What is your definition of IT Managed Services? And how do you know that your IT Managed Services provider has the same definition? Even though ‘Managed Services’ is a term everyone uses, there is actually no industry standard for what it entails, which means that different companies could well be providing completely different services to each other, and, more importantly, different services to what their clients expect.
Our definition of IT Management provision is that we actively manage our clients’ IT needs and ensure there are minimal or no breaks in continuity, meaning that even if there is an IT problem, the company will be able to continue trading. This means making recommendations about the best hardware, software, apps etc for the job, anticipating future problems and making sure provision is put in place to enable the company to work around them.
We also have a 24 hour IT helpdesk and our engineers are constantly monitoring clients’ systems, thanks to automated alarms which alert them as soon as a problem is encountered. As an example, if any problems occur overnight, we can fix it before staff members get into work, so there is no loss of trading at all. A reactive company wouldn’t even be aware there was a problem until after the working day begins and employees find they cannot get on with their work.
Other providers’ definition
We know from talking to new and prospective clients that what other providers term ‘Managed Services’ is what we would call ‘reactive support’. And that’s not what these clients want. Reactive support only really works when you have a good working knowledge of IT systems, knowing what you need now and what you may need in the future. Typically, a company director outsourcing the task does not have this knowledge and is looking to the Managed Service Provider to be the expert.
As an example, we met with a prospective client who had a penetration test done on their system which threw up vulnerabilities caused by a piece of old software they did not use any more. When they questioned their IT company as to why the software was still there, they were told it had not been removed because nobody had asked them to!
We understand that clients do not have this level of specialist knowledge – if they did, they would not need our services! That is why you need the right kind of IT Managed Service Provider who will anticipate needs and make recommendations.
Take this scenario whilst conducting a recent Security assessment for an organization it was discovered that no account had ever been deactivated by the incumbent IT. Meaning anyone that had ever worked at that company still had the ability to login to the systems. When the incumbent IT provider was asked why they hadn’t deactivated the accounts what was there response? You guessed it “We were not told by the company to deactivate the accounts”. This may seem like a small thing but it is a potentially significant risk to the organisation. We have proactive and automated ways to deactivate inactive accounts which means even if our clients forget to notify us of an outgoing colleague the accounts will still be deactivated and the risks removed.
Make sure you’re getting value for money
If you are paying a monthly fee but all your IT company is doing is providing support only when you tell them you need something doing, you need to review the service to ensure you are getting good value for money. And if you ever hear them say, “because you didn’t tell us to do it”, ask them why they are not being more proactive in ensuring your systems are well-maintained and secure.
A company providing what we define as a Managed Service should be making recommendations unprompted, i.e. if you are no longer using a certain piece of software, they should recommend they remove it for you. When an employee leaves the company, they should deactivate the account immediately, not wait until you tell them to. If this is happening, you probably need to change your provider.