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Every organization is unique; there is no magic formula. Many businesses outsource their IT because:

  • technology is not the core business;
  • an IT outsourcing company will generally have a larger pool of resources, providing better coverage and economies of scale than a handful of internal IT employees;
  • IT support organizations have a larger focus on training, certification, and tools which results in higher efficiency.

So why do some firms In-Source?

Short answer, they generally don’t, at least not entirely. There is a saying “no man is an island”, and it’s very true when it comes to technology. Large firms almost invariably have an IT Department, but this department will work with particular vendors. There is almost always a mix of internal and external employees on a technology team. Even if you’re a company of one, then it’s you and maybe google. It’s all about figuring out the right mix of roles and responsibilities that will provide the best bang for the buck. It’s all about what types of partners you are working with. If your partners are focused on selling you hardware and software, you may end up buying a lot of hardware. If you’ve got people focused on services, you may buy a lot of services.

It’s for this reason of fit that my company has two service plans, one called Total Support (targeting complete IT Outsourcing) and Support Assist (targeting firms with in-house IT). Understanding potential vendor partner philosophies and approaches are essential. My company’s service plans are very comprehensive, inclusive, we’ve chosen to focus on clients that really value and depend on technology. There are many other vendors that offer solutions that are more limited in scope and more limited in price. It’s all about fit between different types of clients and providers.

Enter the Managed Service Provider

This is a term that is used in the IT world to describe the shift towards a more automated/cloud model for delivery of IT services. Managed service providers leverage remote monitoring and management tools that connect to your systems via your internet connection to help improve system reliability and performance. Having the best IT staff is still essential, but improved automation allows managed service providers to provide more efficient support, focus more time proactively planning, and spend less time reacting to items that are broken.

We rarely use the term ‘managed services’ in any sales or marketing material since it’s really a technical term and it has been misused by some IT providers that aren’t really operating under a managed services model. However, there are many providers, including Total Networks, that have made the proper investments and shift away from a ‘break-fix’ model to ‘managed services’ for IT support, and it’s something worth considering. AND NOT ALL MANAGED SERVICE PROVIDERS ARE CREATED EQUAL.

What are the advantages of working with a managed services provider?

Whether or not you have in-sourced or out-sourced IT, working with a managed services provider is something worthwhile since the automation tools that managed services providers offer can be leveraged in either situation. Our clients with in-house IT love the tools that we provide. They also appreciate being able to call us if they have an issue where they can use a little help or need coverage while they are out of the office. There is generally an advantage to outsourcing monitoring and management tools from a cost and functionality standpoint. For example, if you lose power or network connectivity, an in-house monitoring system generally won’t be able to alert anybody if it’s located in your office. Of course, system down alerting isn’t the primary objective. Good monitoring software will check network systems constantly, and alert your technology team when systems need attention, allowing you to proactively address root cause issues before they create downtime. While IT staff could monitor your network manually, it can be time-consuming and is subject to human error or oversight. Properly managed software that checks your systems around the clock won’t miss anything and is apt to alert your team to issues far sooner to help ensure that your accounting team has systems that are always working optimally.

However you choose to staff your IT needs, it’s important that your staff is focused on the fundamental IT responsibilities to ensure that you don’t have avoidable issues such as outages, malware infections, performance issues, failure to restore data from backup, or just not keeping up with technology or service.

Some things to consider when evaluating managed services providers?

  • Have the firm explain in-detail how all of the proactive services and approach work. Most/many firms calling them MSPs give this lip service. Be skeptical, ask questions, demand proof.
  • Have the firm explain in-detail just how they will help keep your information safe & secure. Ditto on being skeptical here.
  • Understand the right mix for your firm, firms with over 100 employees may often have a PC tech level resource to handle day-to-day support while being supported by a high-quality MSP to ensure that planning, security, and compliance are being done correctly. Once again, this is why my company has two service plan approaches. Understand your potential partner’s philosophy and approach and ensure it’s aligned with your needs. Picture how well you see this working, how much work you will continue to perform in-house and if it’s the best use of your time and talent. As yourself… “will this be a“Smart Sourcing” approach?”
  • Companies are what they are and many sales people just want to close the deal. Visualize the best and worst case scenarios, anticipate the worst outcome. Your experience after “the sale” generally does not improve over what you’ve experienced during your buying process.
  • You generally get what you pay for, though not always.
  • Check references and ask around.