Easy & Effective IT Management: Your Complete Guide To Managed IT Services

Your complete guide to IT Management

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) provide customisable IT-as-a-service (ITaaS), allowing businesses to choose their own IT adventure. Though your plan will be tailor-made to suit your needs, it will always be centred around streamlining your operations and improving your cybersecurity and other protections.

Though the abundance of choice when it comes to MSPs is a major benefit, it can also be overwhelming, making it difficult to determine which model and which suite of services is going to deliver the best results for your business. To help you broaden your understanding of managed IT services, Invotec has developed this comprehensive guide, written in simple, jargon-free language and designed to help you make informed decisions.

What does a managed service provider do?

The best Managed Services Provider will take a proactive approach to supporting your business, aiming to ensure you get the most out of your investment in IT. You gain the latest technology and IT resources and the expertise of IT professionals who specialise in the specific needs of your industry.

The precise nature of the support you’ll receive depends entirely on the parameters you define and the tasks and responsibilities you wish to have managed for you. This means you can work exclusively with an MSP or operate with an in-house IT department that’s augmented in a targeted way by your MSP. For example, you may wish to keep your IT helpdesk in-house while outsourcing the strategic planning and implementation of a new system to your MSP. Or you may decide to do the precise opposite – you choose the IT adventure that works for you.

How Do Managed IT Services Compare To Other IT Services?

There’s no shortage of IT solutions in the world, and the ideal approach for your business will depend on a number of factors, including your industry, internal users, workflows, IT budget, and the plans you have in place for growth and innovation. While the precise nature of your IT support adventure will be unique to you, the journey will generally start with one of the following three choices.

The Break/Fix Approach

An old-school approach to IT, the break/fix model brings to mind the old cliche, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you’ve ever been hit with a mechanic’s bill that had entirely too many digits before the decimal point, you’ll understand that this break/fix approach can be dangerous. With IT, as with cars, routine maintenance can save you from financial pain. 

The break-fix model can be suitable if an operation is so small that the cost of proactive IT management would outweigh the cost of occasional disruptions. However, for many businesses, the cybersecurity risks and lost productivity associated with outdated tech and system outages far outweigh the cost of a proactive approach to IT. 

If a cost/benefit analysis has revealed that ongoing IT management is needed, businesses can hire a dedicated IT department, outsource to a managed service provider, or take a hybrid approach that includes both in-house and outsourced IT support.

Project-Based Outsourced IT

IT outsourcing can be project-based or ongoing, depending on your business needs. You may opt for an in-house team to handle ongoing support while outsourcing projects to an IT company that can offer fast and cost-effective execution due to their specialisation in that project type. 

This allows for effective resource management as you can hire the precise number of employees needed for routine IT support while ensuring that all projects are managed efficiently. Outsourcing allows for proactive IT management that’s a step above the reactive break/fix model.

Ongoing Support With Managed IT Services

By partnering with a managed service provider, you can take advantage of the technology, expertise, and staffing capacity of the company without having to outlay for all these things yourself. Depending on your needs and budget, you can choose from month-to-month service or longer contracts and then enjoy the stability of a predictable fee for reliable support that’s mandated by a Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Many organisations still employ an in-house team, using the MSP to offer supplemental support, including 24/7 monitoring, which can turn a potentially catastrophic hacking attempt into a quickly eliminated non-event.

Why Choose a Managed Service Provider?

The most attractive benefit of working with a managed service provider is the fact that you can get 24/7 support for a fixed rate, with your expectations locked in by your Service Level Agreement. This means help is always available when you need it, and you won’t have to worry about costs getting out of control in the event of an IT emergency.

The best MSP will also offer proactive maintenance, risk assessments, and planning to help you prevent IT emergencies from happening in the first place. This is a valuable service that goes above and beyond what’s on offer with the break/fix and project-based outsourcing models. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of working with an MSP is the fact that the better their service level, the easier their job is, meaning a strong incentive to exceed your expectations is built into the system. How does this work exactly? 

