Understanding Managed IT: What Manitoba Business Owners Need to Know
Has your business’ information technology been on your mind? Maybe your help desk is getting swamped with complaints – so many that they can’t help with other key business priorities. Or perhaps you keep hearing about ransomware attacks and wondering if your company is ready for them. Or you know you just don’t have enough staff to handle your strategic goals, but with your revenue and cash flow projections, bringing on more full-time staff isn’t in the cards in the near future.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you may want to consider availing yourself of managed IT services.
What Is Managed IT?
Managed IT is a comprehensive set of IT services provided by third parties, typically known as Managed Service Providers (or MSPs). MSPs manage the specific core infrastructure functions you specify, such as:
- Cloud computing
- Data protection
- Device monitoring and management
- Disaster recovery
- Emergency management
- Enterprise software development
- Industry-specific IT regulatory compliance
- IT consulting and project management
- IT training
- Network monitoring, management, and security
- On-site or remote helpdesk management
- Strategic IT planning
- VoIP phone services
When you work with an MSP, you can outsource those functions that take up the most time from your staff. Your in-house staff can then be freed up to focus on critical strategic priorities and revenue-driving activities.
How Managed IT Works With In-House IT
IT professionals often worry that when you consider using an MSP, you’re doing so because you plan to lay them off. But any reputable managed IT provider will tell you that they don’t exist to supplant the work of your in-house staff but to complement and enhance it. An experienced third-party service provider can not only lend staff capacity to under-resourced IT departments. They can also lend your staff a fresh perspective on leveraging IT to achieve your business goals more effectively.
MSP staff work with businesses in different industries and with best-in-class technology. They probably have worked with other clients to help them achieve similar revenue growth, product development, marketing, or other key goals. And drawing on that experience, they’ll have invaluable recommendations that can help you achieve them more quickly.
No more trial and error. With an MSP, you’ll get tried-and-true strategies that will take your business to the next level.
What Is The Difference Between Managed IT and an MSSP?
You may also have heard of the term MSSP, which stands for Managed Security Services Provider. Many MSPs provide managed security services as well, though some MSSPs are standalone businesses. MSSPs are comprised of cybersecurity professionals who work all day to safeguard client data and IT assets from cyber threats. They use sophisticated detection tools, comb through shared industry threat databases, and keep track of threat actors. And they’re structured to provide their businesses with cybersecurity support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Compare the work of an MSSP to the efforts of your in-house staff. You may have several or even just a couple of IT generalists handling everything from employee helpdesk tickets to server maintenance. Cybersecurity is part of their job description, but in reality, they do not have the time to take all the necessary measures to protect your network. Nor are they as immersed in the latest cybersecurity best practices and intelligence as they need to be to do so.
That’s why MSSPs exist – to provide the cybersecurity staff capacity and expertise that small and growing businesses need to protect their assets. And many MSPs offer the same or better quality of cybersecurity support services that standalone MSSPs do.
What Are the Benefits of Using Managed IT Services?
Working with an MSP partner can benefit firms of any size and industry. But they are particularly beneficial for growing small and midsized businesses (SMBs) who cannot yet afford to employ all the IT staff they would need full-time to manage and secure their business. In addition to lending needed staff capacity, MSPs can help businesses:
- Focus on core revenue-driving activities. You and your IT staff can spend less time focusing on mundane but necessary technology tasks and refocus your daily efforts on achieving revenue targets and other business goals.
- Engage in consistent IT budgeting and spending. In-house IT budgets are often highly variable, especially when just a few staff handle all IT tasks and IT emergencies. MSPs provide reliable, predictable bills that account for things that may go wrong.
- Identify and achieve cost savings. Because MSPs work with multiple clients, they’ve achieved certain economies of scale that can benefit you when you obtain services or hardware/software from them. Further, their operational insights from working with other clients may help save you money.
- Mitigate cybersecurity and other IT-related risks. MSPs can likely provide you with a greater level of cybersecurity protection than your in-house team can, especially if your team is comprised of generalists. Further, they provide such services round-the-clock and can help you remain in regulatory compliance with industry-specific IT mandates as well.
- Provide access to advanced technology. MSPs work with the most current and most effective technology available on the market. Though businesses handling their IT solo may find themselves putting off expensive upgrades, those working with an MSP will often find that newer technology is available to them through their provider, often at no or minimal cost.
