Managed IT Services for Small Business is advancing at a breakneck pace.
Management technologies are maturing, and flexible deployment options are allowing service providers to offer packages that offer real value and advantage to the small business. Previously, rigid requirements and narrow support usually limited to high-end networking equipment. This type of hardware is often completely unnecessary and is extremely expensive to your typical small business owner. Instead, systems to monitor the SMB space are now mature, easy to set up and run with a broad base of compatibility with all the best mid-market hardware.
Now economically and technically feasible, we’ll explore why small businesses are turning to managed services in ever-increasing numbers. The first being:
Cloud service complexity
Cloud services are giving businesses access to the latest high technology while keeping the barrier to entry incredibly low: often zero to start. Services such as Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint, which in years past required large up-front investments in not only hardware and software but extensive technical support to get to the point of being able to deploy the application.
In 2019 these enterprise services can be spun up in a few minutes. No hardware to buy. No software licensing to negotiate. You won’t even need a credit card to get going. The ease of which you can turn these services up is an excellent development. Your small business almost certainly will be able to put much of this enterprise-grade technology to work for you.
With all the benefits you can bring your business from the use of these cloud services – from Outlook signature managers to corporate security solutions – one part is often overlooked and stops implementation and adoption in its tracks: management.
In years past, just the initial rollout price tag produced sticker-shock for many clients. In 2002 you wouldn’t find a shortage of small fifteen person offices that would have loved to deploy an exchange server but burned the idea from their memory after receiving a quote from a break/fix computer networking firm to install and set this up. Ongoing management burden wasn’t even on the radar because it typically didn’t get that far. When we were deploying exchange servers on-premise in the early ‘oughts to these small businesses, money wasn’t much of a concern to those that chose to implement them.
Enterprise cloud service ubiquity
Enter 2019, and everyone is getting access to powerful tools like Office 365 at the drop of a hat. Despite the eased burdens of initial deployment, hardware, and infrastructure costs, the management burden remains. Not only does it persist, but it has perhaps even increased.
It’s easy enough to buy an Exchange Online tenant, configure your domain, enter your end users and start emailing happily. However, to take advantage? To take advantage still requires the expert configuration, user support still needs the professional IT support staff that it always did.
Then we start weaving in signature management; perhaps some HIPAA compliance issues are forcing strict DLP (Data Loss Prevention) policy to be adopted. Does your business case require a tamper-proof journalling email archive solution? Now we’re talking along the lines of “Complicated IT deployment.” We’re just getting started in terms of complexity. Maybe you’d like clients to be able to book you online, with your availability to them dictated by your real-time outlook calendar? Hopefully, you get my point that the sky is the limit and most things able to be dreamed are being accomplished – even in small business IT.
While these features are certain to boost productivity and enable world-class customer service, they aren’t free. True, the acquisition cost is now “basically free,” but the management cost remains.
You’re not in Kansas, anymore! Gone are the days of a Microsoft Word and Quickbooks Pro on a desktop PC, supported by a few late night support calls to Indian call centers from time to time. No, now you are the proud owner of a “complicated IT deployment,” the latest technology. You’re going to take significant advantage of your investment, but only if you have competent technical advisors in your corner.
Why would a small business need a managed it services partner?
A Managed Services partner will provide first-line technical support and deployment advice and configuration to your organization and ensure that your business takes full advantage of the vast expansion in capability offered as a result of the ‘cloud revolution.’ They’ll act as your businesses’ IT department, usually on a flat rate, per user basis. Pricing toward the small business and even “soloprenuer” has gotten to the point where an agile IT support company can support even a single individual at an enterprise level with a small business budget.
Working with an MSP should present very little friction. When goals are aligned, the IT service provider and the business are working toward the same end: increased productivity, less downtime, more securely. In the outdated break/fix model the provider and the client suffer from a fairly significant disconnect. Namely, the IT service provider knows what goes into running a successful IT department, while the business owner is responsible for managing their own IT.
The old way doesn’t work.
In a break/fix model the client will call the provider when service is required – a printer isn’t working, or someone’s Outlook is throwing errors. The tech will arrive onsite and resolve the problem. They’ll do this as quickly as possible because they’re only making money when they’re billing clients. Incidentally, these clients always seem to have an emergency, so taking time isn’t a luxury these break/fix techs get, either. Issues that arise from this methodology are suffering from minorly annoying but majorly wasteful productivity drains, dangerous malware infections and security incidents continuing on unabated, horrible disaster recovery readiness and the resulting data loss.
In a ‘cloud’ environment, such a situation is perilous. The services are designed for access anywhere, and careless management can have the same impacts as it had in years past, with an even greater chance of trouble because it’s open to the internet at large: criminals everywhere are actively trying to cause problems for you!
Cloud services are complicated pieces of software delivered simply.
That doesn’t mean they’re managed any differently than their on-premises enterprise offerings of yesteryear. The digital transformation is taking shape, and these services still do not go ahead and set themselves up optimally, self-heal and diagnose failures for itself and will not any time soon. Vendors still are not shipping secure-by-default designs, and admins are left to hedge users of IT services.
Today we’ve discussed our first reason to consider the use of managed IT services for small business in 2019, service complexity. A full stack of technology for an employee is going to consist of a phone system, exchange email, endpoint security / antivirus, web content filtering systems, VPN remote access systems, office 365 accounts, various line of business ERP systems, communications perimeter security, archiving, email signature management, HIPAA / GDPR and other legal compliance issues and an assortment of different potential end-user scenarios.
Business owners and managers who want to take advantage of the significant productivity gains with new technology should consider having a professional IT support company with a vested interest in their success in the form of a managed services contract for this reason alone. Next week we will explore the security implications of today’s digital environment and why leaving your defenses to an owner or employee manager or even a break/fix firm on a “time and materials” basis might be more dangerous than you would consider at first glance.
Stay tuned. If you think we can help bring some needed digital productivity enhancements to your operations, we would love to hear from you!