Managed IT Services for Small Businesses: A Comprehensive Guide
The number of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) has been growing rapidly in recent times. Statistics show that SMBs represent 90% of global businesses and are responsible for around 50% of the world’s employment. Most entrepreneurs start their small businesses because they are passionate about an idea, but they also agree that a certain discipline is needed for every business to sustain and succeed. In a hyper-competitive market, simply having a good idea isn’t enough, you need to back it up with the right technology and manpower. Every business, no matter which industry it belongs to, needs efficient IT services to get various operations up and running. But not every SMB has the time and money to maintain an in-house IT team. This is why most SMBs worldwide are inclining toward managed service providers (MSPs) who can outsource managed IT services according to their business’s needs and relieve some pressure off them.
Who Are Managed Service Providers?
A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a third-party vendor that outsources services to the client company and assumes end-to-end responsibility for the services. These services can be delivered to the client either remotely or from the client’s location. A large number of MSPs extend managed IT services such as network management, cybersecurity, mobile device management, cloud infrastructure management, etc. to businesses of all sizes. Small businesses can benefit greatly from such managed mobility service providers, as they no longer need to have an in-house IT team to perform these diverse operations.
What Are Managed IT Services?
Managed IT services are the outsourced third-party IT services that companies hire to take it IT management load off their shoulders. Businesses that do not have the full capacity to hire an in-house IT team rely on these third-party IT service providers mainly to leverage expert-level service quality without investing time and money in hiring, training and maintaining a full-time IT staff.
Managed IT services are of various kinds as mentioned below and businesses can opt for the ones that cater to their needs.
Every business no matter how big or small runs on data. With growing incidents of data breaches and cyber attacks, businesses need cybersecurity services that can protect the company from sensitive data loss. Cybersecurity services take care of multiple security aspects such as application testing, IoT security assessment, penetration testing, compromise analysis, incidence response and much more.
Cloud Infrastructure Management
Today’s business world runs big on cloud computing. Cloud infrastructure includes the hardware and software components needed to enable cloud computing. Several third-party services manage their client’s cloud infrastructure including hardware maintenance, backups, frequent updates, etc. to ensure smooth cloud computing for their employees.
Even in small companies, hundred of employees access the corporate networks daily. MSPs take care of efficient network monitoring and security in terms of tracking established connections, network vulnerabilities, remote network access, etc.
This is one of the common IT services offered by most MSPs. It involves providing 24/7 IT support to clients’ employees remotely. Employees use digital devices, company servers, networks and diverse tools on a daily basis. The chances of them running into errors are high. That is why businesses prefer having constant remote IT support services to aid their employees with any issues that they may face round the clock.
Mobile Device and Endpoint Management
MSPs manage their client's mobile devices and diverse endpoints including smartphones, tablets, laptops, rugged devices, custom-built devices, POS systems, kiosk management, etc. Modern-day MDM solutions and RMM solutions offer powerful features that can help MSPs remote manage and secure thousands of client devices and simplify bulk device management.
Business Intelligence & Data Analytics
Businesses gain a competitive advantage by analyzing market trends, and data generated from their processes making it a crucial part of business strategy. Several IT service providers take raw data about IT system performance and convert it into actionable insights to streamline business processes.
Some IT services do not work for their clients directly, but instead offer dedicated IT expertise to help businesses with their IT management. They provide IT leadership to enable businesses to work out the right strategies, build the right tech stack and implement IT solutions that are best suited to their business requirements.
Evolution of Managed IT Services
Ever since the dawn of commercial computing, businesses have faced recurring challenges. Computing technologies that simplify the management and monitoring of a large number of computers are expensive and require a certain level of expertise which is scarce in the market. In earlier days, the IT model worked on the break-fix methodology wherein the IT teams were reached out only when the computer systems faced a technical problem. This method worked for businesses then, as not a lot of processes were heavily dependent on computers and technologies.
Typically, businesses would have a computer system set up, and IT teams primarily provided computer repair services only in event of a system failure. An in-house IT technician would quickly show up at the site and repair the system manually in exchange for a nominal fee. In rare scenarios where the issue was of a greater magnitude, an external managed service provider would be called on-site to resolve the problem.
The problem with this break-fix IT approach was that there was no guarantee when the IT technician or external help could make time to pay a visit to the site. Similarly, until the technician arrived, there was no way to identify the intensity of the glitch. This resulted in longer downtimes, greater repair costs and loss of productivity as employees were kept on hold until the issue was resolved. It also demanded frequent site visits by the technicians for both major and minor issues, which led to an overburdened IT staff.
This age-old IT model was clearly not efficient and needed to be replaced with a systematic approach that was faster and required lesser IT efforts. This is when the age of managed IT services that paved way for remote IT management ushered in.
