What does "Managed IT Service" really mean for your small to medium business and why should you care? In short, it's a way for you to focus on running your business without IT disruptions, while also enjoying enterprise-level IT support and expertise to help you stay competitive on a smaller business budget.
By definition, managed service is the practice of proactively outsourcing basic management responsibility and functions. It’s typically a service that is adopted strategically with the goal of improving operations by outsourcing a specific function or competency to experts. It usually also has a cost-cutting advantage.
Under this model, the client or customer typically owns the organization or system that is being managed, and the service provider then delivers services by way of a contractual agreement between the two parties.
A very common example of a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is Managed IT Service, because it’s considered an efficient and cost-effective way for businesses to stay current on technology and have access to the skills and knowledge needed to manage and forecast for the full range of issues and questions around technology costs, quality, efficiency and risks.
In short, it means as a business you can offload IT operations – and the stress that come with that area – to an IT firm that that will then assume responsibility for 24/7 management, monitoring and maintenance of the systems and equipment within that business.
So what does it REALLY mean? It means you don’t have to worry about your business network anymore, because you are now trusting someone else – someone whose whole business is focused on just technology – to worry about it for you. Instead, you can focus on running and growing your business.
How did the managed service model come to be?
It all started with the “break-fix” model.
Which literally meant that something would break, and the company that owned it would call on a company or technician to come out and fix it. They would pay an hourly rate, and once it was fixed, everyone went on their merry way.
This was a perfectly workable solution when our reliance on technology was minimal. Maybe a company had 2 shared workstations, and 1 printer; if one stopped working, there was always that backup typewriter! Break-fix was probably even good enough when everyone had a PC, but the primary purpose was accessing their email account or maybe typing up and printing out a document or presentation. You know, back in the 90’s when everything went out by snail mail or if it was really time-sensitive, by messenger. It wasn’t ideal for something to break, but it was not necessarily a crisis if the hourly tech came out the next day to get it fixed.
The frustration that existed even when “waiting for problems to crop up before acting” was the prevailing model was that the IT professional could never really be heard if and when they tried to suggest proactive measures that would prevent the issues. And the business – who was paying the tech hourly – was often hesitant to trust those recommendations and might decide the technician was lacking in skill because things kept breaking.
When IT issues are viewed as isolated problems and that is all the IT guy is allowed to see and address, it creates a viscous cycle of unhappiness by both parties…the tech can’t address the root cause of the issue, and the business sees the high cost of continually calling in emergency repairs on the same problems. And round and round they go.
The Break-Fix Model is Bad for Business Today
A break-fix model no longer works for a business that relies heavily on technology for well, just about everything. Which describes most businesses today.
It’s not just email on the computer that needs to be managed now — it’s all communication, both internal and external. It’s all customer or patient data. It’s how we access the sales pipeline and manage our workflow. It’s instant access from anywhere to all of our standard productivity products, shared files, inventory reports and financial data. It’s where HR manages payroll and timesheets. And it’s how our customers find us, communicate with us, and order or purchase from us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Given how critical it is that a business limits downtime created by computer issues, the natural solution is a model that prevents issues from ever happening. And the best way to do that is to take ownership of the system and monitor and manage it 24/7. This allows a managed services provider a 360-degree view of the entire system that an hourly tech coming in to fix one isolated issue every now and then will never have.
But what we’ve seen is that as many businesses upgrade their technology and take advantage of the multitude of options available for increased productivity, efficiency and sales through these IT tools, they aren’t upgrading the most important piece of the puzzle – the service.
The transition to managed IT service began with enterprise systems
As larger companies adopted technology and were faced with managing huge networks, the transition from break-fix to a more proactive approach began. It was aided by the technology vendors themselves, who were developing new and improved ways for their systems and machines to signal problems that could be proactively addressed.
With time, these monitoring systems got better, more reliable and more affordable, opening the door to Managed IT Service for small and medium businesses as well.
Now not only is the technology available to help small and medium businesses compete on an enterprise level, but so is the service.
How will the managed IT service model benefit my business?
The best way to describe the global benefit of managed IT service is that it gives you the time and freedom to focus on what you do best, without worrying about or getting bogged down with or sidetracked by constant computer issues.
It also gives you peace of mind that not only is your network protected, but also that your trusted I.T. advisor will help guide your network strategy to make the most of emerging technologies that make sense for you.
