Managed Services: What is Managed Services and How Can It Benefit Your Business

Businesses in Rochester and Buffalo, NY are utilizing managed services to grow and compete

If you’re in business, chances are you have at least one computer at your location. If you’re a growing business, you’ve probably added more than a few. It makes sense that as your employee head-count, your clients’ demand for your product or service, and your need to be productive and responsive all increase…so does your need for a reliable, secure computer network.

So, who’s in charge of keeping your network reliable and secure? Every year, more and more businesses choose to offload IT operations to a Managed Services Provider like Capstone IT, for their business’ computer and technical needs. Managed Services includes the ongoing responsibility for 24/7 monitoring, managing and problem solving for all of the IT systems within a business. Or so it should…

Where Did Managed Services Come From?

For us to understand what Managed Services is and why it’s so commonly used today, I want to take you back in time just a little bit.

Just a few decades ago, computers were very large and cumbersome and used only by large organizations like universities and banks. But by the end of the 1980s, many schools had purchased their first computers and word processors were becoming common in offices everywhere. And by the mid-1990s, computers had become an indispensable part of everyday life. Now as you can imagine, with the increase of such technology in our daily workforce, the need for PC repair naturally…was on the rise. If something broke, the client called and hopefully an IT company came running to fix it. This was the Capstone way in the beginning, too. We used to go help anyone and everyone, basically waiting for the phone to ring.

IT Support moves from Reactive to Proactive

You’re probably thinking like WE were at that point in time…that there’s got to be a more responsive, predictable way to solve computer problems so that businesses are constantly waiting for help. So IT companies developed procedures to go on-site to repeat clients, doing system reviews to look for hints of problems before they became too big. BUT the problem with that--as you can guess--was that they could only see what was happening on that particular day.

The practice of Managed Services for computer support came soon after. After all, the concept of outsourcing specific tasks to a specialist in one field had been around in other areas. In fact, you’ve probably had some managed services for your business for quite some time, just in other areas. Your heat and electric, your phone and internet, even your waste management is handled by an MSP, or managed service provider.

Businesses realized that their network needs could be effectively outsourced to specialists in the IT field. New tools were being developed so that the day-to-day management of a company’s network could be done by specialists outside of the company walls. This STRATEGIC “managed services for business IT” method would improve a business’ operation by providing a higher quality of support, faster response times to users when needed, and, yes, even cut expenses.

A Breakdown of Managed Service Models

Here's a breakdown of 5 different IT Service models you'll find, and what you may (or may not) be getting when you sign up for their services:

The first is what we call the Prayer model. As funny as it sounds, this is actually a quite common, and quite serious plan. This is where a business does little to nothing to protect and update their network, relying on luck or prayer to keep things safe and running smoothly. The owner trusts that hackers won’t be interested in their precious data or attack their system. What they may not know is that viruses and hackers don’t recognize size…but are looking for vulnerability anywhere. Big or small, a company that relies on the prayer model should know that it will take nothing short of a miracle to keep all dangers at bay, and all users and data safe.

The Do-It-Yourself model is when the business owner-or one of their internal staff- knows just enough about computers to be dangerous. He or she tries to do all the maintenance to their network, and when there’s computer trouble, they have to STOP what they were hired to do…and put on their PC repairman hat. Truth is, it’s not their specialty, but someone has to do it! Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of added problems and time wasted from having a non-expert try to solve IT issues.

Next, is the One-Man-Band model. In this situation the owner hires a full-time systems admin or has a quote/unquote “computer guy” to handle the business IT needs. This makes sense, until you think about the ever increasing information there is to know about technology and how relentless cyber criminals can be. Can one person stay current in all certifications and monitor PCs 24/7? In most cases, it’s not even cost-effective for companies with under 50 employees to hire a full-time IT person.

The Break-Fix model is when a business pays an agreed-upon hourly rate for a technician to “fix” your problem when something “breaks.” Under this model, you might be able to negotiate a discount based on buying a block of hours, which is nice. But what not nice is that while you or your employee is waiting for someone to show up to fix the problem, sales are at a standstill, work isn’t getting done, and salary is wasted. Just imagine it’s your server, not a PC. The whole company is down and everyone is getting paid…but nobody is working. Your choice is reacting to problems once they occur, not proactively stopping them before they affect your business.

Finally, the Managed IT Service model. This is when the service provider you partner with takes the on dedicated role of your “IT department”. Being responsible for maintaining, monitoring and supporting all things technical in your business, from PCs to servers, from your phones to your alarm systems. A true Managed Service Provider's oath is to ensure the health, speed, performance and security of your computer network. This is what Capstone IT is all about. In most cases, a consistent monthly investment is determined based on needs and budget, and both essential maintenance as well as support are included in that cost.

**BEWARE** of what I call the managed service "knockoff" model! It looks and feels like a professional team of IT experts who can do anything and everything for your network at a very cheap price. You can’t believe the deal they’re giving you. But please remember, you get what you pay for. It’s VERY easy for one IT services provider to appear far less expensive than another...UNTIL you look closely at what you are getting (or NOT getting, most likely). Nickel and diming can be there specialty.

Break Fix vs. Managed Services

Out of all your choices you have, the two most often chosen by businesses looking for IT support are either Break/Fix or Managed Services.

