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Dec 27

What are Managed IT Services

You may not know it yet, but IT Consulting, you know “the computer guy“, has been headed in a different direction. For years, the industry has profited from the pain and suffering of a loyal client base.

The scenario goes like this…
Client has a problem, calls up the “computer guy“, and he schedules a time to go onsite to resolve the issue. The aftermath would ensue when the bill arrived…Maybe the problem was difficult to resolve, or the technician took more time than was necessary. Perhaps the problem was fixed with a work around, or “band-aid”, rather than thought through and resolve properly. Worse yet, you get the bill and nothing was done at all!

Whatever the case, the billable hour method does not work in favor of the customer, but instead creates a binding point for both customer and provider. So why not align the goals of the provider/client relationship so that they can work hand in hand?

Enter “Managed IT Services“!
While the Managed Service concept is not a new idea by any means, it is a spin on something that has been around for decades. Cable television providers are an excellent example of a Managed Service in that they include the box with their service for a monthly fee and if there is an outage or problem with the service, or equipment, they fix it. The key is that their goals are aligned with that of their customers in that they want to proactively maintain a quality service to avoid the high costs of the break/fix model.

The same goes for technology-based Managed Service Providers (MSP), we have a clear-cut goal and that is to do everything in our power to ensure that our customers’ technology is always running at peak performance. MSP’s intend to take technology headaches out of the hands of their customers by becoming their IT department, from CTO to help desk technician.

What services are covered in a managed service agreement?
Some companies choose to cover anything and everything technology-based, while others stick to the basics. The key to any service is customer experience and you will find that it is no different with any great MSP. Throughout this article, I will explore the types of items that are covered in most managed service agreements and throw in a few that I believe should be covered by every MSP.

Note that I indicate what sets the great ones apart.

Help Desk and Trouble Ticketing is a valuable resource for any business with a handful of workstations, and it scales with the environment (the more machines you have, the greater the value). A great help desk will offer unlimited, remote customer support at any time of the day or night, and integrate with Trouble Ticketing systems like ConnectWise PSA. ConnectWise allows a customer to send their problems to an email address that captures the details on a service board, keeping the accountability level intact at all times. Customers can also choose to log-in to a customer portal to submit and review tickets, or to view any projects, recommendations, hardware configurations and various other reports. Ask your provider if they use ConnectWise and if they don’t, find out why they choose not to.

Backup and Disaster Recovery is an essential element in any business. What makes a great backup solution? The ability to recover from a disaster quickly. Offsite backups are a necessity, but ALWAYS find out if your data is accessible locally, in your office. Tapes and cartridges are a thing of the past, and USB drives can cause headaches as well. A good backup solution typically includes a completely separate server that takes snapshots of your data several times throughout the day and transmits it to multiple secure, offsite data centers. If you feel that a specific backup solutions is expensive then compare it to the cost of losing critical files (financial data, customer records, and contact databases, to name a few), and the cost of downtime.

Proactive Maintenance is just as necessary with technology as it is with automobiles. Every three months (or 3,000 miles, as we’re taught) vehicles need to have the oil changed. While it’s in the shop they’re also performing their own special brand of Proactive Maintenance by checking the fluids and making you aware of any additional steps that need to be taken in order to keep your vehicle in tip top shape. The same can be said for technology except for the fact that technology ages more quickly than vehicles so rather than performing this maintenance four times a year it needs to happen at least once a month. Instead of an engine, with belts and all of the moving parts, computers have files that need to work together just perfectly.

Have you ever sat down at your computer in the morning to find that dreaded message box that wants you to install updates and restart the computer? The great MSP’s use Remote Desktop Management to perform maintenance regularly. Using a little bit of automation, they can ensure that everything is working perfectly when you sit down at your desk in the morning.

Network Security is a key factor, possibly THE key factor, in determining whether or not you have contracted with a great Managed Service Provider. Why? It’s simple. Productivity. When you control the network activities of your staff, such as preventing them from sitting on Facebook all day, or shopping on Amazon, there is an immediate increase in overall productivity. Virus protection and spam blocking are “no brainers”, but preventing your staff from roaming free on the Internet is an essential step to returning productivity to your business.

Vendor Management creates another valuable way to use your expertise in the industry to communicate the needs of your client to their technology vendors. From phone systems to copier vendors, web site developers to Internet providers, these vendors are much easier for experienced IT professionals to maintain than busy business owners and their staff.

Take an Internet provider, for example, who sells DSL service to a customer, but never comes back around to offer you the latest and greatest. Instead of getting the newer, speedier service that costs less, you end up with the old, slow service while paying the old, higher prices. The great MSP’s will provide annual vendor audits and help maintain the most cost effective/high value contracts with your vendors.

Customer service is ultimately the key difference between an MSP and a great MSP. Sure, there may be a “setup fee” in addition to the monthly payment, adding users or devices may incur an additional charge, the cost may vary based on any number of other values, but the key factor IS and will ALWAYS BE…

How far is your technology provider willing to go to please their customers?

Do they do whatever it takes to put a smile on your face, or do they nickel and dime you every chance they get? If the terms of their contract appear as if they are more interested in quantity over quality then their level of customer service may not be what you’re looking for. The technology available today allows us to ensure a user-friendly environment with a high quality customer service experience as long as the providers and their employees are willing to put in that little extra effort. In the end, the customer experience is really what it is all about; allowing them to focus on their business.

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