What Should a Managed IT Partner for Our Business Be Providing?

It can be confusing when looking at your managed IT provider and knowing if they are doing what they should to help, we have endeavored here to give an overview of the things a managed IT provide should be doing for your comapny and why you should be paying a reasonable amount for good support.

Keeping pace with changes in technology and cyber security takes time and dedication, and a good managed IT provider will be covering all you need to stay productive and stay safe.

1. Proactive Monitoring and Management

  • Continuous monitoring of IT infrastructure.
    A cornerstone of managed IT services is the continuous monitoring of your business’s IT infrastructure.

    This involves keeping a vigilant eye on the health and performance of all IT components, including servers, networks, and end-user devices. Continuous monitoring allows for the early detection of potential issues, often before they escalate into significant problems. This real-time surveillance of the IT environment ensures that the performance and uptime of the system are maintained, which is vital for the smooth operation of business processes. It’s not only important to monitor for these issues, but to action anything that’s flagged to your Managed It Provider, most IT providers are not proactive enough in this area, which will mean poor performance from your systems.
  • Proactive issue resolution to prevent downtime.
    Proactive issue resolution is a proactive approach aimed at identifying and solving problems before they disrupt business operations. Unlike traditional IT services that operate on a break-fix model, a managed IT partner “should” focus on preventing issues rather than merely responding to them after they occur. We say “should” because in our experiance they do not, it’s easy for IT providers to get bogged down “fighting fires” and only dealing with what’s in front of the IT engineers, unless the company culture is to structure to resolve these issues, they sit unresolved untill they become an issue.

    This approach is crucial in minimising downtime, which can be costly for any business. Downtime not only leads to direct financial losses but can also affect customer trust and your business reputation. By resolving issues proactively, a managed IT partner helps maintain operational continuity, ensuring that your business activities run without interruption. This proactive stance on issue resolution is integral to maintaining an efficient, secure, and stable IT environment, enabling businesses to focus on their core activities without the worry of IT-related disruptions.

2. Security and Compliance

  • How managed IT partners should handle cybersecurity.

    In today’s digital era, cybersecurity is not just a necessity but a critical component of any business strategy. A managed IT partner plays a pivotal role in fortifying a business’s cybersecurity defenses. This involves implementing a multi-layered security approach that encompasses various aspects such as firewalls, anti-virus software, intrusion detection systems, and more.

    A proficient managed IT service provider should conduct regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify potential security weaknesses. They should also keep abreast of the latest cyber threats and ensure that your IT infrastructure is equipped with up-to-date security measures to ward off these threats. This includes managing patches and updates for software and hardware, thereby closing any security loopholes that could be exploited by cybercriminals.

    Moreover, cybersecurity management extends beyond technical measures. It also includes training employees on best practices for data security, recognising phishing attempts, and safe internet usage. Managed IT partners should facilitate this training, as human error often poses a significant risk to data security.
  • Compliance with industry regulations and data protection laws.

    Compliance is another critical aspect managed by IT partners. Different industries often have varied regulations and standards that businesses must adhere to, such as HIPAA in healthcare, GDPR in Europe for data protection, or PCI DSS for companies handling credit card transactions. A managed IT partner should have in-depth knowledge of these regulations and ensure that your IT systems comply with the relevant laws and standards.

    This involves regular compliance audits, risk assessments, and updates to policies and procedures to stay aligned with changing regulations. Data protection laws, in particular, require businesses to handle customer data responsibly, ensuring its confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Managed IT services should therefore include robust data governance practices, including secure data storage, controlled access, and efficient data recovery systems.

    By entrusting a managed IT partner with the responsibility of cybersecurity and compliance, businesses can mitigate risks, avoid legal and financial penalties associated with non-compliance, and maintain the trust of their clients and stakeholders. This comprehensive approach to security and compliance not only safeguards the business’s data assets but also supports its long-term sustainability and growth in an increasingly digitised world.

3. Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

  • Regular data backups.

    Regular data backups are a fundamental aspect of any robust IT strategy, and a managed IT partner should prioritise this as a key service. The significance of regular data backups cannot be overstated; they are the safety net that businesses rely on in the event of data loss due to hardware failure, cyber-attacks, human error, or natural disasters.

    Managed IT services should ensure that data backups are performed frequently and efficiently, capturing all critical business data. This process typically includes identifying what data needs to be backed up, determining the frequency of backups, and choosing the appropriate backup methods and storage solutions. Cloud-based backups are increasingly popular for their scalability and accessibility, but the choice may vary based on business needs and data sensitivity.