- Increase productivity. Businesses often have a fairly disorganized IT infrastructure. For example, some departments may be running applications off an on-site server, while others use separate cloud applications. By moving critical network and cloud computing infrastructure under one roof, you can streamline your operations and ensure data is shared more effectively (and securely) across your organization.
- Obtaining a trusted, expert, outside perspective. A great MSP will work with you collaboratively to help you achieve your business goals. But because they work outside your business, they can help you with an objective perspective on how effectively you’re using IT to achieve those goals. And because they work with other businesses, they have experience helping others get to where you want to go.
How Do I Identify the Right Provider?
If you’re considering adding an MSP to your team, you should first understand that not every MSP will be the right fit for your company. Sure, their websites all pitch fairly comprehensive service offerings and feature quotes from satisfied clients. But just as no two businesses are exactly alike, neither are any two MSPs.
Some offer specific services at a very high level, while others have deep experience working with clients in particular industries. Frankly, some don’t offer great service, industry knowledge, or pricing at all. So, you must do your due diligence before contracting with a provider. Here are some of the things you’ll want to understand and learn as you begin your selection process:
- What services do you need? You may think you need a comprehensive set of IT services, but do you really? Some business leaders are surprised to find aspects of their IT departments are working perfectly well with little if any need for improvement. But if you do, are you ready to immediately transition most of your operations to a third-party provider? Many businesses need less support than they think they do or are not yet in a place where they can fully avail themselves of the services they need for organizational or financial reasons. You must hone in on your organization’s immediate IT pain points, as well as map out a strategic vision for how you want your organization to use IT in the future. You’ll want to select a provider with the capacity to meet both current and future needs.
- What is the provider’s IT capacity? You need to know that your MSP has the experience and credentials you need to perform the services you’ll pay them for. You’ll also want to ensure that they themselves have the staff capacity to do the job. Just like businesses in any industry, there are some small and growing MSPs, some of which may not have enough staff to do what you need. And some newly established MSPs may not have the depth of experience or technical expertise that will be the right fit. Carefully evaluate the skills and capacity of each potential vendor to make sure you identify the right partner.
- What do the provider’s services look like in practice? When suspicious activity appears on your network, will the provider investigate and call you immediately if there’s a threat? Or will they simply email you a log file that you don’t have the time to decipher? Every business in the industry talks about customer service. But when you’re entrusting your operations, sensitive information, and critical assets to a third party, you need more than just passive, paint-by-numbers responses. Talk with your MSPs references and ask them about what the provider’s services look like on a daily basis.
- What guarantees does the MSP offer? A reputable MSP will offer a written Service Level Agreement (SLA) that clearly spells out their duties, obligations, and responsibilities. Scrutinize this document carefully, and do not sign a vendor agreement before you clearly understand each term and agree to each stipulation. There’s nothing worse than when a disaster strikes and a vendor is throwing their hands up and pointing a finger back at you for something they were responsible for. Your SLA should be written in clear, unambiguous language, cover as many scenarios as possible, and be periodically reviewed and updated.
- What is my budget, and how does the MSP bill? One of the benefits of working with an MSP is predictable budgeting and spending. Before approaching a potential provider, you should be fairly clear about the services you want and how much you are prepared to spend. And when you do speak with a provider, you’ll want to ensure that their proposed pricing only covers what you asked for, contains few if any variable costs, and can be scaled up or down based on actual usage.
Getting Started with a Managed IT Services Provider
If you’re looking for a reputable, experienced MSP in Manitoba, start your search with 365 Technologies. We pride ourselves on the quality of our services and our fanatical devotion to customer satisfaction. Established in 2010, 365 Technologies has offered affordable IT services to firms in industries ranging from accounting to engineering. And we focus our efforts on ensuring Worry-Free IT™ by eliminating five of the biggest IT headaches businesses face:
- Network downtime and crashes
- Slow IT support and response times
- Slow system performance
- Ransomware, hacks, and security breaches
- Unanticipated and expensive costs
Over the past decade, we’ve helped many businesses like yours improve their operational efficiency, save money, and increase their bottom line. We’d love to work with you. Contact us today, and let’s discuss your IT needs.
Special thanks to Paul and Troy at Pure IT in Calgary for their support of our team here in Winnipeg.