Managed IT Services is a hot topic these days. Go to any IT provider’s website, and 90% + of them will advertise some sort of Managed IT Services package. Where’s all the hype coming from?
To understand Managed IT Services, you first need to understand how IT service delivery evolved from the days of Break-Fix support, the global move by fortune 500 companies to push SaaS ( Software as a Service ) and IaaS ( Infrastructure as a Service ) pricing structure and the differences between IT today versus a decade ago.
You would think that a decade is a fairly short time frame, in general, but in IT a decade is the difference between your business being able to operate on mostly paper form, and you going out of business due to competitors who embraced technology faster than you did. And while you can argue that we are telling you this because we are indeed a Managed IT Services provider and we sell IT services for a living, a little bit of research on your own will show you some statistics on this fact.
On the technical side, IT a decade ago was less complex, and that’s why Break-Fix service agreements between businesses and IT support companies worked fairly well, for the most part. Today, things have changed. An average issue in IT that would maybe take a couple hours to fix, now this could involve a weekend worth of work, and you having an unexpected large bill from your IT firm on Monday morning. Setting up a reliable server infrastructure took less than half the time, and customer’s requirements from IT infrastructure have changed dramatically, and in 2020 we have entered something that we call “IT Dependency Era”. What does this even mean? well, it means that before your could get away without having some IT tools in place, but now, a lot of times it is simply not an option.
Let’s do rewind a to a decade or so ago, a lot of systems out there for small business customers were usually implemented by “a friend of a friend” or even the owners themselves with some IT knowledge. I remember going to a sales meeting once, and somebody told me, that they “know this guy”, and he said he could put a system together for them real quick by just combining a couple workstations and making them into a server. Now, imagine if you were an IT director at a fortune 500 company, and you went to the CEO and said that you would run their mission critical infrastructure with a few workstations, and they would be setup by “this guy you know”, chances are you would get fired. Why? because even back then, enterprises had certain standards when it came to IT, standards that the small business market was lacking, and this is mostly because enterprise-grade infrastructure was simply not affordable by a small business, and IT support companies who serviced these small businesses, simply did not have the tools in place to help with this issue.
Now, going to the present, higher IT demands by small and medium sized businesses, the move of the industry to rent software versus provide perpetual licensing, the evolution of IT in general, and the fact that we have now entered that “IT Dependency Era” has brought most of all the tools that were only affordable to the enterprises, to the small and medium business market. And a “friend of a friend” who has limited experience and training with these enterprise tools, simply would not be able to deploy them properly. This also of course created new “Standards” in IT when it came to running a small or medium business versus an enterprise.
There is a catch of course, a lot of these management and other software tools and services, that help you run your business smoothly and efficiently, would be completely not affordable to a small business if they were purchased outright. This is where the rental idea started to make sense, and why today you should not expect to simply hire your IT Consultant to set things up and pay them a one time setup fee, and have them wait for you to call them when stuff breaks. All these new tools and services, also require maintenance and monitoring, or one day you will come in to work, and find that your infrastructure is down due to software / hardware failure, or maybe a hacking incident, and your backup has not been tested or has not been running for the last 6 months… And yes, we still meet with businesses today and see systems that are not monitored, and have not been backed up in over 6 months ( or even a year! )… waiting to crash or get hacked to shut their business down. Scary thought?
Now, you might be thinking, that maybe if you did not need all these new tools, and all these new cloud and security services, etc, then you would not be in a situation where you were stuck having to pay your IT Consultant monthly and also pay for all these monthly software licensing costs as well, and that is true, with only one problem… your competitors most likely all have these tools in place, and it allows them to be more efficient in their daily operations and eventually you run the risk of your company simply not being able to compete. Not to mention, there is a statistic, that after a hacking incident, there is a large portion of businesses that are simply not able to continue their operations and have to close their doors for good. Now, maybe that monthly fee to have security in place, and have somebody monitor and update your systems, could have saved your business? We hope that you are never in the position to have to see that as a reality for your business, but, it could always happen.
What are all these new tools that everybody is now starting to use, anyways ? And do you need them ?
Here is a small list, so you can decide for yourself:
- Managed Firewall and Endpoint Security Systems: unlike your traditional antivirus, these systems have the capability of being monitored by your IT company, and instead of you calling them when things go sour, it allows them to be proactive in your network’s defense and call you if they see an issue that has not been resolved, or any of your network components are at risk.
- Managed Monitoring and Maintenance Systems: these systems have a specific purpose, to notify the administrator if there are any software security or bug fixes that are not implemented, and also when programmed correctly, implement these fixes automatically during a time of day that would not interrupt your business operations. These systems also give your IT administrator the ability to login to a system remotely, diagnose and resolve issues fast.
- Managed Onsite disaster recovery and Offsite Backup Systems: an external backup drive connected to your server and forgotten, is simply not enough these days. Some of your competitors have systems in place that can recover them in 15 minutes during a disaster, and when the onsite backup appliance fails, is stolen or experiences fire/water damage, they have a monitored system that also sends all of their data in an encrypted form to a cloud server, and they know they can reliably recover from any disaster because these systems are monitored daily, and as part of their Managed IT Services agreement, restore tests are also performed.
- Cloud Collaboration Systems: now, as you can imagine, the need to be able to work from home and collaborate via VOIP, video chat, e-mail and other cloud tools have exponentially increased, and lack of these systems in place, could mean that you simply cannot do any work during emergency situations.
- Secure Remote Access: now, not everything can live in the cloud, and some systems have to be deployed in house, depending on the situation. Do you have the ability to access your onsite infrastructure remotely, and not have these systems open to all the hackers who are constantly trying to take advantage and make profit? If you already have such a system, do you know if it is secure ? do you know if there are any hackers trying to get in right now as you are reading this article?