Managed IT: A Complete Guide

Managed IT: A Complete Guide

Managed IT is a broad term that generally refers to outsourcing some or all of an organization’s IT needs to reduce costs, save time, improve cybersecurity, and more. However, how it’s provided and what’s included can vary depending on the company that’s doing the providing. 

Some IT providers will behave like a servant that performs tasks assigned to them using their preferred tools. Others will behave more like mentors or trusted guides. They’ll get to know your business’s unique story and help you achieve your goals. Unfortunately, in this business, jargon is plentiful, and it can be difficult to compare apples to apples, let alone partnership styles. We’ve designed this comprehensive guide to provide you with insider info about what you should be getting from a provider and why.  

 

What Exactly Is Managed IT?

What Exactly Is Managed IT?

In a nutshell, managed IT services are where an organization relies on a third-party provider for all or part of the skills and labor associated with their IT infrastructure. Very generally speaking, these services will include managing and maintaining equipment and software, as well as providing ongoing mentorship and help desk support. 

Modern vs. Old School IT

In the past, most IT services had to be performed on-site, and IT providers — as well as internal IT departments — were largely reactive, working to resolve IT issues after they caused a disruption. However, some internal IT departments still operate in a similar way, which industry pros often refer to today as the “break/fix” model. Modern managed IT providers are typically able to work proactively, preventing most issues from disrupting work. They are also able to resolve issues very quickly from a remote location, thanks to sophisticated monitoring software. 

 

In a way, this presents a real challenge for excellent managed IT providers: The better they are at preventing problems, the less often some clients will hear from them. Some clients may assume that means their provider isn’t providing them with enough value when the opposite is actually the case. 

What Managed IT Isn’t

What we often say at Marco is that managed services aren’t magic services. And what we mean by that is no managed services provider can come in and instantly fix every problem. Onboarding can easily take a month or two, depending on size and scope. It’s a sign of a good provider that they will take their time to familiarize themselves with what’s in place and why, and how best to serve an organization before they start making recommendations. And it takes a little time and patience to grow what can, and should be, a vital strategic partnership. 

 

There are a few other persistent myths about managed IT, especially when it comes to pricing and which organizations should consider outsourcing. In fact, we hear them so often that we have an entire blog devoted to the topic. Click the link below to see if any of this sounds familiar! 

Read Top Myths About  Managed IT Services


What Do Managed IT Services Include?

What Do Managed IT Services Include?

A provider should spell out everything they’re offering you in what’s known as a service level agreement, and these are usually negotiable. But managed IT services will typically include the following services and tools:

IT Services

Not every tech provider is known for their people skills! But here’s where a good provider that understands the importance of getting to know their clients, listening to their needs, and establishing clear, effective communication will stand out:

  • End-user support
  • On-site escalation support as needed
  • Remote network reviews
  • Software patches and updates
  • Equipment lifecycle management
  • Data backup and disaster recovery planning
  • Business continuity planning
  • Security operations center
  • Network operations center

IT Tools

Business technology moves fast. A provider that has the deep benches to keep on top of new tools and cybersecurity protections will be constantly evolving their portfolio and strategic partnerships. Your managed IT solution should include up-to-date tools to accomplish the following:

  • Threat detection and response
  • Network management and monitoring
  • Remote 24/7 systems management and monitoring
  • Ongoing security awareness training, including phishing simulations
  • Email and web security
  • Security information and event management (SIEM)

Not all providers will provide all of these tools and services. And a few providers will add more. For example, at Marco, every client is assigned a technical account manager, which gives us the ability to offer client business reviews. These regular meetings are intended to help our clients understand what we’re doing behind the scenes, but they’re also a great way for us to make sure that their tools and systems are always aligned with their goals.

If you currently use an IT provider, or you’re reading this anticipating partnering with one, they should be transparent with you about what you’re getting and will continue to receive from them. And if you’re on the fence, we’ve got some insider tips on how to find out if an IT partner is doing a good job.

We’ll just leave this here…

Get Pro Tips on How to Evaluate a Managed IT Provider


10 Signs Your Business Could Benefit From Outsourced IT

10 Signs Your Business Could Benefit From Outsourced IT

There are many reasons why businesses today are choosing to work with an IT provider. If any of the following ten scenarios are true for you, you might want to give IT outsourcing another look.

