We’ve been doing this stuff for a long time (since way back in December of 2001) and have learned a thing or two. 

This Guide to Managed Services is our way of giving back to the business community – sharing with you the good, the bad, the ugly about our industry all in an effort to help you make the best decision possible…

Even if it’s NOT doing business with us!

 

What Is Managed Services?

According to Wikipedia, Managed Services is “the practice of outsourcing on a proactive basis management responsibilities and functions and a strategic method to improve operations and cut expenses.  It is an alternative to the break/fix or on-demand outsourcing model where the service provider performs on-demand services and bills the customer only for the work done.”

Sounds pretty straightforward, but it isn’t.

Check out our post What Is Managed Services for a deeper dive into this term and what it really means.

History of Managed Services?

IT Support Services has gone through a metamorphosis over the past 25 years from purely internal to outsourcing focused on response time to one focused on metrics that really gauge the positive impact and IT company can have on their customers.

Sure, there are still plenty of old school, everything-to-everybody, IT shops out there who see Managed Services as just a marketing tactic but for those of us who really get it, the journey from Internal IT Staff to break/fix to managed services has been a long one.

Check out our post The History of Managed Services for a deeper dive into this term and what it really means.

What Does A Managed Services Providers Do?

Well, a lot! Isn’t that enough?

Seriously though, being a Managed Services Provider today isn’t as easy as it used to be.  Back in the day, it was super simple for a business owner to spot the real IT provider from the pretenders but with the advent of social media and slick new website popped up overnight, it isn’t as easy as it once was to spot the pretenders.

Fact is – businesses today can’t afford to wager their future on a one may show or a company that is just selling hours and products.

If you are a business owner – check out What Does A Managed Services Providers Do for a first-person view of our industry.

Managed Services Tiers – Part 1

Confused by the myriad of services offerings of your typical managed services outfit?  Don’t feel too bad – these plans are intentionally designed to confuse and fluster even the most experienced business owner.

Should I pick the bronze, silver, gold, pewter, titanium, plastic….. plan?  Which is best for YOUR business?

The fact is, you don’t know until it is too late – the obligatory ‘bronze’ plan is a low cost “free puppy” approach to Managed Services – one in which there are very low costs to you the customer, but also very little if any, skin in the game from your provider – one that is intentionally designed to produce costs overruns that your IT provider will gladly bill you for at the end of the month while they explain “THAT, service isn’t included in the package you picked.”

It’s like the insurance commercial where the forlorn insurance customer is told he “picked the wrong plan” but retorts that maybe he just picked the wrong company.

In fact – I’ll prove that this multi-tiered approach is simply a sales tactic that you don’t want to be anywhere close to!

Confused by the multi-tiered approach to Managed Services – check out our post on Managed Services Tiers – Part 1 for the straight scoop.

Managed Services Tiers – Part 2

If you read Managed Services Tiers – Part 1, you might be thinking – “I’m all set, I’m on the ‘Gold’ plan!” but nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m not just saying this to be a pain in the rear or make you second guess your decisions – I’m simply explaining the simple math that ALL IT Services providers must abide by – we are all competing for the same talent, using the same tools, and have relatively the same prospective customers.

Buying IT services is the same as any other professional service you use in your business – you want your provider to deliver results to the best of their abilities – you want them just as vested in the outcome as you are.  But if they let you pick a cut-rate plan with lot’s of exclusions – they actually have a disincentive for this going as planned because they get to send you another bill for outages, overages or things that “aren’t included in your agreement!”

Want to know how to navigate this maze of service options and be confident you know what you will be getting?  Check out our post on Managed Services Tiers – Part 2 for the straight scoop.

Managed Services Agreements

Regardless of what the marketing message says or the account manager promised you in the initial appointment, it is the Managed Services Agreement that, in the end, will determine the service you receive and more importantly, what you will and won’t get a bill for.

Past service expectations and billings the Managed Services Agreement is normally one-sided – designed to protect the provider and hold the customer in the agreement as long as possible, basically ‘IT Handcuffs’ designed to keep you paying the bill every month long after you’ve decided it is time to make a change.

I’m constantly amazed talking to businesses that want desperately to part company with a provider who has failed to live up to the sales pitch or whose business needs have evolved necessitating a change but who are trapped in an agreement they no longer see value in.  In Managed Services Agreements, I spell out the provisions you will typically see, ones you want to make sure are present and how to spot common traps.

