Guide to Managed IT Services for SMBs and Beyond
Ever-changing industry regulations and administration tasks can make managing information technology systems nearly impossible for many small-to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Although ensuring your technology ecosystem is up-to-date and protected from cyber threats can be a daunting process, you don’t have to face it alone. Organizations can outsource IT tasks to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).
This page is an introduction to help small-medium businesses (SMBs) understand the basics of Managed IT Services, including what it is, what it isn’t, what to look for and whether an MSP is the right fit for your organization. If you are already familiar with Managed IT Services, you can jump ahead to view the list of specific Managed IT Services provided by Loffler Companies.
What You’ll Learn (Basics of Managed IT Services)
Who This Guide is For:
This guide is intended to help SMBs with around 50-250 employees familiarize themselves with all things Managed IT.
- You’re a small business owner looking to gain better control of your organization’s IT needs, but you don’t know where to begin.
- You’re an IT Professional who oversees the entire IT department of your organization, and you’re interested in outsourcing some tasks.
- You’re an office manager who wants to understand how Managed IT Services has helped other SMBs streamline their processes.
Contact Loffler About Managed IT Services
What Is and Isn’t Managed IT Services?
Managed IT Services is the practice of outsourcing IT tasks to a third-party vendor, also known as a Managed Service Provider (MSP). MSPs completely take over an organization’s IT solutions, allowing for the most efficiently run technology infrastructures.
Not every Managed Service Provider is created equally, however. Many people think that everything related to IT is going to be included in Managed IT Services, which isn’t true. It’s important to partner with an MSP that is transparent and upfront about what they can provide for your organization.
Every MSP provides different services; however, some common IT tasks include:
- IT security
- Help desk support
- Monitoring, alerting and reporting
- Backup, recovery, business continuity and disaster recovery
Managed service providers work on a variety of different organizations’ technology ecosystems, so they’re able to provide dependable IT support and industry expertise that in-house teams don’t typically have.
Having an MSP allows organizations the opportunity to focus solely on their core business objectives, rather than monotonous day-to-day tasks.
Is Managed IT Services Right for Your Business?
The first step in determining whether Managed IT Services is right for your business is by taking an in-depth look at your current IT needs, budget and technology infrastructure.
Maybe fully Managed IT Services isn’t right for you, but your organization could still benefit from additional help. Co-managed IT services give businesses the ability to combine the expertise of an MSP with their in-house IT team's internal knowledge.
Every co-managed IT services plan can be customized to fit an organization’s specific needs, but some main features include management of routine tasks, extra IT support, proactive security and monitoring.
Co-managed IT services are ideal for organizations that:
- Have an internal IT team
- Wish to maintain control over their technology systems
- Want to outsource day-to-day tasks, but keep their strategic projects in-house
Fully Managed IT Services are ideal for organizations that:
- Don’t have an internal IT team
- Want support and guidance from IT experts
- Are looking for predictable, fixed monthly costs
If you’re still unsure whether or not your organization would be a good fit for fully Managed IT Services or co-managed IT services, consider these questions:
Does your organization require timely requests?
Having an IT professional available at a moment's notice may be a challenging request for many MSPs, as they may not be close in proximity. In this case, having an internal IT team or utilizing co-managed IT services would most likely be the best option. If your organization requires timely responses you may still employ co-managed IT services, just not for those immediate needs.
Is your organization’s technology up to date?
Another key factor in determining whether your SMBs would benefit from Managed IT Services is the current state of your organization’s technology ecosystem. If your technology systems haven’t been updated in seven plus years, it may be difficult for MSPs to offer support.
Internally developed technology may also cause issues, as the applications and software aren’t mainstream. If your organization is looking to adopt new technology, however, an infrastructure upgrade could qualify you to join a Managed IT platform.
Do you already have full IT support?
If your SMB already has full IT support, fully Managed IT Services probably wouldn’t make the most sense. Organizations that fall within the technology industry most likely already have the bandwidth and resources to handle IT tasks themselves, however, they could still benefit from co-managed IT services or other IT solutions.
Pros and Cons of Managed IT Services
Understanding the advantages, as well as the disadvantages, of Managed IT Services is a crucial part of determining whether outsourcing IT tasks is a viable option for your organization.
Pros of Managed IT Services for SMBs:
Access to Expertise from a Team of Professionals
Staying up to date on all the latest technology developments and specifications can be difficult for many SMBs, but partnering with an MSP can help take away some of the stress. MSPs offer organizations direct access to a team of experts in a multitude of specifications, as well as broader coverage and access to several technology solutions.
Ability to Reduce Operational Costs
Having an MSP eliminates the ongoing costs of hiring and managing an internal team. Rather than relying on one or two individuals, you would have an entire IT team at your disposal for a fixed monthly cost.
Broad IT Guidance that Can Help Drive Decisions
Many SMBs only have one IT person on staff to drive decisions and direction for the entire organization. Employing an MSP gives organizations access to an entire team of IT professionals and the extensive technical knowledge that comes with them. Additionally, they offer advice and guidance to help prevent future IT concerns.
Help Organizations Maximize Uptime
SMBs who experience even just a few hours of downtime are at risk of losing valuable customers and revenue. MSPs can help consolidate servers and streamline processes, helping your organization maximize uptime and reduce interruptions.
Cons of Managed IT Services for SMBs:
Lack of Physical Presence
Although MSPs are available 24/7, they may not be local to your organization. With that being said, fixing urgent issues, such as printer malfunctions, may be more difficult as personnel are not physically in the office. Even if you choose a local MSP that offers onsite support, you may still have to pay extra for a physical visit.
