Many companies operate for a long time without dedicated IT Support. Maybe an employee or friend doubled as a “computer guy/gal”, and helped out when the inevitable tech problem occurred. Maybe the business started as a single proprietor, and tech issues were small and manageable until it grew past a certain point.
So, they set out to find an answer to the question: “Where can I find someone to solve my current IT problem?”. And, oftentimes, they aren’t expecting the answer they receive. That is, a Managed IT Provider, also known as a Managed Services Provider (MSP), prepares a quote to manage their entire IT infrastructure and provide help desk to all employees.
At this point, they might give up and look elsewhere for a solution or try to create a solution on their own. But, is it possible they’re dismissing managed IT services too soon? Or, could it be what they really need? To answer this question, we’ll consider the typical IT infrastructure and the concrete benefits an MSP offers.
Every organization has data, such as financial records, customer information, and service documentation. Adverse events come in any number of forms, such as power outages, natural disasters, cybercrime, or employee sabotage. Any of these could threaten the data your organization depends on for day-to-day operations.
But, like all technology, backup or DR software is subject to failures caused by bugs, updates or incompatibilities. It’s a tedious task to check every day for errors. So, it’s easy for internal employees to get busy fulfilling their regular job function and neglect checking backups. But, when disaster strikes, you need current backups to get your daily operations back up to speed as quickly as possible.
But, ignoring the possibility of a cyber attack almost invites an attack. And, attacks are costly. Online sources vary widely on the estimated average cost of a breach, but they all agree that it’s expensive. Add to that, the reputation damage and client loss after the incident, and you can begin to understand why many SMBs can’t recover.
That’s where having access to a cybersecurity expert can help. They’ll understand the trends, study the patterns and assist you in putting the right strategies in place.
In today’s workplace, people depend on technology to get their job done. They use email, create Word documents, research on the internet and a perform many other activities that all require computers. When a power supply goes out on a server, a network drive dies, or a router takes a bad update, the productivity of the entire office can come to a halt.
When that happens, there is cost on one end of the equation and loss on the other. That is, there is the cost of paying employees that are unable to work, and there is the loss due to reduced revenue from the period of downtime. How much your business stands to lose depends on how many employees you have and how dependent the revenue is on technology. In any case, no business leader wants to see their team sitting on their hands.
So, is there any way to minimize downtime? Technology feels like a big mystery, if you’re not a techie. And part of that big mystery is it seems to do it what it wants at times, for no particular reason. But, in reality, there are reasons why it fails. There are mechanical parts in hard drives, which wear out over time and eventually fail. Software is out-of-date, and isn’t compatible with newer features. Someone brings in a new device, and it conflicts with another one in the system.
When you’re a small business, it’s all hands on deck. In many ways, this is an advantage over large conglomerates. Your employees not only get to see the value of their work on a regular basis, but they also get to stretch their skills and grow as a professional.
But there’s a limit to how much you can ask one of your employees to do. If your marketing director is constantly distracted by every network anomaly, eventually you’ll start to see the cracks show. The team member you count on will start to slip in terms of performance and even if they don’t, you’ll need a contingency set up for when they go on vacation or quit.
Technology purchasing can be complicated. Will new equipment be compatible with existing systems? Will a software package that’s a huge investment recognize the format your data is saved in? If not, do tools exist to convert that data into what you need?
Having a professional IT team available as a resource can be a huge timesaver and moneysaver. To start off with, they can review specs and make recommendations on important purchases. Instead of struggling to figure out why something doesn’t work, getting frustrated and having to deal with returns, you can save yourself time, money and headache by making the right purchase in the first place.
They can also help you plan for the future, letting you know when you might need new equipment. This is one of the ways an MSP can prevent downtime too – letting you know when hardware is close to failure or when software is nearing end-of-life. Then, you’ll have time to consider how and when you want to plan your upgrade instead of having it forced on you in a moment of crisis.
Even better, they’ll be aware of technologies and tools to help solve a problem you’re having, or save you money by recommending an alternate solution that provides what you need. An IT professional is aware of not just all the technology options, but also when and why you would choose one option over the other.
It’s tempting to think that unless you’ve made a change to your IT environment, it remains the same. But, IT systems are constantly evolving. Licenses expire and need to be updated. Cybercriminals discover holes in software releases, which they can exploit to do damage to your systems or business. Data grows, eventually bumping up against a capacity limit, which can break or limit applications. Backups require regular monitoring to ensure reliability. And, the list goes on.
Keeping the systems stable and reliable means ongoing maintenance. License counts need to be reviewed before renewal. Security patches need to be pushed out to users, so they don’t click “Remind me later” for the next 6 months. Storage space needs to be added before applications break. And backups need to be tested before a problem happens.
Like other maintenance, many IT tasks are pure tedium. And, while some may not be difficult, it’s detailed work that’s easy to put off until tomorrow. An MSP can take that weight off your employees’ shoulders. That way, you won’t have to worry about who’s keeping up with your network every time your staff gets a little busy.
Do you want your business to grow or become more successful? Focus is key. You need to focus on your vision, customers, products, services and sales. When you spend you time and energy working within your skills and passion and allow others (employees or service providers) to do the rest, you’ll reap the biggest rewards.
Now, in the real world, there’s a limit to that ideal. Very few, if any, businesses have unlimited resources to outsource everything they don’t want to do. Technology management is one of those things that is very manageable, the smaller the business is. But, it also has a way of multiplying in complexity as more employees, more data and more business is added.
Over time, managing the growing technology without dedicated IT staff means employees are distracted from business-critical tasks and their performance suffers. At that point, working with an IT provider can result in an unexpected boost in productivity that has a positive impact on your bottom line.
Consistent policies are one of those things that you would never miss if you didn’t have them. But, on the other hand, if you implement them, they build in important protections for your business.
First, IT “policies” aren’t written rules or standards, like a employee handbook or equal opportunity standard for hiring. IT “policies” are account settings that force users to do certain actions. A good example of this is a password policy. A password policy forces users to update their password at regular intervals and requires them to set a password that meets a minimum length.
Along the same lines, using a domain controller and access control means only authorized users can login to company computers. Obviously, this is a good idea to limit access to proprietary and private information, but it also allows you to minimize the possibility of sabotage after an employee is dismissed or quits.
Non-IT staff probably isn’t even aware that these features are available, much less have any idea how to set any of these features up. Again, that’s where having a technology partner in your corner really makes a difference.
When IT systems are working, no one gives them a second thought. And, even when some things are not working, they can still go unnoticed until the problem becomes serious. That’s why it’s easy to dismiss the idea of hiring a Managed IT Provider.
But, you could be courting disaster, or at best, limiting the success and productivity of your business. Cyber crime and failed backups are two situations that can be difficult to recover from. And, unnecessary downtime, avoidable IT problems and maintenance tasks bog down employees, distracting them from the tasks that are critical for business success.