If your MSP fails to take a proactive approach to IT management, you’re going to face more IT issues, creating more work for them and demanding more of their resources down the line. Conversely, if they ensure you have a secure and optimised IT environment, they’re making the job of managing it for you that much easier. In this way, your priorities are naturally aligned, meaning you have a powerful ally on your side.

The Long-term Impact of Proactive IT Management

  • Stress reduction – For you, every aspect of IT management essentially becomes automated. Updates, patches, and other strategies can be implemented methodically and preemptively, long before there’s any need for you to stress about them.
  • Prevention of IT emergencies – With 24/7 support, you can rest assured that even issues that occur at 11 pm on the Friday before a long weekend will be instantly addressed by your MSP. 
  • Expert troubleshooting and support – With an MSP, you benefit from objective expert analysis of your business systems, helping you streamline and optimise your operations.
  • Access to the latest IT advancements – MSPs are staffed by IT devotees who are all over the latest industry advancements. So, you’ll be the first to know about new tools, technologies, and strategies that may further improve your operational efficiency and save you money.
  • Minimise your IT budget – Through the ongoing identification and remediation of potential risks and problems, IT emergencies can be avoided and projects budgeted for well in advance, making this a cost-effective approach to IT management.

What Can a Managed IT Service Provider Help You Do?

You have many IT services on the table when you partner with a managed services provider. The idea is to select the ideal mix for improving your business security, operational efficiency, and regulatory compliance. Generally speaking, you’ll be able to create a bespoke package that includes a combination of the following features:

Proactive IT Support

Information Technology is integral to the modern business world, so it makes sense to include IT support in your plan. Most MSPs offer a sliding scale, with options ranging from basic maintenance to comprehensive, 24/7 support. Your IT support menu includes (but is not limited to): 

  • Onsite assistance from field service technicians (both scheduled and on-call)
  • Hardware set-up
  • Creating new user profiles
  • Account access and password management
  • Infrastructure management
  • IT service desk
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • Offsite managed backup
  • Security Information and Events Monitoring (SIEM)
  • Highly price competitive hardware procurement
  • Business Technology consulting services

Networking & Connectivity

A business without an internet connection is a business stranded on a digital desert island. From your apps and communication channels to your sales and service processes, most operations rely on this connection. However, understanding and optimising your internet service isn’t always easy. 

Every year, it feels like there are new connectivity options – ADSL, ethernet, NBN, fibre, microwave, mobile – and while choices mean competition and competition is good, it can also lead to decision fatigue. This is compounded by other considerations like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN) that allow you to speed up and improve the reliability of your connections. These are particularly useful if you have multiple locations, but they are also far from your only options. 

Faced with a surprisingly large menu of complex connectivity options, the most effective approach for many businesses is to have an MSP recommend and manage a solution that fits both their needs and budget. 

Robust Cybersecurity

An MSP can protect both your physical and digital assets through IT security measures delivered in tandem with the managed IT services detailed above. Your data will be protected across all systems and platforms, including the following: 

  • App and system security – ensuring multi-factor authentication and other security measures are in place to reduce your vulnerability.
  • Network security – monitoring network activity and ensuring unauthorised users are unable to access your network.
  • Cloud security – protecting all data hosted in the cloud.
  • Internet security – protecting you, your staff, and your data from web-based threats.
  • Endpoint security – protecting all devices used by your business, from smartphones to laptops, tablets to desktop computers.
  • Security risk assessments – designed to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities and threats, regular security audits ensure every aspect of your IT environment is covered from new and emerging threats.

Managed Cloud Services

Cloud computing gives you all the benefits of a large, perfectly climate-controlled set of servers without the space, processing power, and other resources such a set-up demands. Instead, your data is stored and applications deployed from a remote data centre. This allows for the easy sharing of resources and the use of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that don’t take up valuable real estate in your system. 

