Managed IT “Must-Haves” to Drive Your Business’ Success In 2021
It’s a dizzying time for business technology these days. Digital transformation, a pandemic, and security breaches have made choosing the right technology partner not just a matter of staying current — but staying connected to customers, and maintaining your competitive edge.
To keep up, companies are integrating various communications devices, while downsizing their computer departments. Gone are the days when companies needed large computer rooms and in-house IT staffs. Today, most communication can take place via mobile devices, and data lives on cloud servers. As such, outsourced IT services have gradually been used to enhance or replace portions of an IT department.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to consider this critical partnership. Take, for example, the recent rise in ransomware attacks — a trend that has cost companies in terms of real dollars, lost productivity, and shaken customer confidence. Or, consider the results of a Harvard study, that found that post-pandemic, one in six employees will work from home full-time, or at least two days per week.
And though the decade-long evolution to cloud UC and cloud computing is an overall win for companies in terms of expense and efficiency, cloud technology brings with it its own set of complications that require expert assistance to understand.
Given the array of Managed IT options that you and your business can take advantage of, we thought we’d share with you this primer, so you can understand your options.
Different Types of IT Services
There are various types of managed service providers (MSPs) offering system support and other forms of help to client businesses. We can generally break down the categories of IT services into the following three levels.
1. Lower-Level MSPs
The most fundamental, pure-play MSPs will offer IT support for your company’s computer system and network, including tasks like software installation and integration into pre-existing infrastructures. Other responsibilities include system monitoring, which keeps track of software programs for functionality and safety purposes. If problems arise, the MSP will notify the client business of any possible danger signs. It will then be up to the client business to take precautionary steps and counter-measures to combat the threat. Pure-play MSPs will generally take no responsibility in the business concerns or IT planning of a client company.
2. Mid-Level MSPs
The next level of managed service providers is also known as value-added MSPs. The task of a mid-level provider is to offer all the necessary support in addition to a more complex range of technological services. Therefore, once the MSP has a software system up and running, their IT techs will then monitor the software for performance issues and warning signs and take immediate action when threats do appear.
The MSP will also provide software maintenance and keep programs updated across a client’s network each time a new version or security patch gets released to users. Mid-level MSPs even offer scalability planning, allowing you to expand or contract the service according to the needs of your company.
3. High-Level MSPs
The higher-level MSPs offer outsourced IT services to client businesses. At this level, you would get all the support and protection of the mid-level MSP, in addition to a range of support for your wireless network, communications services, data analytics and a whole lot more. Your company could even have access to a high-tech computer networking system authorized personnel would be able to access from any location.
High-level IT techs will also examine analytics to keep you informed of developments that could influence the course of your business operations. Some MSPs at this level also offer software-as-a-service (SaaS) programs you can lease for your company on a subscription basis.
Depending on the current needs of your company, you may need a managed services provider to help your business with hands-on involvement. If you have expanded to the point where system maintenance is too convoluted and costly to handle in-house, the time could indeed be now to hire the services of a high-level, outsourced IT provider.
Examples of Managed Services IT Providers Offer
A managed services company will generally offer a range of outsourced IT services. Depending on the level of service you subscribe to from an MSP, you could have wireless networking and cloud backup support, as well as help with troubleshooting and data analytics. Today’s MSPs commonly provide the following services at varying levels.
1. Networking and Infrastructure
MSPs offer a range of support options that can help your company handle WANs, LANs and other aspects of a computing system. Depending on the level of managed IT support you select from a provider, the package may include one or more of the following services.
- Onsite infrastructure setup: Setting up software and hardware at your company’s headquarters, instead of an in-house IT staff
- Mobile networking: Allowing your team to connect via wireless devices from any location
- Managed cloud infrastructure: Making it possible for colleagues to attend meetings and collaborate on projects on cloud-based company software portals
- Remotely managed print services: Allowing authorized personnel to print out documents on the company network from any location
- Managed storage backup: Making it possible for staff to upload information and update assignments from anywhere with the protection of remote backup
With various levels of networking and infrastructure from a managed IT service, your company can place the technical aspects of cloud and wireless management in skilled hands, allowing your staff to focus on business.
2. Security Management
A managed IT provider can make your company’s computer system safer with a range of security management and risk prevention services, including the following.
- Anti-malware software: Installing software programs onto your company’s computer system to keep your network protected from viruses
- Patching and maintenance: Keeping up with the latest software updates to ensure no hackers or viruses ever bypass your company’s security protocols and infect your system
- Application compatibility: Making sure all the hardware components and software programs that comprise your company’s network are fully integrated and compatible with one another
With a managed service provider, your network security layers will immediately get updated with each new patch and software version.
3. Communications Services
A managed services company will offer support in the following categories as part of an IT communications package.
- Data: Allowing staff to send and share information on computers, laptops and mobile devices from any location, local or afar
- Voice: Letting colleagues speak to one another, both one-on-one and in multi-party conversations, from various locations on PCs and smartphones
- Video: Making it possible for your company to hold conferences where staff members can attend from literally anywhere with an Internet or Wi-Fi connection
With IT communication services, your company could be in collective sync like never before. Services in this category could even encompass a remotely managed call center.
A managed services provider may offer software programs your company can subscribe to for unlimited access on a per-month or per-year basis. The SaaS could either be a program the IT provider develops and maintains, or one the provider makes available from a third-party developer. All updates and security patches get remotely installed the moment they become available, allowing your staff to focus on business.
