The Complete IT Services Guide for Business Owners
IT Services can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Just like businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Something that works for one company might not be the best solution for the next business. Even companies that have the same number of employees could have different software tools or compliance requirements that force them into different technology solutions. When you are looking for a company to help you manage, fix, repair or otherwise maintain the technology requirements for your business, it’s important to know what your options are.
What are the different IT services that are available?
1. On-Demand IT Services
What are on-demand IT services?
Break-fix or on-demand IT is probably the oldest model of IT support. Before the days of managed IT, the majority of technicians would only charge clients when something was broken and they need to go onsite and fix it. There are many IT providers that still employ this model today. With on-demand IT services you are charged only when a technician is actively working on your network, much like a Lawyer or Doctor. These charges could include help desk requests, special projects and upgrades, or even regular maintenance. When you partner with a company that offers on-demand IT services, you will only be paying for service when a problem occurs, or you have a project that needs to be completed.
Many business owners see this model as a more affordable way to manage their IT support. As long as everything is working great, there is almost zero cost to keeping your technology running properly. This can be ideal for very small businesses that have minimal technology needs or requirements.
Another benefit of on-demand IT support is a dedicated support staff that already knows your network and it’s requirements. When you rely on the support that comes from the manufacturer of the hardware or software that is giving you problems, they may not understand everything else on your network that could be causing issues.
Unfortunately, as technology can be unpredictable, this model also makes your costs unpredictable. You could go months with no IT costs, and then be hit with thousands of dollars in repair work in one week.
It can also be difficult for these types of businesses to stay afloat due to the variability of the work. As such, most on-demand IT services are run by a single person, with little to no support staff. If more than one client has issues at the same time, you could be waiting a long time to get support for your urgent request.
This model also lacks the ability to be proactive about your technology needs. They don’t have a schedule or plan for regular maintenance, which can lead to a lot of downtime when problems occur. The worst time to discover a problem with your technology is after it starts failing.
Finally, the break-fix model is not very scale-able. As your business grows, your technology requirements will also grow. You will no longer be able to rely on just fixing problems as they arise, you will have to be proactive so the technology won’t slow down the growth of your company.
2. Managed IT Services
What are managed IT services?
Currently, managed IT services is the standard for most small and medium sized businesses. Managed IT support, usually provided by a Managed Services Provider or MSP, requires clients to pay a set monthly fee, based on how many users the company has, how many devices, or another metric determined by the provider. With these providers, support and maintenance are usually part of the package, however upgrades and projects may be billed separately. As the majority of outsourced IT providers utilize this model, it is important to select a provider that fits with your company and acts as a partner to help you succeed. As you do your research on managed IT providers, we have created a list of 21 questions you should be asking any potential provider, to help you understand what you should be looking for in an IT provider.
One of the main benefits of hiring a managed IT services provider is the ability to budget and plan for your IT costs. With a set monthly fee, you can be sure you won’t be hit with a large unexpected expense. Managed IT providers, like Protek Support, should also assist in planning for your future IT costs. Knowing that in 2 more years you will need to upgrade the majority of your desktops is key to being able to prepare and plan for that expense.
Another huge benefit for using managed IT is the ability to be proactive about issues that can and do arise. These providers will be actively monitoring and maintaining your technology systems to ensure they are working properly. When they notice a problem, or find an update they will often deploy a fix before the end user even knows there is a problem. This ability to be proactive can help prevent a lot of downtime, which can have a serious impact on productivity and revenue for your company.
MSP’s will generally install software on the devices on your network to help them be proactive about your issues. This software also enables them to resolve your issues quickly. As you call in for support, the technician is usually able to take over your computer within seconds and start working on the problem. You won’t be waiting for a technician to arrive to get your problems solved.
Most business owners will say that the biggest downside to choosing managed IT is the cost. Depending on your organization, your monthly fee can be a significant amount of money. While on-demand support might seem like a more cost effective solution, often times it can be more expensive as the technology in your business fails. As mentioned previously, the monthly cost might be smaller, but when you average your large invoices over the year, you may discover that the costs were similar to paying a company monthly. Having said that, some business owners are uncomfortable committing to a monthly fee.
Managed IT providers usually require you to sign a contract for a set length of time. This is intimidating for many business owners that don’t want to be stuck with a provider they are not satisfied with. Protek Support offers a money back guarantee on your managed services if you are not completely satisfied with our support. Some providers do not offer that “easy-out” option though, so you will need to make sure it’s the right provider for your company before you sign anything.
3. Cloud Services
What are cloud services?
Often cloud services can be included in managed IT, but there are companies that simply opt to do everything in the cloud. They use cloud applications and desktops to perform their work, and have very little need for full managed services or even a break-fix service provider. These companies rely on the support provided from the cloud platform when they have issues connecting, the software vendor they are utilizing or the hardware provider they purchased their equipment from.
