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What Are Managed IT Services?, Are They Right For Your Business?

by Andy Jackson

Working with a Managed Services Provider (MSP) is quickly becoming the norm for businesses; it’s estimated that around two-thirds of companies have partnerships in place with an MSP to manage their IT infrastructure. The reason for this shift is simple, handing over the responsibility of the day-to-day running of infrastructure and systems frees businesses up to focus on projects which help drive innovation, efficiency and cost reductions. These aren’t the only reasons; we’ll get into those later.

If you’re not using managed services and haven’t seen the potential benefits of working with an MSP, you might be wondering, what is a managed IT service and what do managed service providers do?

Firstly, it’s important to cover how a traditional break/fix IT support contact might function for a business who hasn’t yet moved to a managed IT service. This is a good starting point to differentiate how managed IT services differ from break/fix support models and the benefits the shift in the model can bring.

What are your options for IT Support?

Reactive Support (Break/Fix model)

Reactive support is built around the premise that IT assistance is only supplied or called upon when it’s needed. This is predominantly when something goes wrong (breaks); if a server, desktop or application fails, you call your IT support provider and they troubleshoot the issue and fix it. Once the fault has been fixed the case is closed with no investigation into what caused the problem, or any work carried out to ensure the problem doesn’t occur again. Relying on reactive support is often more costly in the downtime which occurs when your supplier has to investigate and understand your IT infrastructure in the process of fault-finding.

Being reactive, the face value cost is often lower than other support models, yet the savings of these lower costs can be deceptive. Downtime, lost hours and reputation aren’t always taken into consideration when looking at the true value of an IT support contract. The costs of these failing and the damage to your reputation in the eyes of your customers often far outweigh the supposed savings of low-cost IT support.

Proactive Support

Proactive support takes a preventative approach and makes use of advanced remote management and monitoring tools (RMM) which are installed on your systems and infrastructure to monitor, analyse and provide reports. Any issues which are detected alert the support provider to deal with them before they become a problem, often before you were even aware they existed.

Managed IT Services

An MSP delivers more than just proactive monitoring. It’s a full service where the MSP understands your IT systems in depth. Most providers offer the following as a minimum:

  • Managed IT services work on a set monthly fee which covers the maintenance and support of your infrastructure and systems.
  • Managed services monitor and analyse the health of your computers, servers and infrastructure hardware. It alerts you when something is wrong or about to go wrong, helping to reduce the risk of unplanned downtime and systems failures.
  • Most MSPs test and apply all critical patches, fixes and updates automatically to ensure your systems are secure and reliable.
  • They provide preventative maintenance for your computers, networks and infrastructure, this work helps ensure minimal downtime and nasty surprises.
  • Where possible, MSPs work remotely to reduce the wait time and disruption associated with sending engineers to your sites.

Managed IT services are often thought of as a replacement for internal IT staff however this is not the view taken by all MSPs. Every business is different which is why modern MSPs offer a range of solutions to fit different businesses, including offerings designed explicitly to work with in-house IT teams.

What additional benefits are there to using managed IT services?

Strategy and Planning – Most MSPs offer regular strategy meetings to help highlight the bigger picture, give impartial advice and guidance to formulate strategies which help your business grow, work more efficiently and understand the latest external threats.

Predictable costs – one of the key benefits businesses find with managed IT services is the predictable flat monthly fee of maintenance and support. This helps make your IT budget stable and predictable. The best MSPs will provide strategic planning to help you prepare for the future and budget requirements.

The cost advantages differ depending on your situation and whether you have a fully managed service or a hybrid service which works alongside your IT management.

SMEs that don’t have an IT department or IT manager will find the costs of using a managed IT service are often cheaper than employing an IT manager or IT team. It’s more cost-effective for an SME to outsource IT maintenance and support to expert teams who are regularly trained and have a wide range of relevant skills.

SMEs who have an in-house team will benefit from freeing their team up from the day-to-day menial tasks, allowing them to focus on projects which help drive efficiencies and initiatives which help reduce costs.

Capabilities and knowledge – Keeping an IT manager or an IT team trained in the constantly evolving world of technology is expensive and time-consuming. Working with an MSP can take this burden and cost away and provide a pool of engineers with skills that cover the breadth of your IT systems.

Shifting the risk – The risk and responsibility of your day-to-day IT support is taken on by the MSP who has the experience and knowledge to help ensure downtime is very minimal. Employees are often the biggest risk for a business, and there’s even more susceptibility to failure when you have staff who are sick or on holiday without adequate cover.

However, you can rely on your MSPs preventive monitoring and service desk at the end of the phone to help ensure everything is running smoothly. If on-site help is needed, qualified engineers will be available.

Service Level Agreements – Managed IT services are almost always backed by a service level agreement (SLA). This defines the commitment between you and the MSP, setting boundaries and expectations and a measurable standard of performance. This is an important document which commonly specifies what the service being provided is, how you report a problem, what the support hours are and what your responsibilities are.

Summary

Finding an MSP can be a difficult task, it’s important to take the time to ensure you select a one which fits the way you work and can help guide you. They will work closely with you and act as an extension of your business, it’s vitally important they understand your goals and can help you achieve them.

How can we help? 

We work with best in breed solutions which range from the award-winning backup of your core data and Microsoft Office 365, to anti-virus protection, dark web threat monitoring and anti-spam protection.  

We’ll conduct an extensive audit of your environment, using industry-leading interrogation services in conjunction with the experience and knowledge of our 3rd line technical consultants. The audit will highlight your entire environment and detail all services and devices currently in use. We'll help prioritise the risks we’ve identified and recommend suitable remedial action. These results will feed into your long-term IT strategy.