With SaaS, your team can take comfort in knowing the latest state-of-the-art software programs will be fully functional and completely safe on any device. SaaS takes the headaches out of system updates and in-house software installations.
5. Data Analytics
Computer information can be confusing to navigate for companies that are not directly involved in the IT sector. As networking technology becomes increasingly convoluted, a managed service provider can take the burden of analysis off the shoulders of your company. This effort could involve multiple layers of examination, from observations of data to investigations of patterns. The IT services specialists will harness and translate the key aspects of this information to make it accessible to the members of your team. That way, your company can more effectively plan for upcoming trends and take proactive steps to implement your business goals.
6. Support Services
During business operations, members of your staff may encounter issues regarding a particular system program, prompt or protocol. With managed IT support services, each staffer can contact the remote support center for help on any given issue.
Support services come in various levels, from help with computer desktop programs to assist with hardware and software issues. A managed service provider’s goal is to remotely implement and manage programs a client company can use with no compatibility problems and little or no learning curves. In the rare event issues do arise, MSPs generally make it their goal to solve each matter and ensure that each client employee has a full understanding and grasp of the technology at hand.
What Is Network Administration?
A network administrator is a computer science specialist tasked with overseeing a company’s computing infrastructure. If you hire a managed service provider, a third party will handle the responsibilities of network administration, relieving your company of the high costs of employing an in-house IT staff.
What Is Network Security?
The IT techs responsible for network monitoring and maintenance are the people who usually protect a company’s computer system against security threats. With an MSP, a third party takes care of that responsibility.
What Are Unified Communications?
Unified communications involve integrating different digital communication tools, such as smartphone apps, voice mail, email, desktop programs, video conferencing and a range of other computerized mediums. High-level MSPs manage unified communications so company staff can interact between various devices.
In today’s business communications, mobile devices are one of the foremost necessities for the staff of virtually any company. A managed services provider will equip a company with integrated software solutions that allow staff members to connect to the company network from any location. That way, you can log in to your company’s system to communicate with colleagues and upload new information the moment news becomes available. With managed communications services, colleagues can keep in touch with teammates across thousands of miles, including from overseas locations.
Even with the most seamlessly integrated and universally compatible programs, questions are liable to arise among specific users. Medium- and high-level MSPs offer tech support when issues come up about SaaS or anything involving a client company’s cloud-based operating system.
Computer data is not safe unless there are multiple backups available. High-level MSPs offer cloud storage services that allow client companies to back up gigabytes worth of files for instant retrieval by authorized personnel.
Over the past decade, the development of cloud computing has facilitated IT outsourcing, which allows companies to dispense with in-house computer arsenals and upload information onto remotely stored systems. In a managed cloud infrastructure, the MSP will manage the various complexities of your company’s cloud computing, including the maintenance of your operating system and the rollout of new software programs and security updates. That way, your staff can always have access to up-to-date software tools that will work on simple laptops and handheld devices.
Managed Services vs. Outsourcing
When it comes to IT management, you could hire an in-house IT department to oversee your computer network infrastructure and security, all for high salaries. Alternately, you could outsource the tasks to a managed services provider that will handle network administration tasks and even offer software-as-a-service in exchange for a subscription fee. When you outsource IT tasks to a third-party service provider, you could choose to go with a domestic or international IT service.
There are three possibilities:
- Services that operate in neighboring countries, or nearshoring
- Providers that are in other parts of the world, or offshoring
- Choosing a domestic service, or onshoring
Controversies abound regarding the three choices, mostly due to the following two concerns.
- Cost: While you might automatically assume offshoring is the easiest way to save money, prices vary depending on a given nation’s currency value. For example, you could pay a lot less for a domestic service than you would for a provider in Kuwait. Nearshoring prices can also vary, as MSPs in Canada will generally charge more than those based south of the U.S. border.
- Ethics: One common assumption holds that offshoring hurts the domestic economy. However, the nations that offer outsourcing services for U.S. customers typically outsource significant shares of their tasks to American service providers. Therefore, offshoring is less a matter of outsourcing jobs and more a matter of exchanging services with friendly nations.
Overall, there is a vast range of domestic and international MSPs that offer numerous IT services for companies across the private sector. The real question is not whether the managed service provider is in the right place, but whether the MSP will offer the best value for your company.
Common Managed IT Service Mistakes to Avoid
Despite the many benefits MSPs offer, numerous clients fail to maximize the benefits. When you hire a managed services provider, beware of the following mistakes.
- Coping with technical jargon: Some IT techs will explain matters in highly technical terms that are not easy for the rank and file of a client company to understand. Make sure the MSP techs from your provider communicate all information with utmost clarity to your company staff.
- Not clarifying the implications of analytics: If you hire an MSP for data analytics, ensure the techs in charge relay all pertinent information in terms that would allow you and your staff to grasp the importance and implications of the findings at hand.
- Failure to scale properly: Depending on the needs of your business during a given time of year, you might need varying levels of managed services. Communicate the current size and scope of your operations so they can scale services accordingly.
- Not specifying needs: Do not hire an MSP to provide a one-size-fits-all package of services for your company. Specify your company’s exact requirements to ensure the areas that need the most attention receive the highest priority.
Remember, managed IT services will only truly fulfill your network administration tasks if you communicate properly with the techs responsible.