Part 1: Not A One-Size-Fits-All
Understanding Managed IT Services
Owning or managing a business is immensely rewarding. Building your team, seeing your product hit the market, seeing the public’s response to what you can offer, watching your dreams materialize—this makes the hustle, struggle, and sleepless nights worth it.
But owning and managing a business is also stressful. The hustle, the struggle, the sleepless nights. In today’s tech-driven world, if operations aren’t running smoothly, quickly, and efficiently, you will easily fall behind your competitors. Every business needs a strong IT department, but most businesses today don’t have the capacity for in-house support.
This is why more and more businesses are turning to Managed IT Services, which are third-party Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that provide support, operations, and consulting in the areas of IT support, cloud computing, system management, and software and hardware sales and consulting. Basically, anything that has to do with your company’s computers, email, calendars, servers, internet connection, hardware, software, software licenses, security, and more, a Managed Service Provider can do.
An estimated 90% of Fortune 1,000 companies use MSPs for at least part of their IT needs. The Managed Service Provider market has grown substantially over the last decade as companies continue to need not only IT support but help navigating a rapidly changing industry. Companies can always be more efficient in their technology efforts, but this requires knowing what the latest technology is and how it could fit their needs, which is hard to keep with up when that’s not your area of expertise. MSPs can support your present needs as well as guide you into the future as your company grows and changes and as technology does the same.
“At Wright Business Technologies, we offer multiple tiers of support depending on the needs of your business. Our all-encompassing Total Care Program offers case management by one of our qualified technologists, remote access system support, priority on-site support and repair, quarterly consultations, software license management, and more. Your business might need support in all of these areas, or just one or two. MSPs are a bit like a breakfast buffet. You can have the works or order à la carte.”
Some Managed IT Services are considered a break/fix service, meaning they only come in when something is broken and leave once it’s fixed. However, many Managed Service Providers today have realized they are most effective when they are on retainer for a company, whether that’s on a 24/7 basis or an agreed-upon amount of time. This way, businesses have access to troubleshooting at all times as well as a team dedicated to supporting and maintaining systems and hardware that need constant attention. When something breaks, everything comes to a halt until it is fixed. MSPs can provide preventative support that keeps emergency troubleshooting at a minimum.
MSPs are not one-size-fits-all. Different organizations specialize in different services. But with as many MSPs as there are today, you can rest assured the right one is out there for you. At Wright Business Technologies, we offer multiple tiers of support depending on the needs of your business. Our all-encompassing Total Care Program offers case management by one of our qualified technologists, remote access system support, priority on-site support and repair, quarterly consultations, software license management, and more. Your business might need support in all of these areas, or just one or two. MSPs are a bit like a breakfast buffet. You can have the works or order à la carte.
In this guide we’ll discuss the benefits of hiring out your IT Services, the difference between MSPs and software as a service (SAAS), how much service providers cost, what kind of services you need depending on your business, and your cybersecurity options.
Section 2: Benefits
Benefits of Using A Managed IT Service
The benefits of hiring out the IT side of your business are numerous.
The main one? It saves you money.
But this strategic business move will do much more than that.
The following are a few benefits of using a Managed IT Service:
Lower Overhead Costs
The bottom line of using a Managed IT Service is that it will improve your bottom line, and we know that’s the first question on your mind. Using an MSP for your IT needs will save you money by reducing the size of your in-house IT team or replacing it entirely.
That’s less office space, fewer desks, less hardware, fewer benefits… you get the point.
Using MSPs will also save you money in the long run. Because an MSP focuses solely on the IT side of your business, they can stay ahead of potential hardware, software issues, or system failure that would cost quite a bit of money to fix. They can advise on the best equipment to invest in, so you don’t end up constantly replacing older versions and models and spending unnecessary cash.
Streamlined Subscription Management
Staying on top of your software subscriptions, especially for a larger business, can be a daily task and is easily forgotten. Whether you’re using Microsoft Office 365, Adobe, Salesforce, DropBox, Google Apps, Slack, or all of these software services, MSPs can manage all your subscriptions, stay on top of the latest software updates, and ensure you never lapse on a payment again.
We know that when these services are down, so is your business.
Are you familiar with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act?
Even if you are somewhat familiar with these privacy and security acts, you’re probably not as well-versed in them as a Managed Service Provider professional. When you use MSPs, you use their expertise and this falls in the area of security and compliance. A Managed Service Provider will read all of the fine print for you and make sure your operations are compliant with government privacy requirements. Trust us, this isn’t an area of your business where you can get away with winging it.
Let’s say you’re a small tech start-up that’s experiencing sudden growth from capital investments and you’re now hiring at a rapid pace.
