Managed Services: Part 1

What is Managed Services

The buzzword lately in IT Support is “Managed Services”, and over time more and more businesses are jumping on the bandwagon. You may be asking yourself 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 offering a TRUE “flat rate” services packaged as “managed services”?

Managed Services allows a business to offload or outsource its 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.

A Brief History of Managed Services

The following is a summarized history of managed services to give you some background relating to how these services have developed. This history pertains specifically to companies who service small network systems.

It all started with break-fix services

The companies who have helped service small networks in the past have been hamstrung by the lack of tools to help with the problem. The networks they service developed as simple systems, usually built by a self-taught network amateur-turned-pro. Maintenance was break-fix only, meaning when something broke, the company called and they came running to fix it… hopefully.

As time went on, the best of the support people developed procedures and programs to periodically come on-site to do a system review of logs and user information looking for hints of issues before they became big problems. In some cases an elaborate checklist was used to record disk usage, processor usage, etc.

The problem of course, was that the support people could only see what was happening on that particular day. If something happened later, they would never know about it … unless the customer called.

Backup problems and other errors continued to occur.

Additionally, the only professional test of the backup system if there was any at all occurred on the visit, which frequently resulted in days or more of missed backups. The system was prone to other human errors when the on-site technician, trying to be accommodating, would take care of the “end user” symptoms and would not have time to address the “real issues”. This created a constant battle for the tech as they tried to convince customers that they were only causing themselves more dangerous problems down the road by not being proactive.

Managed Services began with Fortune 500 companies and their huge networks

At the same time, the hardware and software vendors were adding new and better ways for the systems to signal problems as early as possible. Simple Network Management Protocol had been developing since the early 90’s and was being applied to PC’s. The first systems that could watch these tools and turn all the data into usable information were complex to manage, were geared only to large networks, and were prohibitively expensive for small business.

In 2005, systems started to mature that allowed smaller companies to take advantage of the same features and benefits as the large companies. This technology started the Managed Services movement.

Finally, Managed Services was available for small to medium sized businesses

The Managed Services software that is in place today allows providers to work towards two major goals:

1.   Everything on your network that will result in a user symptom or risk will send an alert before or when it happens, and the Managed Service Provider will know about it.

2.   Every alert they get is something important and needs to be addressed.

The more closely a Managed Service provider can get to these two goals, the more perfectly they can achieve a truly managed service and the more they can get away from “everything being an emergency” situation.

Daniel A. FitzGerald
Owner & President
StormsEdge Technology

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