Managed services – or managed IT services – is an agreement whereby a company outsources its core IT operations to a third party specialising in IT solutions. This third party is known as a managed services provider (MSP), and is responsible for overseeing and managing the company's networks, servers, infrastructure, software, backup and security while preventing risks and technical downtimes.

While handling your regular business activities, outsourcing such managed services to a specialised IT company will help ensure that you receive extensive ‘round-the-clock support, monitoring and maintenance of your entire back-end tech: the powerhouse of your business.


Making a managed services arrangement

As a company, your back-end infrastructure is the core of your business. This is where data, security, transactions, connectivity and bandwidth (among others) are run. Hence, you want to be sure you understand what exactly your managed services provider is handling, and that your business operations are highly secured.

Therefore, you have to enter into a formal understanding with your managed services provider, and spell out the terms in a contract. This contract is known as a Service Level Agreement (SLA), and concisely defines the level of IT management and solutions the managed service provider will offer. Included in the SLA is a fee that the MSP will charge for providing the IT services over a finite period.

Outsourcing your managed services to a managed service provider removes the technical burden of your organisation from your shoulders.

Notably, the client company will be responsible for providing the IT equipment, while the MSP utilises, maintains and upgrades these for the company's benefit. Essentially, outsourcing your managed services to a managed service provider removes the technical burden of your organisation from your shoulders while providing you with the time and capacity to focus on business-oriented activities.


What does managed services cover?

It's worthy to note that each managed services provider may offer a different range of services. However, you can expect a regular MSP to provide the following:

  • Connectivity and bandwidth control
  • Web hosting
  • Data storage
  • Network testing, monitoring and maintenance
  • Securing your network, assessing and mitigating risks
  • Installations and upgrades
  • Monitoring and reporting the performance and success of your business
  • Monitoring and reporting the performance of the IT infrastructure
  • Providing technical customer support
  • Recommending and implementing software patches

Nevertheless, you need to specify the terms and services on the SLA to ensure you are up to speed with what exactly your managed service provider will cover.


The relevance of managed services to businesses

From the onset, IT services were based on a break/fix model. This arrangement is where a company calls an IT technician to fix a problem only after one has been detected. This typically leads to downtimes.

Additionally, the IT infrastructure of businesses years ago was built by in-house employees, usually amateurs or pros with only a few years of experience. A lack of high-end equipment hampers such teams and companies as a whole. This caused limitations in the kind of IT services such companies can obtain, hindering rapid business growth.

A lack of high-end equipment hampers teams and companies as a whole.

Additionally, professional IT service providers can only check the systems on their visit (when something gets broken), and therefore cannot access other latent issues that may become catastrophic in the near future. That resulted in so many risks and uncertainty as systems can break down suddenly at the worst time possible.

And in an attempt to resolve issues quickly so the company can get back to work, such technicians most often address the symptoms of problems rather than resolving them from the roots.

And then came Fortune 500 companies. These large, notable corporations are not expected to be able to cope with such technical downtimes and anomalies. They needed to stay on top of business operations constantly, hence the need for a third party to consistently monitor their IT infrastructure, preventing and resolving issues before they become catastrophic.

And teams of IT professionals started coming together as managed services providers to meet these organisations at the point of their need.


Why hire a MSP?

Streamlined operations

Managed services undoubtedly help improve business operations, as they remove the burden of managing an in-house IT team from the company's shoulders. The client does not have to worry about managing the managed services provider, since they are an independent external team. This factor allows the client and their internal IT team to focus on improving their day-to-day business activities.


Cost savings

This will most likely come as a surprise. Contrary to what you might instantly think, hiring a managed services provider is actually more cost-effective than hiring a full-time IT staff or break/fix technician.

Firstly, remote monitoring, maintenance and prevention of issues enable the MSP to be more efficient in avoiding technical breakdowns, thereby keeping the client's productivity running smoothly. Conversely, a break-fix company only visits when there's an issue. The cost of repair may be higher when also considering how much revenue is lost due to downtime.


Round-the-clock support

In-house IT technicians can’t always keep their eyes on your systems, especially during non-working hours and holidays.

Since it would cost more to hire an individual who can offer ‘round-the-clock support, it's therefore significantly better to hire an MSP that provides a more robust service at a regular cost.


Greater expertise

Managed services providers are usually groups of highly-skilled IT professionals with years of experience. So instead of relying on a handful of internal staff, you'd be benefiting from a top-class IT team.


Reduced risks

Rather than hiring break/fix technicians who only come when an issue has presented itself, a managed services provider gives you peace of mind that such problems will never come. That's because there's high-level cloud monitoring to assess and manage risks beforehand.


Failsafe security for your business

Outsourcing your managed services to a group of experts translates to a higher level of security due to 24-hour support and monitoring. Since there are more skilled hands on deck, there's less tendency for hacks and system breaches, as you'd have if you hand over your entire system to a single in-house technician.


Do MSPs cover design and implementation of IT services?

While managed services traditionally means the management of already-designed IT systems, some managed services providers offer an all-in-one service that covers design, implementation and management.

Finally, hiring an MSP is not mutually exclusive to having an internal IT team. While your managed services provider focuses on managing your back-end infrastructure, your IT team can focus on your business's regular day-to-day IT operations.


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