What is a managed IT service?
Managed IT services are growing at a rapid rate, with a recent survey estimating that almost 69% of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) hire at least one type of IT service provider.
So what are managed IT services, how do they work, and why would companies consider using them?
Managed IT services work on a subscription-style model where customers pay a monthly fee for a third-party provider’s services. This subscription, called a service plan, can be anything from a basic level of service to one that includes maintenance and repairs for anything that goes wrong. This can be an ideal way to offload some of the burdens of setup, maintenance and upgrades that come from an organisation’s IT department.
This is in direct contrast to other models, such as a break/fix model, where organisations pay an IT solution provider to repair, upgrade or install systems or software for a one-off fee.
Service level agreements (SLAs) are important when outsourcing services, as this states the expectations for the minimum level of service the customer should receive.
Examples of managed IT services
Managed IT services can cover a range of business functions, from network, application, system, payroll, server, and backup/recovery solutions to workstation and printer management.
One of the most common examples of managed IT services at present is cloud services, where SMBs lacking expertise and resources can use a managed service provider (MSP) who may provide in-house cloud services or act as brokers with cloud services providers.
Another growing area in managed IT services is security. With the ever-growing risk of a malicious attack, some companies find it more efficient to outsource their security to a specialist managed security service provider (MSSP) who will handle the day-to-day security workload as well as patch management, backup, and responses to any breaches.
Pros and cons of managed IT services
The specific advantages and disadvantages of managed IT services depends in part on the type of service, but there are some more general factors which may influence a business’ choice to outsource a function to an MSP.
Advantages of managed IT services include:
- Expertise: For smaller businesses in particular, being able to outsource knowledge and expertise can be an enormous help, as well as having experienced technical support available.
- Predictable costs: Rather than incurring large expenses for an IT issue, businesses can instead account for potential problems within a predictable monthly fee.
- Maintenance and upgrades: Organisations no longer have to worry whether software is up-to-date, as all this is taken care of by the provider. They can also get access to newer technologies which they may not have been able to afford by themselves.
- Time savings: Outsourcing management of services like security and cloud reduces the amount of time that in-house departments have to spend on it.
Disadvantages of managed IT services include:
- Control: If there’s an outage or an incident, there’s little a business reliant on managed services can do. Theoretically, a good MSP will be able to address issues much more quickly than an internal IT team, but it can be frustrating to not have visibility of serious problems and progress in dealing with them in-house.
- Flexibility: In general, managed IT service providers will have a standard offering which is available to all their clients. They may be able to modify this, but it will usually be less flexible than having a solution that is customised to business needs.
- Reliability: Should anything happen to the service provider, customers could be left trying to find alternative solutions in a short space of time.
Whether businesses decide a managed IT services provider is the right route for them, it’s not a market that is going away any time soon. In fact, it’s the market is expected to be worth approximately $258 billion by 2022, up from $152 billion in 2017, according to Markets and Markets.
As the number of offerings and the capability of existing offerings grows, there is no doubt that we will see companies of all sizes making use of managed IT services for varying parts of their business.
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