What are Managed Services?
Managed Services describe the proactive management and maintenance of one or several IT objects through an external service provider, a so called Managed Services Provider, in short MSP. The most important characteristic of an MSP is the independent provision of services. The service offer of MSPs ranges from conventional services such as consulting, maintenance and implementation of IT services to monitoring of server and network infrastructures, security services, mobile device management and much more.
What differentiates Managed Services and Cloud-Services?
Cloud services and managed services differ mainly in the control option of IT. A managed services agreement means that hardware, software and IT infrastructure remain in the possession of the company. Furthermore, the company is still responsible for the management and development of applications. This leads to a significantly higher level of control over IT systems, data and processes – than in comparison to cloud services. With cloud services, for example a public cloud solution, users generally have no control over update cycles and the timing of maintenance windows. A private cloud minimises this to a certain extent, when the user is provided with its own dedicated hardware in a hosted environment.
What are the Advantages of Managed Services on offer to Companies?
In the past few years, many small and medium sized businesses have recognised that managed services offer a range of advantages. Also start-ups are increasingly approaching managed services providers to relieve internal IT resources or to transfer the management of their entire network to an external service provider. An MSP assumes 24/7 monitoring and proactive maintenance of the IT infrastructure. Most companies have no option to monitor their network around the clock and react immediately if a potential problem occurs. Most pitfalls can be detected and independently solved by an MSP before they become major problems, which in a worst case scenario lead to considerable downtimes.
Predictable IT Costs
The planning of an IT budget is difficult. If there is a server or network failure, budgets for unplanned repair services are being spent. Due to monthly fixed costs, it is possible to budget managed services better and plan costs long-term. With many MSPs repair and service works are already integrated in the contract together with the ongoing maintenance. In order to identify how the IT budget for the future has to be planned, it is important to familiarise onself with the activities in the network. Most MSPs can produce detailed reports regarding error messages, trouble-shooting and user activites and should offer at least a six-monthly review of these reports so that companies understand what occurs on their network.
Reducing Employees‘ Workloads and improved Security
Another advantage is that managed services provide the company’s IT staff with more available space to focus on more important tasks than daily IT maintenance. With the tool sets available to the MSP, problems are identified and solved immediately. Therefore IT use becomes a lot more efficient and downtimes can be avoided. One of the biggest advantages of managed services is the improved security of the entire IT. Due to a lack of expertise in many companies, IT security is a problem. Managed services packages generallly offer a solution for monitoring the firewall, for virus and malware protection and for the use of the latest updates and patches to ensure that the network is as secure as possible.
More Efficiency through Managed Services
Automation and time management are essential factors for the efficiency of a business. An MSP ensures that systems and employees are always up-to-date by constant monitoring and updating of the IT. According to the CompTIA study “Trends in Managed Services”, improvement of efficiency and reliability is the most important factor for engaging an MSP.
What are the Disadvantages associated with Managed Services?
Companies fear that outsourcing IT services may lead to a dependence on a service provider. In particular with critical applications and services within the business, dependence on an MSP can represent a risk that should not be ignored, if the service from the MSP is not provided as agreed. There is also a lower flexibility during operation of in-house IT solutions or in proprietary system environments as well as a certain threat of loss of IT competencies. From a certain size of the entire IT, the use of an MSP can be more expensive than operating IT in-house.
In which areas can Managed Services be utilised?
In the past ten years, the tasks of MSPs have developed from the maintenance of legacy systems, to responsibility for repairs as well as patches, to the provision of new software, cloud services and specific knowledge such as data security services. Managed services can be customised to almost any business requirement in the IT area.
Remote monitoring and management of servers, desktops as well as mobile devices is a often requested type of managed services and most of the time a fundamental base service of a managed services provider.
Another important area are managed IT security services. Customers increasingly demand IT security support from their service providers. This includes anti-virus and anti-spam platforms, firewalls and an active patch management by the MSP. Accordingly service providers develop managed security services or maintain partnerships with security providers to be able to offer cyber security services.
Managed IT Service Contracts
Most of the time the basis of an MSP`s work is a master service contract. The contract specifies the basic terms of the work carried out by the managed service provider for its customers. Another important document relating to the provision of managed services is the service level agreement (SLA). In the SLA it is specified in detail which services are made available by the provider and how a successful service provision is measured. The SLA can be integrated into the service provider’s master service contract.
Managed services are one of the fastest growing segments of the IT sector. The engagement of managed services providers enables organisations of any size to focus on their core competencies, instead of having to deal with ever more complex IT processes and technologies. With a range of offers, such as cloud computing, data security, network monitoring and systems management, managed services are able to offer companies solutions for every day issues at predictable costs.
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