It’s not exactly a common subject of cocktail party conversation.  Common or not, a conversation with your Trusted IT Advisor about Managed Services is far more important than such water cooler fodder as What’s Trending on Twitter.

Quite often, however, the reward for a conversation extolling the benefits of Managed IT Services is a slightly annoyed, if otherwise indifferent client posing the age-old question that clients so often do, “That’s great, but what’s in it for me?”

At face value, Managed IT Services is a proactive approach employed by Managed IT Services Providers (MSPs) to monitor the health of your computers, servers and network.  Windows patches are automatically applied to all the appropriate machines, hard drive health is monitored, networked devices are ‘pinged’ for heartbeat signals, blah, blah, blah…well, I never said anyone outside the pocket-protector-bearing world might find the basic offerings of Managed Services enthralling.  But in order to really see its benefits, business-minded clients need a bigger-picture view of Managed Services. To that end, I offer the following: a simple and concise, “What’s in it for me?” 30,000-foot view of Managed Services for the “I’m too darned busy to be bothered with it as long as it’s working”” business world.  Here are the most important reasons to embrace Managed Services.

Henceforth, let’s just assume that each of the following paragraphs starts with “Along with patching your computers, monitoring health and alerting your IT superheroes before something bad happens…”  In order of importance, here they are:

[BUSINESS CONTINUITY]
The A-1, Primo, Numero-Uno argument for leveraging Managed Services for your business: to keep your business running smoothly.  Business Continuity is a concept that implies that your critical business functions will be available to a maximum degree. Email, File Shares on Servers, Internet, and many other services need to be running for your business to function. Managed Services is, by design, the optimal method to keeping things running on your network as smoothly and consistently as possible.  Ever tried to run your business with all your computer equipment turned off?

[PARTNERS VS. VENDORS]
With Managed Services in place, your Managed Services Provider becomes less IT Vendor and more Trusted Advisor.  Corporate financial data, personnel records, budgets, and business plans are all common items, among many others that reside on your computer network.  When an MSP and its clients’ interests are aligned, the motivation to keep things protected and running smoothly becomes a shared burden.

[MANAGED SERVICES VS. BREAK-FIX]
The old Break-Fix concept is pretty simple: something breaks, and your IT vendor fixes it (or tries to, at any rate).  The first glaring issue with the Break-Fix axiom is that something actually has to break first for your IT Vendor to fix it.  Broken means downtime, and downtime means lost productivity.  Break-Fix simply does not work.  Outages cost customers money in employee efficiency as well as Break-Fix budget-busting dollars do.  Managed Services provides for stable systems with more predictable, budget-friendly costs.

[SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENTS]
Managing Labor Costs is the name of the game…in any industry, IT services included.  Managed Services Providers face a separate but related challenge: butts in seats, ears to phones and fingers to keyboards.  Any service profession tells the story of “speedy and efficient” being the key to creating satisfied customers, but with MSP’s it’s akin to the question of the chicken and the egg: In order to keep IT systems running smoothly, MSP’s need well-qualified Engineers in seats, talking into phones and pounding away on keyboards.   Good Engineers cost good money; money comes from Managed Services Customers; and MSP’s need customers to provide a predictable revenue stream to cover the cost of qualified engineers almost as badly as customers need for their IT systems to “just work”.  Last time I checked, the pool of available, well-qualified engineers that don’t cost any money dried up along with the stream of customers who don’t need their IT systems to run well all the time.  An MSP’s ability to predict whether they will be able to keep networks running smoothly and respond to customer issues is directly proportional its customers’ willingness to provide the predictable sustenance for them to do so.  So what’s in it for the customer?  The basics: MSP’s promise to have enough well-qualified engineers on hand and systems in place to keep things running for customers, and when something arises that the Magic 8-ball couldn’t predict, MSP’s can provide a trained, professional response to it within a guaranteed amount of time.  That’s called Service Level Agreement, or ‘SLA’.  Every Managed Services customer gets one, and every MSP lives and breathes by it.  That’s the contract.

Technology is here to stay.  It’s pretty doubtful that the CEO or owner of ANY company will ever condone using LESS technology in the operation of their business.  More businesses than ever are relying, more deeply than ever, on technology as a core component to run their businesses and promote efficiency among their staff.  Isn’t that argument enough to promote a system that breeds uptime across the board, provides predictable IT budgeting, and improves overall total cost of ownership for IT, all without having to touch it?

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