Your business’ strategic plan will need to be unique and will reflect the technology needs and goals of your business. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to IT strategy. As your business goals evolve, your strategy will need to evolve with it. When goals change, an MSP will take a similar path towards updating the strategy.
The Cost of Managed IT Services
As previously noted, Managed IT Services are based on a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. The SLA is a contractual agreement between you and the MSP and will detail the quality, availability and responsibilities of the services within the agreement. SLAs typically range in cost based on the number of employees, the number of devices, the complexity of systems, and the scope of services within the agreement. Each MSP can structure their solutions a bit differently, but you can usually expect to spend anywhere from $50+ per device or user for basic security only agreements to $150 or more for fully-managed agreements.
For a better understanding of your costs for Managed IT Services, you’ll need to talk with an MSP about your organization’s make up, and the goals you’re looking to accomplish with technology.
About ProperSky Managed IT Services
Perhaps you’ve seen the acronym ‘MSP’ floating around on the internet in recent years. The reason why so many companies want to collaborate with a Managed Service Provider is due to it being financially taxing to sit an IT employee in a chair, all year long, only to respond to unforecastable emergencies. The payroll often doesn’t match up to their efforts. In layman’s terms, it’s simply more cost-effective to partner with an MSP.
But the majority of new MSPs – and there are a lot of new kids on the block – don’t quite understand what being an MSP actually entails. A Managed Service Provider, at its core, is a prevention business – securing a company’s digital side – and not just a way for the MSP in question to recoup costs. There’s an incredibly fast turnover with MSP businesses. But as with all ventures, quality prevails and the strong survive.
Our ethos revolves around excellence. That’s why Proper Sky are champions of the sector. We work proactively, rather than retroactively, and pride ourselves on our longevity – and helping our collaborators grow alongside us. After being a Managed Service Provider for over a decade, we have many tricks up our sleeves that start-up MSPs simply haven’t discovered.
Your Next Steps…
Stellar performance isn’t a privilege – it’s a requirement. The fast-paced world of contemporary business requires a company’s technology to be running at optimal capacity around the clock. Even a minute wasted can ultimately result in a loss of employee productivity and financial transactions, rendering your business disadvantaged. Avoid disruption and downtime with a problem-free network, implemented and monitored by the stalwart team employed here at Proper Sky.
Let’s talk solutions. Call us now for a free consultation.