Managed Services are ideal for the SME. The Small and Medium-sized business [“SME”] is typified by an entrepreneurial spirit that is essentially focused on the success of the business, using what can best be described as that businesses’ Unique Selling Proposition [or “USP”] to create and then maintain a sustainable competitive advantage over its competitors.

What this implies is that the business and its major proponents (usually the founders and the management team) share a vision for the business, and back that vision with sound commercial and strategic decisions and actions.

Also implied in this description of the SME is that the business generally does not have the skill or knowledge to handle the businesses’ information technology [“IT”] requirements, despite the fact that the computer network of most businesses represents the hub of that business, and without which that business is very likely to cease trading.

As most SME’s are understandably focused on leveraging the business to derive the maximum returns, they do not have the necessary resources to ensure their IT and Communications infrastructure is keeping pace, and adding value to the business. It is often in these cases that the SME seeks third party advice and guidance in the form of an IT Consultant.

The role of the IT Consultant is to provide cost effective strategic planning and related solutions to ensure the computer network of the SME is operating at maximum efficiencies, so that the SME management can focus on reaching their objectives. Failure in this area can translate directly into lost productivity, personnel frustration, costly IT repairs, all of which detracts from the ‘bottom line’.

The IT Consultant is thus the organization ensuring the machinery in the background is always working, always effective and always serving the business’ needs. One of the more popular tools employed by IT Consultants is that of Managed Services, as this software tool (coupled with sound IT practices, systems and management by the IT Consultant) serve a multitude of purposes if used properly.

What is Managed Services? Put simply, Managed Services [or “MSP”] is where the provider assumes ongoing responsibility for monitoring, managing and/or problem resolution for selected IT systems and functions on the SME’s behalf, and contains the following typical features:

1. Comprises a computer network monitoring tool, monitoring the SME’s network 24/7, proactively seeking out problems before they become catastrophes, reviewing a host of logs to discern potential issues and where possible, fixing these along the way, producing a suite of reports on a daily basis as to the nature of its investigations and the remedies applied, if any, and alerting the IT Provider to issues that may require further investigation and/or rectification.
2. Provides details on any arrear patch management, and can also effectively deploy patch management across the entire network
3. Reports daily on back-ups, and typically if a back-up has failed. That feature alone is worth its cost in the context of the costs had you remained unaware of this problem.
4. In short, by offloading routine IT infrastructure management to an experienced managed services professional allows management to focus on the business, with fewer interruptions due to IT issues

The major benefits that accrue to the SME as a result of Managed Services can be summarized as follows:

1. Continual Monitoring. Takes care of routine IT infrastructure monitoring and management 24/7, freeing up valuable SME resources. By proactively monitoring and maintaining your systems, Managed Services can help you avoid many technology problems in the first place. Should an issue occur, an experienced Managed Services Provider can troubleshoot and resolve it more efficiently.
2. Keep Current. Managed Services will ensure the IT systems never fall behind with things such as backups, patches and security, any of which can create a real (and expensive) catastrophe, and thus is a relatively inexpensive means of ensuring business continuity.
3. Cost Effective. As the SME grows, its reliance on IT grows, and the resources and skill required to support an increasingly complex IT environment may not be available or affordable. A competent Managed Services Provider can provide these services both cost effectively and with the depth of skill demanded
4. Reduced overheads. The SME does not need to hire IT staff in house, which is costly especially if the SME does not require the services of IT experts on a daily basis. By outsourcing to a Managed Services Provider, the SME is able to only pay for IT support when needed.
5. Increased efficiency. Outsourcing IT support also facilitates increased productivity and efficiency to focus on what the business does best, which is probably not solving IT problems. In addition, the relentless assessment techniques of the software ensure that no issue, no matter how small, is missed, and that provides an outstanding system of infrastructure management
6. Scalability. The SME now has a team of IT experts to help solve IT problems as they arise, no matter how big or small. It is no longer the concern of the SME, as the responsibility has shifted to the Managed Services Provider, who have depth in their areas of expertise
7. Customised Plans. You can customise your Managed Services plan to suit the business needs and budget. Pay per device, pay as you go, pay by the number of IT support hours required each month or the level of monitoring and maintenance required – you decide.
8. Accountability. Your Managed Services Provider is accountable for the functionality and performance of their services, and generally provides meaningful reports to demonstrate activity, issues raised, alerts attended, etc.
9. Reduced Downtime & Risk. Managed Services tracks and begins fixing problems more quickly and efficiently than previously and through the robust tools available heads off problems at the pass. Managed Services Providers use the predictive nature of the software to determine that a failure is imminent, and actually prevent the failure from occurring in the first place, which reduces downtime and risk for the SME.
10. Capacity Planning. Because Managed Services tools are constantly monitoring the performance and capacity of the SME’s file system space, database size, network bandwidth and more, all of that information is captured and held as historical data. The SME has access to this data and can use it to analyze trends in performance or capacity associated with a specific device or database and to make educated, informed decisions about future IT capacity and performance needs as a result.
11. Custom Dashboards. Managed Services Providers often provide clients with dedicated help desks (note: a word of warning here: most Managed Services Providers provide the helpdesk facility only for those specific devices covered by your contract) and access to stored historical data through a client portal. The SME can see service tickets, and all information pertaining to those tickets. The SME can also request a custom dashboard. A CEO, for example, might want a green light on his desktop to indicate that all systems associated with an ERP system are functioning normally; if he sees a yellow light, he knows he needs to call someone to drill down into what’s happening.
12. Fixed IT Management and Support Costs. Managed Service Agreements facilitate fixed IT costs, allowing for accurate budgeting. Generally Managed Services billing approach is based on a per device formula, allowing for pricing transparency and accurate growth forecasting.

DyCom is a Melbourne-based boutique IT Company (with offices in Queensland) that provides a host of IT consulting and related services specifically for the SME market, and has been providing a suite of Managed Services solutions to our clients for the past 8 years. In this context, DyCom can and would be delighted to help, as we have a specialist Managed Services team, whose job it is to ensure your Managed Services journey is properly considered, well-planned, and properly executed, considering all the relevant issues unique to your business and environment. For a no-cost no-obligation discussion as possibly your first step, please call or email DyCom.