Understanding Managed Services
The buzzword relating to IT Support is “Managed Services”, and every day more and more businesses are jumping on the bandwagon. But what does managed services actually mean and how can you tell if an IT Support company is not just using the word as a marketing tool, but is in fact only offering “flat rate” services packaged as “managed services”?
As a definition, Managed Services allows a business to offload IT operations to a service provider, known as a Managed Services Provider. The managed service provider assumes an ongoing responsibility for 24-hour monitoring, managing and/or problem resolution for the IT systems within a business.
6 Very Important Questions
1. Do you specialize in any industry… and who is your typical client?
Does the company focus on 1 and 2 person offices or larger companies with 50, 75 or 100+ employees? The technology solutions available and affordable to smaller companies are considerably different than those available to larger companies with bigger budgets. Discovering the industries that your potential IT company specializes in can be very important. For example; if they generate 60% or more of their revenues from law firms and you are a sales and distribution organization, there are likely going to be some issues. In this instance, don’t by shy in asking them how many sales and distribution companies they are currently dealing with…then get references!
2. Who will be the actual person coming to my place of business…and who is responsible for my account?
Who will service your account? Will you be assigned 1 or 2 specific technicians that will service your account or will it simply be assigned randomly to a handful of techs — basically, the tech-of-the-day. The last thing that you want to hear from your technician when they walk in the door is “where is the server?”
What about Tech certifications?
Technology is obviously a hot industry right now and there are a lot of people out there who are “certified”. But the truth is; there is a big, big difference between book-learned knowledge and knowledge that is acquired through thousands of hours in the field. Within any business there are so many different forms of technology, it is next to impossible to book-learn them all. Printers, servers (old and new), desktops, laptops (many flavors), security, backups, malware, remote access, cell phones, websites, customer databases, accounting packages – are just a few of the things a tech will have to deal with. An experienced field technician is exposed to all of these business variables, and develops processes to keep them healthy, or quickly and accurately fix them when they break. This knowledge simply cannot be book-learned … and you don’t want your company paying for the technicians to learn it!
3. What is your customer retention rate over the last 7 years?
How long has their average client stayed with them…especially over the past 7 years The bottom line is: if the IT Support company that you are talking to is really good, their customers will stay with them. Of course there are always issues and problems with any computer network, but if the company is good, they will resolve these issues in a timely manner and within a reasonable budget.
4. How much of your income comes from preventing problems before they happen, versus fixing them after they occur?
In the “old days” companies used to let their systems slow to a crawl or break, and then call the computer guys to come and save the day. But while the computer guys were on their way to the office, and while they were going about their business fixing the issues, the employees gathered around the coffee pot and chatted about sports and the weather.
Ask your prospective IT Support company how much of their efforts are geared towards preventing problems rather than fixing problems once they already exist.
5. What is the worst disaster that you have faced with one of your clients in the past year or so?
This of course is a loaded question. If the disaster happened to one of the company’s existing clients, it will be important to know why the disaster happened. There may be a logical reason for the disaster (fire, theft, flood, etc.) but either way, you will learn a ton of valuable info by asking the question
As they describe how they helped the company recover from the disaster, pay particular attention to the process that they used.
6. How much does your service cost?
When you are talking to a prospective IT Support company, they should be able to give you a very close estimate on what it will cost to manage and support your network – and they should have clear and understandable reasons to support these costs. Ask them what will it cost to have them come in and “cleanup” your network…and what it will cost to support you monthly from that point forward.
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