Does My Small Business Need Managed IT Support Services?
Editor's note: This article was originally posted in 2018, but has been updated to include the most current information.
Small business owners and leaders juggle everything from legal concerns to business planning, finance to production, marketing to customer service, hiring to technology.
And as technology becomes more of a competitive differentiator, most businesses (no matter the size) rely on their IT infrastructure to keep their business moving.
For small businesses with limited financial and people resources, dealing with the ever-changing technology environment can be overwhelming.
That's why some small business leaders look for external IT support.
In this article, we'll explore what managed IT offers, so you have the information you need to decide whether it might be a good solution for your business.
Before we go any further, I want to be upfront about the fact that I work for Kelser Corporation, a managed IT support services provider. But, don't worry, I'm not here to convince you that we are the perfect solution for your organization or, for that matter, that managed IT support is right for you.
Instead, I'll honestly explain what managed IT support services include so that you can decide if it is right for you.
What Are Managed IT Support Services?
Traditional IT service, known as break/fix or reactive support, was focused on fixing things when they broke.
The current approach. known as managed IT support, is to provide proactive, holistic, constant management of a customer’s entire technology environment.
The overall advantage this approach offers is the ability to detect and remedy small issues before they cause permanent damage to your business.
With managed IT support, customers pay one monthly fee for everything included in their service agreement.
Related article: What Is A Break/Fix IT Support Provider? The Pros & Cons
What's Included In Managed IT Support?
While each provider offers a different approach, most include the following services in their comprehensive managed IT support offering:
1. Service Desk
Sometimes called the help desk or technical support, the provider's service desk team addresses your day-to-day technical issues. When done correctly as part of managed IT support, it will feel as though you were being cared for by your own in-house team.
Your provider may offer unlimited calls to the service desk or may provide for a certain number of calls in a given period (with an extra fee for calls beyond the number allotted).
2. Managed Servers
With managed IT support, your servers are continually patched and updated, keeping them safe, available, and efficient.
Some providers include managed disaster recovery, which means your data is backed up properly, verified, and can be restored quickly in the event of disaster.
In addition, some providers will help you develop and regularly test your disaster recovery plan, to ensure everything will act the way it's supposed to when you need it.
3. Managed Network
Your network is the most critical piece of IT infrastructure in your entire organization. You need a network that is reliable and free of bottlenecks, congestion, performance issues and failures.
Managed network services keep your network available, secure, and efficient to handle the demands of your business for your internal users and customers alike.
4. Managed Workstations
You and your employees rely on your workstations to keep business moving. Managed workstation services ensure that those workstations are secure, up-to-date, and working efficiently.
Some providers handle the process of patching and updating manually. This can cause downtime while patches are applied.
Others automate updates and patching to minimize (if not fully eliminate) downtime.
Another advantage to managed workstations is that the provider can also keep an eye on the health of those devices and help you plan for system upgrades or replacements before they fail.
5. Automated Monitoring
The only thing better than fixing a problem that exists is preventing it from ever happening in the first place.
Managed IT support services include automated tools and systems that monitor your IT environment constantly, notifying the provider of unusual activity before it affects your entire network.
6. Email Support
Email and messaging applications keep your employees connected to each other and to your clients – wherever they are across the world.
A managed IT support provider will make sure that your email systems are efficient, available, and meet the needs of your business.
They'll handle day-to-day technical issues as well as big picture considerations such as identifying opportunities for your business to consolidate applications, features, and functions; increase productivity, or reduce costs.
7. Managed DNS-Based Protection
Domain Name Services (DNS) are addresses used by the internet to locate different web sites.
DNS-based protection ensures that the web address you think you are going to is legitimate and has not been compromised before you get there. It protects against phishing attacks and can protect mobile users on and off your local network.
When this service is centrally managed by your provider, you and your employees won’t even know that it’s silently protecting you in the background.
8. Managed Spam Filtering And Protection
A managed IT support provider will set up, configure, and adjust your email spam controls to match your security and usability needs.
Anti-spam filters check emails against industry-standard criteria as well as your specific criteria for spam and virus controls.
Inbound and outbound items that fail these checks are quarantined and not delivered to reduce dangerous and unnecessary email.
The same process is applied to outbound emails to prevent the distribution of malware, spam, and viruses to your contacts.
9. Incident Notification
The IT provider notifies you of incidents that may occur in your environment.
10. License Management
Managed IT providers can coordinate all of your licenses seamlessly, freeing you up to manage your business.
11. Managed Anti-Malware
Anti-malware thwarts attacks that would penetrate standard antivirus software.
