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    What is IT Managed Services?

    By Hon Nguyen
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    In the digital era, a business’s IT (Information Technology) infrastructure is its nerve center, akin to the nervous system in the human body. It is responsible for storing “information” and making it available to the right person at the right time. This is a huge undertaking, as the term “information” refers to pretty much everything in today’s digital age. Consequently, managing this system can feel like walking a tightrope without a safety net, where any slip-up could lead to dire consequences.

    This is where managed IT services come into play, acting as the safety net you need. They guarantee the smooth operation of your digital infrastructure, allowing your business to thrive while your in-house team focuses on core activities.

    At CodeStringers, we’ve been providing IT services for clients for years, and we’d like to share with you some of the things we’ve learned.

    What Problem Does Managed IT Services Solve?

    In the “old days”, every organization had to have their “IT guy” who was responsible for the computers, phones, networks, monitors, websites, TVs, audio systems, etc. This system worked, but only in organizations that were lucky enough to have a good IT guy. However, there were only so many good IT guys available. So most organizations had to settle for a “pretty good” IT guy. In such cases, the organizations would periodically have outages in one or more of the aforementioned technologies. These outages resulted in a negative financial impact for the company through lost orders, defects, lost productivity, etc. Additionally, most organizations didn’t have the time nor the wherewithal to keep up with the latest technologies, which could result in their getting disrupted by a company that took advantage of a new technology (as is happening today with AI).

    The answer to this problem is managed IT services. Starting in the late 1990s, some savvy entrepreneurs figured out that many organizations would pay to avoid the problems mentioned in the previous paragraph. Many organizations have learned that it’s more cost-effective to hire an outside company to handle their IT needs. This has become particularly the case with the ballooning of cybercrime. Without having an expert handling cybersecurity, it is highly likely that an organization will become a victim of some sort of attack on their digital properties and assets.

    What are Managed IT Services?

    Managed IT Services entail outsourcing IT infrastructure management, including its security, maintenance, updates, and migration, to specialized providers. IT infrastructure includes everything digital within an organization, e.g., websites, email, audio/visual assets, digital documents, financial records, operational systems, etc.

    This setup allows organizations to focus on core operations while the Managed Services Provider (MSP) takes care of the technology side. If anything goes wrong, the organization simply needs to call their MSP who will fix the problem ASAP.

    What Are “MSP’s”?

    A Managed Service Provider (MSP) specializes in a comprehensive range of services, from network and infrastructure to applications and security, acting as a technological safeguard for businesses. Or more simply put, an MSP is the company that provides managed IT services.

    MSPs equip companies with the expertise needed for routine system maintenance, strategic IT planning, and the integration of cutting-edge technologies, ensuring a secure and efficient IT environment.

    Who Should Consider Outsourcing IT to an MSP?

    Outsourcing IT is a strategic move for businesses of all sizes and sectors. Here’s why many choose to partner with Managed IT Services Providers (MSPs):

    • Small and Medium-Sized Companies: As mentioned in the Origin of Managed IT Services section, small and medium sized companies are the organizations most likely to be relying on one or more “IT guys”. This is a very risky strategy as it may result in financial loss if the IT guy quits, makes mistakes, doesn’t keep up on the latest technologies, takes a vacation, etc.
    • Startups: Time is a startup’s most valuable asset. The more time the founders can spend on core functions, the greater their likelihood of success.
    • Companies Needing an Extra Hand: Businesses capable of daily IT management often seek MSP assistance for specialized projects, such as migrations, upgrades, or implementing Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems.
    • Scaling Challenges: Companies experiencing growth may find their IT needs outpacing their capacity, leading them to seek MSPs to manage increasing technological demands effectively.

    In essence, outsourcing IT allows companies to navigate resource constraints, accelerate growth, manage complex projects, and address scaling challenges efficiently.

    How Did Managed IT Services Evolve Over Time?

    Managed IT services have undergone significant transformations over the years, evolving through distinct stages:

    • Stage 1 (Break-Fix Model): Initially, IT service management operated on a break-fix basis, where action was only taken when systems failed or issues arose, often by the professionals who initially installed them.
    • Stage 2 (Rise of Large Manufacturers): With the entry of major players like Apple, IBM, and Microsoft, the focus shifted towards system assembly, relegating smaller IT firms to maintenance tasks. This model proved costly and limited business growth opportunities due to its lack of flexibility.
    • Stage 3 (Surge in Demand for Managed Services): As computer usage skyrocketed, the availability of skilled IT professionals did not keep pace, creating a demand for third-party IT service vendors capable of managing growing technological needs.
    • Stage 4 (Efficiency and Proactivity): The industry’s strategy shifted towards a proactive model, emphasizing regular maintenance, software updates, and system monitoring to prevent issues. Automation and cloud services became integral for remote management and faster problem resolution, enhancing operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
    • Stage 5 (Modernization of Managed Services): Today’s MSPs operate with a broad spectrum of IT skills and technologies, utilizing tools like Professional Services Automation (PSA) software to streamline their operations. Modern solutions enable MSPs to offer continual support, prioritize data security, reduce client costs, and improve service quality. CodeStringers fits in this stage, as we provide all the aforementioned services.

