If your company works with computer systems, then you’ve probably heard of the term ‘managed IT solutions‘ that’s been the talk of the town recently.
As elaborate as they may sound, managed IT services are as simple as handing over the responsibility for a particular project to a third-party agency such as Ntiva. In simple terms, they involve the opposite of hiring employees for an IT department, and they’re cheaper.
What makes them so great is that they often provide more value despite the lower costs. Because of that, managed IT solutions have become very appealing to many companies. However, while it’s true that all you have to do is hire a managed service provider (MSP), there’s no harm in understanding how managed IT solutions work.
On that note, this guide aims to explain the concept behind managed IT solutions, and there’s no better way to start than by defining the term.
What Are Managed IT Solutions?
Usually, a company will need an IT department to deal with the installation and management of computer systems. For small businesses, this may only require one employee, which would be the chief information officer (CIO). However, it may require a group of people with the appropriate skill set in the case of larger organizations.
Unfortunately, an IT department is often not in the budget for small to medium businesses. After all, they’d have to pay for the salary and training of an entire group of people. Simply put, the costs often greatly outweigh the benefits. That’s where managed IT solutions come in.
In its simplest terms, managed IT solutions involve the practice of hiring a third-party agency to act as your company’s IT department instead of hiring new employees of your own. Now you might be wondering, aren’t they the same as break-fix solutions?
Difference Between Break-Fix And Managed IT Solutions
Break-fix refers to the practice of hiring a third-party agency to install, repair, or upgrade all kinds of computer systems and components such as software and peripheral equipment.
While it may sound the same as a managed IT solution, there’s a clear difference. For starters, break-fix requires you, the client, to pay the agency only for the work they did. In short, you only have to pay them once they’ve repaired, installed, or upgraded your system, as opposed to managed IT solutions where the payment system may vary. You might pay a fixed fee for the entire duration of the service, or you can pay on an hourly basis.
Another distinguishable difference between the two is that managed service providers will monitor your systems to prevent issues from happening, while break-fix agencies only aim to fix your computer problems once they’ve occurred.
Why Managed IT Solutions?
By now, it should be apparent to you that the MSP model is best utilized by small businesses. So if your company is relatively larger than others, will you still benefit from this model? Contrary to common belief, yes, there are still benefits to be had even if you run a medium- or large-sized business. Here are just a few of them:
- Efficiency: More often than not, when there are only one or two individuals handling all the computer system matters of a company, they get overwhelmed whenever there’s an issue. To avoid this, you need an entire group of people working together to fix the problem at hand, and that’s what MSP is all about.
- Security: You should know very well the pressure of potentially getting attacked by hackers. While you can’t completely eliminate that possibility, MSP involvement eases this pressure by strengthening the company’s security measures.
- Monitoring: The break-fix model involves addressing issues only when they’ve already done considerable damage to company operations. MSPs fill in the gap by proactively monitoring your company’s computer systems 24/7 and preventing problems from occurring, therefore taking the damage it could’ve done out of the picture.
- Affordable: Building an IT department involves paying for the setup costs, hardware, software, and maintenance fees. However, when you hire an MSP, they’d be the one shouldering all those costs while all you have to do is pay them a fixed amount, which is often a lot cheaper.
- Innovation: This is something every company must aim for. Unfortunately, the IT departments of most companies are often busy with trivial tasks, such as monitoring, that they can’t focus on innovation. MSPs are great because their assistance frees up a lot of time, allowing your IT staff to work on innovation.
Countless benefits come from hiring a managed IT service provider. However, take note that not all kinds of managed IT solutions are great for your company. Some may end up hurting you instead. With that said, you should only opt for the type of managed IT solutions that suit your company’s needs.
Different Types Of Managed IT Solutions
In the past, managed IT solutions were straightforward, but managed services have greatly expanded over the years. Now, you have all kinds of managed IT solutions to choose from, including:
- 24/7 Management: This is perhaps the most common type of managed IT solution. It involves proactive management of the company’s IT operations. It’s often leveraged by companies that can’t perform advanced tasks with computers, so they need around-the-clock assistance from a third-party agency that can.
- Cloud Management: Nowadays, a lot of business transactions involve the cloud. As such, many managed service providers now specialize in managing cloud systems.
- Disaster Recovery/Backups: Right after hardware failure or a natural disaster, you’ll have to deal with issues such as data loss, stolen passwords, or security breaches. Thankfully, there are MSPs out there that specialize in mitigating the aftermath of such unfortunate incidents.
- Managed Security: Although your company can deal with most IT operations, there may not be enough time for you to strengthen your security. Managed security providers are agencies that focus on the cybersecurity of your company. Their responsibilities include generating incident reports and installing security software.
If your company’s cybersecurity is already adequate as is, then there’s no need to hire an MSP specializing in cybersecurity. Likewise, if you already have your cloud system all figured out, it would be a lot better to hire an MSP specializing in something other than cloud management. It may be more affordable than establishing an IT department, but it still costs you money, so choose the type of service you really need. Besides, you’ll have to deal with some paperwork, so you have to be careful with your decision.
Introduction To Service-Level Agreement (SLA)
Since managed IT solutions often don’t involve physical interactions, you’re probably wondering if it comes with a contract just like other traditional services. As luck would have it, it does involve a contract called a service-level agreement or SLA.
The SLA outlines all the responsibilities of the managed service provider and your expectations from the agency. It may also include the ramifications should incidents happen and which side would shoulder the loss. Here’s a list of the things an SLA may cover:
- Services: The SLA should outline the services that the client expects to receive from the MSP. The client must outline those services as clearly as possible for the MSP’s sake.
- Quality: The client may also outline the quality of performance they expect from the MSP. You may include the metrics to be used to measure the level of success.
- Issue Management: Sometimes, you’ll see SLAs explaining how the MSP should deal with issues. How quickly should they deal with the problems? What happens if the problem occurs outside working hours? These are some of the questions that the client should answer through the SLA.
- Availability: In the case of non-24/7 services, both parties should agree on a specific time range for the working hours and determine if there’s an extra charge if the MSP ends up working outside those hours.
- Termination: There are cases where the relationship between the MSP and the client becomes unsustainable. When that happens, you must have a clear plan on how the termination should take place for the sake of both parties.
If you assumed that opting for managed IT solutions is as simple as paying for them online, then you’re greatly mistaken. A lot of other things go on behind the scenes. That’s why when choosing a managed service provider, you should put a lot of thought into it.
Things To Consider When Choosing A Managed Service Provider
While managed IT solutions in general are a precious amenity, especially for small businesses, remember that not all MSPs have your best interests at heart. If you want to enjoy the benefits of managed IT solutions, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Services: An essential factor you should focus on when choosing an MSP is whether the agency can fill the gaps that need to be filled. Are you currently struggling with your company’s cloud storage? If so, then look for agencies specializing in cloud management.
- Security: Take note that not all MSPs have excellent security measures. If you end up partnering with an agency with half-baked security solutions, you’re putting your company at risk if you decide to share confidential information with that agency.
- Communication: Although it’s true that you won’t have much to do with the service provider, it’s still a good idea to look for an agency that contacts you every now and then.
- Pricing: The most expensive service isn’t always the best one. Similarly, the cheapest service isn’t necessarily the worst, but you should still consider the agency’s rates. For your reference, the cost of MSPs ranges from $50 a month to $50 an hour.
While the decision of which MSP to hire does require prior deliberation, you have to remember that the agency doesn’t have to be perfect. If your standards are too high, it might take you ages to settle on one provider. Just look for an agency that can meet your needs and that you think will deliver quality services at reasonable rates.