Information technology (IT) has changed dramatically over the years. Twenty-five years ago, main-frame systems in offices were the main stay. Twenty years ago, PC networks became prevalent in business. Fifteen years ago, the Internet began revolutionizing the way we do business. In the last 10 years, people started carrying around multiple devices, including smart phones and tablets, that are far more powerful than a five-year-old PC.
Systems have become easier to integrate, and small businesses have been able to leverage technologies that were once only available to large corporations. Even with this simplification of systems, making all the technologies work together securely, efficiently and productively is still a challenge for businesses. Professionals rely on their technology almost exclusively to conduct operations. Consequently, IT must always work.
In addition to the change of technology, the way technology is delivered has had to change. In the past, most technology companies delivered services in what was called a break/fix model. In other words, when the systems break, they were there to fix them. That may have worked satisfactorily as long as the users could push the computer aside and go on with business with a pen and paper. However, very few can do that today.
Customer databases, accounting systems, communications and many other aspects of businesses are connected to computers and the Internet; business grinds to a stop when the technology stops working. The system of break and fix has changed dramatically to a preventative care model. Many technology companies have adopted a managed service provider (MSP) model.
MSP companies come in all different sizes and offer different suites of services, but the primary function of this type of organization is to ensure that business technology functions as efficiently as possible, with little-to no downtime. These companies can essentially become a business partner to ensure that critical components of a business work as well as possible. Some of a MSP’s functions include:
- Integration of systems - helping a business decide on technology, from hardware and software to mobility options, connectivity and vendor management.
- Systems monitoring - verifying that all systems are working correctly. Software agents are installed on the computer network to monitor both hardware and software systems. Hardware monitoring includes hard drive health, power, temperature, and network connectivity. Software monitoring focuses on making sure protection systems such as anti-virus and anti-malware systems are running and updating, operating system updates are occurring and database systems are running optimally.
- Active protection systems - MSPs use software to automate many tasks a technician used to accomplish, such as defragmenting hard drives, cleaning temporarily files, optimizing databases and patching software.
- Backup services - backups were previously completed using on-site tape, hard drive or other hardware backup. Today, backup services are more efficiently performed using online services, whether contracted or internally managed. These services provide protection against accidental file deletion, hard drive failure and theft.
- Cloud services - highly prevalent in business today, cloud services can mean many different things. Software as a service (SaaS) is very common, offering customer relationship management (CRM), unified communications (UC), accounting and many other software services at an affordable monthly price. Hardware as a service, hosted servers and desktops, is the next iteration of cloud services, giving companies the ability to eliminate the desktop completely, and putting all IT infrastructure in the cloud. All of these services should be navigated carefully, making sure that the technology fits the business need.
- Help desk services - providing onsite and remote support to users. The goal of the help desk is to make sure employees can do their jobs efficiently and not worry about technology.
In the end, a Managed Service Provider can be a business advocate and partner. It is their goal to understand the business and help them achieve business goals. If a MSP is successful, technology will make a company be more productive, competitive and profitable.