Or you’re a large company needing to scale back due to budget cuts.
Either way, a Managed Service Provider can partner with you to provide exactly what you need when you need it. Not too much, not too little, making it easy to scale your business so you don’t find yourself with too many people and too little IT support, or too much hardware and cloud storage and too few people.
No matter your industry, staying on top of the latest technology trends is essential to growing your business and staying ahead of the competition. With a Managed Service Provider, you can leave that responsibility to the IT experts who know not only the latest technology available but what would fit your specific business needs, and what would not.
Peace of Mind
All of these benefits lead to the ultimate benefit: peace of mind. The IT side of your business is crucial. And if IT isn’t your actual business, it can also be a headache. It can feel like you’re always playing catch-up, always dealing with down systems or broken hardware or compliance laws you don’t understand or have the time to learn.
Hiring out your IT services allows you to partner with experts who are invested in your business and have the built-in know-how. No training necessary. You can rest easy knowing this huge part of your business is being managed, operated, built, and developed by experts and professionals.
Section 3: Initializations & Acronyms
The Difference Between, MSPs, SaaS, and MSaaS
When you’re starting a new business or scaling an existing one, the initializations and acronyms thrown around the conference room when discussing the IT department and changes to be made can be confusing and disorienting.
MSP (Well, hopefully, you understand this one by now.)
What do they all mean? How are they different? Which one do you need? How do SaaS and MSPs work together? Do they work together? Or, do I have to pick one or the other?
The answer depends on you, your business and your goals, but we can at least help demystify some of these mysterious IT terms, so you are equipped to make the best decision for you and your business.
SaaS stands for software as a service and includes any application that is available via the internet on a subscription basis. Popular examples include Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Apps, Slack, HubSpot, Dropbox, and MailChimp.
Whatever SaaS applications you need to run your business, you would pay a monthly (or annual) fee to the service provider for online access. Payment is user-by-user rather than paying for a license to the software itself. This makes SaaS applications relatively affordable.
MSPs are Managed Service Providers. Since they are essentially an outsourced IT team, MSPs can utilize and run SaaS applications for you. When working with a Managed Service Provider, your business would purchase a license to whatever software you want to use and the Managed Service Provider would launch it and maintain it, installing upgrades and making changes where possible to fit the needs of your business.
If you’re a small business, you may find that using SaaS applications on their own is enough as you’re getting started, but eventually these systems will need to accommodate more people, more data, and a more strenuous workflow. They will need to be customized to fit your growing and changing needs. This is where having a software license managed by a Managed Service Provider would be essential. With the license, as well as knowledge and skills, your Managed Service Provider team would be able to do customizable, backend work on your SaaS apps to make them better fit your needs.
So that’s SaaS and MSPs but there is also MSaaS: managed software as a service. MSaaS capabilities fall somewhere between a regular SaaS application and an MSP’s expertise.
The MSaaS model is similar to the SaaS model but allows for more customizing. MSaaS customers can own a license to the software so that these customizations can be made. But instead of an MSP doing the backend, customizing work, the MSaaS provider does it on their end. This means you would have partial but not full ownership of the app.
When deciding which option to go with—SaaS, MSaaS, or MSP—consider the following:
- Your budget
- Which software applications need to be customizable, which ones do not
- How strong your knowledge is of SaaS applications
- How you want to scale your business over the next five to 10 years
Section 4: IT Budget
Can Managed IT Services Reduce Total IT Costs?
The IT budget for a company of any size comes with a little sticker shock. This is because many people starting a business don’t understand what your IT budget will cover. It’s more than hardware and Microsoft software. It’s more than allocating a new computer or tablet to each employee every five years. Along with hardware and software, the IT budget typically encompasses servers, communication and collaboration, networking, and storage and backup. (Not to mention salaries, benefits, travel, and continuing education opportunities for in-house IT personnel.)
Here is what we found:
- Managed Services: 14%-22%
- Software: 27%-31%
- Hardware: 29%-35%
- Servers: 10%-15%
- Communication and collaboration (This includes messaging services like Slack.): 4%-8%
- Networking: 4%-9%
- Storage and backup: 5%-7%
- Cybersecurity: 7%-10%
You’ll see that companies are allocating quite a bit to managed services for next year. If you were to dig further into these numbers and compare IT spending at these companies to prior years, you would almost certainly see the companies investing in MSPs are saving money overall.
Because using an MSP saves big dollars in three key areas.
We mentioned this earlier, but using a Managed Service Provider means less money spent on hiring, onboarding, training, and paying employees. You don’t need as much man and woman power because you have a team of IT professionals available 24/7. Additionally, you don’t have to spend valuable time reading resumes, setting up interviews, and hiring new people on your team. A Managed Service Provider is responsible for hiring and training their own team of experts, so you can focus on yours.
