Everyone’s talking about Managed Services - they’re the IT industry’s newest buzzword. Businesses in just about every industry are making the switch from old-school break-fix arrangements, where the focus is firmly on the benefits to the contractor rather than your organization, to proactively managed and predictably priced support packages that allow you to identify glitches before they strike, and in the process give yourself smoother, more effective IT that drives business growth. But plenty of business owners struggle to get clear answers on the true benefits of Managed Services from a business perspective. What advantages do Managed Services really bring to you, your team and your profit margin?
Downtime is a business owner’s worst enemy. We all use IT on a regular basis because of its ability to drive greater productivity and help us get more done in less time - and even to accomplish things that we otherwise wouldn’t manage to do at all. Yet the truth is that IT’s own glitches and malfunctions all too often keep us from doing our jobs and achieving that very same productivity.
When talking about downtime, many of us think only of sustained periods where our technology doesn’t function at all. Whether it’s an internet outage, an application not working, or the entire network being completely out of use, it’s true that this kind of incident can completely put the brakes on a company’s work processes and, particularly if the downtime is sustained for an extended period of time, it can have devastating effects. Even shorter periods of downtime can have a significant impact on revenue, productivity and profit, but if it continues the effects can be magnified many times.
It doesn’t matter in which sector your business operates - downtime hits all businesses hard. Online retailers whose e-commerce systems go down can’t take orders, and as a result are essentially forced to keep their shop doors closed to customers until the problem is resolved. Lawyers might be unable to work on cases or communicate with clients, potentially delaying legal proceeds and causing financial losses to those they represent - and in the process causing untold damage to the legal firm’s reputation as as company to be relied on. Medical professionals might be forced to cancel appointments with patients if there is an outage on the system giving access to case history and medical records. No matter what kind of work your organization does, downtime is never something to be taken lightly.
Yet downtime in the widest sense extends far beyond what most of consider it to mean. The fact is that downtime refers equally to times of ongoing, ‘business-as-usual’ activity when IT system might technically be functioning, but in reality is not working as it should be. If your system is sluggish, or employees spend even short periods of time waiting to load applications or perform operations, those inefficiencies are hitting productivity, and your business’s bottom-line is being hit each and every day.
Managed Services help overcome these problems by focusing on proactive support that continually monitors your systems and identifies problems even before you know they exist. These problems include ad-hoc incidents that are potentially fatal to the usability of your systems, including those that can knock your entire network offline, as well as longer-term issues that cause reduced performance and productivity. These latter problems are ones that you might not have noticed even if they have been occurring for a long time - Managed Services support will bring them to your attention and put fixes place to ensure that they no longer hit your business’s ability to get profit-driving work done.
The internet is a scary place, full of untold threats to your company and its networks. Left unchecked, just your use of IT could leave your business with countless vulnerabilities and mean it is exposed to substantial damage - both financial and reputational. While you will never be able to mitigate every potential threat, it is vital that you proactively safeguard your business to the highest degree possible. But that all takes time, which is the one thing most busy business owners simply don’t have.
Handing off your security worries to a Managed Services Provider means you have one less thing to worry about, and gives you the reassurance that your business’s protection is in the hands of a trusted and capable provider. In addition to the usual day-to-day management and maintenance of your network, and proactive identification and resolution of potential trouble areas, Managed Services Providers stay up to date on the latest emerging threats, and can quickly put in place fixes and patches to ensure that your company’s cyber-security is never compromised.
While many business owners start out with the best intentions when it comes to security management, and hope to be able to update their protection as new threats emerge, the reality is that you simply don’t have the time to do an effective job of this. You already have enough to deal with just managing your business on a day-to-day basis, and at some point you’ll drop the ball and miss an important patch. Malicious hackers and cybercriminals rely on this, since they know that small businesses in particular frequently have inadequate security safeguards in place. The short window immediately after news of a new threat becomes public is precisely when hackers will make concerted efforts to breach your network perimeter. What’s more, you simply might not hear about a new security issue until it’s too late - whereas a dedicated Managed Services Provider will always have their ear to the ground, as well as countless industry connections to keep them up to speed, and shouldn’t miss a single opportunity to keep your systems secure.
Whether they steal your data, infect your systems with viruses or, perhaps worst of all, render your network unusable unless you pay a ransom fee, you’ll quickly find yourself regretting not having sought expert help to manage your security needs. By enlisting a Managed Services Provider to handle security on your behalf, you’ll be able to free yourself of the worry, and get on with all the other work passing across your desk today - safe in the knowledge that your systems will also still be working properly tomorrow.
You didn’t come into business to spend your time worrying about technology, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to know everything when it comes to the management of your IT systems. You are already a specialist in your own area - that’s what made you start your business in the first place - and nobody can be an expert at everything. Just as you would expect others requiring services in your niche to seek your professional advice rather than go it alone and likely mess things up for themselves, so you too should feel comfortable asking for IT help and support from those who have dedicated their careers to knowing the ins and outs of computer network management, administration and support.
Don’t underestimate the value of a specialist team to help you get the most out of your IT, and answer the questions and problems that pop up at the most inconvenient times - usually when you’re rushed off your feet and operating at peak capacity. Access to a team of IT experts who you can trust holds benefits not only when you’re fighting an immediate fire, but also during smoother periods when you have the time to look proactively to the future for ways to improve the technology process so that it does more to support your operations.
