Understanding Managed Services
The emerging model today relating to IT Support is “Managed Services”, and every day more and more businesses are jumping on the bandwagon. But what does managed services actually mean and how can you tell if an IT Support company is not just using the buzzword as a marketing tool, but is in fact only offering “flat rate” services packaged as “managed services”?
As a definition, Managed Services allows a business to offload IT operations to a service provider, known as a Managed Services Provider. The managed service provider assumes an ongoing responsibility for 24-hour monitoring, managing and/or problem resolution for the IT systems within a business.
The companies who have helped service small networks in the past have been hamstrung by the lack of tools to help with the problem. The networks they service developed as simple systems, usually built by a self taught network amateur-turned-pro. Maintenance was break-fix only, meaning when something broke, the company called and they came running to fix it… hopefully.
As time went on, the best of the support people developed procedures and programs to periodically come on-site to do a system review of logs and user information looking for hints of issues before they became big problems. In some cases an elaborate checklist was used to record disk usage, processor usage, etc.
The problem of course, was that the support people could only see what was happening on that particular day. If something happened later, they would never know about it … unless the customer called.
Additionally, the only professional test of the backup system was on the visit, which frequently resulted in days or more of missed backups. The system was prone to other human errors when the on-site technician, trying to be accommodating, would take care of the “end user” symptoms and would not have time to address the “real issues”. This created a constant battle for the tech as they tried to convince customers that they were only causing themselves more dangerous problems down the road by not being proactive.
Managed Services began with Fortune 500 companies and their huge networks
At the same time, the hardware and software vendors were adding new and better ways for the systems to signal problems as early as possible. Simple Network Management Protocol had been developing since the early 90’s and was being applied to PC’s. The first systems that could watch these tools and turn all the data into usable information were complex to manage, were geared only to large networks, and were prohibitively expensive for small business.
Finally, Managed Services are available for small to medium sized businesses.
The Managed Services software that is in place today allows providers to work towards two major goals:
- Everything on your network that will result in a user symptom or risk will send an alert before or when it happens, and the Managed Service Provider will know about it.
- Every alert they get is something important and needs to be addressed.
The more closely a Managed Service provider can get to these two goals, the more perfectly they can achieve a truly managed service and the more they can get away from “everything being an emergency” situation.
Managed Services vs. The Break-Fix Mentality
Managed services are also a philosophical change in the way that a business deals with its technology. Instead of following the old-school tradition of break-fix (literally meaning wait until the server, desktops or other critical networking devices fail, then scramble to fix them), a business operating with a managed service focuses on the prevention of these issues before they disrupt employees, management and/or clients.
Managed services providers can offer services such as alerts, security, patch management, data backup and recovery, for different client devices: desktops, laptops, servers, storage systems, networks and applications. Offloading routine computer and network management to an experienced managed services professional lets the business concentrate on running the business, with fewer interruptions due to IT issues.
Why Break-fix is no longer good enough for your business
A Break-fix maintenance service fixes problems as they crop up. This means that something needs to go wrong before you receive any service, resulting in an inevitable reduction in IT system performance while you wait for the problem to be fixed.
Today, no business can really afford the risk and uncertainty of relying on a “Break-fix maintenance service” because your business is too dependent on having a reliable IT system. Furthermore, having separate suppliers responsible for different parts of the system puts you in the difficult position of trying to decide who should be delivering the service you require. You simply do not have time for this.
Do Managed Services Cost More Than Traditional Break-Fix Services?
Actually no! Surprisingly most managed services cost less than traditional break-fix services, especially when including the true cost of downtime. Remote monitoring, remote maintenance and the prevention of major issues allow a managed services provider to be more efficient than a similar break-fix company who is constantly rolling a truck to visit customer sites. Therefore the managed service company can offer a “better” service without charging more.
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 affect your business.
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.
Reduced costs: Businesses are also able to control and reduce their overall operating costs with the flat-fee billing model. Cost-effective access to enterprise-level support is a reality
24-hour monitoring: Because the Managed Services provider also manages 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.
Additional Benefits Of Managed Services:
- Increased operational efficiency
- Reduced operating costs
- Cost-effective access to enterprise-level support
- Minimized downtime
- Allows the focus to be on running the business, and not the technology
- Peace of mind from knowing that the network is monitored 24/7/365
So adding another monthly fee wasn’t exactly what you were looking for …?
We can clearly understand and relate to that mode of thinking. In this day and age it feels like every company we deal with is trying to figure out a way to squeeze more money out of us — especially on a monthly basis. IT support services is not immune to this change in business climate.
But that being said, Managed Services is not just a short lived fad, or a way for IT companies to fatten their wallets. Your company needs IT services to compete and Managed Services is a way for businesses to eliminate problems before they ever occur, manage their IT budgets better, and create a solid long-term partnership with an IT firm that is protecting one of their most important assets… their data.