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Three Steps To Fix IT Management for SMBs

62Small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) tend to have a more difficult time managing IT than larger enterprises. Despite being as technology dependent as larger enterprises, SMBs have tighter budgets and fewer resources to devote to IT management. This leads to a more reactive “break-fix” approach to their technology that never does any smaller company or organization any good.

Here’s what break fix most often leads to. If the burden rests on the shoulders of hourly or salaried in-house IT support, and they’re too busy putting out fires all day, then their skills and talents are essentially wasted.

If there is no in-house tech support, and many smaller companies and organizations don’t have even one onsite “IT guy”, SMBs are commonly taken for a ride by some of the more unscrupulous on-call IT consultants.

Although “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a popular saying, it should never be applied to the management of business technology. The cost of downtime can crush any barely surviving small business. The combined impact of lost revenue, lost productivity, and lost brand reputation is a severe hit that many SMBs aren’t built to withstand.

It pays to be proactive, not a reactive about technology. This requires a cultural shift from how IT has commonly been handled in the past. Say goodbye to manual, yet necessary, processes and hello to a better way for businesses to meet their technology needs – a smarter and more cost-efficient way.

THREE STEPS TO FIX IT MANAGEMENT FOR SMBs

  1. Be Proactive – More often than not, it’s the things that aren’t caught early on that turn into costly business disruptions. For instance, many of the hardware, software, and application failures that cause downtime occurrences are preventable; they’re just not detected and addressed early enough. SMBs today have the advantage of using a Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tool to help their existing in-house support staff get a grip on their workload. A RMM tool, combined with an outsourced 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC), monitors your technology all day and all through the night via one comprehensive interface that is even accessible with a mobile device. This kind of around the clock monitoring transforms technology management. Problems can be nipped in the bud with an alert and prompt ticket resolution before they turn into major issues that disrupt day-to-day operations.
  1. Automate/Schedule Mundane Tasks – Free the in-house support staff from everyday manual maintenance and monitoring by automating a broad range of IT security and monitoring tasks.
  1. Get More From Your In-House Team – If you have any in-house IT support, you’ve likely hired some incredibly skilled and talented people who would be more worthy contributors to your company or organization if they weren’t always so tied up fixing things and performing monotonous tasks. With RMM and NOC solutions, SMBs can put these individuals to work on projects that matter. They are freed-up to work on concepts, strategies, and application development that better serve your customers, employees, and suppliers, truly giving business a competitive advantage.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

The Benefits of a Managed Service Provider

Managed Service Providers – or MSPs – are often recommended as a cost effective IT solution for small businesses. For a minimal monthly fee, MSPs provide a reasonably priced solution to the complex technology pains of small businesses. Here’s a look at the various benefits an MSP can offer your business…

  • Freed-Up Resources and a Renewed Emphasis on Core Business – Both business owners and internal IT staff would much rather focus on revenue enhancing tasks like product development or the creation of cutting-edge applications/services. This is one reason routine monitoring and maintenance tasks are often neglected by an internal IT person or team, which always proves to be detrimental much l44ater. Often misportrayed as a “threat” to an internal IT person or staff, MSPs can instead relieve internal staff of mundane network operations maintenance, repetitious monitoring of server and storage infrastructure, and day-to-day operations and help desk duties.
  • A True Partner Sharing Risks And Responsibilities –The goal of an MSP is to deliver on contracted services, measure, report, analyze and optimize IT service operations, and truly become an irreplaceable catalyst for business growth. Managed Service Providers not only assume leadership roles, they enable risk reduction, enhance efficiency and change the culture by introducing internal IT operations to new technologies and processes.
  • Access to Expertise, Best Practices and World-Class Tools and Technologies – MSPs have experience with a variety of businesses and organizations. Managed Service Providers can keep your business relevant and on track with continually evolving technology, support, and productivity demands. Let’s face it, no small or medium sized business can afford to fall behind with technology trends in today’s business world.
  • The Benefit of a Full-Time Fully Staffed IT Department at a Fraction of the Cost – Most small business owners live and die by proactive management. They just haven’t had the budget, resources or access to on-demand expertise to be proactive with information technology management. A Managed Service Provider gives business owners and overwhelmed internal IT staff affordable computer and server support, remote monitoring of critical network components like servers and firewalls, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, and technology evaluation and planning.

Managed Service Providers can decrease the overall IT support costs by as much as 30% to 50%. Rather than being stressed about technology, business owners can instead get back to focusing on growing their business. All while enjoying the benefits of highly-trained IT experts boosting their network’s reliability and performance.