Margin of error
As we like to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” OK, the first person who said this probably said it before IT was even a thing, but it’s incredibly applicable to our industry. Unfortunately, many companies operate under the “wait until it’s broken” model with their IT systems. Nothing will derail your day like a bug, network slow-down, or security breach. Not only does this waste your billable hours, but it could cost sales, potential customers, and delay project launches, slowing down business and costing you unnecessary dollars.
With a Managed Service Provider, your preventative bases are covered. Your systems are being checked, maintained, and updated regularly so that slow-downs, bugs, and glitches just don’t happen. This preventative approach will save you money and time and could potentially save your business.
When you’re not an expert, you can easily be sold on unnecessary software, communication tools, and platforms that your business simply doesn’t need. At least, not yet. When you work with a Managed Service Provider, you can easily scale your business’ IT budget up or down depending on growth and current needs. Plus, you have access to a team of experts who will let you know what you need and when, preventing overspending on unneeded systems and ensuring you have the support you need when you do experience growth.
So, can Managed IT Services reduce total IT costs? Yes, absolutely. It might feel like an added expense on the front end, but the ROI for using a Managed Service Provider is worth it. It is worth your money, it is worth your time, and it is worth your sanity.
To learn more about how to allocate your IT budget for the coming quarter or year, visit our article on How Business Are Spending Their IT Budget.
You might be wondering if your business is ready to bring on a Managed Service Provider. You’re worried about the cost, hiring a service provider too soon, or what this will mean for the steady growth of your business. Typically, when a company is experiencing growing pains, or lack thereof, in the IT department, that means it’s time to bring on the experts. You know you’re experiencing these growing pains if:
1. You're experiencing downtime with your network.
This either means your network is overloaded and needs to be upgraded, or you don’t have the bandwidth to quickly resolve issues. With a Managed Service Provider, you would have a team of experts available 24/7 to fix problems quickly, so business doesn’t have to shut down every time there’s a glitch in the system.
2. You don't have a centralized network.
Ideally, all of your applications and servers would be in one centralized location. A Managed Service Provider can provide this for you as well as manage it. This allows your employees to access whatever they need via your business’ intranet and makes security and storage much more stable.
3. You don't have a disaster contingency plan.
Whether it’s a data security breach or a natural disaster, the larger your business gets the more devastating an unforeseeable disaster would be. At some point, you will need a disaster recovery plan that is sophisticated enough to recover any lost data, and a Managed Service Provider can provide this.
4. You're often seeking IT support from a third party.
If you’re constantly trying to get in touch with the help desk at Adobe or Slack or Dropbox, it could be time to hire a Managed Service Provider. As you know, these helpdesks are often drawn-out email chains, or phone lines that are always busy, and the help you really need, you never get. Your Managed Service Provider team would be able to troubleshoot these issues for you, or at least be the one who stays on hold so you don’t have to be.
5. You're finding it difficult to keep good IT employees on staff.
Maybe you have one or two IT people on staff, but you are either about to lose them to a better gig, or they are overwhelmed by the growth of your business and can’t keep up. It often doesn’t make sense to have an entire in-house IT staff, but you need strong support in that area. A Managed Service Provider fills this gap, providing a full IT staff without the added expense of an in-house team.
6. You're having issues with viruses and spyware.
Viruses and finding the right protection from them are some of the most proliferate and irritating IT issues any business has to face, and the wrong move could have a disastrous effect on your network. Virus protection is best left up to the experts and a Managed Service Provider provides full service in this area.
If your business is experiencing any of these growing pains, it is probably time to hire a managed service provider to help support your growing business.
Section 6: Cybersecurity Threats
Managed IT and Cybersecurity Solutions
In 2013, Target announced that due to a major security breach, millions of customers’ credit and debit card numbers were stolen. Target’s CEO resigned a few months later. It’s not an uncommon story. Just because you’re a Fortune 500 company with the most advanced IT systems available doesn’t mean you’re not vulnerable to these types of security breaches. AT&T, eBay, UPS, and Home Depot—just to name a few—have all been victims to such cyberattacks, making cybersecurity more and more crucial for modern-day business.
Cybersecurity is the protection of digital data and devices from cyberattacks. If personal, financial, and sensitive data is leaked or destroyed due to a cyberattack, your business and employees could suffer greatly. Just look at what happened to Target, who had to tell 40 million loyal customers their data had been stolen. This is why having a proper cybersecurity system in place is critical.