1. You’re Struggling To Retain IT Talent

Many organizations these days face persistent recruiting and attrition challenges within their IT department, and they’re likely to get worse before they get better. Outsourcing your IT needs is an elegant way to completely sidestep this problem.

And if you’re wondering if providers have the same problem, the answer is not really. Because our ability to provide top IT support is directly tied to our success as a company, we have an easier time investing in more and better IT talent. And because we can do that, we can also prevent the stress and burnout that many talented IT pros face, day in and day out.

2. You’d Like To Reduce Cost

According to recent managed IT statistics, 50% of companies who engaged an MSP saved 1-24% in annual IT costs, 33% saved 25-49%, while 13% reported savings of more than 50%.

Outsourcing is often a great way to reduce costs, but the reason managed IT can generate those impressive percentages is only partly to do with optimizing your infrastructure and recommending better, more cost-effective tools. Large providers like Marco can get volume discounts on top software and equipment that most organizations can’t, and they can pass along those discounts to their clients.

At Marco, we’re happy to help organizations save money on software subscriptions even if they don’t get managed IT from us. To be fair, managed IT isn’t the right solution for every organization, but when it comes to cost savings, it’s hard to beat.

3. You’d Like To Reduce Risk

Cybersecurity is increasingly becoming a specialized skill, and many internal IT teams simply don’t have the time or the resources to stay on top of evolving threats. That’s unfortunate, as ransomware alone is costing the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

But cybercrime isn’t the only risk businesses face. A server can fail, your internet can go down, and important data can be lost in any number of ways. Outsourced IT is often the only way for organizations to move beyond day-to-day IT tasks — what we often refer to as “keeping the lights on” — and into taking a closer look at things like comprehensive disaster recovery planning and more.

Your organization’s tolerance for risk is yours alone, and unfortunately, the risk of a technology malfunction or a cybersecurity incident will never be zero. But a good IT provider can help you make good choices about which ones are acceptable and which ones aren’t.

4. An Outsider’s Perspective Would Be Valuable

Do you find yourself wondering what tools and solutions businesses like yours are using and what they like about them? A managed IT provider with experience serving other organizations in your industry will be more than happy to tell you so you don’t have to waste time essentially reinventing the wheel.

5. You Need Additional IT Skills

A whopping 75% of IT decision-makers recently reported that they had skill gaps in their department. Besides cybersecurity, one area where we’ve seen this play out is with cloud migrations. These are complex projects that aren’t things most internal IT pros do every day, and mistakes can be costly. Every time you change your tools, you may need different skills. And if that’s a constant challenge, it might be time to consider outsourcing.

At Marco, in addition to managed IT services, we can also partner with internal IT teams to work on specific projects. But if you have persistent skills gaps, managed IT is likely to be a better long-term solution.

Many IT providers are also starting to offer fractional CIO and CISO services for organizations that are hoping to gain the advanced capabilities that a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) would provide at a more affordable price.

6. You Want Help Meeting Compliance

Even if your industry isn’t facing new regulations, the other businesses you work with might be. If you haven’t already, the time may soon come when, in order to win more clients, let alone keep the clients you have, you will have to demonstrate that you’re safe to do business with. That’s why vendor due diligence has become such a hot topic — in this era, every business partner you have can introduce new risks.

If you only need to provide detailed information about your cybersecurity posture now and then, say, to purchase insurance, a comprehensive technology assessment may be sufficient. But if meeting compliance is an ongoing need, managed IT is the better answer.

7. You’re Growing or You Want To Add Scalability

Outsourcing your IT needs is one way to add flexibility and scalability to your organization, as you aren’t maintaining full-time IT staff. 

A few of our favorite managed IT stories involve clients that grew significantly over the course of our relationship with them. If you were to browse a few our case studies you’d see multiple examples of how outsourced IT has been able to preserve value after a merger or acquisition, help resolve common pain points associated with growth, and provide a seamless experience across multiple locations in multiple states. 

In fact, Marco recently helped a food service company — with only one in-house IT staff member — double in size. We understand that IT managers are often reluctant to bring in an outside provider, but we try to work as a seamless extension of their company, and we understand that part of our role is to help them get a seat at the table when strategic initiatives are discussed. 

Ultimately, the scalability you can achieve through outsourcing depends quite a bit on your provider and the pricing model they use. We’ll discuss pricing models in more detail later!

