by David Moorman, President
Many IT providers in the market today claim to offer “managed services,” and for rock bottom prices. But just what qualifies a provider’s service as a “managed IT service” and what distinguishes one managed IT provider from the next? According to Wikipedia, “Managed services is the practice of transferring day-to-day related management responsibility as a strategic method for improved effective and efficient operations. “ A good definition, but a lot of room for grey area.
In my time in the IT industry (over 20 years, wow I can’t believe its been that long) I have come across what we affectionately call in the business “trunk slammers”. A trunk slammer is often a small shop that offers IT services for low low prices and can sometimes go under the name of a managed service provider, hosting it all from the back of his, that’s right, trunk. Ok, in all seriousness they may not actually be working from their trunk, but they may not have the greatest equipment or practices in place when you consider the importance of your business data. It’s not hard to identify these knock-off managed service providers if you know the right questions to ask:
This first one might be easy, but how long have they been in business? Also, how long have they been offering this particular service? Did this company or service plan pop up over night or do they have a background to match their extensive offering? Often when new technologies hit the market, some providers are quick to add it to their menu without first testing and ensuring quality.
What equipment are they using? Along the same lines as above, make sure the company is using the latest hardware and software to provide these services, rather than scrambling to create a service built on a mishmash of what is in their server room.
What reporting do they provide? A true managed service company will offer you detailed reporting on the monitoring and management they provide. Reporting offers you insight into how much actual management they are doing.
Are they in it for the long term? A managed service provider should act as a trusted advisor and offer advice for both the short term and the long term, identifying your business goals and creating a plan so that IT helps you reach those goals.
What’s in the fine print? When comparing managed IT providers, compare apples to apples. Some providers leave off necessary services that come included in other plans. Similarly, things you may not need now like extra helpdesk support, or increased storage maybe charged at a premium outside of the contract, while other providers offer a service that is easily scalable.
So, the bottom line here? Not all managed services or providers are created equal, nor can they be compared on price alone. Asking the right questions up front can save you time, money, and hassle down the road.