    The goal of regular data backups is to minimise data loss and ensure quick recovery of data, thus reducing downtime and its associated costs. A managed IT partner should also regularly test backup systems to confirm that data can be effectively restored when needed. This is not just viewing whether a data backup was successful but doing periodic test restores on data to manually check the backup data.
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity.

    Disaster recovery and business continuity planning are essential components of a comprehensive managed IT service. These strategies go beyond mere data backups; they involve a complete plan to ensure that a business can continue to operate and quickly recover in the event of a major disruption.

    A managed IT partner should work closely with businesses to develop a disaster recovery plan that outlines specific steps to be taken during and after an incident. This plan should include:
  • Identification of critical business functions and systems that need to be prioritised for recovery.
  • Establishment of a disaster recovery site, which could be a physical location or a cloud-based solution, where operations can continue if the primary site is compromised.
  • Implementation of data replication and failover mechanisms to ensure minimal disruption to operations.
  • Clear communication protocols to inform employees, customers, and stakeholders during a disaster.
  • Regular testing and updating of the disaster recovery plan to ensure its effectiveness in various scenarios.

    Effective disaster recovery and business continuity strategies are designed to reduce the impact of unforeseen events, enabling businesses to maintain operational integrity and protect their reputation and revenue streams. By proactively planning for potential disasters, a managed IT partner helps businesses to navigate through challenging times with confidence and resilience.

4. Customized IT Strategy

  • A tailored IT strategy that aligns with business goals.

    In the dynamic world of technology, a one-size-fits-all approach does not suffice for the varied and specific needs of different businesses. A customised IT strategy is essential, and this is where a managed IT partner can bring significant value. The primary goal of a tailored IT strategy is to ensure that the technology solutions align seamlessly with the unique goals and operations of a business.

    A well-crafted IT strategy takes into consideration various facets of the business such as its size, industry, customer base, growth projections, and specific challenges. It also involves understanding the current technological landscape of the business, identifying areas for improvement, and aligning IT initiatives with the overall business strategy. This tailored approach helps in optimising processes, improving efficiency, reducing costs, and driving innovation, ultimately contributing to the business’s competitive edge and success.
  • How managed IT partners should work with businesses to develop and implement these strategies.

    Managed IT partners play a crucial role in developing and implementing a customised IT strategy. Their approach should involve a collaborative and consultative process with the following key steps:
  • Assessment and Consultation: This initial phase involves understanding the business’s current IT setup, challenges, and objectives. It includes assessing the existing infrastructure, software, and processes, and identifying gaps or areas for improvement.
  • Strategy Development: Based on the assessment, the managed IT partner should develop a comprehensive IT strategy. This strategy should detail the technological solutions and innovations needed to address the identified gaps and align with the business’s goals. It should cover aspects like infrastructure upgrades, cloud solutions, cybersecurity measures, and software deployments.
  • Implementation Plan: The strategy should be accompanied by a clear and actionable implementation plan. This plan outlines the steps, timelines, and resources required to execute the strategy. It should also consider any potential disruptions to business operations and include measures to mitigate them.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Throughout the process, open communication and collaboration with the business are crucial. Regular meetings and updates ensure that the business is kept informed of progress and that any feedback or changes in business direction are incorporated into the strategy.
  • Review and Adaptation: Post-implementation, the managed IT partner should regularly review the strategy’s performance against set objectives. This ongoing evaluation allows for adjustments and updates to the strategy as the business evolves and as new technologies emerge.

    In essence, a managed IT partner should not just be a service provider but a strategic partner that works closely with the business, offering expertise and solutions that propel the business towards its goals. Through a customized IT strategy, businesses can leverage technology as a powerful tool for growth and adaptation in an ever-changing market.

5. End-User Support and Training

  • Overview of helpdesk support services for employees.

    One of the key services provided by a managed IT partner is comprehensive end-user support, often in the form of a helpdesk. This service is crucial in ensuring that employees have immediate access to assistance for any IT-related issues they encounter, thereby minimising downtime and maintaining productivity.
  • Helpdesk support typically includes:
  • Troubleshooting and Problem Resolution: Offering quick and effective solutions to common IT issues such as software errors, hardware malfunctions, and connectivity problems.
  • Remote and On-Site Support: Providing flexibility in support, with options for remote assistance through phone, email, or chat, as well as on-site visits for more complex issues.
  • User Assistance and Guidance: Helping users with basic IT tasks, such as setting up email accounts, installing software, or configuring devices.