Choose Cognoscape as your MSP. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Outsourcing Isn’t a Dirty Word – Meet Your IT Team’s New Best Friend: Managed Services

Small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) generally don’t have the resources to fully support all IT infrastructure needs. Even if your business has one or several in-house IT technicians on payroll, they’re often so bogged down by routine daily tasks that their talent is wasted. The very core of your business infrastructure is jeopardized if they’re overworked and vulnerable to error. This employee isn’t adding nearly as much value to your business as they should be. It’s not a good place for them or you.

According to the research group Gartner, over 65% of IT budgets go towards tasks that do nothing more than keep the lights on. This means SMBs investing in their technology aren’t necessarily improving operations and efficiency or enhancing their security. They’re just keeping the wheels turning.

The concept of “managed services” has evolved through the last decade. Today, managed service providers (MSPs) are being used by small businesses to cost-effectively manage, service and support their IT processes. MSPs are often called in as an alternative to adding additional in-house staff. Unfortunately, this also means MSPs are typically seen as a threat to the job security of any IT employee that fears they’re about to be replaced by “outsourced” help.

A hybrid approach, utilizing managed services, cloud services, and internal IT support can truly be the best of all worlds. They simultaneously help SMBs achieve a greater return-on-investment (ROI) on their IT costs while allowing existing in-house IT resources to be channeled into more valuable development roles.

  1. A Happier, Less Overwhelmed In-House IT Staff

Many of those never-ending mundane tasks performed by in-house IT support on a daily basis can be automated. While this could easily be interpreted as suggesting on-site staff aren’t necessary, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your current IT support can leverage all of the benefits of MSP services such as:28

  • Proactive management
  • Remote monitoring
  • End-user help desk
  • 24/7 network operations center
  • Disaster recovery/business continuity solutions
  • Security audits/updates

These services free your in-house IT support from much of the routine daily maintenance and support taking up most of their workday. This enables them to expand their role and work on more meaningful projects. They’re also happier on the job since they’re no longer perpetually overwhelmed or feeling as if they’re wearing too many hats.

In this case, MSPs remove the burden of routine tasks from internal IT support, allowing them to make better use of theirtime. With access to the MSP ticketing and monitoring system, and support from the 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC), in-house IT have help identifying and addressing system issues before they become business disrupting problems.

Additionally, daily interruptions like constantly having to run to Susie’s computer to figure out why her system is running slow can instead be handled by the Help Desk.

  1. Guided Focus, Direction and Prioritization

Working with a MSP gives existing in-house IT support some much needed focus and direction. MSPs commonly offer a complimentary consultation and network assessment that evaluates the overall performance and health of your IT infrastructure. From there, the MSP will recommend the products or services most beneficial to current IT needs.

This evaluation helps internal IT determine what system oversight and future planning they should be doing. A queue can be created where projects are evaluated and ranked by what’s most critical. Any regular system maintenance tasks can be performed by the MSP while in-house IT can focus on processes that will drive down costs or potentially increase revenue.

  1. Fewer Instances of Failure and Human Error

A high percentage of costly security breaches are the result of human error. This is often because IT employees are stretched too thin and overlook vital security measures, such as applying tested security patches or updating antivirus software programs. Working with a MSP will eliminate much of the work overload that often leads to system or security vulnerabilities. Systems can be backed up in the cloud for an immediate full system restore if needed. Internal IT support will no longer bear sole responsibility for the constant availability and security of stored data.

Many of the issues that become costly business disruptions for SMBs, such as downtime-inducing hardware, software, and application failures, are completely preventable if they’re detected and addressed early enough.

It’s a reality that your systems run 24/7, but you likely don’t have the resources right now for a 24/7 IT staff.

Existing in-house IT support will find their workload to be much more manageable with the help of MSP services like the Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tool and the 24/7 NOC. Systems are monitored around-the-clock through a comprehensive interface that can even be viewed on a mobile device. Alerts will notify the in-house IT staff of any potentially threatening issues on the horizon.

30Many SMBs have some incredibly gifted and skilled IT employees on staff that are burdened with way too any responsibilities and tend to get stuck in a routine each day. These employees would be solid contributors to your business if they weren’t running around extinguishing tech fires and handling monotonous tasks that are below their skill-level.

A good MSP acts as an extension of the business they’re servicing. SMBs and MSPs will work very closely together but caution must be taken, as any internal IT staff will likely consider a MSPs presence to be intrusive and a threat to their job security.

SMBs must convince their internal staff that embracing the cloud and leveraging the service desk and RMM tools of a MSP will only make their jobs more manageable and less stressful. Freeing them from manual tasks will allow them to work on projects that matter- developing applications, concepts, and strategies that will benefit the company or organization’s bottom line rather than spending the day tending to the intern’s computer after she clicked a malicious link in a phishing email. Your existing onsite IT support can do much more for your business as you cut costs by exploiting the industry’s best practices, latest tools, and newest technology.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment from us.