8. You’d Like To Focus on Your Strengths

Business is changing quickly. How and where we work are fundamentally different from how and where we worked 20 years ago. To stay competitive, many of the top minds in the business world are recommending that businesses do better when they focus on their core strengths instead of addressing weaknesses.

Keeping tabs on your software lifecycle, spending time figuring out where your technology budget would go the farthest, or if different tools could improve productivity are all worthy pursuits. But chances are, any IT provider worth their salt will accomplish superior results in a fraction of the time…and save you money while they do it.

9. You Want Better Help Desk Support

How long does it take for your current help desk to resolve IT tickets? Do they provide an excellent end-user experience? Does your IT team universally enjoy supporting end users? If the answer to these questions isn’t already clear, then you probably wouldn’t like what you found if you went digging. And even if you did, there are problems that are hard to solve without outsourcing.

Not all outsourced help desks are the same. Check with your provider about their help desk stats, which should be easy to find. Here are some of ours: We offer a 98% live call answer rate, and we’re able to resolve 97% of issues remotely.

We also invested in a secure, convenient portal, so we’re able to offer our clients access to real-time analytics. At any time, they can see how long issues take to get resolved and if some equipment or software is causing more problems than it should. We don’t consider a problem to be solved if it keeps recurring, and believe it or not, even some large organizations call us in to solve problems that their internal IT teams can’t get to the bottom of.

10. You’d Like To Dramatically Improve the Employee Experience

People get frustrated when their technology doesn’t work well, and if your workplace could use a morale boost, you might want to take a closer look at managed IT. According to a recent survey, technology and how it’s working are vitally important for talent retention and more:

  • 77% of respondents would be more committed to their role if their company provided them with better technology
  • 79% say they switched to their personal devices after facing tech issues
  • 94% said satisfaction and retention would increase If companies invested more in their technology
  • 65% said they place great importance on having good technology for work

Managed IT providers can also help organizations offer more flexibility when it comes to on-premises versus remote work. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, that’s huge when it comes to increasing job satisfaction and reducing attrition:

  • 59% of survey respondents said they would be more likely to choose an employer who offered remote work compared to those who didn’t 
  • Workers who worked from home 100% of the time were 20% happier on average than those who didn’t have the ability to work from home
  • People who have the opportunity to work remotely at least monthly are 24% more likely to feel happy and productive in their roles

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably noticing that modern managed IT is very, very different from the managed IT that existed just 10 or 15 years ago. If you’d like to do a deeper dive into what IT outsourcing can save your organization, we’ve got you!

Read How Outsourced IT Accomplishes More for Less


The Types of Businesses That Benefit from Managed IT

The Types of Businesses That Benefit from Managed IT

Managed IT isn’t just for one type of organization. However, the organizations that stand to benefit most from managed IT are often those in specific industries or those whose needs can’t easily be met by internal staff. 

Industries

We have clients in almost any industry you can think of, including higher education, private dental practices, and government organizations. But the industries where managed IT is especially recommended include:

  1. Financial institutions
  2. Auto dealerships that offer financing
  3. Healthcare organizations
  4. Hospitality
  5. Legal
  6. Manufacturing

Organization Size

We’ll be the first to admit that there are some pros and cons to outsourcing, and an in-house IT department will have a few advantages. If your business is large enough to afford and maintain a fully-staffed IT department, you might not need managed IT.

But that’s not typically the case for most small to midsize businesses, which often scrape by having one staff member who’s technically savvy. Before cybersecurity threats skyrocketed, that was probably enough. It’s just not anymore. And no matter how experienced a layperson is with troubleshooting software and hardware, asking them to take on sophisticated data protection is asking them to fail.

Small organizations are actually the favorite targets of many cybercriminals, and they’re in dire need of enterprise-grade protection. We touched on this earlier, but fortunately, the smaller the organization, the more affordable managed IT can be. Always check a provider’s pricing model to understand where you might be able to work with the same experts who advise much larger organizations for much less.

Work Model

At Marco, we were somewhat fortunate in that we were already experienced in helping organizations secure and optimize remote work long before the pandemic hit. That’s no small feat, even though many business articles about remote work still completely gloss over how tough it can be for internal IT teams to properly support employees working from home.

This is, however, a managed IT provider’s strength. If you’re currently not able to offer more flexibility to your staff because of the tools you’re using or the security concerns you have, this is a great job for a provider. And, by the way, providing an exceptional onboarding experience for new remote staff is also in a provider’s wheelhouse.

