Today's businesses are more connected to their technology than at any time in history. In fact, without their technology, most businesses would come to a grinding halt within minutes. Gone, are the days when having a competent IT guy was enough to keep your systems running smoothly, your data backed up, and your network secure.

Thanks to innovations in technology, small and medium-sized business can now leverage the same levels of IT support that, just a few years ago, were only available to the largest of businesses. This latest innovation is most often referred to as managed IT services.

But what are managed IT services? How do they work and who should use them?

These are just a few of the questions we answer in this post, along with many others we hear from business owners almost every day.

What are managed IT services?

What does a managed service provider (MSP) do?

To fully understand what a managed service provider does, it helps to explain the typical IT services model first. If you aren't already using an MSP to provide networking services, you probably have an IT guy or IT firm who fixes problems as they happen.

Something breaks. An application keeps crashing. A computer won't boot up. So, you call your IT guy, he visits your location, fixes the problem (hopefully) and then sends you a bill. You don't see your IT guy until the next time you have a problem. You're never sure how much it will cost to fix things as they break down.

Managed service providers, on the other hand, focus almost entirely on keeping your network and your computers up and running. Instead of only showing up when there's a problem, a managed services provider proactively prevents problems from happening in the first place.

How do they do that?

  • By monitoring your network and your workstations 24/7.
  • By performing regular maintenance such as installing software patches, performing updates, and monitoring the health of your hardware.
  • By correcting small glitches remotely, before you are even aware of them.
  • By monitoring the traffic on your network to prevent intrusions and keep hackers out.
  • By monitoring and testing your backup systems to keep your data safe.

You pay a fixed monthly fee for these services, so you always know how much to budget for IT services.

What types of managed IT services are available?

Managed IT services plans vary from simple monitoring services to complete responsibility for all your technology, with many options in between. Many providers offer tiers of service and a la carte options to further customize your plan.

Is it better to have in-house IT support or to outsource it?

This depends on your business model and your budget. Larger companies most often hire an in-house, onsite staff to handle their IT support needs. However, this approach isn't the most cost-effective for small to medium-sized businesses.

For less than the cost of one full-time employee, a managed services provider can cover the technical support needs of just about any small or medium-sized business. That means for the price a single employee, you could have a team of experienced, technical professionals looking out for your network.

MSPs also offer diverse experience in a wide array of technical areas. While you may have an in-house IT manager who handles your day-to-day needs, you might require the advice of an outside IT company for strategic planning, large hardware upgrades, SaaS issues, or other technical services. An MSP can become a partner that complements the efforts of your in-house staff.

Plus, when you outsource your IT support to an MSP, you won’t need to worry about paying for employee benefits or filling in the gaps during absences due to illness or vacation time. MSPs have multiple technicians on staff to compensate for absences and they bear the cost of providing benefits to their employees.What kinds of companies are good candidates for managed IT services?

Managed IT services work best for small to medium-sized companies with 10-75 computer users. This is the point when continual monitoring and proactive support tend to be more cost-effective than simply fixing problems as they arise.

As a general guideline your company is ready for managed IT services when:

  • You're tired of wrestling with your technology and just want to focus on what you do best.
  • Your current IT systems are riddled with problems and you never know when disaster will strike.
  • You depend on the reliability and security of your network to run your business.
  • You want to be sure your data is backed up and secure at all times.
  • You believe paying to prevent problems is a better strategy than waiting until things break.
  • You're interested in using technology to improve productivity and enhance your company's growth.

How will my business benefit from managed IT services?

Peace of Mind

Imagine that everything on your network just worked the way it was supposed to. Imagine productive employees, no longer frustrated with computer problems. Imagine no more frantic calls to tech support because your systems are down, and you are losing money. Imagine all your vital data is backed up and secure.

Does that make you breathe a sigh of relief? These are just some of the ways that managed IT services can bring peace of mind to your business. Plus, you'll always know who to call when you have a question.

A True Partnership

MSPs represent a true partnership with your company. Why? Because your goals are the same. You want your network and your computers up and running. They get paid to keep them that way. That means your MSP is more likely to recommend hardware upgrades or perform small fixes that prevent future problems, rather than waiting until things break. They get paid for uptime and results.

On the other hand, an IT company that only comes out to fix problems does not necessarily have the same goals that you do. The truth is, that break-fix providers only make money when things break. They measure their profits in billable hours. So while most IT companies are honest, they don't have the same incentive to prevent future problems as managed IT service providers do.

How do I decide which managed service provider is right for me?

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right MSP. However, we suggest choosing a provider with an established track record and many years of experience. Be sure to ask for references and check them out thoroughly.

You'll also want to look for a provider that hires seasoned professionals to handle your network. You don't want first year techs learning on your dime. Be sure to ask any MSP how much experience their technical staff has, as well as any certifications they've earned. This should give you an idea of how much the company you are considering values experience and ongoing education.

Finally, you'll want to choose a provider that takes a strategic, long-term approach to your technology. This helps you prepare for the future while minimizing current down time and support costs. In other words, choose an MSP who can grow with you as your business grows and your needs change.

How do I decide which level of managed IT services is right for my company?

The level of service you need will depend on many factors including:

  • The current size and state of your network
  • How many users you need to support
  • Your tolerance for downtime
  • Your long-term and short-term goals
  • Whether you have your own in-house staff currently
  • Your need for after hours on call emergency support
  • Your available budget

Most MSPs offer a number of plans that range from simple monitoring services to complete technology coverage from stem to stern. You'll want to evaluate the pros and cons of each plan before making a final decision.

Why should I pay a monthly fee when I can just wait and pay when I need IT support?

Today's technology is more complex than ever, with so many things to manage. The best strategy for keeping things running right is periodic maintenance and care to prevent problems or address issues while they are small and manageable. When you wait until something breaks, you risk data loss, expensive downtime, lost employee productivity and angry customers.

In the end, the answer to this question depends on how much risk, downtime and lost productivity you are willing to tolerate.

Why do I need to sign a yearly agreement?

Managed IT services are generally billed on a monthly basis. Signing a yearly agreement guarantees your pricing for the entire year. This is similar to a service contract for your heating and air conditioning equipment or other annual services.

Most MSP's offer a satisfaction guarantee that protects your investment and allows you to obtain a refund if you don't believe you are seeing value for your money.

Some MSPs also offer a penalty-free cancellation policy within the term of the contract to allow you to cancel with 30 to 60 days’ notice if you aren’t happy with their service

How much do managed IT services typically cost?

The price of managed IT services plans varies based on the size of your network, the number of locations you have and the number of users and devices you are managing.

Pricing will also depend on the level of service you need. Your MSP will provide you with a quote after a thorough evaluation and analysis of your network.

Still have questions about managed IT services?

Technical Action Group is here to answer them! We've been providing business-focused IT support for small and medium-sized businesses in the Toronto area since 2003. Contact us today for a free network audit and learn how proactive support can transform the way you do business, while boosting your bottom line.