What are Managed Services?

Managed Services are the latest trend as businesses search for more effective IT support. Their popularity continues to grow, as more and more organizations reap the benefits of proactive, predictably priced technology support that they can budget more easily. But do you understand what Managed Services actually involve?

At the heart of Managed Services is the principle that a business should be able to outsource its technology management to a third-party provider, who takes the pain out of IT administration and ensures that everything runs smoothly around the clock. This includes systems monitoring and the proactive resolution of any problems that arise.

That said, not all Managed Service Providers are created equally - if your business is considering hiring one, you’ll want to be sure that it’s the real deal, and not just another business using Managed Services as a marketing term that really means a flat rate for the same old ineffective support.

The birth of Managed Services

Back in the day, most companies made do with small, uncomplicated networks, and the firms that helped them maintain their IT could get away without needing sophisticated tools. In fact, these support companies were often run by self-taught amateurs, who operated on a break-fix structure whereby they would respond to callouts to fix problems as they arose.

While some of these firms admittedly developed to offer more comprehensive services which did include diagnosing potential problems before they turned into bigger and more disruptive issues, their ability to be more proactive was hampered by the fact that they could only analyze the situation with a company’s network as it stood on the day they inspected it. Once their visit to the company was over, they had no real ability to monitor the performance of a business’s systems unless the client called to report a problem - in which case it was already too late. As a result, preventable problems continued to occur.

What’s more, the fact that backups were only taken and tested during the support firm’s visit to the client meant that problems occurring between visits frequently resulted in lost data. This was exacerbated by technical problems created by well-meaning but under-qualified in-house staff attempting to fix the symptoms of poorly performing networks, rather than addressing the root cause, and in the process actually causing more trouble.

Around this time, hardware and software vendors had begun developing more sophisticated systems that enabled network problems to be identified and resolved sooner, but these systems were geared towards larger networks, and their high cost made them unrealistic options for the average small business. In time, the Managed Services movement was born as these systems evolved to offer benefits to smaller organizations.

Managed Services today

Modern Managed Services Providers are geared towards helping small and medium-sized businesses develop better IT systems that enable them to reach their goals and drive higher profits. They do this by configuring systems that trigger alerts to the MSP when something is likely to go wrong, and then promptly taking action to address that potential issue. This approach allows MSPs to move away from the reactive firefighting mode of old, and instead provide a proactive service that identifies and resolves problems before they even occur.

This is crucial to providing the kind of IT support that today’s small businesses need. Organizations of all sizes now use technology more than ever before, and in an increasing variety of ways, to support daily operations and pursue strategic goals. This in turn necessitates an ever more complex IT environment that need to be maintained and supported. More often than not, though, the resources allotted to providing that maintenance have not developed alongside the size and complexity of the network itself. That can leave in-house teams overwhelmed and unable to keep up, resulting in systems falling behind the times, not being properly maintained, and ultimately suffering productivity-damaging outages and downtime that hit bottom-line profits.

Perhaps even more concerning, falling behind on IT maintenance can leave your business exposed to security threats and disaster fallout. If your support team doesn’t have the time to stick to a rigid backup schedule or use the latest backup tools or your business suffers a man-made or natural disaster, it could lose the vital data central to your operations, without any hope of successful recovery. Likewise, failing to stay up to date with the latest security threats, and consequently not putting in place appropriate patches and updates to seal vulnerabilities, could leave the door wide open to hackers and other criminals, allowing them to bring your business down. Chances are you won’t appreciate the true value of robust, proactive IT management until you come to suffer the adverse effects of not having it in place.

Approaching IT support differently

Along with developments and improvements to the technical ability of IT support companies to proactively identify and resolve equipment failures, there has also been a seismic shift in the industry’s approach to delivering those services to small and medium-size business clients. Whereas in the past companies relied on a break-fix agreement whereby support was provided on an ad-hoc basis as and when things went wrong - resulting in a chaotic scramble to resolve faults once they had been identified - modern Managed Services Providers instead focus on providing a consistent service to their clients. Our work doesn’t start and stop depending on whether you have an urgent fire that needs putting out; instead, we are continually working on your behalf in the background to identify and prevent problems before they have the opportunity to cause disruption to your staff or clients. We also undertake ongoing routine management tasks like installing and maintaining backups and security patches, all to ensure that your network is always fully protected from harm.

This is all preferable to the old-fashioned break-fix approach to IT management, where your support provider is reliant upon your system’s failures in order to make a living - and therefore has little incentive to keep things running smoothly. In addition, your modern business relies on smooth-running IT to the extent that you need reassurance that your system will always be available and reliable; a break-fix arrangement removes that comfort, since you have to wait for something to go wrong before you even know about it, let alone are able to get it repaired. What’s more, juggling a number of different IT suppliers and support providers means more unnecessary complexity and drains on your time that you could do without.

The cost of Managed Services

The good news is that Managed Services don’t have to break the bank. While you might assume that having a team of seasoned professionals constantly tending to your network might result in unmanageable costs, the truth is that Managed Services almost always cost less than IT support that adopts the conventional break-fix model. These savings become even more noticeable when you take into account the money lost during downtime that is unavoidable when you rely on break-fix support.