You Might Need A Managed Service Provider If…

In honor of celebrating our American heritage this month and our country’s independence, we thought we’d poke a little fun at the old American adage: “You might be a redneck if…” by spinning it to the tune of our industry, “You Might Need A Managed Service Provider If…” and addressing some major concerns to check in and evaluate if your IT Support company is offering the level of service your business needs to stay efficient, productive and keep costs down.

Without further ado… here we go, check our list of red flags to see if you’re due to make a change in your IT Support!

Quality Assurance In Choosing Your Managed Service Provider…The Proof Is In The Pudding!

Managed Services is a buzz term many IT support companies use to market themselves. So how can you tell the difference between an authentic, true-to-form Managed Service Provider versus an IT Support company with a shiny exterior but filled with all sorts of additional fees, hidden charges, and exclusions? The proof is in the nature of the agreement you set up with your provider and the process your vendor uses to ensure quality.

Check out this article where we dive into crucial things to look for and look out for when deciphering your options for a true Managed Service Provider for your IT support.

Quarterly Business Review Do’s and Don’ts With Your Managed Service Provider

If you grit your teeth and cringe every time your IT Support company sets up a quarterly business review because you spend an hour defending your turf (and your wallet) from being “sold”… red flag! In this article, we’re diving into what a quarterly business review is (and isn’t), and what to watch out for in identifying a true managed service provider from an IT Support company with a sales front.

An authentic Managed Service Provider uses quarterly business reviews to evaluate what’s working and not working and making sure they’re in sync with your company’s upcoming initiatives.

Check out this truth-telling article to learn more about what a quarterly business review is (and isn’t!) here. 

Medical Practices: Why You Desperately Need To Hire A Managed Services Provider Right Now

Many people think “Managed Services Provider” is just a fancy way to say “IT Support” Business. I could tell you facts about why it’s a no-brainer, best-decision-you-ever-made move for why you need to hire a Managed Services Provider for your medical practice, but I’d rather tell you a story.

Let’s say you’re a surgeon and you have your own practice. You have 40 people who work for you in your business. Front desk administrators, office coordinators, your HR rep, a handful of other surgeons, physicians assistants — you’re running a small army of people who do helpful things to make human bodies feel better, work better, look better, last longer…some combination of those four things. You’ve got iPads up front when your clients come in to check in for their appointments, then your PA brings the clients into a room and uses another app that updates their charts, then you come in to perform an operation and one of your machines runs off a separate app that helps guide a successful surgery. Your client comes out of the operation; their loved one hands the receptionist their insurance card, which she scans and starts the insurance claim process. Everyone’s using the latest and greatest technology to safely perform surgery on people and run a profitable business!

Now, who’s responsible for making sure that all of your software is up to date? Check out this article, Managed Service Providers For Medical Practices: We’ve Found The Cure to learn how to take your medical practice to the next level.

Why Managed Services For Law Firms Makes Sense For Cyber Security And Data Protection

As recent cyber incidents targeting CEOs have demonstrated, cyber attacks are now a constant emerging threat for all types of businesses and as a result the demand for managed services for law firms. Roughly 80% of companies reported experiencing cybersecurity-related incidents last year alone, costing businesses approximately $3.62 million per breach. What this means for lawyers is being faced with unparalleled data protection difficulties that could influence their ability to practice competently and ethically, and the serious need for managed services for law firms to take on these cyber security liabilities head on.

Read this article on why managed services for law firms makes sense for cyber security and data protection.

HATE Using Your IT Support Provider’s Ticketing System? Look Closer…It Isn’t The System You Hate!

Does hearing the words “ticketing system” make you want to throw your printer through the window? I’ll bet you HATE using a dang ticketing system! But look closer, it isn’t the system you hate…

More likely the ticket system is being used by your provider as a gatekeeper – a hurdle or barrier you have to cross to get help.  This ISN’T why ticketing systems were invented but, unfortunately, how they are used.

I had a prospective customer tell me, “If you even mention the word ticketing system, my partners will freak out.” I thought – “Jeez, what am I getting into here?” but I stuck with it and dug a little deeper to figure out why they were so averse to this very useful tool – turns out the things they hate had more to do with their managed services provider’s process than with the tool.

Read this article and liberate yourself from why you think you hate dealing with your IT Support provider’s ticketing system.