January 6, 2017

A Beginner’s Guide to IT Service Companies

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Organizations providing services for “everything having to do with business computers” are called an IT managed service provider (MSP). IT (information technology) describes the use of computers, networking, storage, and electronic data.

An IT services company typically offers a large number of experts who can build, update, maintain, and repair the hardware and software of computer systems. A managed IT service supplies a broad range of different skills and expertise to support the computer related needs of different organizations.

Initially, IT service companies were local, and would send a service technician to perform the equivalent of housecalls. Then came information technology-as-a-service, or ITaaS.

The ITaaS model was initially developed with the idea that data centers would be accessed from the cloud, and with the belief computer systems would become more standardized and uniform. While computer systems never became more uniform, and data centers have generally remained in-house, the use of managed IT providers via the internet has grown and flourished.

These managed services bill on a monthly basis for services rendered, and based on the number of users within an organization. The ITaaS model has become quite popular, promoting business continuity because it lowers overhead costs and increases revenues, while reducing technical problems and minimizing downtime.

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For most organizations, embracing the ITaaS model means moving their services to the cloud, allowing them to maximize their services and storage (which includes backup storage). With the IT-as-a-service model, customers can email or call, consulting with their provider and letting them deal with the repairs.

In simpler terms, ITaaS means hiring contract services to handle any software, hardware, or network issues your company has. Whether you contract with an outside organization or use the IT-as-a-service model to organize your internal IT department, depends on your resources and needs.

How an IT Company Works

An IT MSP currently performs three basic types of work: apps or custom software development, maintenance, and support. They also offer consulting services.

Software development is typically done when a client is consulting and wants an additional feature or service added to their system. This can range from a basic application development for financial services to mobile app development. Apps or software development, and finding software solutions, is an important feature for improving businesses. (A request to add a new feature to an existing application is called an enhancement project.)

Maintenance is primarily a monitoring process, but if a problem is identified, it will be analyzed, and fixed promptly. They may need to analyze the source code and the data in a file or database to find the problem.

Support is provided when a client sends an email, or calls, notifying the IT support services provider they are having a problem. The problem can be anything from a virus to a faulty software program.

Consulting with the client is a first step after the customer signs the contract. Consulting is necessary to assess the needs of the new client. Additionally, whenever the MSP is notified of a problem, consulting takes place. The IT experts can be expected to answer questions and provide advice.

Migrating to the Cloud

As more and more businesses move through a digital transformation process to gain access to internet sales (and increased revenues), managed IT companies are getting busier. Organizations ranging from law firms to art stores are shifting to do business on the internet.

A managed service provider is typically associated with a cloud, and accessing both cloud services and technology solutions. Cloud computing delivers a variety of services, by way of the internet.

There are a large number of cloud solutions and cloud services offered after a cloud migration, and consulting with a managed services rep can provide a good fit. One benefit of using the cloud for storage after a digital transformation is that it will accept all data formats. Business goals can be achieved more readily with the use of a managed service provider offering services with artificial intelligence.

Most businesses move to the cloud with the hopes of decreasing costs and increasing revenues. The cloud offers access to data analytics and the ability to improve the customer experience. The cloud can also be used to send out relevant adverts (advertising).

Why You Should Outsource Information Technology

Companies of all sizes will, at some point, consider using the professional services of IT support companies — when their current software, hardware, data storage, or networking needs grow beyond the skills or scheduling resources of their own staff.

Businesses that have gone through the digital transformation process, and planning to expand into internet sales, should consider an information technology service to help streamline their transition. Consider hiring an IT services company if you run into any of the following issues.

Growth/Scaling

Keeping an in-house IT department can be expensive. IT professionals expect to be paid for their knowledge and expertise (rightfully) and turnover in these positions is historically high. To grow their company’s technical scope and business reach, many SMBs look to IT support companies, saving money in the long term that they would otherwise spend maintaining an internal IT team.

Distributed Teams

Businesses that maintain remote and distributed teams will find that much of their IT lives in the cloud. These businesses may also find that hiring an IT service company to connect and implement their various subscription software makes financial sense, since the IT services companies are implementation and integration experts.

These IT support companies can monitor software for updates and upgrade your systems uniformly, which reduces downtime.

Lack of Employee Resources

Most managed IT providers bundle software and hardware at a lower price than many SMBs can afford. The best part about these bundled services is that they include support and maintenance. Your team can continue running the business instead of parsing server logs and getting 2 a.m. calls about system outages. Small businesses running on tight budgets can re-invest in core business, rather than damage control.

