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.