What small businesses need to know about managed IT services

Managed IT support can ensure that businesses' IT networks are secure and problem-free - without the need for an IT team or ad hoc outsourcing. But what should you know about it?

With key business operations frequently taking place on desktops, laptops and mobile devices, in 2018 having a safe, healthy and accessible IT network is more important to small businesses and start-ups than ever before.

With this in mind, it’s important that growing companies have IT professionals to call upon whenever needed. But what if you don’t have the funds, resources or time to employ your own IT team? And what if ad-hoc external IT support proves too patchy and unreliable?

This is where managed IT services come in.

It’s no surprise that managed IT services are popular. In fact, the industry is expected to be worth around $258bn by 2022 – a significant increase from $152bn in 2017 – according to Markets and Markets. But what should you know about it?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. | What managed IT support is
  2. | Why small businesses should use it
  3. | The types of managed IT services available
  4. | How much it costs, plus other considerations to make


What is managed IT support?

Effectively, businesses which use managed IT services outsource their IT support needs – namely the management and support of the business’ IT computer network – to a managed service provider (MSP) instead of hiring an in-house IT team.

This entails paying an ongoing subscription fee to the MSP so that they, in turn, can provide regular, proactive IT support to the business; from general maintenance to issue detection and prevention to full-blown fixes.

Need to know: Managed IT support is different to on-demand outsourcing or the break/fix model, in which providers offer ad hoc IT services to businesses and charge a one-off fee for the work done. In this situation, there’s no ongoing relationship or subscription.


Why small businesses should use managed IT services

For a business owner, there are plenty of benefits associated with using managed IT services – including:

Predictable expenses

A key advantage of paying a subscription is the fact that you’re always aware of exactly how much the service costs, and when each payment is going to leave your business account – meaning you can make more accurate financial plans and budget realistically.

Cheaper IT support

For a small business, it’s extremely likely that paying for managed IT services is going to work out significantly cheaper than paying to employ an in-house IT team (and it’s not going to absorb as much time and resource from you).

Similarly, if you need a lot of IT support, subscribing to managed IT services will likely save you money versus paying on-demand each time you need the advice or skills of an IT expert. On that note…

Access to expertise

As a small business, being able to access specialist skills and knowledge (which you and your team may be lacking in) can be integral to growth.

To hold a subscription with a managed IT support provider is to have access to IT experts at all times, without having to recruit and hire them yourself. As you’re paying for a continuous service, your MSP can be on hand to assist you at any time during working hours.

Plus, knowing that your network is constantly being monitored and maintained behind the scenes can give you the peace of mind to focus your efforts on other things instead.

More uptime

As any start-up who’s experienced it for extended periods can attest, IT downtime can deliver a significant blow to company productivity levels.

With an outsourced team of IT professionals continuously monitoring and maintaining your network, your business is likely to suffer far less downtime than it might otherwise – meaning near-constant uptime for you to work with.

Up-to-date software and tech

To provide a good service, most MSPs use the best technology on the market and keep the software your business runs on regularly updated, meaning your team is always using the latest versions.

Furthermore, many MSPs will speak to software and hardware providers themselves when needed, saving you from having to navigate densely technical discussions.

To find the right IT support provider for your business, try using the free Startups questionnaire at the top of this page!


Types of managed IT services

MSPs can provide a range of managed IT solutions to start-ups and small businesses, but it’s important to remember that many of them won’t offer every service as standard.

Some will enable their clients to pick and choose the services that they need, while others will offer a series of set packages covering particular services.

The services most commonly offered by MSPs include:

  • Setting up your network for you, then continuously monitoring it and alerting you to any issues that crop up. Most MSPs will always provide this as a base level of service.
  • Acting as an IT help desk for your business’ staff, answering questions and processing IT support tickets.
  • Managing cybersecurity to protect your network from breaches, including installing and updating malware and ransomware protection, antivirus software, firewalls and DMZs.
  • Managing the infrastructure of your business’ cloud network.
  • Performing data backups to ensure your business-crucial information is protected (this can work in conjunction with management of the cloud).
  • Ensuring compliance with data regulations and PCI compliance standards by effectively protecting clients’ payment card details, sensitive data and more.
  • Performing data analytics to present you with useful insights about your clients and customers.
  • Unifying your business’ communication channels by merging them onto the same IP network and potentially managing call centres for you.
  • Managing security and accessibility for any mobile devices that staff are using to access the network.
  • Providing SaaS (software as a service) by enabling you to use, as needed, software applications that it owns and hosts.


Costs and other considerations

How much do managed IT services cost?

The monthly fee you’ll pay for managed IT support will depend on several factors, including your MSP’s rate and pricing model, the services you’ll need, and the size of your business.

Generally speaking, though, subscription fees start at around £30 per month for a basic package, and can increase to several hundred pounds for larger businesses with more needs.

Pricing models for managed IT services

The way that MSPs calculate your fees will depend on their pricing model – so it’s worth investigating who uses what model, and which one will create the best deal for your business.

The following pricing models are the most commonly used among MSPs:

  • Per user: You’ll be charged a flat fee for every staff member using your network. This could work well if your employees use a lot of devices each – the fee for someone who’s using a laptop, computer and a business phone, for instance, won’t be any higher than someone who only uses a laptop.
  • Per device: MSPs using this model charge a flat fee for each device that they support. This fee will vary depending on what the device is – a desktop is likely to cost more than a network printer, for instance.
  • Monitoring only: You’ll be charged a flat fee for the monitoring and maintaining of your network and the alerting of issues, but the MSP may charge an additional fee each time it fixes a problem that presents itself, or if you want to add an additional service.
  • Tiered: MSPs using this model will calculate your fees based on a cost per each service that you need from them. Generally, these MSPs will sell pre-packaged bundles of services, which get more expensive as you add more.
  • Value-based: Unlike with a tiered model, you’ll be charged a flat fee for comprehensive coverage of all services – rather than a fee per each service.

What else should you consider while choosing an MSP?

As well as costs, pricing structures and the services offered, you’ll need to think about the quality of those services and the level of IT capability your business requires.

Consider how crucial IT is to your business. If there’s an outage, can your business continue to run in some capacity or will everything have to shut down?

If your most important operations need smooth-running IT to progress, you’ll need a quality, reliable service. Be sure to look at product reviews and check the each provider’s rating on sites like Google and Trustpilot.

Top tip: To work out whether an MSP’s price is worth paying for you, try comparing the cost of the MSP to how much a significant outage or a series of issues might cost your business in the long run, from revenue loss to the cost of IT repairs.

You should also make a list of what your ‘worst case scenarios’ are. What IT problems could have a catastrophic impact on your business? Whether it’s data breaches or communication stream failures, you’ll need to make sure your provider will be able to deal with your top potential disasters with efficiency and experience.


What’s next?

While managed IT services won’t be right for every small business, it can help you to ensure your company IT network is always in top condition.

If you decide you’d like to investigate managed IT services and would like some help in finding the right provider for your business, try answering the questions in the free form at the top of this page to find the best offerings for your needs!