Technology and SMBs

16Contrary to what you may read, IT costs don’t necessarily have to skyrocket as your business grows. Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) just have to be more cognizant of where their technology investments are going and what they’re truly getting as return on their investment. As businesses rely more than ever on technology for day-to-day functions, managers realize that they simply cannot afford the lost productivity, lost revenue and the negative impact on business reputation that comes with a downed system or network. At the same time, many businesses can’t justify the costs of employing any full or part-time IT support given today’s economy. In fact, many small-to-medium sized businesses choose to pay for on-site support on an as-needed basis as opposed to having one or several dedicated IT employees on payroll.

With the recent buzz about the potential benefits and cost savings of virtualization software and cloud computing, many SMB executive teams are rethinking how their technology investments are currently allocated. Two things you’ll find many technology dependent peers focusing on today are a greater return on investment (ROI) and a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

ROI is calculated by dividing the cost reduction and avoidance realized over a period of time by the total amount invested over that same time span.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is most commonly related with four categories in the business/tech world.17

  • Downtime – Smart executives ask themselves “What does it cost my business when my employees, extended teams and/or our customers can’t get to the data they need.” Downtime includes ALL costs linked to server downtime – both planned and unplanned – along with mostly hidden soft costs that aren’t necessarily easy to quantify such as lost employee productivity and business as a result of downtime.
  • Hardware and Software – The price of the server, hardware and software purchases, contracted tech support and maintenance, training services, upgrades, and backup and virus protection software.
  • IT Operations – Network and storage infrastructure, server deployment and configuration, data center power and cooling, and other system-related administrative tasks.
  • Business Administration – All costs related to business processes like labor costs, purchase approvals, vendor contract negotiation and procurement process tracking.

As referenced earlier, small-to-medium size companies can be severely understaffed when it comes to IT support. With so many technology changes emerging in recent years, this puts your businesses at an increased risk for network failure, data loss and security threats – all of which can be enough to put an ill-prepared company out of business.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Cognoscape, a Managed Service IT Provider – The Basics

15The Concept of Managed Services

Managed Services Providers – or MSPs – are often recommended as a cost-effective IT solution for small businesses. For a minimal monthly fee, MSPs provide a reasonably priced solution to the complex technology pains of small businesses. Sometimes an MSP will enter the picture to support an overworked IT support person or staff. They can also assume complete responsibility of all IT and network operations if need be.

MSPs can decrease the overall IT support costs by as much as 30% to 50%. Rather than stressing about technology, business owners can instead get back to focusing on growing their business. All while enjoying the benefit of a team of highly-trained IT experts boosting their network’s reliability and performance.

The Benefits of a Managed Services Provider

  • Freed-Up Resources and a Renewed Emphasis on Core Business – Most pricey repairs and recovery costs are the result of a lack of consistent monitoring and maintenance. While these activities are absolutely critical to day-to-day business operations, they are also repetitive, monotonous and “a time kill” for any IT support on payroll. Both business owners and internal IT staff would much rather focus on revenue enhancing tasks like product development or the creation of cutting-edge applications/services. This is one reason routine monitoring and maintenance tasks are often neglected by an internal IT person or team, which always proves to be detrimental much later. Often misportrayed as a “threat” to an internal IT person or staff, MSPs can instead alleviate internal staff of mundane network operations maintenance, repetitious monitoring of server and storage infrastructure, and day-to-day operations and help desk duties.
  • A True Partner Sharing Risks And Responsibilities – Earlier we alluded to a mistrust of IT consultants who profit from your technological misery. In comparison, the goal of an MSP is to deliver on contracted services, measure, report, analyze, and optimize IT service operations, and truly become an irreplaceable catalyst for business growth. MSPs not only assume leadership roles, they mitigate risks, enhance efficiency and change the culture by introducing internal IT operations to new technologies and processes.

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  • Access to Expertise, Best Practices and World – Class Tools and Technologies – MSPs has worked with a variety of businesses and organizations. Since each client presents a completely unique set of business and technology needs, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” method to what they do. That said, they’ve likely seen it all, and the benefit of an experienced MSP undoubtedly adds value to your business. MSPs can keep your business relevant and on track with continually evolving technology, support, and productivity demands. Let’s face it – no small or medium-sized business can afford to fall behind with technology trends in today’s business world.
  • The Benefit of a Full – Time Fully Staffed IT Department at a Fraction of the Cost – Most small business owners live and die by proactive management. They just haven’t had the budget, resources or access to on-demand expertise to be proactive with information technology management. An MSP gives business owners and overwhelmed internal IT staff affordable computer and server support, remote monitoring of critical network components like servers and firewalls, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, and technology evaluation and planning. Freeing them from expensive computer problems, security threats like spyware and spam, and the repercussions of prolonged downtime. All without being “nickel-and-dimed” by on-call IT firms.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment. Choose Cognoscape for your managed services and IT needs.