When you opt for Managed Services, you have a whole army of specialists on your side ready to provide the advice you need to take your IT capabilities to the next level. They can not only advise on the best way to achieve the changes to your systems that you’ve been dreaming of, but also suggest improvements that you might not even have considered. This might include anything from moving parts of your technology to the cloud, or virtualizing the physical equipment that powers your network.
Crucially, they’ll also advise you what not to do - that is to say, which of the potential IT system changes you’re considering that will either prove to be a failure, or simply won’t make enough of a difference or save you enough cash to be worth the investment of time, effort and money. Finally, your team of trusted IT advisors can help you secure discounts when it comes to buying new technology - whether that’s software or hardware - and replacing and upgrading the assets you already have. Thanks to extensive industry connections that come as a result of their lengthy time spent working in the IT sector, they’ll be able to save you a small fortune, as well as ensuring that you get the most effective technology in the first place, and that it’s installed in way to help you meet your long-term goals.
Without this kind of dedicated team by your side, you’ll simply spend your time fumbling around the maze that is the IT world, without actually getting where you want to go. You’ll make costly mistakes out of an understandable lack of detailed specialist knowledge - after all, you’re a lawyer, or retailer, or medical professional, not a computer expert - and you’ll likely wind up with technology that at most only does half of what you had hoped. What’s more, there are unscrupulous characters out there in the IT world and, without a trusted advisor at your side who truly has your business’s best interests at heart, you’ll likely find yourself taken advantage of.
Put simply, most business owners don’t know when something is going to go wrong with their IT. They don’t know when their next bout of downtime is going to come along, and they don’t know when software is going to unexpectedly need upgrading or replacing. Apart from the obvious implications this has on your business’s productivity - which we’ve talked about about above, and are resolved using the Managed Services approach which proactively identifies problems before they have the chance to cause disruption - this is a real dent in your ability to effectively budget and forecast your finances, something we all know is critical to the long-term survival of your company.
But of course, this all works to the advantage of the break-fix contractor, whose very livelihood relies on things going wrong with your network and you needing to call him or her to come out and save the day. There’s little incentive for them to truly resolve the problems at the root of your frequent downtime - if they did, then where would their next paycheck be coming from?
Managed Services Providers operate in the complete opposite way. While that break-fix contractor is reliant on your downtime to keep him or her in business, any downtime that a Managed Services Provider doesn’t catch with during the course of proactive maintenance ends up incurring costs for them. That’s because they’ll then have to work reactively to fix the problem, potentially sending someone out to your office to deal with it in person - whereas they could have caught it at the preventative stage, before it was a critical issue, and while it was still treatable remotely, without all the added travel costs and so on. It’s easy to see why, as a result, the Managed Services approach removes the conflict of interests faced by those engaging break-fix contractors, and why it instead puts your interests firmly back at the heart of your IT maintenance contract.
All this proactive work means that a Managed Services Provider can not only offer better, more effective service, but can likely provide it all for less than you’re paying your current break-fix contractor, and - best of all - on a flat-rate monthly basis. That means you finally regain the control over your IT budget that you’ve long since lost, since you know how much you’re paying for your technology maintenance and support each month. Most Managed Services Providers offer different levels of service depending on your size and requirements, so you can choose a plan that best fits your budget, and upgrade or downgrade as your business develops and your circumstances change.
Just because you already have an in-house team doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of all that Managed Services have to offer. While many smaller businesses don’t have the luxury of an in-house team - and in truth, most don’t need full-time staff for this role - other growing businesses may have already taken on staff to focus on their developing network needs.
Think about it, though. If your in-house team - whether that’s a single person, or a department of 20 or more - is forever pre-occupied fighting urgent fires and bringing non-functioning IT back to life, how can they possibly gain the focus they need in order to spend time on the longer-term strategy development that adds the real value to your business operations?
By harnessing the power of Managed Services, you can let an outsourced Managed Services Provider take the strain of day-to-day operations, while your internal team dedicates its efforts to the higher-level strategy that will allow your company to develop a more sophisticated, streamlined infrastructure and achieve your long-term goals. Alternatively, you can let the Managed Services Provider take care of the strategy while your in-house staff concentrates on daily maintenance and troubleshooting, providing a better and more efficient support service to the rest of your staff and, in the process, promoting greater productivity and an improved bottom-line profit.
IT is a distraction - it’s not what you came into business with the aim of doing. As we’ve explored already, it’s probably not your specialist area, either. The simple fact is that there are plenty of things you are better off spending your time doing - and which are a better use of the salary you pay yourself, given you can outsource both routine and strategic technology-related tasks to a team of experts who probably cost less by the hour than you do.
By engaging a Managed Services Provider to take care of your IT worries for you, you’ll free yourself of the headaches of trying to ensure your system is up and running. Instead, you’ll give yourself the time you need to not only clear your to-do list and even focus on longer-term objectives that you’ve always pushed to one side in the past, but also to work a little less and enjoy some more time for yourself. After all, many of us start our own businesses for the freedom we gain from working for ourselves, but how much freedom do we really have if we’re permanently chained to our desks? The solution is to work smarter rather than harder - and outsourcing technology support to a Managed Service Provider is a key part of doing so.
Now that you know a little more about some of the benefits of Managed Services, are you ready to make the leap? Let us undertake a FREE evaluation of your network to establish whether you are ready to adopt Managed Services and allow your business to take advantage of all of these benefits. We’ll tell you how IT could work better for your company more generally, and, best of all, there’s no obligation to sign up for our Managed Services if you decide we’re not the right fit for you (but we don’t think you’ll reach that conclusion!)
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