How managed service providers monitor, manage computer networks

Managed services are increasing in popularity, as more companies outsource their computer network management.

“A structured managed services program provides the benefit of reducing your IT costs and risks of hardware failure while standardizing IT management through streamlined efficiency, often all at lower costs than the company could manage by doing it in-house,” says Eric Risheill, subject matter expert for the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions.

Managed services programs are imperative for those who don’t have in-house IT talent or the capacity to manage their networks. Risheill adds many small and midsize businesses have not replaced downsized IT staff, so managed service providers (MSP) can fill that gap easily and cost effectively.

Smart Business spoke with Risheill about how to utilize a MSP in your company.

How can business owners decide which service(s) to outsource?

Some companies instinctively know what they need to keep, but many don’t; they simply may have a hunch things could be running better.

The MSP will ask pointed, direct questions designed to ascertain what services are of value. Expert MSPs take the core services and modularize them to put them into packages in an effort to match a client’s needs. Then, customize it further to get the perfect fit.

Some only seek monitoring, with the MSP only calling if there’s a problem. However, most employers who are going down this path will say, ‘It would be nice to know if there’s a problem, but we don’t have the skills to deal with it.’ Therefore, the MSP should not only identify the problem but also fix it, even though that company may have the capacity to do so. This should include a backup mechanism.

How should companies deal with pushback from their internal IT staff?

An IT person’s first thought might be, ‘Hey, that’s my job, and if someone comes in to help me I’m not doing my job right.’ There is a degree of that, but MSPs are not out to create a reduction in head count. They come to help and are hopefully viewed as a resource to count on.

From an IT perspective, networking computer management is not that exciting. It’s one of those necessary evils, and very frequently the smaller, internal team doesn’t have the capacity to deal with computer management — doing the patching, the anti-virus and updates. In fact, for a lot of smaller companies, there may not be a dedicated IT resource at all. Sometimes the president, CFO or controller manages all the technology in addition to his or her full-time job.

What are some best practices when moving into managed services?

Roll up your sleeves and ask direct questions to those providing IT support, related to the costs to maintain workstations, software revisions, server status or network status.

Generally, business owners will know if there are frequent outages or problems with the network or viruses, but they really need to get answers from their IT staff and get it with proof. For example, reports that show the system is fully patched or one that shows the anti-virus is up to date.

Secondly, determine the cost of maintaining your equipment. Don’t forget to factor in labor costs, including salary and benefits, technology costs, contract costs, etc. Then, compare these costs against what a MSP will charge you.

Finally, execute a document with your MSP called a service level agreement. This agreement spells out, in full detail, exactly how things are going to go. It’s the responsibility of both parties to negotiate and fully understand the terms before they get started. Then you know the full extent of the services and how they will be delivered, because the last thing you want is a surprise when you need somebody.

Eric Risheill is a subject matter expert for the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or [email protected].

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