What Types of Cybersecurity Threats Should You Be Worried About?
Cyberattack strategies have gotten clever over the years as cybersecurity has become more intelligent. Today, these are the most common types of cybersecurity threats to your business:
A combination of two words—malicious and software—malware is a software that destroys your computer systems using viruses, adware, and worms that wreak havoc on your systems.
Ransomware is a type of malware. True to its name, ransomware blocks your network and systems, holding them ransom for money.
Most of us have been a victim of a phishing attempt at one point or another. This cyberattack uses emails to lure people into revealing sensitive information such as their credit card or social security numbers.
APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats)
This occurs when a hacker breaks into your network and remains in your network undetected for an extended period of time, gathering data and information.
What Can You Do About It?
Even with the vast creativity within the cyberattack community today, you can guard yourself against malicious software, hackers, and phishing attempts. Managed Service Providers are invaluable in this area because cybersecurity is so critical to business but also such a technical and specialized skill.
Many MSPs offer the following services that will protect your networks and data:
Virus and spyware protection
MSPs can equip all of your devices with antivirus and anti-spyware software as well as initiating automatic updates to those software programs so there is no lapse in your protection.
Having a secure internet connection is the foundation of any good cybersecurity plan. MSPs can safeguard yours with a firewall and encrypt the information.
Gone are the days that “password1” can pass as a safe and protective password. You can now work with a Managed Service Provider to create multi-factor authentication for entry into your network that goes beyond passwords.
Having your information and data properly backed up is a necessity today. In the case of a security breach or data loss, you don’t have to worry about losing any sensitive information. A Managed Service Provider will tailor fit your business’ backup plan to what you need, whether that is offsite, onsite, or Cloud backup.
A solid security plan that doesn’t include mobile devices is suddenly void once an employee loses a company laptop or phone. This is why MSPs don’t solely focus on in-house equipment. With so many employees working from home or traveling regularly, having security for every device is crucial. A Managed Service Provider can set up a security system that wipes any lost or stolen phone or laptop of information that is securely backed up elsewhere. That way, you only have to deal with the cost of the lost device, and not the much greater cost of a security breach.
After your full cybersecurity plan has been put in place by your Managed Service Provider, they will run a series of risk assessment tests to ensure everything is functioning, secure, and adequate for your needs, and peace of mind.
Don’t skimp on the cybersecurity side of your business. Doing that will cost you in the long run. (Remember Target?) Turn to the experts, put a secure plan in place, and safeguard yourself and your employees from threats lurking behind the screen.
Section 7: Do It For Me
In 2015, a TechCrunch reporter predicted that after the rise of SaaS, which we discussed in Chapter 3, would be the rise of what he called the Do-It-for-Me Revolution, or DIFM.
As he put it, “Do-It-For-Me is more than software. DIFM combines technology automation with specialized labor to deliver a complete solution to a business problem. It’s as much about people-powered customer service as it is about code-powered efficiency.”
The DIFM revolution simply mirrored what culture had been leaning toward in recent years. Companies like Uber, Instacart, and Hello Fresh were offering services that consumers once did themselves and now didn’t have to anymore: drive, grocery shop, cook.
DIFM is what’s next in Managed IT Services, but in a way, it is also what’s already happening. As MSPs have become full-service providers, acting more like a complete IT team rather than consultants for one-off problems, companies are turning to them to do all of their IT for them. Less DIY, less headache, less overhead.
Most likely, you are still reading this guide because you think your business is ready for a DIFM type of Managed Service Provider. You don’t need one-off solutions or problem-solving but rather, the whole shebang. This means you’re probably researching MSPs in your area and trying to decide which one to hire. As you work through this process, it’s a good idea to have a few questions in mind that you can ask each candidate to ensure you end up with a Managed Service Provider that is the right fit for you and your business.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a DIFM MSP
1. What kind of support does the Managed Service Provider offer?
Do you need 24/7 support?
Do you need in-office support?
Make sure the Managed Service Provider you hire can provide the support you need. If you’re a small start-up, 24/7 support is probably more necessary than in-office support. If you’re a mid-sized business, having someone available to be on-site when needed might be a higher priority. Determine what level of support you need and make sure your Managed Service Provider can provide that.
2. Does the Managed Service Provider offer scalable Cloud solutions?
Any business needs secure and adequate Cloud storage. Make sure the Managed Service Provider you hire is well-versed and knowledgeable in this area. After taking inventory of your business, they should be able to determine what kind of Cloud storage is best for you, whether that’s a hybrid Cloud or multi-Cloud solution.
