What is Managed IT Services and Why Should You Invest In Managed Services?
Defining managed IT services and exploring key business benefits
There’s no denying that innovative technologies present powerful new opportunities for business professionals of all kinds. Strategic IT helps professionals get things done quicker and more efficiently. However, with all this added convenience comes the challenge of trying to manage and optimize all the IT resources being relied on.
The IT industry is fast-moving and constantly evolving. Business IT is no longer about managing a computer or two. Today’s business professional needs a comprehensive IT operating system that centralizes and optimizes their most critical resources. This includes computers, servers, Cloud storage solutions, email platforms, software applications, mobile devices, cybersecurity tools and more.
With so much to manage, many companies are considering a move to managed IT services. Managed IT service providers can take a huge burden off the shoulders of already-busy professionals or internal IT departments. However, though many are considering investing in managed IT services – a lot of questions remain about what managed IT service providers do and what strategic benefits they offer to companies of all sizes.
So, we’re on a mission to help clear the air. We’ve decided to put together a comprehensive guide that outlines what managed IT is, the kinds of services that are usually included, and the strategic business benefits offered. Read on for the inside scoop on all things ‘managed services’.
Defining Managed Services: What Does a Managed IT Services Provider Do?
Simply put, managed IT services include IT management, monitoring, and optimization services provided by a professional third-party and delivered to business customers. Under a managed IT service agreement, the managed service provider is responsible for ensuring the functionality of a company’s entire IT infrastructure. Usually, these services are provided to business customers for an agreed-upon monthly fee.
While there are many different types of managed IT service arrangements, the guiding principle is to transfer the burden of IT maintenance and management from busy business professionals to qualified service providers. In an ideal managed IT service relationship, business customers benefit from predictable monthly pricing and the ability to stay focused on business objectives instead of tedious IT issues.
Check out the most common features of a managed IT service arrangement:
Let’s get down to brass tacks. When it comes to managed IT service providers, what services do they offer exactly? As mentioned, every managed service agreement is different, but some of the most commonly offered services include:
- Remote monitoring, management, and maintenance of company servers, desktops, mobile devices, etc.
- Managed security solutions like firewall implementation and continual updating and patching of antivirus software.
- Cloud services which could include infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), or software as a service (SaaS) offerings.
- VoIP phone solutions and other strategic communication services including email and mobile optimization.
- Back-up and disaster recovery tools and business continuity planning.
- Strategic IT consulting and long-term planning.
Most managed IT service arrangements are set up in the form of a binding contract between provider and client. The master services agreement serves as a means of setting out the terms and conditions of the managed IT service agreement. This document or set of documents clearly stipulates what is expected of both parties and outlines both the services provided and the costs associated.
Again, it must be said that all managed IT service pricing models will vary – depending on the provider and the services being offered. However, there are some common ways that managed IT service pricing is set up. Check out the most popular pricing models below:
The per-device or per-user pricing models are celebrated for their flexibility and simplicity. On the per-device model, you pay a flat rate for device that is supported and monitored by the IT provider, including desktops, laptops, servers, smartphones, tablets, etc. Per-device models are attractive in that they offer the easy adding or removing of devices as needed. However, it’s a good idea to do some research and ensure the per-device rate you’ve been offered is set appropriately based on market realities.
On the per-user device model, a flat rate is issued for each user or employee at your organization – no matter how many or what kind of devices each person uses. Per-user pricing models are attractive because they simplify the billing process. However, if your user base is continually growing and each user is starting to use two or three devices each, keep in mind that your managed IT provider may want to revisit cost-margin considerations.
Value-Based Flat Fee
Flat-fee, value-based pricing models are becoming more and more popular in the managed service sector. Often referred to as ‘cake’ pricing, the value-based model offers organizations ‘full-service’ coverage instead of separated and specialized components. On this model, you truly do ‘buy the cake’ rather than the ingredients you need to make it. Value-based pricing models are great options for SMBs since the model offers wide-spread, comprehensive coverage and services.
Under the value-based pricing model, your managed IT provider essentially takes on the role of your outsourced IT department. They take care of everything for a singular flat rate. Keep in mind though, that if you select this option, you must trust your managed IT provider to cover all your bases and provide adequate full-scope coverage as your IT needs evolve.
Under the tiered pricing model, managed service providers offer a variety of service packages, ranked using levels like Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each tier includes a specified range of services and support. This makes it easy for business owners to check out the specs of each package and choose one that is both cost-effective and tailored to their specific needs.
Do keep in mind, however, that sometimes service packages will contain some things you need and some you may not. While its possible, pre-established tiered service packages may not always be a flawless fit with your needs and budget parameters. When using this model, its best to select the service tier that gives you as much relevant support as possible while staying inside your cost margins. This way you’ll avoid investing in services or fancy solutions that you don’t want or need.
The a-la-carte pricing model works just as it sounds. You’re able to build-your-own service plan based on the supports and solutions that you require and nothing more. This is perhaps the most celebrated model as it offers maximum flexibility and customization for organizations.