Ultimately, Managed Services are a million times more efficient than break-fix support, and services like remote monitoring and maintenance allow your MSP to prevent the occurrence of the very kind of issues that push up the true cost of using a break-fix support provider. Yet this works both ways - since the Managed Services Provider can do most work remotely and can operate proactively and efficiently, their costs are often lower than those of the old-school break-fix contractor, allowing them to offer you a better service at a lower price.

Add to this the fact that Managed Services put the small business owner’s interests at heart - break-fix contractors rely on problematic, unreliable IT systems in order to make money, whereas an MSP keeps its costs lower by ensuring the kind of smooth-running technology the business owner needs - and it becomes clear that Managed Services are the way of the future.

Managed Services are almost always delivered on a flat-rate basis, with unlimited service included in one price. This offers yet more benefits to your business, since you attain a level of budget predictability that you could only dream of with a break-fix contract, where if your IT suffers outages, you can expect a surge in repair costs in addition to the losses sustained while your network is down.

Managed Services Providers usually offer different packages to provide varying levels of support depending on your business needs and the number of devices your team uses. Depending on the plan selected, inclusive services can comprise everything from simple monitoring and notification of problems for you to resolve yourself, to comprehensive cover including everything from monitoring to problem resolution and ongoing strategic planning to develop a more streamlined network infrastructure that’s aligned to enable you to meet your long-term business goals.

The benefits of Managed Services

It’s clear that the main advantage of Managed Services over conventional break-fix support is the ability to identify and resolve problems before they have the opportunity to negatively impact your business operations. Proactively managed technology runs more smoothly than that which is reactively fixed - there is no doubt. Network monitoring, patch management and other forms of ongoing optimization equip you with a network that runs more efficiently and does a better job of supporting your operations. Managed Services ensure that problems are prevented rather than dealt with retrospectively, and needless to say you save time that you can instead dedicate to doing your real job of running your business.

The ability to predict and control your IT expenditure, thanks to a flat-fee approach, is an additional benefit, while you also gain access to the kind of top-level expert support that most businesses just can’t otherwise utilize. And you can enjoy greater comfort and security by being able to take your eyes off the daily operations of your IT and instead get back to work (or take a break!), safe in the knowledge that your system is being monitored, optimized and improved around the clock on your behalf by a team of specialists with your best interests at heart.

If you’re concerned about adding another monthly subscription commitment to your budget, we understand. But Managed Services provide an overall better way for you to budget for your technology support needs, and to benefit from more effective and proactive maintenance and management of your IT. Taking out a Managed Services subscription gives you the benefit of a long-term partnership with a firm of experts, and the ability to tap into their specialist knowledge as much as you need to, and is likely to save rather than cost you money.

Steer clear of imitations

As we said at the beginning, not all Managed Services Providers are created equally. As the benefits of Managed Services have become more widely known, some less scrupulous firms have come to use the term as nothing more than a snazzy catchphrase to sell services that in reality amount to little more than old-fashioned break-fix support. Many of these companies don’t actually offer the preventative maintenance solutions you need, but instead simply dial into your network remotely to fix problems as and when you report them.

This is simply modern-day break-fix support, made slightly more convenient with the help of an internet connection. It doesn’t involve system monitoring, doesn’t allow the MSP to audit your system for potential areas of vulnerability, and doesn’t let them resolve problems before they have the ability to adversely affect your network’s stability. In fact, these services amount to nothing more than a call-out that lets your support technician remain in the comfort of their own office - hardly a client-oriented approach.

Instead, ensure you opt for a genuine Managed Services Provider that will enable you to hand off responsibility of your network infrastructure, safe in the knowledge that it will be handled around the clock on your behalf, keeping you and your systems safe from harm and properly resolving any potential issues before they even appear on your radar.

Would you benefit from Managed Services?

With so many companies attempting to sell you on the benefit of Managed Services - or at least what they say are Managed Services - it can be a challenge to know whether your business really needs this kind of comprehensive support, and if it will really make a difference to your organization’s productivity, network reliability, and bottom-line profits. To ascertain whether your business would benefit from Managed Services, ask yourself these questions:

  • If your data backup system failed, would you know right away?
  • Do you know which of your equipment needs replacing in the next six months?
  • Can you be sure all your servers and devices have the latest anti-virus protection?
  • Are you certain that the latest security patches are installed on your network?
  • Are you aware who on your company’s team uses the internet the most heavily?
  • Do you know whether your team’s internet use is appropriate and relevant to work?
  • Could you tell which of your computers are running out of memory?
  • Is it easy to know where to turn when you need help with technology support?
  • Do you hear from your support firm other than when things are already broken?

Unless you can positively answer all of the above questions, chances are you are currently using a variety of break-fix technology support methodology. Your business could benefit from the proactivity and reliability of Managed Services - and it needn’t cost the earth.

If it feels like your computer system is running slower than it should, you suffer frequent downtime, or you simply don’t feel like you’re getting the help and assistance you need and deserve from your current support provider, it’s time to consider Managed Services from Dallas Technology Solutions.

Get in touch with us today and we’ll give you a FREE network assessment to determine whether now is the time for your business to adopt Managed Services for a smoother, more reliable network experience. There’s no obligation to subscribe right away, even if we do recommend Managed Services for your business. We’ll also make suggestions as to how to get your business running more smoothly, so you’ll benefit from our advice even if you decide not to use our services.

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