But here are some very specific reasons that a managed IT service plan is good for business and can just plain make your life easier:
Gain an Expert I.T. Team
You get a team of focused experts
Many SMB’s lack the resources to hire 1 dedicated IT staff person, much less to build their own in-house IT Departments. More typically, various team members who have a little bit of experience or knowledge (or are really good at Google searches that help to troubleshoot issues) get tapped to help when issues arise. The result is that they are diverted from their core responsibilities and are then unable to do either job to the best of their abilities. By outsourcing to a managed IT service provider, no one on your core team is being squeezed to fit two jobs into one busy day and the person providing service is focused and knowledgeable.
But the benefits extend even further when you consider the depth of experience, skill and talent that you get with a full team versus just one employee. It is impossible for one person to stay on top of every aspect of technology. With a managed service provider you get the diversity of skill sets of an entire team, versus just one guy who likely has a particular specialty area within IT as well.
Businesses with an established IT Director also benefit from this model. That’s because a dedicated IT Director is generally so busy putting out daily fires like lost or forgotten passwords, or day-to-day maintenance on the systems that they are unable to take a long-range view that aligns with the company’s strategic goals and growth strategy.
By offloading the core maintenance and management responsibilities, as well as the HelpDesk functions for your end-users to a managed service provider, a business with a full-time IT staff member frees him or her up to actually concentrate on IT strategy vs. daily troubleshooting.
Enterprise-Level Support on a Small Business Budget
It saves you money
While no organization enjoys having to spend money on managing a service, businesses today really can’t afford not to invest in the technology that powers their operations.
And that is why a managed IT service model makes great sense. A true managed service solution – where you will typically pay a fixed monthly fee that is derived from the number of systems being managed – is almost always more affordable over the long term than a break-fix model. (Particularly when you factor in the true cost of the downtime created by only fixing problems after they occur.)
This includes lost productivity, lost revenue and even broken trust with your customers if, for example, you experience a data breach and private information is lost or stolen. When it’s evaluated in terms of potential lost revenue, the negative impact on your business from this type of downtime far outweighs the cost of a reliable IT service plan.
A reputable managed service provider will offer transparency and a clear, easy to understand service plan that covers all basic IT management, including data backups, network security, 24/7 network monitoring, and end-user support for a fixed monthly fee. As an example, check out the Corsica Tech service plan offerings – with a variety plans available, it is clear what is covered under each, and what isn’t.
And when compared to the cost of building and staffing in-house IT support, managed service plans are generally a fraction of the cost.
As an added bonus, a fixed fee service model takes away the guesswork of budgeting for IT.
Increase Your Team's Productivity
You maximize your working hours thanks to the proactive maintenance
If the break-fix model is purely reactive – only reacting to problems after they occur – then it follows that the upgraded version is proactive. And this preventive maintenance is really the rock star of managed IT service because it limits overall downtime. It works because with 24/7 systems monitoring on an IT service plan, all of the little alerts and routine maintenance needs are handled before they become large issues that cause full-scale system interruptions. All of your patching maintenance is handled, updates aren’t missed, backups are tested, and recommendations are made for ways to improve efficiency or avoid problems that can be predicted and solved for.
You can think of it like any wellness check with a doctor or routine maintenance service you get on your car or your HVAC system. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong, but you are relying on an expert to check things out and alert you to any potential problems and how to remedy them.
Additionally, when issues do occur – like an internet outage or server that goes offline – they are addressed immediately, even if they occur at 3 a.m.
Get Back Online Faster with 24/7 Support
When help is needed, you get it fast
A good managed IT service provider will respond to any IT problems that do occur with the same sense of urgency that the owner of the business feels when something breaks. Fixing it is top priority. The MSP you work with should operate as an extension of your own team and you should have direct access to support, and ideally that support is available to you 24/7.
Corsica provides 24x7x365 support for all end-users for this reason. While not every problem can be solved over the phone or via remote session at 3 a.m. on a Saturday, many of them can. On-site teams will be dispatched for issues that require services beyond remote support or that can’t be diagnosed and solved through the HelpDesk team. Either way, outages and issues that are causing downtime for any of our customers are given top priority.
Gain an Expert Advisor
Strategic Business Support from a Trusted IT Partner
A partnership with an MSP that is built on trust and transparency is a win-win for both the managed service provider and the customer. When the MSP is fully responsible for and familiar with all of your IT assets, then they are able to make recommendations for improving your systems in ways that are fully compatible with your existing infrastructure and also aligned with your business goals.
When your IT partner knows your business and your goals, they can help you navigate the ever-changing IT industry in a way that makes sense for you. In this way, you can sleep better at night knowing that you are maximizing technology in a way that is cost-effective and reasonable for your business.