A Guide to Small Business Managed IT Services

A Guide to Small Business Managed IT Services

What does a ‘Managed IT Service’ have to do with  your most persistent IT headache as a small business owner? Almost everything, you’ll be pleased to know.

Wondering how to keep your IT network secure? High blood pressure over where to find emergency technical support for your employees? Restless over how to proactively maintain your systems to prevent the need for emergency support in the first place? Or sleepless nights over the cost of doing all of the above? Managed IT Services are one way for small businesses to address IT ‘niggles’ large and small, on a lean budget. The rest of this article will focus on Managed IT Services, and how they can be used to address most of the ‘IT headaches’ that small businesses face.

What IT Service Type Do You Need?

IT Service types are loosely categorised into 3, and it’s important to know how each type works to determine which is a good fit for your business.

Ad Hoc IT Support

This on-demand service model is the barest minimum. You call for help ‘as needed’, without the burden of continuous overhead costs.

While ad hoc IT support might sound easy-to-use and quite beneficial, there are reasons to consider more comprehensive solutions such as:

  1. Cost. It might be difficult to estimate costs in real-time, leaving business owners unable to anticipate and take care of costs when they arise
  2. Ambiguity. Uncertainty over the continuity of support – different technicians might apply different techniques in dealing with issues, so having a new technician each time might be considered the same as starting afresh; and
  3. Effectiveness. Inability to determine the true impact of IT breakdown on business.

Due to lean budgets and the allure of ‘one-time’ costs, small businesses might be tempted to use ad hoc IT support without realising that these services are anything but cheap.

Essential IT Managed Services

Perched on a rung above ad hoc IT support, essential IT Managed Services require signing up for basic IT support on a long-term basis.

Companies that provide this typically have an excellent grasp of your IT infrastructure and can therefore help anticipate problems, nip them in the bud, and prevent lengthy downtimes.

Essential IT support teams will update your documentation as necessary, giving you room to work with various providers as  circumstances dictate. However, there are ongoing costs associated with such levels of support.

What else can essential managed IT services offer your business? Here are a few:

  • Managing all relevant licences and warranty for clarity and transparency.
  • Restoring your systems and effectively shrinking downtimes, so you can quickly resume business.
  • Maintaining documentation for your IT systems, allowing you to switch providers without hassle

The ongoing costs associated with essential managed IT services might make this option seem expensive, however, this model allows for better predictability and budgeting over the ad hoc model.

Premium IT Managed Services

Here’s the cream of the crop: similar to Essential Services, but more hands-on. In this model, the support company works closely with you to understand your business and what your goals are to enable the creation of an all-in-one package that aligns with your business goals.

This will likely include a business audit and expert recommendations, proactive system maintenance to anticipate problems before they occur, management of licences and warranties, new employee IT onboarding, business continuity in worst-case scenarios (fire outbreak, cyber attacks, etc)  including data backups and rebuild plans.

Should you go for Premium then? It’s certainly not a feasible investment for all businesses, but as IT becomes more central to your operations, it becomes increasingly valuable as the ideal plan for protecting your IT assets.

Why You Need a New Model

Every company needs a suitable model for where they are on the growth trajectory. But, growth necessitates change. Here are a few reasons to change your current IT Services model:

  • To leverage IT expertise
  • To improve IT security
  • To promote continuity
  • To access custom IT support
  • To get access to on-demand IT support
  • To leverage future-proof forward planning
  • To manage warranty & license planning

These are issues that many emerging and small businesses continue to grapple with.

Problems with Managed IT Services

Managed IT Services are an excellent component of any business operation. However, they’re not without notable challenges, including:

  • Onsite technicians. Because not all problems can be solved remotely, it might become necessary at some point to have technicians come on-site – especially in an emergency. When choosing a managed IT service provider, it is important to enquire about the availability of technicians located close to your office, and response times in the event of an emergency.
  • Familiarity with domain-specific software. While it may not always be reasonable to expect your IT professionals to be the jack-of-all-software, it is important to check that they are familiar with the main software used in your industry.
  • Differing security regulations. Offshore providers might not be familiar with your local security laws and regulations so it is important to ensure that you go with a provider most likely to keep you compliant with IT laws in your country. Also, check out security with your government’s security such as the Australia-focused Stay Smart Online.
  • Compatibility with service provider choice of software choice. Ensure that they are a good fit for your business by checking what choices you have when it comes to software.
  • Problem-solving method. It is reasonable to expect a positive problem-solving mentality from your chosen service provider, as problem-solving is part of the job description. These two articles from eTech7 and Consolidated Technology show how IT companies may have issues with this.

How to Select a Managed IT Services Provider

After doing your due diligence, you need to make the crunch decision of which IT solution provider to work with. You will need to go beyond the results of a Google search and base your decision on critical factors that determine a good fit for your overall business operation. The critical considerations include:

  • Field experience. Do they have ample experience in your field or domain?
  • Problem-solving approach. Do they go above and beyond what is required, when their customers encounter problems?
  • Long term growth. Do they demonstrate a long-term commitment to your growth and stability? Can they explain how their services will help your organisation grow in the long-term?

If you’re a small business looking for suitable Managed IT Services, these tips should hopefully provide you with an excellent foundation to help you understand the basics of managed IT services. Hopefully, you now have enough information to get you started in the journey towards maintaining a robust and reliable IT infrastructure through managed IT services.