The biggest benefit of using cloud services is the ability to work from anywhere that has an internet connection. Since the data and software required to do their job is in the cloud, employees can access that information from a variety of locations and devices.
Another benefit to using cloud services is the cost savings on hardware and networking equipment. In the past most businesses relied on an on-premises server that was extremely expensive. In order to keep the server up and running properly they would need hardware firewalls, switches, backup equipment and environment control (like dedicated air conditioning units, generators and battery backups). Moving the company data to the cloud enables the business to eliminate those hardware expenses.
Most major cloud providers are massive corporations. Microsoft Azure, Amazon, and Google all have solutions for businesses to move the majority of their technology operations to the cloud. Even if you are just moving your line of business application to the cloud, SaaS (Software as a Service) companies like Salesforce, Microsoft and Slack are all very large companies. Due to their massive size, it might be difficult to find or get support when you are confronted with an issue or problem. When you do call in for support, the technician won’t be familiar with your network or setup and you may have to escalate your problem to someone more knowledgeable.
Another issue with the cloud is the security holes it can present. As you introduce new products, connections and companies into the technology mix of your business new security risks can present themselves. You are reliant on how seriously the vendor takes security. Do they offer 2-Factor Authentication? What happens if their company suffers a breach? These are questions that you will need to find out before you choose a vendor.
4. Managed Security Services
What are managed security services?
As security threats continue to increase daily, managed security services are becoming more important. Similar to cloud services, these solutions could be included or provided by your managed IT company. If security is essential to your business though, you may be interested in hiring a partner that specializes in security. Many of these companies are now referred to as MSSP‘s (Managed Security Services Provider). This option would include active monitoring and analysis of incoming and outgoing traffic on the network, cyber security training for employees, and more.
The ever changing threat landscape is difficult to keep up with. A company that only focuses on cyber security is well prepared and informed on the growing threats. Due to their specialized skills, you can be assured that your cyber security will be set up with the industry’s best practices, and will be compliant with any government rules and regulations you may be forced to implement.
Since managed security services are extremely specific to cyber security, you may still need someone who can solve day to day technology or network issues. Things like printer problems would not be covered under your cyber security support agreement.
Due to the specialized skills required from an MSSP, the cost associated with this type of service might be extremely high. Cyber security professionals are expensive, and hiring a company that focuses on security will also be expensive.
What is VOIP?
VOIP stands for Voice Over IP or Internet Protocol. Traditionally, you would have a phone system set up in your on-premises office and the phones in the office would be tied to that system. With VOIP, you can answer your office phone from any internet enabled device like your computer or your cell phone. There are some MSP’s that offer VOIP as part of their services, or as an additional fee. However, you can also purchase VOIP services directly from a company who specializes in the service. Generally that company would only handle your phone system, and would not offer support for any other equipment on your network.
Just like the cloud services, signing up for VOIP will allow you to use your office phone number regardless of where you are actually located. As remote work has dramatically increased during 2020, it is important to be able to communicate both internally and with outside resources and customers. Most people don’t want to give out their personal cell phone number to business associates. Utilizing VOIP allows you to keep that distance between your personal and professional life.
As opposed to the information traveling over a phone line, it is now traveling over the internet. If you are in a place with spotty internet connection, your call could suffer in quality. VOIP is also bandwidth hungry, so you might need to configure your networking equipment to prioritize the data that is traveling over the network for VOIP calls to make sure that the traffic is able to pass back and forth quickly and easily, despite the connection you have in your location.
6. Managed Printer Services
What are managed printer services?
There are providers that specialize in printer services. This usually includes leasing large and expensive printers for a monthly fee which includes the maintenance and support for the devices.
Printers can be a real pain to deal with. The devices are expensive, fail often and need regular maintenance. Instead of paying large upfront costs for the device, ink and other parts you can have a set monthly fee to be up and running in no time.
Since the company is specialized to printers and copiers, they are very knowledgeable on the issues that can arise. They also generally have spare parts for the equipment they maintain on hand so they can resolve issues with the printers quickly.
Similar to cloud and security services, printer services could be included with a managed services provider, but often it is not. Therefore you will likely need to also find someone to manage and maintain the rest of your network.
Depending on your company’s requirements, you may have a need for multiple IT services on this list. Make sure you figure out what is needed, and then seek out a provider that will best fit your needs.
If you are looking for managed IT services in Utah, Protek Support offers several of these options in one easy monthly fee. Give us a call today and let’s talk about your IT needs!
Eric is the owner and CEO of Protek Support and is a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional). He graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Business with an emphasis in Information Technology (IT). He is an IT Services expert in a variety of technology related fields. Some of these fields include document management software/hardware, enterprise level networking and VoIP phone systems, as well as large scale software implementation projects and the setup of small business networks.