    This journey reflects the industry’s shift from reactive to proactive IT management, highlighting the increasing sophistication and critical role of MSPs in today’s technology-driven landscape.

    Which Functions Can I Outsource to Managed IT Services?

    The realm of managed IT services is vast, offering a multitude of options for businesses seeking to outsource their IT needs. Let’s explore the various types of managed IT services available:

    Remote IT Infrastructure Monitoring

    This service involves the remote administration of servers, mobile devices, and workstations, making it a cornerstone offering among MSPs. Therefore, there are lots of MSPs providing this service. Fortunately for consumers, the intense competition challenges providers to diversify their services beyond just remote monitoring to remain competitive.

    Security Services

    As cyber threats evolve, MSPs have expanded their offerings to include comprehensive security solutions. These range from intrusion detection and threat intelligence to endpoint security, often through partnerships with cybersecurity experts to ensure round-the-clock protection against cyber threats like malware, ransomware, and phishing.

    Managed End-User Services

    Focusing on IT support for employees and customers, managed end-user services cover everything from help desk support to application management, OS updates, and handling connectivity issues, ensuring smooth day-to-day operations.

    On-Site IT Services

    Also known as managed field services, this category includes on-site tasks such as equipment installation, maintenance, site assessments, and cabling, with the MSP coordinating all logistics and communication.

    Cloud Services

    With the rise of cloud computing, MSPs offer services in cloud infrastructure management, including consulting, migration, and ongoing management, partnering with major cloud providers like Google Cloud, AWS, and Microsoft Azure.

    Project-Based Managed IT Services

    For specific projects, MSPs provide targeted support, including technology evaluations, Salesforce implementations, and technical assistance, ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget.

    Analytics Services

    Managed data analytics services are crucial for gathering, analyzing, and protecting data. MSPs turn raw data into actionable insights for informed decision-making, covering web traffic analysis, social media monitoring, trend identification, and more.

    Managed Backup

    These services focus on safeguarding critical business data through systematic backups stored offsite or in the cloud, coupled with disaster recovery planning and execution to ensure data integrity and availability.

    Choosing the right MSP involves understanding the specific IT needs of your business and matching them with the services offered by providers to ensure seamless, secure, and efficient IT operations.

    What Potential Pitfalls Should I Look Out For?

    While managed IT services offer numerous benefits, it’s important to be aware of potential pitfalls and plan accordingly. Understanding these challenges can help you mitigate risks and ensure a productive partnership with your Managed Services Provider (MSP).

    Accountability Issues

    The risk of partnering with an unreliable vendor is a significant concern in outsourcing. To avoid losses in time and resources, and the risk of receiving subpar solutions, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and select a vendor with a proven track record, positive feedback, and the necessary technical and interpersonal skills.

    Overlooking Business Needs

    Ensure your chosen MSP shows a genuine interest in understanding and meeting your business needs. A vendor indifferent to strategic planning for infrastructure improvements or updates can diminish the partnership’s value. Address these considerations early in the selection process to avoid wasted resources.

    Lack of Experience

    The surge in managed IT services has led to a crowded marketplace, with some providers lacking experience or credibility. Vet potential vendors carefully, reviewing their past projects, client testimonials, and skill sets to ensure they can deliver quality and reliability.

    Cybersecurity Concerns

    Not all MSPs specialize in cybersecurity, which could leave your sensitive data at risk. Ensure your MSP prioritizes data security, implementing measures to protect against cyber threats and breaches, especially important for managed backup services.

    Unexpected Costs

    Outsourcing IT services is often seen as a cost-saving measure, but there’s a risk of cost overruns if expenses aren’t clearly defined in the Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Discuss and clarify all costs upfront to avoid surprises and ensure budget alignment.

    By being proactive and addressing these challenges from the outset, you can establish a more secure, efficient, and beneficial relationship with your managed IT services provider.

    Conclusion

    As you steer your business toward success, readiness for growth and emerging challenges is key. With expansion comes the need for evolved management strategies, especially in IT infrastructure, a task not every entrepreneur is equipped or inclined to tackle. Fortunately, the proliferation of Managed Services Providers (MSPs) has made this journey less daunting.

    Partnering with an MSP can unlock access to the latest technologies, allow you to concentrate on core business functions, and ensure your company’s robust health. If you’re considering embracing managed IT services, CodeStringers is here to extend a supportive hand and guide you through this transformative process. Reach out to us to discuss your needs and set up an initial consultation. Embarking on your digital transformation journey is just a click away.

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    Director of Technology, Research & Development

    About the author...

    Hon Nguyen is a seasoned Lead Engineer with over a decade of experience in software engineering and digital transformation. Since 2012, he's excelled in designing high-performance applications and leading teams. Skilled in scaling systems, Hon drives exceptional outcomes and adds value to every project.

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