Cloud environments can be public (like Microsoft Azure) or private, meaning that access to a set of cloud resources is restricted to members of a specific organisation. A private cloud environment can be custom-designed to suit your needs and offers expansive scalability. 

Of course, you don’t have to go for a fully in-house, fully public, or fully private cloud experience. Many organisations take a hybrid approach, with data and applications stored across multiple platforms. If this sounds like your organisation, one thing to keep in mind is that the hybrid approach can leave you with unnecessary complexity, particularly if there’s no guiding strategy behind it.  

By having your managed service provider handle your cloud infrastructure, you can enjoy seamless support and security. For many businesses, managed cloud services are the ideal approach as it allows them to develop a more suitable approach to cloud computing without having to outlay for an in-house team and the training they would require. Instead, an MSP gives you fully trained and experienced system administrators and engineers who are more than capable of managing the complexities of the cloud. This allows you to focus on what you want to be working on rather than having your attention constantly pulled away by tech issues.  

Managed cloud services are also central to backup and disaster recovery in the modern world. However, this is about far more than just having duplicate data stored in the cloud. MSPs can deliver more advanced solutions that will get your systems back online faster than you thought possible should an event occur that would otherwise have been catastrophic. 

Seamless Communication

Communication is and always has been central to success in business. From your staff to your customers, investors, partners, and external stakeholders, there is no room for communication breakdowns in the modern world. If you’ve ever lost a deal over a missed email or received a bad review due to a communication breakdown, you’ll understand how high the stakes can be. It’s essential to provide a cohesive communication structure that offers a seamless experience across all channels. 

For your staff, contractors, and relevant stakeholders, you want collaboration to be effortless. For your customers, you want the process of connecting with your business to be convenient and intuitive, with all the efficiency offered by technology plus that essential human touch. The best way to achieve these goals is by creating cohesion between your communication channels, ensuring that your messaging, voice call, and video call solutions aren’t operating as silos.

By far the easiest way to achieve this level of cohesion is to have an MSP manage your business communication solutions. An MSP can add a high level of security to the mix, ensuring your communication solution is as safe as it is reliable and effective. 

Remote Work Solutions

It is essential that you and your staff are able to seamlessly and safely access applications and data on your network via all approved business devices. With remote work on the rise, this connectivity needs to be available anywhere and anytime. Of course, this adds a new dimension to your IT infrastructure and your connectivity and security needs.

With an MSP on your side, you can take advantage of the convenience and cost-saving benefits of having these industry experts procure and manage the technology you need for seamless user access. Your MSP will ensure you have a solution that’s agile, intuitive and scalable. 

App Support & Optimisation

The apps you use can make or break your business in more ways than one. From communication to workflow management, it’s essential to have the best tools for the job, and crucially, to ensure these tools are always covered with the latest patches and updates. 

An MSP can help with every aspect of app management, from selecting the ideal apps for your business to ongoing support and optimisation. When it comes time to change or upgrade, an MSP can also handle licencing, installation, data migration, and other aspects of change management to ensure you go straight to enjoying the benefits of your new application.

IT Department Augmentation

Flexibility is built into the MSP model, with the best managed service providers offering bespoke packages that can be arranged on a contractual or project-by-project basis. If you have an internal IT department, you can bring in the services of an MSP only when you need specific projects managed. Once completed, management of a project can be ongoing or it can be passed over to your in-house team.

Even if you plan to have a project implemented by your in-house team, it can be beneficial to take advantage of IT consulting services from an MSP. This will give you an objective overview of the project, the ideal strategy for tackling it, and the outcomes you can expect. MSPs are in the unique position of carrying out hundreds of projects a year in a range of industries and across many applications. They know what works, what’s realistic, and what’s needed to deliver projects on time and within the constraints of your budget. 