Here’s a quick comparison of the two…

With Break-Fix, You’re basically waiting for problems and reacting once they occur. With the tools that a managed service provider provides, you’re proactively looking for errors and issues, then stopping them before they affect your business. Break fix usually means that other components of your network like antivirus, firewalls and disaster recovery are left for you to you to figure out. Falling behind in the updates for essential security like this greatly increase the odds that you’ll face a failure, IT outage, or another problem down the road that will negatively impact your business.

With Managed IT Services, these things are taken care of for you, at times you agree on. Your engineer will be testing your backup and looking for errors, keeping your computers running at their best. And when there’s a problem to trouble shoot, you know who to call.

So if you think about it, Managed IT Services are like the defense on a football team, blocking and tackling the technical issues of a business if you will, by doing the following:

  • Monitoring AND managing a majority of, if not all—of your network,
  • Providing help desk service for customer support.
  • Investing in specialized tools to perform these and other tasks... And here’s a big one…
  • Providing proactive maintenance for your security, like updates and patches, and backup for your data
  • And what would the delivery of these solutions be without some form of predictable billing model, right? Where you know with better accuracy what your monthly IT expense will be.

How to Choose An IT Model For Your Business

You may be the type of executive that knows right away which IT support is right for you. But for some, it’s a challenge to weigh the cost against the support you’re going to receive.

To help you, I put together this 8 question quiz to help you determine which model is best for you. Give yourself a 1 if the question isn’t important for your business, a 5 if you feel it’s essential, or a 2, 3 or 4 if you’re somewhere in the middle.

Do I want to:

  1. _____ find out immediately if my data back-up fails to run?
  2. _____ know which equipment on my network is aging and might need replacing in the next 6-12 months?
  3. _____ know if my server and all of my desktops have the latest anti-virus updates installed and are functioning correctly?
  4. _____ know if the latest security patches have been installed on my network?
  5. _____ know who the heaviest Internet users are, and whether they are downloading large files that can slow down the network, or acce ssing inappropriate web sites?
  6. _____ know which PCs are running out of memory, affecting user performance?
  7. _____ know the exact budget for my IT support every month?
  8. _____ have one number to call for all of my technology service requirements?

If you give each question a 3 or higher, then you’re seeing how important a dedicated managed IT Provider is to your business and why it’s worth the investment.

The fact of the matter is, computer networks absolutely, positively need ongoing maintenance and monitoring to stay secure. The ever-increasing dependency we have on IT systems and the data they hold — not to mention the type of data we’re now saving digitally — have given rise to very smart and sophisticated cybercrime organizations and who work around the clock to do one thing: compromise your networks for illegal activities.

Of course, this doesn’t even take into consideration other common “disasters” such as rogue employees, lost devices, hardware failures (which are the #1 reason for data loss), fire and natural disasters and a host of other issues that can interrupt or outright destroy your IT infrastructure and the data it holds.

Preventing these problems and keeping your systems up and running, which is what managed IT services is all about, is a LOT less expensive and damaging to your organization than waiting until one of these things happens and then paying for emergency IT services to restore your systems to working order. Speaking of cost…

Is Managed IT Services Worth The Money?

Cost is often the first concern business owners have when instilling a managed service. The truth of it is, outsourcing IT actually reduces costs and is less expensive than an internal IT manager. Here’s how: MSPs specialize in keeping your network safe and running at its most efficient. They invest in tools that can monitor and maintain your systems all day, every day…unlike any one person can. Behind those tools is a team of support staff that also monitor and problem shoot in the rare case of an error. Less downtime means your staff is working consistently, and if your employees’ productivity is at its best, this is a huge return on investment for you.

The support is consistent and always there. You know who to call no matter the technical issue, and you know that whether it’s during the day, after hours, or even on the weekends and holidays, engineers are ready to help you. A great MSP is going to ensure this. This comfort and security brings peace of mind; that you have safe and reliable IT in place. You can better focus on YOUR core competencies and growth.

Taking it beyond just IT support, they’ll advise you on planning for upgrades, introduce you to new options and applications that can better your business, and other beneficial strategies.

The Real Benefit of Managed Services

Let’s face it, today, no business can really afford the risk and uncertainty of relying on Break-Fix because your business is too dependent on having a reliable IT system. A well-maintained, proactively serviced computer network will always run better than the alternative. With proactive network monitoring, patch management, and desktop optimization performed on a regular basis, you will notice a tremendous difference in operations… and you will reap the benefits of preventing fires, rather than fighting them.

The Best Managed Services Question EVER

One of the most commons questions we get from prospective business clients calling Capstone IT is “What do you guys charge for your services?” But I’d like to pose to you a better question should you decide to find a true MSP for your business.

Instead of Asking, “What Do You Charge For Your Services?”
better to inquire, “What Services Will I (and Won’t I) Receive For My Money?”

Picking the right IT services company for your specific situation, budget and needs should be based on the VALUE the company can deliver, not just the price, high OR low.

I encourage you to read more and make the best decision with information under your belt. There are at least 20 other essential questions you should ask your IT support firm BEFORE giving them access to your computer network, e-mail and data. You can access these questions and more in our FREE eBook, The Rochester Business Owner's Guide To IT Support Services. If you want to speak with someone to see if Managed Services is a good fit for your company, you can also request a 30 minute Strategy Session or call 585-546-4120.

Capstone IT is a computer support company that provides IT managed services to hundreds of small and medium businesses in Rochester, Buffalo, and the surrounding Western NY area.

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