Insights from Orion Group

Managed IT: Right for my Business? Part 4

This is the last part of a 4 part series exploring the difference between a one, two or three man IT support model and a managed IT support contract. The author has over 30 years working as an IT leader with some of the best run companies in the world. He has worked both sides of the fence – as a company IT employee and for outsource providers. He’s seen successful engagements and failures. This experience informs this series.

My intent in writing this series of blog articles is to compare and contrast qualities of in-house IT with a managed IT contract. In Part 1, I discussed cost, response, reliability, dependability and help desk. In Part 2, I compared experience level, dependability, process and world view. In Part 3, I discussed the differences I’ve seen in the use of tools, technology and standards. In this final article, I’ll address technology choice, security management, and risk.

Before taking on any new account, a quality managed IT firm will do an IT audit. Inevitably and historically, that audit reveals years of poor decisions – lack of standards, serious security gaps, badly configured and maintained equipment, old and unreliable technology, error prone backups, poor security management and no disaster recovery planning. This type of computing environment contributes to high support costs and extended downtimes. It is the result of unprofessionally managed IT – almost always the result of computer techs recommending technology solutions without taking a business driven approach to IT management.

Using the initial audit as a baseline, the managed IT firm works with business leaders to plan a standardized, simplified, more reliable network that will, over time, lower support costs and improve performance. The best business solutions will be implemented over time as budget allows, rather than a complete ’lift and replace’. The managed IT firm will help prioritize those changes so that the business realizes results sooner at the best price point within budget.

Choice of technology matters. If business leadership works with IT to balance technology with business needs, smarter purchase and implementation decisions will be made. Implementing technology ‘flavor of the day’ will ultimately lead to complex, difficult to support networks. The lack of standards will result in complex support requirements. A lack of discipline and oversight will contribute to a network prone to failure, costly to support and disastrous to the business.

Not only does your network hardware need to be hardened against failure, but your whole digital environment needs protection. A managed IT firm can bring both extensive experience and standard tools and practices to the table to help your business reduce the risk of data loss and failure. Imagine a managed IT firm with hundreds of customers, a team of seasoned system engineers, and the motivation to lower their customer’s support costs! Customer audits often revel many gaps in a business’s security management approach. I’ve never seen a small IT shop implement anything close to a security management approach to securing company data. While firewalls, antivirus and basic data backup are commonly implemented, these measures only scratch the surface of a comprehensive security management strategy. A managed IT firm can help you plan for and implement all the building blocks of a complete, business driven, security management program to lower your risk of downtime and improve performance.

I want to end this series by discussing risk. Specifically, business risk. Lower business risk through the use of a managed IT contract is a common theme throughout my discussion. Whether its unexpected loss of personnel, poor performance, unanticipated expenses, or loss of data, a managed IT contract can help you better manage risk.

As a business owner or manager, managing risk is what you do on all fronts, across all areas of your business every day. Given today’s data driven mode of operation, most small business owners don’t give IT its due. The less informed leader, sees IT as an overhead expense item, and does not appreciate it for the tactical and strategic advantage it brings to the business.

Perhaps it would be helpful to think through the old adage… How would you feel if you woke up one morning and realized you’d lost everything you own? What would you do? Then, if by magic, it reappeared? Now how would you feel? Sometimes we humans only appreciate what we have once it’s gone. Don’t live with the risk. Consider moving to a managed services contract with a quality IT professional services firm. In today’s world, it’s the only way to travel.

Orion Group has 30-plus years of experience delivering managed IT solutions to its clients. They developed the enSircle Managed IT Suite to provide comprehensive monitoring and preventative maintenance.

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