Managed Service ProvidersInformation technology (IT) has changed dramatically over the years.  25 years ago, mainframe systems in offices were the main stay.  20 years ago, PC networks became prevalent in business.  15 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 5 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.  Businesses rely on their technology almost exclusively to conduct operations.  Consequently, IT must always work.

Just like technology has changed, the delivery of technology has also 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.  There are very few businesses that can do that today.

That service delivery model does not work today.  Since customer databases, accounting systems, communications and all other aspects of business are primarily connected to computers and Internet, business grinds to a stop with the technology stops working.  Break/fix has changed dramatically to a preventative care model.  Most technology companies have adopted this new model know as Managed Service Provider (MSP).

MSP companies come in all different sizes and offer different suite of services, but their primary focus is making sure your business technology functions as efficiently as possible, with little to no downtime, so that you can focus on growing your business.  They essentially become your business partner to ensure that one of the most critical component of your business works as well as possible.  Some of these essential functions include:

• Integration of systems - helping you make decision on technology, from hardware and software to mobility options, connectivity and vendor management.

• Systems monitoring - verifying that all the 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 that 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 - because monitoring is not enough, 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 previously were completed using onsite tape, hard drive or other hardware backup.  Today, backup services are much 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 - becoming 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.  It is important to consult with experts before moving to a the cloud.

• Help desk services - providing onsite and remote support to your users.  The goal of the help desk is to make sure that your employees can do their jobs efficiently and not worry about their technology.

In the end, a Managed Service Provider should be your business advocate and partner.  It is their goal to understand your business and help you achieve your business goals.  If a MSP is successful, technology will make your company be more productive, competitive and profitable.