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November 25, 2014

Panic Free IT with Managed Services


managed IT services

For smaller businesses it used to be the case that when the network went down, or workstation problems occurred, it was time to call out the local IT support company. Sometimes, the business in question had a basic contract in place which meant that they had the right to pay for hardware only and a monthly cost, or that call-out costs were reduced. Remote management did exist, but for the most part the tools that were available meant that it was out of reach cost-wise to all but the big players.

Today, the pace that technology has changed and the rise of technologies such as mobile and the cloud has meant that IT support is now much more accessible. From the small home office, to large organizations, everyone can now afford to ensure that their infrastructure is protected and adequately monitored.

What’s break-fix?

The break-fix model does as its name suggests – when something goes wrong the IT support guy is called and comes along to fix it. The problem with this approach is that it’s always meant that a business’ goals and that of the IT support company are never fully aligned. The business owner inwardly groans when he sees the computer guy came through the door as he knows it’s going to cost him money.

Further to this, it generally means that the business suffers some kind of down time. This in turn costs the business even more money of course, especially as computers have become increasingly important to business processes.

What are managed services?

These cover a range of IT support services which include remote monitoring and software updates, remote support for a variety of issues, backup, managed email and security and much more. With a managed services contract, a business pays a fixed monthly fee which covers everything that they need aside from hardware.

Managed services are a proactive approach to IT support, whilst the break-fix model is a reactive one. Since a lot of the time, problems within a business when it comes to technology can be put down to the end user, managed services take away the need for user intervention.

For example, a recent report found that many users don’t apply software updates when they become available and in some cases they were found to be as many as two years out of date. Software patches are a vital part of any organization’s security, as popular software – such as Microsoft products and Adobe software – is often attacked by cybercriminals. The report also found that some companies didn’t even have basic protection in place, such as AV software, and 77% of those surveyed didn’t have any kind of incident response document or plan in place.

Security and compliance

The implications of this are far reaching. Not only does it mean that the business’ details are at risk, there’s also the question of compliance if a business takes credit cards. The requirements for compliance are becoming increasingly tight and if a business doesn’t pay attention to its security, then it’s likely it could see a huge fine and even the business failing. Backup procedures in business have a similar outlook, with many not checking backup media for years and having no secondary backup procedures in place. The cost of lost data to an organization is huge, yet for the most part there seems to be a disconnect between IT support and executives when it comes to budget allocation.

This is even before we start getting into the problems suffered when the end user clicks on an ill-advised link or opens up a suspicious attachment. Security threats are always there and are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so it pays to be able to take out end user threats before they occur.

Be the CTO

The answer to this for a business is to look at the managed service provided as an outsourced CTO. Not only can managed services ensure that systems are monitored at all times, but they can come up with a plan going forward on how to deal with disaster.

Managed services can provide:

  • Managed security services for patching, installing and updating AV solutions, file/server monitoring to pick up DDoS attacks etc. in the early stages
  • Email management and security
  • Remote monitoring and management
  • Managed backup and recovery
  • Network and server infrastructure and management

Of course, some businesses will want to take a more hybrid approach and get the best of both worlds if they also require hardware support. Either way, what managed services really offers is the opportunity for a business to have access to an IT department at a fixed monthly cost. This allows for much better budgeting, improved project management and vitally, a vastly reduced downtime when things go wrong.

Downtime costs SMBs $20,000

According to Techradar, downtime costs 80% of SMBs “at least $20,000 … per hour, according to a report conducted for IDC by Acronis. For 20% of SMBs, one hour of downtime can cost at least $100,000.”

That’s a frightening statistic for any small to medium business owner. The cost of downtime takes into account the costs to put it right, as well as the cost of staff being unable to perform duties and the loss of customer revenue. Managed services help to mitigate the risk by ensuring that systems are healthy at all times.

The break-fix model is an outdated one now. We have substantially more technology available to us than we did even a decade ago and these are now financially accessible to businesses of all shapes and sizes. There’s no need for a reactive solution when a proactive one can be provided, and even for those businesses that require hardware support, it’s more than worthwhile. Monitoring can pick up system error messages to warn of hardware failure, so even with hardware problems can often be preempted.

For SMBs, the opportunity to have an outsourced CTO monitor and act on their systems is an unprecedented one and one that every SMB, even those with an internal IT department, should take advantage of. Since the recession, many businesses have cut IT departments substantially and research suggests that SMBs have no plans to reinstate depleted departments. Managed services can help them to plug the gaps left as well as further supplementing the company’s IT with a range of offerings that can be tailored to suit the business in question.

So break-fix is dead, or at least it’s singing its swan song and that’s a good thing, as it means that finally, the IT support company and the business it serves has goals that are perfectly aligned.