The phrase “Managed Service” has become a popular term in the IT industry, but small business owners may not completely understand what it means. Some companies are taking advantage of this by offering overpriced “flat rate” packages with a Managed Service label, duping companies into paying more for their IT support than they should be.

Managed services are defined as an IT support package, allowing a business to completely offload their IT needs to a third party called a Managed Services Provider. The provider is responsible for the company’s IT infrastructure 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This allows a small business to avoid spending anything on in-house IT infrastructure while enabling them to craft a more reliable monthly budget than a company who calls and pays for IT support only when something breaks.

More simply, managed IT services turn the maintenance of a company’s computer network into a monthly service with no maximums, kind of like a cable TV package or phone line. Everything works, just as long as you pay the monthly bill.

A Brief History of Managed Services

Managed IT services are a relatively new addition to the marketplace. IT providers began with a “break-fix” model, meaning that customers would contact them only when something wasn’t working correctly. This arrangement was sub-optimal for both small businesses and the IT providers themselves.

On the business side, their computer network was usually entirely paralysed by whatever issue the IT department was working on. This hindered their ability to go about their day-to-day activities. They also had no idea what the bill would be until the problem was fixed, at which point they were obligated to pay it.

On the IT side, they faced the irritation of tackling massive issues that would have been possible to nip in the bud with a little bit of regular maintenance. They could also go days without work before becoming flooded with jobs, making staffing a constant challenge.

The solution to this problem was the development of new programs where IT experts would regularly visit a client company’s computer infrastructure. They would review logs and other user information, looking for problems before they became significant enough to warrant an emergency call. Some services even devised elaborate checklists to track processor usage, disc storage, and other bits of information.

The results were better than the classic break-fix model, but it still had issues. Information was collected only on the day that the experts were on-site. If a problem arose the day afterwards, the experts would not find out about it until it was too late.

Furthermore, the backup system was infrequently tested. The purpose of a backup system is to continually update itself so that the damage resulting from any crashes is minimal. If the technicians only checked it once a month, nearly an entire month’s worth of data could be lost in a single event.

Finally, small businesses often wanted the technician to handle any issues they were having during their monthly visit. The technicians were happy to accommodate their needs, but doing so cut into the time they had available to fix any fundamental issues. It was kind of like a doctor prescribing cough drops instead of antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection. The patient is happier with the cough drops, but they’re still sick!

Managed Services improved this model by focusing on two fundamental needs. First, any issues on a client company’s network will automatically trigger an alert to the IT provider, ensuring that they are prepared to face any severe matters while giving them an opportunity to fix it before it spirals out of control.

Second, all of the alerts that the IT provider receive are important and require action, ensuring that they do not waste time or resources on false alarms.

The more an IT Managed Service provider can adhere to these two needs, the better the experience will be for all involved.

What Are The Advantages Of A Business Having IT Managed Services?

The most significant advantage of IT managed services is the fact that a properly maintained network will always perform better than the opposite. Managed Services allow an expert to monitor a system and eliminate any issues before they cripple the entire company. It’s like preventing fires entirely instead of relying on the Fire Department to mitigate the damage they cause.

Managed Services are also cheaper than bringing in a team of experts to try to fix a full-blown catastrophe. A flat fee business model provides cost certainty, allowing businesses to plan for their IT expenses ahead of time instead of straining an already tight budget in an emergency.   

In addition, most IT providers handle vendor relationships for their client companies. If a company’s internet is too slow, phone service is lost, or their website’s server is offline, their IT provider will handle the issue directly instead of forcing their client to act as an intermediary. This allows the company to trust its network while concentrating on more important tasks.

Finally, solving problems before they bring a small business’s network to a screeching halt minimises the system’s downtime, promoting operational efficiency.

How Is Cloud Challenging The Managed Service Space?

The cloud is an entirely different way to consume IT services, so it’s more of a type of Managed Service than an alternative to them. When the cloud was first invented, business owners struggled over whether the technology was right for their business. The answer has almost uniformly been yes, with the question becoming which cloud-based service(s) are the best fit for a business’s needs.

The challenge arises when programs designed 5-10 years ago don’t translate that well to the cloud, even if the purpose remains unchanged. An IT Managed Service provider can help amend the program for better integration with the cloud, solving any technological snafus to allow the company to upgrade its network.

Cloud computing is also viable as a flexible means to quickly scale a company’s operations. If a business has more customers, changes their business model dramatically, or just needs an electronic on/off switch, a blend of the cloud and managed IT services can help them get what they need when they need it.  

Finally, cloud computing does not rely on a physical server the way traditional networks do. This can dramatically reduce the costs associated with a private network, making it more accessible to small businesses.

What Industries Would Benefit The Most From IT Managed Services?

IT support is a constant need for businesses in every industry. For example, companies throughout Australia use email for interoffice communications regardless of what industry they’re in. Managed Service includes email, giving everybody at least one use for it.

Some Managed Service providers also specialise in a particular industry by offering services particularly essential to them. For example, financial companies demand top-notch internet security, so their IT support needs to be familiar with their needs. Likewise, healthcare organisations need software compliant with all government regulations pertinent to space.

What Are Your Top Tips When Choosing A MSP/Managed Service?

The most important thing when choosing a Managed Service provider is their ability to handle what you need. Are they equipped to handle the IT support issues you’re likely to have? If your business is in an industry demanding certain services, make sure that they can provide them. The right customer references can also go a long way toward helping a given provider become more of a partner than a commodity, helping your business grow and thrive.

What Type Of Maintenance Do You Currently Have?

The following statements can help you determine whether you have a Managed Service IT provider or if you are still utilizing an outdated break-fix model. You should upgrade your IT services if:

  1. You don’t know when your backup systems fail.
  2. You don’t know which parts of your IT network may require replacing in the next 6 months.
  3. You don’t know whether the latest anti-virus software has been installed on your server and desktop computers.
  4. You don’t know if your network has all of the latest security patches.
  5. You don’t know who uses the most internet at your company, or whether they are using it legitimately or wasting time on unauthorized sites.
  6. You don’t know which PCs have overloaded memories compromising their performance.
  7. You don’t have one number to call for all IT support inquiries.
  8. You don’t hear from your IT team until after something breaks.

Does Your Network Feel Like It’s Running Slower Than It Should?

If you’re unsure whether or not your business to ready to benefit from IT Managed Services, cloud computing, or virtualisation, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation! We are among the most qualified IT providers in the Sydney area.

Our expert technicians are capable of reviewing your network’s entire infrastructure to determine if you can upgrade. They can also pinpoint any bottlenecks that are preventing it from running as smoothly as it should. When we’re done, a written report of practical steps you can take to improve your network’s performance will be provided.