IT Managed Services Explained

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What is IT Managed Services?

By definition IT Managed Services is a subscription model service provided by a technology company allowing a business to outsource the daily management responsibilities and functions of maintaining technology.  IT Managed Services can be a highly customized to fit budget constraints and address specific concerns or business needs of a client; however, the overall goal should be to improve the operation of business technology, reduce costly onsite visits and minimize downtime through proactive monitoring and correction of minor issues prior to major incidents.

In years past, technology companies deployed a “break-fix” model for clients.  When something broke a technician would come fix the issue.  For the client this meant waiting hours or even days for a technician to arrive onsite.  Once onsite, technicians spent countless hours understanding your system(s) and troubleshooting the root cause of an issue; and, if parts were needed it meant additional downtime while parts arrive to finally solve the issue.  Under the break-fix model clients often faced unplanned costs for equipment and billed time.  For the service company this created countless billable hours, but it also created high overhead costs for trucks, equipment and employees with unpredictable revenue.

Under the break-fix model if a simple $10 fan in a remote network device failed it most likely wouldn’t be discovered until that network device overheated and completely failed causing users to lose network connection.  In today’s connected world, technology can be proactively monitored and maintained.  With IT Managed Services an alert would have been generated when that fan slowed below the recommended speed.  Remote engineers could re-direct network traffic while that fan is either cleaned or replaced.  Network users never experience a loss in productivity and the client saves hundreds of dollars in equipment replacement cost.

Monitoring fans is just one small example of IT Managed Services.  IT Managed Services can:

  • Provide support for your staff, even a remote employee.
  • Remotely apply additions or changes to employee accounts.
  • Perform Software updates, apply patches and monitor backups in real-time.
  • Server updates can be scripted to complete during periods of non-usage.
  • Firewall, virus and malware applications can be monitored and updated to minimize security risks.
  • Employee usage can be monitored and restricted to reduce wasted time.
  • And More!

The customization of service is nearly limitless.  Best of all, both client and service provider have a clear picture of technology costs and revenue, minimizing unplanned costs for clients and allowing predictable changes in overhead for service providers.

Does IT Managed Services Cost More?

No!  IT Managed Service provides a predictable monthly cost for technology over the break-fix model.  Minor issues are detected and resolved, reducing failure rates, preventing data loss and employee disruptions, all without the additional cost of dispatching onsite technicians.  Technology service companies maintain real-time data about each device reducing the amount of time spent troubleshooting a single device and allowing more time improving the operation of the client’s entire system.

How is IT Managed Services Priced?

Technology companies bill IT Managed Services in many different ways depending on their specific service offerings.  The most common methods are:

  • Monitoring Only
  • Full Management
  • Flat Rate – All Included (The All You Can Eat Model)

Pricing for monitoring only is usually determined by how many network connected devices need to be monitored.  Monitoring Only provides an alert from devices that fall below the preset standards.  For example, if a hard drive is reaching capacity or fails a scheduled test an alert would be sent.  Those alerts are passed to the customer with recommendations on how to correct the issue.  Monitoring Only is a basic level support usually designed for smaller companies with limited technology and/or budgets.

Full Management is also priced by the amount of devices or users (or both) on a network.  Clients are billed at a negotiated rate that is set by anticipating the amount of alerts a certain device will send and the amount of hours in a given period it will take to maintain that device.  Usually servers are billed at a higher rate than most other devices due to the complex nature of monitoring and maintaining them.

Flat Rate All Included is becoming the popular choice for most clients.  Packages can be customized to fit the needs of a business, but most include monitoring & maintaining all network devices and providing a set number of hours per month that can be used for out-of-scope work and/or onsite support.  The main advantage of this plan is companies can budget a fixed monthly amount knowing all management is included and employees have support when they need it.

Another Monthly Fee…

In business it feels like everyone is looking for ways to drain our accounts with monthly fees.  More and more companies are changing to subscription based services and IT support is no different.

As more businesses integrate technology, IT Managed Services becomes more of a necessity.  IT Managed Services is not a re-branding technique to increase profits, it’s a way for businesses to create a solid long-term partnership with a technology company to protect their most important asset; DATA.

What to Look for in an IT Managed Service Provider?

Aside from employees, the most important asset in any company is data.  When selecting a IT Managed Service provider, it’s important to ask questions and understand how they are going to provide the service you’re paying them to provide.

Far too often I talk to companies that pay a “local tech” for managed services, only to find a remote desktop application (or remote dial-in) such as TeamViewer or pcAnyWhere.  These remote desktop programs are great for what they’re designed to do; but what they’re not designed to do is monitor or manage all facets of a network.  These type of programs allow a tech to log into a computer or server to make changes or review logs, but they don’t allow for real-time monitoring, alerting or fixes.

True IT Managed Service providers (MSP) use a remote monitoring & management (RMM) software.  Many providers will also link their RMM software with a professional service automation (PSA) software to assist with tracking and recording all the various alerts and information received from clients, vendors and equipment.

When interviewing an IT Managed Service provider look for the follow:

  • Are they a reputable, insured company with technology certifications? After all they will have access and sometime control of your data.
    • Although sometimes misleading, the internet is a good starting point to research companies. At minimum a reputable company should have a current website with relevant information and listed on common social media sites.
    • Insurance Accords and certifications should easily be provided upon request.
  • Are they able to customize and provide a service to improve your business?
    • Technology is not a one size fits all. Companies today use many different types of hardware and software.  IT Managed Service providers should understand the applications you use and customize a service package to assist your business.
  • Ask what type of RMM and/or PSA they use to perform the services?
    • Remote desktop control software like TeamViewer is not a RMM software.
  • Ask how the provider secures access to your network and information.
    • To properly manage technology, the provider will need administrator level access to most devices.
    • Providers should have policies in place to limit which department(s) or technicians have access to your network and audit that access.
    • RMM or other software used should meet current industry level security requirements.
  • Ask for a sample report they’ll be providing and find out how often they send the report to you.
    • Managed service providers love providing reports. This validates the work they’ve provided to the customer.
    • Any true RMM software makes tracking information and reporting to the customer an automated task, so clients should at minimum receive a monthly service report with the bill.

Most IT Managed Service Providers offer a free evaluation of your current technology and should be able to provide some basic recommendations based on the initial evaluation.  Talk to various companies and determine what offerings fit your overall business goals.

If you would like to learn more about IT Managed Services give us a call.  Matter Of Technology will evaluate your current technology, make recommendations and build a customized plan to monitor, manage and support your technology.

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