3. Does the Managed Service Provider offer an extensive service level agreement?
The key to any good business partnership is a solid, comprehensive contract agreement. In the Managed Service Provider world, we call these service level agreements or SLAs. A good SLA will detail exactly what the Managed Service Provider will be providing for your business and what they won’t provide. It lays out how much you will pay and how frequently you will make those payments. It will also provide information on disputes and penalties for any disagreements or issues that may arise. SLAs are meant to protect the MSP and you and your business. Make sure you read through the SLA carefully and if you have a business attorney or in-house legal team, have them comb through the document to make sure it aligns with your company’s needs.
We are in the midst of the DIFM revolution. This means your business is primed to move your IT services to this model.
Do your due diligence, ask the right questions, and you will find a successful partnership with a Managed Service Provider that is right for your business and its growth.
Section 8: IT Management
Managed IT Services Houston
We are a managed service provider (MSP) offering ongoing, pro-active IT management for an affordable fixed monthly fee in the greater Houston area.
We are a provider of services – experts in Information Technology. Yes, we also buy and sell hardware and some software on your behalf, but many businesses need help deciding what, how much, when and where to buy everything they need to run their business. When it comes to Internet service providers, setting up networks, buying cloud services, storage, back up, security programs, e-mail set up, managing devices (the list goes on and on), we are the experts who keep up with the latest technology trends and, more importantly, what is worth your investment. We offer many of the services an in house IT department would provide without the overhead, or we can be an extension of your CIO or in-house IT staff.
Total Care Managed Service Provider Plans
Many companies wait until something is broken and then have to pay to fix it – sometimes at a high price. We are not a “break/fix” company. We love the idea of a flat monthly fee for all of your IT service needs. We offer a variety of plans and packages to fit most budgets depending on the IT services your company needs. Our menu of managed IT services allows you to run your business instead of worrying about IT problems related to computers, your network, security and backups.
Outsourced IT Help Desk & On-Site Support
Outsourcing an IT help desk can benefit a company in many ways. By sending frequently asked questions and support issues to knowledgeable IT experts, you free up your in-house staff to complete more high-level tasks. We offer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with our English-speaking employees who we hire, train and manage locally in our Houston headquarters on Beltway 8 and I-45.
Email, Office 365 & Spam / Virus Protection
One of the challenges with onboarding new employees is setting up new emails, passwords, and levels of access and security. We provide enterprise software installation and deployment most frequently migrating to Windows Office 365. This system utilizes cloud computing to offer efficiency, reliability, easy updates and streamlined IT support. This service provides a solution to many of the primary IT problems companies experience on a daily basis.
Mobile Device Management
Using the best cloud mobility solutions available, we provide complete Mobile Device Management (MDM) by deploying and managing all your mobile devices. We provide secure app and content protocols to minimize risk to your business. The complex world of mobility is made simple with all the benefits of enhanced productivity.
Apple - Windows Support & System Integration
Whether your business is pure Apple® or completely Windows, we can manage your IT. For some businesses, the challenge of integrating these two systems with network integration can be overwhelming. Apple® systems must communicate seamlessly with Windows PCs and servers in order to do business. We have certified experts in both of these platforms and can help your business create a cross-platform system that is seamless.
Between the Internet Service Provider, the telephone service provider, the network and security provider, and the off-site back up provider —-that comes with a lot of meetings, contracts and billing. As part of our Managed IT Services, we juggle and vet the right providers for your budget and business priorities so you can focus on your own services.
Remote and Virtual Workforces
If your business has multiple locations, remote areas of work like plants and other facilities, or has a mobile or virtual workforce, you need an outsourced IT managed services company. We specialize in the complex nature of integrating the best technology tools into your process to keep productivity, collaboration, morale, and creativity levels high while technology functions from a distance.
Data Backup and Recovery
We make data backup solutions affordable, flexible and easy to use. So, why take the risk? In order to help protect your company’s essential data, take a look at some of our recommended best practices for creating a business continuity plan to keep your business running in the event your data is compromised in a disaster, through human error or system malfunction.
Network Security Solutions
If the thought or talk of firewalls, network lockdowns, cyber threats, hacking, malware, spyware, spam and viruses makes your head spin, then let us take over from here. We’ll provide you with best practices for both hardware and software and a plan to prevent, detect and respond to cyber-attacks and protect critical data. And, just because your business is small, doesn’t mean you’re safe. You are actually more of a target for cybercriminals.
Cloud Computing Services and Storage
Cloud computing can give you access to your data, files, applications and tools from anywhere on any device. Now you have access to technology that would have been previously too expensive. Cost savings and better productivity are among the benefits of the cloud. We can help navigate the Cloud for your business as well as Cloud storage solutions for backing up data.