Employees are the most expensive part of running a business, but managing your technology assets takes a close second. The time and effort required to track and maintain your devices can be a full-time job, but many IT support companies provide device upkeep services that will keep your employees running for a flat, monthly fee.

Security Concerns

As companies expand and bring on more clients and partners, overlooked cybersecurity can become a huge liability. While you could train your staff to learn to implement highly secure data environments, managed IT providers specialize in cybersecurity.

Whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud, IT-as-a-service can bring your company ready-made or custom ordered cybersecurity to keep your client and employee data safe.

What to Look for in Managed IT Providers

Managed IT providers come in many shapes and sizes, and specialize in many different parts of the IT spectrum. You can hire an IT MSP to hang flat screen TVs in your office, or to build a network for all of your devices and send your data to the cloud. Regardless of your specific service needs, there are several factors that are important to look for in any outsourced IT relationship.

Pricing Catalogs and Transparency

This seems obvious, but it’s easy to pass over for that exact reason. Make sure you fully understand the provider’s pricing structure. Research implementation fees, pricing for extra integrations, and pricing for hardware service plans.

What about service calls? 24/7 help desk support? Depending on the size and complexity of your software stack and device catalog, you may want to sign up for subscription services instead of tacking on fees every time there’s a problem. Think of managed IT providers like insurance for your technology.

Compatibility

Not all IT support companies build on the same foundation, so useful services for a healthcare company may not work for a design agency. Some information and technology and services companies specialize in Windows PCs, while others target Macs, and don’t forget Linux and Solaris and the other outliers.

Take stock of your current infrastructure to make sure the managed services provider you choose can handle your OS, server, and networking needs. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience with vetting IT specialists, think of your initial conversations as an interview. Ask lots of questions, and have your internal software experts available for backup.

Customer Service Record

Remember, IT support companies are supposed to act as a service. It’s not only important to research the ways the company will interact with your technology, but how they treat you as a client. Read reviews and ask for references.

IT MSPs will have access to your business’ most sensitive data, including employee and customer records, and your business’ income and revenue. Ask for their security plans, how they’ve dealt with cybersecurity breaches in the past, and what their future upgrade and training recommendations include.

Internal IT Support Services

Another option many companies have tried in recent years is turning their internal IT departments into extensions of an IT services company for their existing business structure. While the IT team is still technically part of the organization, they have greater control over the direction and scheduling of IT services around the building.

In addition to giving the IT department — the technical experts in your building — agency over their services, you also keep your IT services on-site. When the IT department controls their own funding, scheduling, and resources, they are less likely to be distracted (or impeded) by the whims of the larger corporation.

In this model, IT departments build service plans and monetize their skills, making the value of their department more transparent. This option is often best for companies who have an existing IT team or are looking for on-premise solutions for software and hardware as ways to increase their revenue.

Leading IT Service Companies

If you’re looking to shift to an IT support company, consider the services offered by information technology companies for help in building your software-hardware infrastructure:

  • Dell Technologies: Dell offers consulting and IT support services that cater to large and technology-dependent corporations, services like data migration, web development, and cloud building. You can also purchase on-site hardware for increased internal security.
  • Citrix: This vendor offers consulting and IT support services, especially cloud communication, web development, and network sharing/security. Also look to Citrix for app development and data services.

The following companies provide contract and subscription-based IT-as-a-service across the United States. Their business models vary, so do your research to find out which service and pricing structure is right for your company.

  • Field Nation: Nationally sourced IT experts who provide businesses with contract and subscription IT support services.
  • Ascend Technologies: They offer a full range of managed IT services, helping businesses to deploy infrastructure and applications. They also maintain, monitor, and manage your day-to-day operations.
  • Cygnus Systems: Supports small and mid-sized business plans. They implement and support their IT and Voice systems, cybersecurity, wireless networking, and the cloud and on-premise computing.
  • Magna5: A national provider of managed IT services, they offer voice and connectivity solutions for mid-market and enterprise customers.
  • HelloTech: Business-specific plans for small and medium sized businesses that include monthly subscriptions and job-specific pricing.

Whether it’s to build your infrastructure from scratch or to supplement your already-capable internal IT department, consulting with, and employing an IT service provider can save your own company time and money.

As always, do your homework, and research the plans that best fit your needs. Don’t forget setup and additional add-on fees, as these can take a chunk out of even the cushiest budgets.

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