Most modern businesses today, whether they’re run as a small, one-person shop or an international enterprise, rely on technology. Even the smallest of businesses can have complex technologies that are critical to operations. When network connections are strong and all systems operating as intended, your team can go about its business. However, when something goes awry (as it inevitably does), or when technology advances, your team’s performance will suffer, let alone function at all. In the past, you had two choices for managing your IT: hire your own IT team or outsource IT completely to a third-party company. Both had their downsides. Managed IT services bring the best of both together, forming a hybrid approach that’s attractive to small and medium-sized businesses.
Table of Contents
1. How SMBs Used to Manage Their IT
2. Understanding Managed IT Services
3. Managed Services are a Hybrid Approach to IT Management
4. Managed IT Services are More Urgent than Ever
5. Local Trends in the MSP Industry in New Jersey and New York
6. Who Can Benefit from Managed IT Services?
7. Benefits of Managed IT Services
8. Another Reason to Make the Movet
9. What to Look for in a Managed Services Provider
10. Examine Each Prospective Managed Services Provider’s Qualifications
11. Conducting a Requirements Assessment
12. What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
13. The Quikteks Difference
14. Contact Quikteks
How SMBs Used to Manage Their IT
Many small businesses have found that staffing their own IT departments is cost-prohibitive and impractical. There’s simply not enough in-house IT work to justify staffing an IT department and paying the generous salaries that IT professionals command. Thus, they’d work with a local computer company, calling for help as needed. This generally meant that they’d call for help when something broke.
Managing your IT in a break-fix manner has numerous downsides. For example:
- • Reactive, not proactive. Many issues are easily prevented, but only if someone is proactively managing and monitoring systems.
- • Downtime is disruptive.Depending on the nature of the issue, employees may not be able to continue their work, phones might not ring, or customers may not be able to place orders online. Can your business afford downtime?
- • Failures could have serious consequences such as data loss or business losses. Even if you could quickly, easily, and affordably replace a failed piece of hardware, could your business function if all of your business data was lost for good? Could it recover from an extended period of downtime?
- • Emergency IT service calls are expensive. If your server crashes, you’ll likely need a technician and replacement hardware ASAP. There’s no time to shop around for a deal, and your local computer company will likely charge a premium for an urgent service call. Expect to pay even more if it occurs after hours.
- • Technicians and IT companies come and go. Just when it seems you’ve finally found a good tech who gets your business and the technology that powers it, he or she moves on. Small IT support firms may change ownership or go out of business, leaving you in the market once again.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to choose between staffing an in-house IT department or reacting to issues as they occur. Managed IT services allow for a more proactive approach and helps you to further benefit from the latest technologies.
Understanding Managed IT Services
What do we mean by managed IT services? According to Gartner, managed service providers (MSPs) deliver “network, application, system, and e-management services across a network to multiple enterprises, using a ‘pay as you go’ pricing model.”
SmallBusinessComputing.com explains managed services as a means of offloading IT operations to a service provider who assumes the “ongoing responsibility for monitoring, managing and/or problem resolution for selected IT systems and functions on your behalf.”
Examples of the various services that can be provided via managed services include:
- • Alerts
- • Managed network security
- • Patch management
- • Mobile device management
- • Data backup and recovery
- • Hardware as a service
- • Software as a service
- • Payment processing
- • Managed communications (VoIP)
- • Storage
- • Managed video surveillance
- • Help desk
- • Website hosting
Managed Services are a Hybrid Approach to IT Management
When you partner with a managed services provider, you work together to determine the best services for your business, budget, and comfort level. For example, you may want to outsource some IT operations to a service provider and take care of others on your own.
With a managed service agreement, the managed services provider provides the service for an agreed upon monthly fee, which is typically far less than what you’d pay to procure the system, hardware, and technical resources to do on your own. For example, if you’ve ever built a website, you know that website hosting is just a few dollars a month, which is much cheaper than buying your own web server and paying thousands of dollars per month for a T1 connection. The same concept holds true for managed IT services.
Managed services are also scalable, so as your business grows, you can easily add capacity.
Managed IT Services are More Urgent than Ever
Like their enterprise counterparts, small and mid-sized businesses need fast, real-time access to sales data, online software, order processing, and other information stored both locally and in the cloud. At the same time, all businesses face an onslaught of security threats every day ranging from computer viruses, hackers, and ransomware to unsuspecting employees who may fall prey to a phishing scheme.
In fact, according to Small Business Trends’ recent Cyber Security Statistics, over 43 percent of cyber attacks target small business. Small businesses spend an average of $879,582 after an attack due to damage or theft of IT assets. As if that cost weren’t already high, business disruption to normal operations cost an average of $955,429. Perhaps that’s why 60 percent of all small businesses go out of business within six months of such an attack.
Cyber threats could result in service disruptions, data loss, compromised financial accounts (yours or your customers’), or even serious harm to your business’s reputation.
