By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.

The IT market is currently being flooded with offers for various kinds of managed services for your computers. If you have not already been approached, you will be.
Is it relevant for your business?

Managed Services for information technology provide a specific result for your business for a fixed fee, typically monthly.  It is kind of like hiring a gardener to mow your lawn – you pay the same price every month, regardless of how much there is to do.  This makes it easier to budget, and you don’t have to worry about it getting done.  This concept applies best to computer and software maintenance and updates, where the results and work involved are fairly predictable.

Managed service providers are offering their services to IT companies, who are becoming resellers of prepackaged solutions. It is similar to what happened to the computer hardware market when PC’s became a commodity.

Solutions typically include some combination of these services: Backups; Patch management; Antivirus / antispyware and security management;  Remote monitoring; Firewall and security monitoring; and remote Help Desk services. The solution usually will start with standardizing your environment and setting up remote management tools, so it can be managed in a standardized fashion over the internet. Usually the vendor will provide monthly reports, telling you all that was done, since you may not see anyone in your office.
In many cases, local vendors are simply reselling a package they purchase, and passing on much of the work to their vendor. The more popular solutions are Kaseya, Max Focus, N-Able, Level Platform, and Laptech.  Intel, HP, Dell, and several other large vendors are offering managed services as well.

The way the IT company uses these services vary. Some have the goal of getting as many clients signed up as possible, and then doing as little as possible to maximize margins. Our approach is to work with you to determine what you actually need, and leverage the software tools to improve efficiency and lower costs. We charge for actual work done, and rely on experienced network engineers to log on and check your systems. The tools are only as good as the person using them.

If you are considering a managed service solution here is what to ask:

What have the costs been in the past for the things that will be covered?

What exactly will be covered, and what will not?

What is the guaranteed response time to covered problems, and is it realistic?

Can the vendor handle your needs in areas not covered, and at what rate / response time?  What is the ratio of clients to support technicians?

How much will you have to change your network, and what will it cost?

Is the vendor trustworthy? Get references, find out how long they have been in business, and if possible whether they are financially stable. One large company in Fresno collected fees and left town.

Do they have adequate security?

What if they don’t deliver? Is there a guarantee of some kind, and how would you collect?