Managed IT Services: The Current Landscape
With time, businesses have realized the importance of computers and are heavily reliant on these digital systems today. To ensure a smooth operation and minimal downtime, businesses have begun inclining toward preventive and proactive measures, unlike the traditional break-fix method. Large Fortune 500 companies today have strong in-house IT teams that exclusively take care of their systems and networks. Smaller companies, that cannot afford an elaborate IT infrastructure leverage these services from external vendors that help them reinforce their security and manage their versatile systems.
Studies suggest that only 54% of the businesses in the US have a proper disaster recovery plan. Most small and medium-sized businesses do not consider themselves targets of cyber attacks. But that’s not the case, 61% of small businesses have reported at least one cyber attack in 2020. With newer business trends such as BYOD management, hybrid working, remote access, etc. and worsening scenarios of the cyber threats, it is time that small and medium-sized businesses partner with efficiently managed service providers.
Benefits of Managed IT Service Providers
If your business lacks an in-house IT team, you have to reach out to external IT providers every time you face technical issues, network problems, etc. In this case, your business has no option but to rely on the services and unpredictable costs presented by external service providers in order to bring your systems and networks back online. Having a dedicated MSP taking care of your IT management needs means that you pay definite costs for definite services, without last-minute surprises.
MSPs ensure that they provide the best quality IT services to their clients. Be it handling various business trends such as BYOD management, or reinforcing cybersecurity measures for your business. MSPs can leverage high-quality IT expertise to manage their diverse processes without shelling large volumes of money into hiring an in-house IT team.
Even if businesses have an in-house IT team, their availabilities fluctuate depending on the workload. SMBs can fix their IT issues rapidly with MSPs who are constantly monitoring their client’s systems and networks, as opposed to overwhelmed in-house IT teams. No matter what the issue, MSPs always work with their clients on call to get the issues resolved on priority.
Use of the Latest Technology
Small businesses generally have to plan their finances well to include technologies and facilities that fit within their budgets. However, when you allow an MSP to take care of certain IT processes, the MSP is fully responsible for the process and is free to use whichever tools and technologies they deem fit to get the task done efficiently. Businesses can take advantage of the latest technologies and software used by their MSPs, which may not have been affordable otherwise.
Opting for managed IT services allows businesses greater flexibility and scalability. Since MSPs offer a variety of IT services, companies can add or remove services based on how well it is working for their business, without the need to invest time, money and manpower in new processes from scratch. For example, a company that outsources data and network security from a third-party IT service provider can modify the service package to include device management or cloud security if need be.
IT management for the backbone of your business operations in a way. Since more and more employees are leveraging remote working, companies need to rethink their security and device management posture. MSPs streamline your IT processes right from data security, endpoint management, and network monitoring, to remote access, app and content distribution, remote troubleshooting and much more. With this, business leaders can focus on what is important for their company, and employees can work efficiently without any hindrances.
MSPs take care of your company’s compliance with various IT rules and regulations. For your business to be operating your IT management relies on several certifications such as the HIPAA compliance certificate, Microsoft and Google licenses, etc. which are kept recorded and maintained by your MSPs.
Choosing an Ideal MSP
Now that we have established that outsourcing IT services might be the best solution for SMBs, let’s understand a few factors that businesses must consider while choosing their MSP.
Market Presence & Portfolio
The MSP market is growing exponentially and the competition between MSPs is at an all-time high. It is important for businesses to verify the MSP’s market presence, experience with other clients, service offerings, customer testimonials, etc. to ensure that the services adequately meet the business needs.
Response Time & Availability
Most MSPs provide IT services remotely. So it is important that your MSP has a fast response time, in addition, to anytime availability. Technical issues can arrive at any time, it is important that your MSP offers quick fixes and speedy responses to ensure that your business does not face an extended downtime.
Disaster Recovery Plan
A good MSP will always have a disaster recovery plan if ever the client faces a security incident. Multiple layers of security, data backups and restoration processes are essential for business continuity.
Just like how businesses take the help of MSPs to manage their versatile IT processes, MSPs too often partner with third-party vendors that offer diverse platforms and solutions. For example, your MSP may have partnered with a Kiosk management solution to manage your remotely deployed digital kiosks. When evaluating an MSP, make sure you take a look at the partners that your MSP is associated with.
The idea behind partnering with an MSP is to improve efficiency and reduce efforts and costs. Make sure your MSP has a clear pricing structure that is devoid of hidden charges. Some MSPs offer a tiered pricing structure with premium plans which can work wonders for you if you have special device types or exclusive service requirements. Ultimately the choice lies in your hands.
A survey by CompTIA suggests that 50% of companies who partnered with managed service providers were able to save 1-24% in annual IT costs, 33% saved 25-49%, while 13% reported savings of more than 50%. Whether your business requires partial services to support your in-house IT teams, or a full range of IT services to ensure secure and smooth use of digital systems, managed service providers are the solution to your versatile preventive, repair and maintenance needs.