Even if you have a dedicated IT team who can attend to these matters, managed services could free them from routine tasks while simultaneously ensuring that crucial security updates and data backups take place regularly and proactively. It’s not unusual for in-house personnel to split their time between IT tasks and performing other business functions. By including managed services in your IT strategy, you’ll ensure that important maintenance and security tasks get done regardless of other projects vying for your team’s attention.
In addition to the urgency due to security threats, managed services help ensure that your network is secure, reliable, and fast — all without huge capital investments. Managed services providers can help you reign in your IT costs while optimizing your systems for performance and security.
Local Trends in the MSP Industry in New Jersey and New York
As a local tech support company serving businesses in New Jersey and the tri-state area, we encounter many of the same issues over and over — most of which are completely preventable. Below are some of the more common threats local businesses face.
- • Security, security, security – We constantly hear of hacks, malware intrusions, ransomware concerns, etc. We focus on front-end and back-back end security as well as data backup and disaster recovery.
- • Natural Disasters – While hurricanes like Sandy certainly wreak havoc on business systems, every day natural disasters like lightning strikes, fires, flooding, and power failures are a major concern because they often result in both hardware and data loss. Hardware is relatively easy to replace; data, however, requires a good offsite backup. Why off-site? So it’s safe from the same disaster that destroyed the original.
- • Ransomware – Ransomware is on the rise. We get frantic phones calls all the time saying their system got hacked with some variant of ransomware. Ransomware targets businesses of all sizes, locking up your data without a moment’s notice. It’s virtually impossible to unlock it unless you pay the criminals (and even then, you could be out of luck). The best defense is a strong offense that includes security software, monitoring, and realtime backups.
- • Hackers – Likewise, small business networks are also vulnerable to intrusions from hackers. Hackers aren’t always interested in locking you out of your systems or stealing credit card numbers, though both are common. For example, hackers could take over your systems and devices for nefarious purposes such as for sending massive amounts of spam. Again, a proactive approach consisting of security software, regular updates and patches, firewalls, encryption, and realtime monitoring is the best approach.
- • Lack of IT resources – Small businesses are usually just that, small. Many don’t have a dedicated IT department, or even a single IT professional on staff. They also may not have the budget needed to build the type of infrastructure needed to grow and thrive. Fortunately, this lack of IT resources is one of the easiest issues to solve through managed IT services. We step in and become your IT department, all for an affordable, predictable fee.
“We see security being at the forefront of our clients’ demands. We will adapt by setting up seamless secure networks that are fluid for our clients and their employees so the end user experience is of high quality.” – Andrew Rich, CEO, Quikteks
Who Can Benefit from Managed IT Services?
Managed services providers serve a variety of industries including healthcare, manufacturing, financial, retail, restaurant and hospitality, warehousing and distribution, education, government, and transportation. Whether you run a medical clinic or a pest control company, if your business relies on computers, networks, or data, it could benefit from managed services.
The following are a few scenarios where businesses can benefit from managed services:
- • Your business operates 24/7 in real time
- • You want your key people to focus on critical business functions, not managing networks or patching operating systems
- • Your business has remote workers or multiple branch offices
- • You’re thinking about upgrading your existing IT infrastructure
- • Your business lacks the financial and/or human resources to manage your own IT
- • Your business needs technology in order to compete or grow
- • Your business is expanding into new markets
- • You would like to cut costs and maximize resources
- • You need access to an advanced infrastructure or global network but have limited resources
- • You would like to take advantage of the latest advances but do not want a large capital investment
Benefits of Managed IT Services
Managed IT services allow you to proactively prevent and fix problems while they are minor and fixable. As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine.
In addition to solving problems before they can negatively impact your business, managed IT services are beneficial in other important ways such as:
- • Cost Savings — Going back to our web hosting example, would you rather pay $5 per month for web hosting or $800 for a web server and $1500 per month for a T1 line? With the monthly plan, you’d save $18,740 the first year and nearly $18,000 every year after — and that’s just for one small service. The cost savings of managed services can be substantial and extend beyond the costs of procurement. For example, you’ll no longer have associated repair costs, IT staffing costs, or energy costs. Less tangible, but equally important, revenue losses due to failures will all but disappear.
- • Predictable Costs — Since managed services are priced using a monthly subscription model, your IT costs are predictable. They generally stay the same each month unless you’ve scaled up (which is another benefit discussed below).
- • Scalability — As your business grows, you can easily upgrade to increase capacity. If you’re on a monthto-month agreement, downgrades are possible, too.
- • Access to the Latest Technologies — Have you ever invested tens of thousands of dollars on technology only to outgrow it or have it become obsolete soon after? With managed services, you won’t be stuck with inefficient technology until the lease is paid off or until you have the resources to upgrade it.
- • Access to IT Professionals — Managed services providers have highly qualified personnel on staff to support their customers in the areas of service they provide such as server management, network security, virtualization, or disaster recovery.
- • Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity — What if something does go wrong, even if you subscribe to a managed services agreement? If your managed services include disaster recovery and business continuity, the impact will be minimal. For example, you may never know a server crashed or a hard drive failed because a redundant, mirrored drive immediately kicked in, providing a seamless transition and uninterrupted service despite the unexpected problem.
- • Less Stress — Knowing that your business systems are constantly being monitored, updated, managed, and backed up brings peace of mind. There’s much less stress because even if an outage occurs, redundant, geographically diverse systems ensure that both downtime and potential impact will be minimal.
- • Single point of contact — Managed services providers manage the relationships with various vendors under their umbrellas. For example, you may have Internet service, VoIP phone service, and website hosting services through different vendors. However, should you have a problem, the managed services provider works with the appropriate vendor to resolve it.
Another Reason to Make the Move
Managed Services don’t just benefit your business, your customers benefit, too.
How? Let us count the ways…
- • Improved workflows and efficiencies translate into a more efficient and satisfied workforce.
- • Modern applications, whether on the backend or customer-facing, streamline transactions and can result in faster service or a more pleasant user experience.
- • Your customers trust you to secure their personal and financial information. With the prevalence of hackers, spyware, and other threats, you owe it to your customers to take a proactive and preventative approach to network security.
What to Look for in a Managed Services Provider
Saving money, working more efficiently, gaining access to modern technology without a huge capital investment, streamlining processes for a better customer experience, and protecting your systems and information are but a few of the many compelling reasons to say yes to managed IT services. However, as with selecting any other service provider, you’ll want to do your due diligence.
Examine Each Prospective Managed Services Provider’s Qualifications
Just as you’d research contractors before bringing them in to bid on a remodeling project, you’ll want to do the same of prospective IT managed services providers. What services do they offer? What qualifications, certifications, and vendor partnerships do they have? Do they work with businesses like yours or specialize in helping a different type of business customer?
Once you narrow down your list to providers who might be a good fit for your business, you’ll need to dig a little deeper to find out the specifics. For example, what type of technical certifications does the vendor hold? Does the vendor have partnership agreements in place with relevant partners? What type of reporting is included? Is real-time network monitoring with fault detection included? Is a backup and disaster recovery element included? What are the provider’s service levels, availability, and response times? How fast does the provider respond? How do you report issues? Are all of the services managed remotely or are local service calls included?
It’s crucial to match your needs with the provider’s services as well as find a service provider that you are comfortable with.
Conducting a Requirements Assessment
Every business has its own priorities and processes, making it important for your managed service provider to understand the inner workings of your business. It’s not a simple matter of making sure that Fred in accounting’s hard drive is included in the backup plan; it’s a matter of assessing each business’s systems, risks and vulnerabilities, security requirements, and more.
Thus, you’ll want to look for a managed service provider who tailors each service to their clients’ unique needs. Make sure you are both clear on your business objectives such as projected growth, budgetary resources, competition, and strategic business goals. This understanding will guide you and the managed services provider in identifying the technical requirements and selecting relevant services.
What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
Managed services providers typically spell out the level of services that they will provide in what’s known as a service level agreement, or SLA. This is a contract between you and the managed services provider, and it defines exactly what you will receive. SLAs usually include the following components:
- • Description of the service
- • Reliability / availability
- • Response times
- • Procedures for reporting issues
- • levels for included components
- • Consequences if service obligations are not met
- • Exemptions
Evaluating the SLA
As with any contract, an SLA should be carefully read and understood before you agree to it.
- • Is it detailed and clear? This is desirable as you’ll want to be clear about expectations — and in determining if the agreed upon service levels are actually being delivered once service begins. There’s little recourse in a vague SLA because it’s virtually impossible to hold the service provider accountable to an ambiguous standard.
- • Is it flexible? Business requirements change. Thus, your SLA should have the flexibility to be changed as your needs change. This scalability should work both ways, allowing you to increase or decrease services as needed.
- • Does it include performance metrics specific to the managed services you are ordering? Performance metrics provided at specific intervals allow you to determine if service levels are being met.
The Quikteks Difference
The MSP market in New Jersey and New York is on fire. Companies large and small are outsourcing their business technology solutions to help them become more efficient and economical. Quikteks is up to the challenge of helping you do the same.
We offer managed IT services tailored to your business requirements. We start with a free IT assessment to determine how we can best help your organization. From there, we’ll propose the managed services that will you serve you best such as 24/7/365 proactive monitoring and maintenance, managed server support, or even virtual CIO services.
Since 2002, Quikteks has provided cutting-edge, reliable business technology solutions to small and medium-sized businesses in the tri-state area. Our support solutions include technical help desk support, computer support, and consulting in order to deliver enterprise-level IT solutions to the small and medium-sized business sectors at affordable rates.
Searching for an affordable managed service IT provider? Contact us today to schedule your free IT assessment.