An MSP can also be the ideal resource when you need to augment your IT department but don’t have time to go through the recruitment process. Whether you’re looking to temporarily fill in for staff or handle a temporary spike in demand, the best MSPs can offer a diverse crew of skilled IT experts who specialise in different industries and applications. This means you can gain instant access to the perfect person or team for the job, complete with the requisite certifications.

Your Own Virtual CIO (vCIO)

While an IT manager is immersed in daily operations and service delivery, a CIO takes a more strategic, objective view of your IT environment, developing a strategy that aligns with your business goals and mission. Many business owners who are looking for the benefits of a CIO without the cost of hiring a full-time employee have found virtual CIOs to be a powerful yet cost-effective alternative.  

Your vCIO can deliver the same level of expertise but on an as-needed basis, making it a budget-friendly approach for those who don’t yet need the full-time support of an in-house CIO. If you’re already using a Managed Service Provider, you may find that you can add this service to your existing package. Doing so allows you to level up your managed IT services thanks to the high-level insight and strategic planning skills of the MSP’s top senior management. 

How Do You Find the Best MSP in Australia?

You have a wealth of choices when it comes to managed service providers in Australia. Since many specialise in certain fields – like SMEs or government entities – it helps to focus on the categories relevant to you before comparing MSPs in Australia. This may mean looking for MSPs that focus on your industry, business size, or both. You can then compare and contrast their technical capacity, level of specialisation, customer service, reviews, awards, and other relevant metrics.

Will managed IT services be a good fit for your business?

No two businesses are the same, meaning no two IT solutions can be either. There’s no doubt that many businesses are benefiting from the expert advice and flexible, customisable solutions offered by MSPs. However, that doesn’t mean this approach will be ideal for your business and its current stage of growth. To determine whether managed IT services might be a good fit for you, consider the following questions: 

Are technical issues slowing you down?

When it works as it should, technology slips into the background, facilitating all the processes that are central to your success without demanding attention or praise. But when technology fails us, we become all too aware of how reliant on it we are. If you and your staff are always on the brink of frustration with your IT infrastructure, it’s time to at least consult with an MSP to see what they can do to rectify the situation. 

Tech dramas have obvious implications for your customer support, operational efficiency, and profitability. However, you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of endless IT issues on the health and wellbeing of your team. If every week brings with it a new IT problem, this is your biggest sign that it’s time to get proactive about your business IT management.

Are you currently tracking and analysing your IT performance?

If the answer is no, you’re basically operating blind in terms of your IT environment. This means you could be poised for problems that will feel like they came out of nowhere. In reality, they could have been avoided if you’d been tracking the relevant metrics. 

MSPs have the sophisticated tracking and reporting tools needed to give you a clear view of your IT environment. This knowledge is powerful, giving you the information you need to plan ahead, avoid disaster, and open up pathways for growth through improved efficiency.

Do you feel like your IT department is lacking?

If your IT staff are complaining that they’re unable to do any proactive work because they’re always responding to problems, it may be time to consider supplementing your in-house team with support from an MSP. You have absolute flexibility in the nature of the support you receive and how long you work with the MSP, making this a targeted and budget-friendly way to free up your in-house team and pave the way for a more efficient IT environment.

Are IT upgrades central to your growth strategy?

If you know you need to tackle some IT upgrades in order to facilitate the next stages of growth in your business, an MSP can be the ideal way to get these projects off the ground. A Managed Service Provider can give you a team of specialists capable of completing IT projects in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner. Once the upgrade has been completed, you can either shift focus to the next project or say goodbye to the team with no hard feelings, as this is part and parcel of the MSP model. 

Your next step: An obligation-free consultation and quote

This overview was designed to give you a general understanding of business IT management and what Managed Serviced Providers do. If you’d like to dive more into the specifics of your business and whether an MSP is the best approach to IT management for you, get in touch with Invotec today. We have technicians specialising in a range of industries and business needs, and we will connect you with the right person to answer your questions and help you determine the ideal IT solution for you.

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