    This level of support ensures that employees can resolve IT issues swiftly and efficiently, allowing them to focus on their core job responsibilities. As well as freeing up “involuntary IT managers” internal staff that have been landed with the “office IT manager” job.
  • Importance of user training and education to enhance IT efficiency.

    In addition to reactive support, proactive user training and education are equally important in enhancing overall IT efficiency. A managed IT partner should provide or help you source:
  • Cybersecurity Awareness: Educating employees on cybersecurity best practices, recognizing phishing attacks, and safe internet usage. This is crucial in mitigating risks associated with human error.
  • New Technology Integration: When new technologies or systems are introduced, proper training ensures a smooth transition and maximizes the benefits of these investments.

    Effective end-user support and training are pivotal in creating a knowledgeable workforce that can leverage technology confidently and competently. By investing in these areas, a managed IT partner not only addresses immediate IT issues but also empowers employees with the skills and knowledge to use technology effectively, contributing to the overall efficiency and success of the business.

6. Regular Reporting and Communication

  • Communication and regular performance reports.

    Communication and regular reporting are vital elements of a successful partnership between a business and its managed IT service provider.
  • Performance reports are a crucial component of this communication strategy. These reports should ideally cover:
  • System Performance: Providing insights into the overall health and efficiency of the IT infrastructure, including network performance, server uptime, and application functionality.
  • Security Updates: Information about any security threats encountered, the measures taken to mitigate them, and recommendations for future security enhancements.
  • Incident Reports: Details on any IT incidents or disruptions that occurred, how they were resolved, and steps taken to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
  • Service Usage and Analytics: Data on how different IT services are being utilized within the business, which can help in resource allocation and identifying areas for improvement.
  • Compliance and Governance: Updates on compliance with relevant regulations and any changes in IT governance policies or procedures.
  • These reports should be presented in an easily understandable format, allowing non-technical stakeholders to grasp the key information and make informed decisions.

7. Cost-Effectiveness and ROI

  • How managed IT services can be a cost-effective solution.

    Managed IT services are often seen as a cost for businesses, and that’s understandable without the associated benifits we’ve laid out here but in fact Managed It services are a cost-effective solution for your business, primarily due to their ability to reduce the need for large, upfront capital investments in IT infrastructure and personnel. Here’s how managed IT services offer cost-effectiveness:
  • Predictable Monthly Costs: Unlike the variable costs associated with in-house IT management (like emergency repairs or hardware upgrades), managed IT services typically operate on a fixed monthly fee. This predictability in expenses aids in better financial planning and budgeting.
  • Reduced Need for In-House IT Staff: While larger companies may have the resources to support a full in-house IT team, small to medium-sized businesses can find this challenging. Managed IT services eliminate the need for a large in-house team, reducing labor costs significantly.
  • Economies of Scale and Expertise: Managed IT service providers can offer more cost-effective solutions due to their scale and expertise. They have access to a broader range of resources, better purchasing power for hardware and software, and specialized staff that might be too expensive for a single company to employ.
  • Minimising Downtime Costs: Proactive monitoring and maintenance provided by managed IT services can significantly reduce the costly downtime that results from IT failures, thus protecting the business from loss of revenue and productivity.
  • The return on investment (ROI) businesses should expect.

    When evaluating the return on investment (ROI) from managed IT services, businesses should consider several factors:
  • Increased Operational Efficiency: By outsourcing IT management, businesses can focus on their core operations, potentially increasing overall productivity and efficiency.
  • Enhanced Cybersecurity: Improved security measures reduce the risk of costly data breaches and cyber-attacks, which can have substantial financial implications.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Managed IT services allow businesses to scale their IT resources up or down as needed, ensuring they only pay for what they use. This flexibility can be a significant factor in ROI, especially for growing businesses.
  • Long-Term Cost Savings: While the immediate financial benefits are important, businesses should also consider long-term savings. These include reduced costs related to IT failures, system inefficiencies, and outdated technology.
  • Strategic IT Planning: Managed IT services often include strategic planning that can help businesses make more informed decisions about technology investments, leading to better long-term financial outcomes.

Based on all these factors it’s easy to see how a reliable managed IT provider would cost a reasonable amount, but the ROI should be significant.