Managed Services Primer

Almost all businesses have significant information technology (IT) needs, regardless of their size or their industry.  Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have the technical know-how, the personnel, or the manpower to service these needs effectively.  This is where a managed service provider can help.  The following discussion explains some of the concepts and the distinct benefits behind Managed Services that are transforming how companies are meeting their IT needs effectively and cost-efficiently.

What Are Managed Services?

Just about any IT-related activity can be performed as a managed service.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Data Backup and Recovery
  • Desktop Management
  • Server and Network Management and Remote Monitoring
  • Temporary and Special Project IT Staffing
  • Software Support and Maintenance
  • Help Desk
  • Hardware Maintenance and Support
  • IT Security – including Firewalls, Antivirus and Anti-Spam
  • Switching, WAN and Router Management
  • IP Telecommunications
  • Cabling and Infrastructure Design, Installation and Maintenance
  • IT Consulting and Strategy
  • System Design, Acquisition and Implementation

 

Many of these services can be handled remotely, while others require an on-site presence when needed.  Outsourcing any of these functions free companies from having to maintain full-time staff to perform these functions, yet still know that the proper expertise is available to them and is proactively managing and servicing their systems with a lower cost footprint.

Managed Service Providers

A managed service provider is a company that assumes control of IT-related services for any organization, on either an ongoing or an as-needed basis, depending on the specific requirements of the client.  Sometimes managed service providers take over all of a client’s IT responsibilities; sometimes only certain functions are outsourced to the managed service provider.

Contracting a managed service provider can range from providing fully staffed IT services for small companies, to providing specific focused services for larger organizations.

IT Problems: A Constant Concern in Modern Business

All businesses rely on information technology as key drivers for their business, no matter what their product or service and its underlying complexity continues to grow even as it delivers greater benefits, such as higher productivity and better business information.

Many businesses find that they lack the right IT expertise for the given problems they face, or they find that properly compensating and retaining IT staff is too costly and time-consuming for their needs, which can vary significantly over the course of a year.

At times internal IT staffs can’t keep up or are spending excessive hours troubleshooting problems that disrupt productivity. Thus many organizations have come to the realization that focusing on an area where they are not expert, like IT, distracts from their primary business mission – yet they still want a service staff that understands their organization with the skill sets and the bandwidth ready to deal with a wide range of issues on demand.

The Managed Services industry was born from the increasingly urgent need for organizations to be cost-efficient while meeting the rapidly changing demands of the technology they use.  The recent move to Cloud systems, for instance, has left many organizations confused – they wonder: am I making the best use of Cloud-based applications and services?  How do I contract and manage them?  How do I integrate them with my local resources?  Turning to an outside organization for advice and help to implement new systems based on best practices has been a key driver behind the growth of Managed Services firms, who are expected to provide this expertise.

Many small and medium sized companies simply don’t have the internal resources to deal efficiently with the variety of IT problems that crop up frequently.  Faced with the high cost of downtime and an uncertain path on how to reduce it, being able to hold an external Managed Services organization accountable at a fixed annual cost becomes very attractive.

How Managed Service Providers Help

Contracting with a qualified Managed Service provider effectively creates a “virtual” IT department that can remotely monitor systems and can quickly expand and contract their hands-on and on-site presence as the circumstances warrant.  Thus the contracting organization is not straddled with the overhead of a balanced IT staff, whose cost is shared among the multiple organizations served by their Managed Service provider. By taking responsibility for such tasks as network stability and data backup and recovery, a managed service provider can ensure that essential IT systems—including hardware and software— will continue to function smoothly and complex problems will be addressed and resolved quickly.

When a problem crops up, a competent Managed Services provider can apply the appropriate IT resources to resolve it more quickly than an organization that must rely on internal staff that may have a more limited skill set.  With a Managed Services agreement, organization’s can better focus on their primary business activities, which creates profitable activity for them.  A Managed Service provider only takes on those tasks that the client requests, so the cost of any idle time or unproductive work is shifted from the client to their provider.  A client can still choose to retain control over the IT areas where it feels it has adequate staffing and expertise.  The systems management process is transparent and the client never surrenders its IT assets, so reversing the process of outsourcing IT expertise to a Managed Service provider can easily be reversed in the future

A Technical Solution for Businesses of Any Size

While many larger businesses have the assets and economies of scale necessary to fund and to maintain IT departments, many of them have turned to Managed Services for all of the reasons that have been discussed.  Businesses of all sizes have concluded that doing all of your IT work in house is rarely cost-effective and the most efficient way to provide the best service to their organizations is to outsource some or all of their IT services to Managed Services providers.

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