 


Choosing the Right Managed IT Provider

Choosing the Right Managed IT Provider

It’s tough to compare apples to apples when it comes to managed IT providers, because even if they offer the same list of services, how they offer those services can be different. For example, even if a provider says they offer endpoint detection and response tools, those tools still require someone to recognize what’s normal for your organization and what isn’t, and to respond quickly.

Your managed IT provider can be a strategic business partner if you allow them to be. So here are a few green and red flags to simplify your decision-making…

15 Green Flags

If all of these are true, that’s a sign you’re working with an excellent managed IT provider:

  1. Your provider gets to know your business and your goals before they recommend solutions
  2. Your provider has achieved a SOC 2 Type 2 report that indicates they’re consistently following best practices
  3. Your provider’s expertise isn’t limited to a particular area of business technology
  4. Your provider is a good fit with your organization, including their processes, tools, and people
  5. Their recommendations are aligned with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework or a similar framework
  6. You have a dedicated account manager and/or a team that’s assigned to your organization
  7. Your provider gives you powerful tools to see what they’re doing for you and how your printers are being used
  8. Your provider doesn’t just talk in technical jargon — they’re easily able to translate business goals and outcomes into technology recommendations
  9. They are able to provide, in writing, everything that is and isn’t included with their services
  10. They have years of experience in managed IT and have worked with other organizations similar to yours
  11. They will happily tell you who their current and past clients are so you can contact them
  12. They have strategic partnerships with manufacturers and software companies to help you save money
  13. Their guaranteed response times and help desk availability are compatible with your needs
  14. They take pride in providing excellent customer service
  15. They check in with you from time to time to make sure you’re happy and ask if there’s room for improvement

10 Red Flags

If any of these are true, you should think twice about working with a provider:

  1. They don’t ever ask you about your business goals
  2. They talk tech, but they don’t talk in terms of business outcomes
  3. They don’t perform a full technology assessment when they start working with you
  4. They resolve service tickets but aren’t concerned with resolving underlying problems
  5. Their contract lacks important details like who is responsible for what, what you can expect, and when
  6. Their contract doesn’t let you terminate early, even if they haven’t met their requirements
  7. When you need help, you’re often talking to people who seem to not know anything about your organization and the tools you use
  8. They don’t have the ability to keep up with cybersecurity threats
  9. They don’t have the ability to provide expert-level support for many of the tools or systems your business uses
  10. They get paid more when bad things happen and make less the more they prevent problems for you

Download Managed IT Services Guide

 

What Does Their Pricing Model Tell You?

You can learn a lot about a provider from how they price their services. Common pricing models include: 

  • Per-Device offers simple quoting, but it incentivizes providers to recommend more devices than you actually need
  • Per-User also offers simple quoting but is clearer, scales along with you, and avoids misaligned incentives
  • Tiered pricing lets you get what you pay for, but providers may be less incentivized to prevent problems in lower tiers
  • A La Carte can be more cost-effective and more flexible than tiered pricing, but it has similar drawbacks
  • All-You-Can-Eat models tend to foster a closer relationship but tend to be more expensive and less scalable
  • Monitoring-Only pricing is helpful for organizations that only need certain cybersecurity solutions

At Marco, we price our services per user, so our bills are predictable, we can be affordable to businesses of all sizes, and our relationship allows us to always work in our clients’ best interests. 

Get A Budgetary Quote

What the Provider/Client Relationship Should Be

What all of these red and green flags are pointing to is something pretty basic — you will know that you’ve found the right IT provider when you feel confident that they are working in your best interests. They’ve given you the tools and resources you need to trust them, and you aren’t left wondering what you’re really getting from the relationship.

This relationship should feel closer than what you might have with other vendors, and just like with any close relationship, it’s important that your communication is good, that you feel respected and comfortable, and that even when you meet challenges, you believe that your provider will face them with you. Some of that’s hard to assess in an initial meeting, which is why it’s often helpful to find a way to work with a new provider without signing a long-term contract.

If you’re new to Marco, one way our clients often get to know how we work as an IT provider is through getting a technology or cybersecurity assessment. It’s also a good way for clients to double-check that their current provider is really doing what they should be. And if you’re wondering, yes — we could probably talk your ear off with some of the things we find that another provider has let slip.

But just like with any great business partnership — even that of a managed IT provider — the best way has always been the same. Just start the conversation.

Click the link below to have an expert reach out.

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