Suffice to say, by now most business owners have heard about managed services in IT. But I really don’t believe that MSP’s (Managed Service Providers) typically present the service to small and medium businesses in a simple enough way for decision makers to give the opportunity due consideration.
There’s obviously a lot of effort and money spent marketing IT to large enterprises. But small and medium-sized businesses are really where managed IT services make the most sense. All too often I visit these businesses that are not in a position to hire a full time IT person and are left to rely upon an employee that appears to be technically savvy and keeps things running with minimal apparent cost to the business. Alternatively, they have an independent IT professional that they’ll call when something goes wrong. That tech receives a service request, schedules and appointment, visits the business and performs a repair–or in the case of a hardware failure, orders a part to perform a repair in the future and bills the customer at their on-site hourly rate. This is referred to as the “break/fix” model (for obvious reasons).
Neither of these approaches is ideal. In the case of the tech savvy employee there is little or no guarantee that the services they are performing will actually be beneficial. Trust me, I have spent hours fixing the ‘fixes’ implemented by the novice or semi-professional technician. The most simple tasks can be handled by the average user, but that’s about it. When the part-timer realizes they do not have the depth of knowledge to resolve a problem, the break/fix tech gets a call. The cost to the business should be calculated by accounting for that employee’s lost productivity, the down time of the device or service and the employees who depend on it, and the inability to implement a long-term solution that could help the business be more productive going forward. Does anyone ever do the math to see what this approach costs? From experience, I can tell you that the answer is NO.
Now let’s take a look at the break/fix technician. For example’s sake, let’s say the server in your office has had a flashing indicator or has been beeping. It is located in a closet in a little-used room. No one hears or sees the indicator. One morning, you sit down at your desk to log-on to your network and cannot. A call goes out to your IT guy. Two hours later, the tech reaches your office and finds the problem. The hardware required to operate the drives in your server had failed. The server is 4 years old and a replacement controller will need to be over-nighted. The next morning the tech arrives, replaces the failed hardware and gets things running. Total billing to you is $250 for labor and $125 for the part. $375 total– not too bad.
So what about the lack of access to your server for an entire day? You couldn’t receive email on your Exchange Server and could not access documents or accounting software. Numerous clients were told “our computers are down right now so I will have to get back to you”. On top of all of this, you had not been advised of an IT strategy for instances such as this where you may have been able to be operational with virtually no business interruption. Now the calculation of cost is a little more severe. This was just one day over the course of a year. What else did you spend on IT services that year?
So how could an agreement with a managed services provider have helped? The MSP has a set of tools that allow them to monitor and proactively and remotely repair your business systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That means that there is someone reviewing the performance of your systems who is alerted to the possibility of a failure, many times, before it actually happens.
In the case of our failed server, the MSP would have received the alert before it failed, notified the business, secured the part and performed the repair without interruption to business operations. Should the part have failed with no warning, the MSP in their annual or quarterly review of your IT strategy would have advised you to implement a detailed strategy to keep the business operational in the event of a disaster, commonly referred to as a BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery) solution.
When making a decision whether to adopt a managed services model, do your homework. Don’t just total your annual expenditures for IT and compare that to the annual cost of a managed services contract (although that often times should still lead you to adopt managed services). Evaluate what the true cost has been to your business beyond the numbers on an income statement. Estimate what the additional cost could be in the event of an IT failure for which you may be unprepared. Once those costs are truly accounted for, your ready to give your managed IT services a realistic consideration.