Managed IT consists of a collection of services performed by an external IT company, also known as a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Managed IT services are more comprehensive than other forms of external IT like break-fix support. Managed IT represents a partnership between the client and the MSP, where both parties are invested in the long-term success of the client’s IT strategy.
Managed IT services are sometimes confused with outsourced IT because both are performed by third-party IT specialists. However, managed IT takes a more holistic and proactive view of technology management, while outsourced IT is employed for more specific tasks. “Outsourced IT” can also conjure images of overseas support from an impersonal call center. Managed IT is a closer partnership built on a trusted relationship with a provider that is typically local. Learn how managed IT works and some of the most common services offered under a managed IT Plan.
How IT Works With a Managed Service Provider
IT services from a managed service provider can be thought of as a subscription. The managed services are offered in exchange for a recurring fee. Payment structures vary, but the general model is the same. Long-term, comprehensive IT managed services are delivered in exchange for regular payments. In the IT world, this is sometimes referred to as the “X as a Service” (XaaS) model. In most cases, the monthly payments will total less than the amount required to hire full-time staff.
Managed service providers and client companies agree on the responsibilities of each party in the agreement. The formal contract is called the Managed Services Agreement (SLA). The SLA spells out the services the MSP will perform, performance metrics, and fees that the managed service provider will charge. It also clearly defines the responsibilities of the client and the responsibilities of the MSP.
Once the SLA is agreed to and signed, you and the managed services provider work together to transfer management to the MSP. Managed IT services are highly involved, so expect to work closely with the provider.
Common Managed IT Services
Managed service providers are diverse in their capabilities and specializations. Some focus specifically on certain services or industries. Others are more flexible, able to adapt to your unique needs. The following are common managed services, but this is not an exhaustive list.
Network Design and Administration
Network administration is the management of an organization’s connected IT infrastructure. Common network devices include servers, firewalls, wireless routers, shared storage, and end-user computers. The list of possible devices and configurations that can be on a network is almost limitless. The managed IT service provider takes responsibility for recommending, installing, and servicing network devices with an eye toward long-term performance.
Top MSP’s also manage vendor relationships and support contracts, sending renewal notices or invoices when they come due, which enables access to patches to firmware and software. The best Managed IT Providers will future-proof your network by making sure it has the capacity and scalability to keep up with business growth.
Monitoring and Maintenance
With managed services, your technology infrastructure is proactively managed. Networks and devices are actively monitored to catch and resolve issues before they can cause significant problems, which can greatly reduce unpredictable labor bills. Maintenance focuses on keeping current devices up to date and healthy rather than simply repairing broken devices. Just like with car maintenance, spending a little on routine work now prevents costly breakdowns in the future.
IT Security services are some of the most important on the managed services market. Cyberattacks against businesses increase in frequency and severity every year as hackers uncover new device vulnerabilities and launch sophisticated campaigns against companies.
IT security is a component of most other managed services. For example, firewall maintenance is part of network administration. However, proper IT security now requires a security-first, zero-trust philosophy rather than just security technology.
An IBM study revealed up to 95% of cybersecurity breaches are the result of human error. Employee education is a key component of cybersecurity, so your managed IT service provider should offer IT security training for your employees. LeeShanok hosts a free monthly webinar series, “IT Security for the Common Worker.”
Many managed IT service providers stop at providing technical solutions like firewalls and intrusion prevention systems. A newer class of service providers called Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) go beyond by offering advanced threat detection, response, and compliance with governmental and industry requirements.
Data Backup and Recovery
Data loss happens for many reasons. It can be the result of hardware failures, natural disasters, employee errors, or hackers – just to name a few. It can consist of destruction or exfiltration of sensitive company information like contact lists, access credentials, customer data, and more. Data backup and recovery services mitigate the risk of losing data while reducing downtime with a strong disaster recovery plan.
Under a managed services plan, data backup and recovery involves two components: technology and strategy. Technology is the hardware and software that stores the backed-up data and restores systems. Strategy answers questions like, “should we keep a backup on-site, off-site, or both?” and, “how much downtime is acceptable in the event of a disaster?”
Managed services help with both technology and strategy. A provider can recommend, install, and service the technology. More importantly, a Managed IT Service provider can help you develop and a strategy that finds the perfect balance between cost, performance, and continuity.
Voice and Video Communications
A managed services plan can also include the support and maintenance of your business communication technologies. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems are becoming the standard for most businesses. There are dozens of phone system providers with multiple configuration options, making it hard to know which system is the best fit. A managed service provider can help support your current phone system or select and install a new one.
Similarly, videoconferencing on platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex has become essential, especially for companies with a remote workforce. A managed IT service provider can help you select the appropriate licenses and ensure your network and hardware can support videoconferencing.
Where do you turn when you have problems with technology? For the majority of your workforce, it’s the helpdesk. An IT service provider’s helpdesk fixes common problems like:
· My printer isn’t working
· I can’t connect to the internet
· I accidentally deleted a file
· I forgot my password
Helpdesk support is an important component of a managed services plan because most employees interact with IT via the helpdesk. Great customer service is what separates a competent managed service provider from an exceptional one.
Seek out customer reviews, the option for remote monitoring, infrastructure management, technology services, support services, and testimonials when considering a Managed IT services company.
Companies large and small are phasing out on-premises IT infrastructure in favor of cloud services. Without a strong cloud management strategy, it can be easy to overspend and hard to know which services you truly need. Managed IT services can help you select the appropriate cloud vendor and the proper level of cloud computing to make sure goals are met and budgets aren’t blown.
Some managed IT service providers like LeeShanok also offer their own data center for hosting private cloud environments with virtual servers, centralized storage, and secure access by remote and office-based staff. This is especially important if your business requires a private cloud environment.
Benefits of Managed Service Providers
You know the common services included under a managed IT plan, but why would you use managed services over an internal IT department? The two are not mutually exclusive, but instead complement one another effectively.
Managed IT services save companies time, money, and headaches on Information Technology to improve business functions. This is often achieved by working with a company’s internal IT department. Many managed service providers will want to displace a one or two person internal IT team. Instead, LeeShanok works very well with internal IT departments and recommends evaluating the business’s technology needs. Generally, for every 75-100 employees of a company, a full time central IT contact or support who is partnered with a managed service provider is recommended.
Our guide to Why IT Managed Services are Important for your Business spells out exactly how and why managed IT services are structured to benefit clients over other forms of IT management.
Explore Managed IT Services for Your Business
LeeShanok has been providing Managed IT Services to Arizona businesses since 1997. See if we’re a good fit for your organization by requesting your complimentary network assessment and consultation below.