However, when using an a-la-carte pricing model, it’s a great idea to consult with a third-party expert to ensure you have all your bases covered. The last thing you want is to draw up a service agreement, thinking you’ve thought of everything, only to find out later that you’re missing critical supports and services. Also, be sure to discuss scalability with your provider when using an a-la-carte model. Your needs now may change over time as your business develops. Be sure to have the future in mind and make sure your managed service provider does too.
Finally, the all-inclusive model offers a flat-fee for all services. This model truly focuses on providing the ‘whole-package’ and a total service experience for one, fixed cost. Instead of offering different tiers or ‘build-your-own’ options, the full-service, all-inclusive option seeks to be one-size-fits-all support solution applicable to any business.
This is an attractive model for business owners who don’t want to get lost in the nuts and bolts of their IT support – they just want to be supported and have their technology to work consistently. However, though tempting, the budget conscious should keep in mind that the “all or nothing approach” can come with the heftiest price tag.
Doing Better Business: What Benefits Does a Managed IT Service Provider Offer?
Now that we’ve laid out a clear idea of what managed IT services is and described its common features, it’s time to get to the good stuff: what benefits will a managed IT service provider offer your business? The overreaching benefit is that managed IT providers take a holistic approach to IT management and optimization. This means they uphold high standards to ensure every corner of your IT network is considered and covered.
However, there are some more specific and tangible benefits of partnering with a managed IT service provider. Check out the top five benefits below:
Partnering with a managed IT professional will help you develop an IT infrastructure that is built to grow alongside your company. In today’s competitive business market, many companies are starting small and moving fast – hoping to expand as they go.
Managed IT service providers can offer strategic tools to help make sure your company is able to scale up or down depending on demand or growth. The managed IT provider will custom-build your network in a way that promotes easy scalability and room for exponential growth.
Whether you have an internal IT department or you rely on tech-savvy employees to troubleshoot, partnering with a managed IT provider frees up your internal staff in a big way. Most IT departments these days are stretched thin and your core workforce shouldn’t be getting lost in tedious IT tasks. By outsourcing all the central IT management and maintenance tasks, your internal staff can focus on what matters most – your core business.
Furthermore, for many organizations in the finance, healthcare, or legal industries, IT compliance is a huge concern. Trying to make sure your entire IT infrastructure is promoting compliance can be a huge burden on you and your internal team. Partnering with a managed IT service provider takes the compliance burden out of your hands.
Managed IT service providers often have extensive experience with industry compliance and understand the regulations that organizations must adhere to. This means a managed IT service team can provide all the tools, processes, applications, and reports necessary to ensure that your company remains consistently compliant. The best part? You don’t have to spend critical business hours trying to sort out compliance concerns.
Keeping up pace
Another huge benefit of partnering with a managed IT professional is that you get an expert in your corner for all things technology. The IT world is fast-paced and business IT solutions are evolving at rapid-fire speed. Falling behind isn’t an option if you want your business to maintain a competitive edge in this market.
Partnering with a managed IT service provider means you’ll have a constant finger on the pulse of new innovations that could help your business grow and excel. Whether you set up formal strategic planning sessions with your provider or address new developments informally as they arise, having a professional in your corner will make all the difference in your company’s IT development.
There’s no denying that the regular, 9-5 workday is a thing of the past. Professionals in all industries are looking for the best ways to take advantage of business opportunities around the clock and from anywhere.
However, if you and your staff is working around the clock, your IT network needs to be putting in overtime too. With a managed IT services provider, you and your team have access to support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, even on weekends or holidays, the right managed IT service provider will be a phone call away.
Finally, one of the best benefits of partnering with a managed IT provider is that you get reliability and predictability. IT investments are often seen as being unpredictable with hidden or peripheral costs. By outsourcing all your IT management to a managed service provider, your company will be able to break down costs into fixed monthly payments. This helps you avoid large capital expenses that stem from trying to manage your IT infrastructure in-house.
For more information on the benefits of managed IT services and how they can work for your business, check out this strategic guide.
How to Pick a Provider: Strategies for Investing in Managed IT Services
If your company is constantly putting off new projects or facing a backlog of IT issues, it’s probably time to start sourcing reliable managed IT providers in your area. However, before you begin your search for a provider, be sure you go in knowing what you require and where you’re hoping to see some improvement. This way, you’ll choose a partner who can provide you with the most strategic value for the fairest price.
When searching for potential managed IT providers, be sure to ask questions and get an idea of their experience and expertise. The right managed IT provider isn’t going to focus only on themselves and their own processes. They’ll be willing to listen to you carefully and explain how their services can be customized to suit the specific needs of your organization.
When in doubt, reach out to providers directly for some one-on-one consultation. Having this direct conversation will help ensure that you communicate your needs effectively and that you’re partnering with the best possible provider. Don’t put it off any longer! Start reaping the benefits of managed IT services today.
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