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Part 2 Of The Buyer’s Guide To Managed IT Services: What Exactly Are Managed IT Services?

In the last section of our buyer’s guide, we covered an introduction to managed IT services – discussing whether or not you need managed IT services and when managed IT services became so common. If you missed it, click here to check it out! Now let’s take a look at what exactly managed IT services are. Typically, an organization offloads its IT functions to what’s known as an MSP (managed services provider). This MSP will assume ongoing responsibility for those IT functions – handling the monitoring, maintenance, and troubleshooting of any systems within the environment.

A Story to Highlight the Value of Managed IT Services

Before we go into more detail about managed IT services and how they work, let’s take a look at a story to highlight the value of managed IT services. This is the story of a small accounting firm that started in the early 1990s – we’ll give them the fictitious name of “Smith and Jenson Accounting” to protect their privacy. When Smith and Jenson Accounting was established, they brought an amateur network designer into their firm to help them develop some simple systems.

They relied heavily upon their personal computers, Internet access, and spreadsheets to do their jobs – making break/fix support the perfect solution going forward. Whenever they had problems, they simply called their amateur network designer to fix them. This worked fine… Until it didn’t. Over the years, improvements in database technologies, accounting software, and various cloud-based solutions made it impossible for their network to keep up.

As they started adding on various systems into their infrastructure, their amateur network designer had more and more trouble keeping up when problems occurred. After all, everything was essentially pieced together. He could only see what was happening on that particular day, on that particular system, rather than seeing the infrastructure as a cohesive environment. This made it next to impossible to add innovative technologies into the mix – limiting their competitive edge significantly.

He couldn’t foresee problems because nothing was in place to help him monitor the entire infrastructure. Instead, he would use an elaborate checklist to record processor usage, disk usage, and other important factors. Smith and Jenson Accounting simply couldn’t handle the influx of problems any longer. They decided it was time for a change. They turned to an MSP to develop the cohesive environment they needed.

After a few months, they noticed a huge difference in the number of issues that occurred on a weekly basis. After all, everything was connected together with their MSP monitoring the entire infrastructure around-the-clock. They not only decreased the number of issues they had, but also the amount of money they spent on support that was charged by the hour. Instead, they paid a flat-rate monthly fee that was easy to budget, month after month.

In addition to having fewer issues and spending less money, they were able to access an entire team of knowledgeable technology experts who were able to advise them on a range of topics, such as:

  • The latest accounting software programs
  • The latest cloud computing programs
  • The best business phone systems
  • And much more

An MSP essentially allows businesses to be proactive rather than reactive – waiting for problems to occur, paying to fix them, and hoping for the best. An MSP takes care of all types of issues, including software updates, malfunctioning computers, networking equipment, maintenance on servers, and much more. Typically, they’re certified partners with industry leaders, including but not limited to:

  • Microsoft
  • Dell
  • SonicWall
  • Netgear
  • Lenovo
  • And much more

They have engineers and technology experts on hand who are able to handle virtually any technology requirements.

What Are the Separate Components of Managed IT Services?

The separate components of managed IT services can include a range of individual functions and/or solutions, depending on your unique needs. Most MSPs allow you to choose from a few different plans they have available. These plans are typically created based on industry best practices, and more often than not, they’ll have a plan that suits your unique needs. If you don’t think you need all of the services listed, you can request to remove one or more services. However, we don’t recommend doing so.

As mentioned, their plans are created based on industry best practices. They know what needs to be done to keep your business operating in a secure and efficient manner. Here are some of the most common components of managed IT services:

  • Managed applications: This includes monitoring, patching, updating, and reporting on the applications you use. This also includes any configuration and/or security measures required.
  • Managed business phones: This includes configuration and support for VoIP business phones – a technology designed to allow you to leverage the phone over the Internet, as well as various enterprise-grade features.
  • Managed backup & disaster recovery: This includes the development and ongoing testing of a customized backup and disaster recovery plan designed to keep your business functioning, no matter what happens.
  • Managed network: This may include managed wireless access points, router & WAN management, switch and cloud management, and any other tasks required to keep your network operating around-the-clock.
  • Onsite or remote support: This may include a set amount or an unlimited amount of hours available for support, whether it’s onsite or remote, depending on your unique needs.
  • Managed security: This includes configuring the proper firewall, web content filtering, email archival solution, anti-virus software, and other services designed to keep unauthorized users out of your network.
  • Managed servers: This includes maintaining all servers – from patching/updating to incident management to around-the-clock monitoring and everything in between – ensuring optimal performance.

If you need other services, they’re likely available to be added to your managed IT services plan or a-la-carte, such as:

  • Virtual CIO services
  • Cabling services
  • Video surveillance
  • IT projects and/or consulting
  • And much more

Once you’ve settled on a specific bundle of services, they’ll put this into your service level agreement (SLA) – an agreement that outlines your services, the prices, and any conditions and/or specifications on response times.