Limited Scope of IT Services
As you may already know, Managed IT Services don’t cover everything related to information technology. An MSP will typically provide your organization with a list of applications they support (i.e. Microsoft Office), but when it comes to third-party applications you may be out of luck.
However, many reputable MSPs have referral partners that can help your organization with specific problems or they will be able to direct you in the right direction.
Lack of Dedicated IT Team
Although partnering with an MSP means access to a larger team of IT professionals, they might not be familiar with your business’ peculiarities. MSPs offer generalized services that cater to an entire industry, so if you have an issue that ventures away from the umbrella of services they offer you may have to seek outside assistance.
To avoid this con, make sure to look for an MSP that will give you a dedicated team that really wants to get to know your business. This way, you’ll know who you’re reaching out to for help, and they’ll know you.
Although not extremely common, there are chances of an MSP going out of service. With that being said, you may need to search for a new MSP to meet your requirements, which could very well take a toll on your business. Make sure to partner with a reputable Managed IT Services provider.
How Much do Managed IT Services Cost?
A lot of different factors contribute to the price of Managed IT Services.
Service time required, number of users, number of devices, amount of data, as well as an organization’s individual needs and goals, can impact how much you pay per month.
Number of Users, Devices and Locations
The more users and devices and/or servers you have, the more you should expect to pay. On average, you can expect to pay between $50 - $150+ per user/month and $50 - $125+ per device.
Overall, the more management you need, the higher the cost. If you’re a small business with one location, you’ll probably pay way less than a larger business with multiple locations.
Remote vs. On-Site Employees
Employees working remotely provide another layer of complexity to your network, as there are added security risks involved. If your organization is already in the cloud, however, you’re in a better position and won’t need to spend extra on network security measures.
Service-Level Agreement (SLA)
A service-level agreement is a contract between an MSP and its client that documents what services will be provided and defines the standards at which they’re met. The agreed-upon length of the contract can have a direct impact on the overall cost of IT management in the long run. Signing a longer, multi-year contract, for example, may save your organization thousands. As always, it’s important to thoroughly check all MSPs you plan to partner with to ensure they’re trustworthy.
Again, it’s important to remember that this list isn’t exhaustive and that these are just estimates. The exact price you pay may vary depending on your SMB’s needs and available plans and pricing models.
How to Choose the Right Managed IT Services Provider
Your organization is affected by every decision you make, but few decisions are more important than ones involving your technology infrastructure. That’s why selecting which Managed IT Services provider to partner with is of utmost importance.
You may develop specific criteria related to your business goals, but here are a few guidelines you should consider before committing to an MSP.
Expertise & Experience
Partnering with an MSP that has experience across multiple industries is critical. Although IT deals with data in a general sense, certain elements such as data processing and storage can vary from one industry to another. An MSP with more experience and expertise could help your organization be more proactive and you may benefit from their ability to adapt to ever-changing technological trends.
In addition to expertise, you should check out an MSPs reputation and ask for references. Since they will be dealing with personal and sensitive data, it’s important for them to have an excellent track record. Start by checking out the MSPs website, as well as previous and current clients, to gain a deeper understanding of their qualifications.
Effective Remote Services
Organizations are now relying more on technology to run efficiently, especially with the increase in work-from-home/remote environments. When choosing an MSP, it’s important to consider whether they can provide network support around the clock. On-site or remotely, your organization should still be provided with fast-acting availability and support.
Willingness to Jump In
You want to partner with an MSP that is excited about what they're doing and how they can make a positive impact on your business. They should be willing to jump in and start giving your organization recommendations right away, as well as offering ways to make your current systems run better.
Managed IT Service Provider Red Flags
Over Promise & Under Deliver
Although it’s important for an MSP to have the ability to work on various frameworks, they also must remain objective. Partnering with an MSP that’s upfront about what services are included and transparent about what they can accomplish for you is huge for your organization’s success.
Lack of Experience Working in Your Industry
It goes without saying; every industry has its own unique IT needs. Having an MSP that offers several service teams with varying industries of expertise is crucial. In order to provide the best service, your MSP must understand the ins and outs of your industry.
Questions to Ask Potential Managed IT Service Providers:
“Do you have expertise in a variety of areas?”
Having expertise can make a big difference in your network. If you have a company that has expertise in all areas of IT, your network will run smoother and have less downtime.
“How do you run your remote services?”
If the MSP you’re considering is not local to your business, ask them about their remote services. How fast could they respond to issues? If you needed them to come on-site, would that be an option?
“How do you balance all of your clients?”
It’s important to understand how an MSP is able to balance several clients while still providing excellent service. Do they have multiple Managed IT Services teams that are assigned to each client?
Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer:
“How many locations/employees do you have?”
Knowing the basics of your business will help provide context and familiarize the MSP you’re partnering with on the intricacies of your organization.
“What’s working well for your organization and what needs improvement?”
You’re contacting an MSP for a reason; your organization needs help handling its IT environment. However, maybe you already have an internal IT team and are just looking to outsource some tasks.
“What services is your organization looking for?”
Knowing what you need from an MSP, or at least having a baseline idea, can reduce the chances of adding on extra services you may not use.
“How does IT align with your organization’s overall goals?”
Before getting in touch with an MSP, you should look at the big picture of your IT environment and analyze how it aligns with the goals of your organization.
Knowing which questions to ask an MSP, as well as which questions you should be prepared to answer, will ensure that you’re both on the same page.