It defends before, contains during, and helps remediate after an incident. It constantly tracks programs, so you know exactly what’s running where and when across your endpoints and sends alerts if a program suddenly turns malicious.
12. Employee Security Awareness Training
When it comes to cybersecurity, users can be the weakest link.
Employee security awareness training teaches your employees how to identify and recognize common threats, how to protect your company's information, and helps them understand their role in the security of the business.
Studies show this type of training significantly reduces the possibility of your business being hit by a phishing or other cyber attack that relies on social engineering.
Each provider may handle this service differently in terms of type, frequency, and delivery of the training. Typically, this service includes managed training and performance reporting.
Are Other Managed IT Support Services Available?
In addition to the core managed services we've already discussed, some managed IT support providers will offer additional features. Some include these services as part of their managed IT support services while others charge extra for the add-on services.
Here are some of the extra offerings:
1. Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO)
A vCIO blends deep understanding of your environment, the findings of your Technical Alignment Manager (TAM), and vast knowledge of current IT trends.
The vCIO provides actionable, strategic guidance and budgeting to be sure your technology strategy aligns with your business goals.
2. Technical Alignment Manager (TAM)
A technical alignment manager or TAM is a dedicated resource that learns and maintains detailed knowledge of your specific IT environment. They perform regular proactive services to keep your IT environment secure and efficient as well as identify potential technical risks.
3. Service Delivery Manager
A service delivery manager (SDM) provides project management and acts as a liaison between clients and the IT provider for services needed outside of the managed IT agreement.
4. Strategic IT Planning
This service, based on your priorities, ensures that you have the proactive strategic and budgetary guidance to align your IT planning with your business needs.
Related article: Why Is It Important To Align IT And Business Strategy
5. Quarterly Business Reviews
Some providers offer quarterly business reviews to keep the lines of communication open and ensure that your technology is ready for what your business needs next.
6. Automated Maintenance
Managed IT support providers can use the information gathered from your managed services to proactively address technical issues before they have a chance to cause downtime.
7. Incident Remediation
This service is not always included in managed services. Most managed IT support providers will monitor and alert you about issues but may not include the actual remediation of certain issues in the service.
Some providers will charge an additional fee depending on the type of incident and the remediation needed. Others will take an all-inclusive approach to incident remediation and handle it regardless of the situation.
8. Centralized Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware
Many managed IT support providers will include anti-virus or anti-malware protection in their managed services as it’s an important layer of any defense-in-depth strategy.
However, this protection isn’t always centralized and managed by the provider, so it’s worth checking when it’s mentioned.
Is Managed IT Support Right For Your Small Business?
This article has explained the services provided by managed IT support providers.
We've explored the services provided: service desk, managed servers, networks, and workstations; automated monitoring; email support; managed DNS-based protection; managed spam filtering and protection; incident notification; license management; managed anti-malware; and employee security awareness training.
You also know the extra services some providers offer: vCIO, TAM, SDM, strategic IT planning, quarterly business reviews, automated maintenance, incident remediation, and centralized anti-virus and anti-malware.
There's no standard profile of a typical managed IT support customer. From small and medium-sized businesses to massive companies with dedicated IT staff members, companies of different sizes choose to work with managed IT service providers to strengthen their technology infrastructure.
Data breaches, network outages, and natural disasters are some of the things that can provide a wake-up call for many organizations.
If you’re wondering whether you could benefit from partnering with an managed IT support service provider, ask yourself these questions:
- Do we have the ability to keep devices up to date and patched to avoid potential security risks?
- Have we done due diligence to test our network for potential internal and external vulnerabilities?
- If we were to have a breach, do we have the capability to find the root cause and remediate on our own?
- If a lightning strike fried our hardware tomorrow, do we have a plan to get back up and running? Even if we have a plan, have we actually tested it to make sure that it’s viable?
Without a well-defined plan for recovering from a breach or disaster, your business is teetering dangerously on the edge. How much downtime is acceptable and how could it impact your business, customers, and reputation?
At this point you may be considering learning more about managed IT support, but might not be sure if your business is big enough to benefit. Learn whether your business is too small for managed IT support.
If you decided to pursue managed IT support, we encourage you to check out several providers so that you make sure you get a provider that is the right fit for you.
While you are deciding whether managed IT is right for you, click the button below for a free eBook that explains the actions you need to take to defend against the latest cyber threats.
After reading this short, informative document, you’ll be armed with 10 actions to take right now to protect your data including implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA)
and password protecting mobile devices.
Taking these actions may be easier than you think and will provide valuable protection for your business.