How To Select A Managed Services Provider

You have a growing business that relies on computer based technology. What do I mean?… well, computers, operating systems, servers, networks, internet connections, cloud infrastructure, and data sharing applications. Yeah it all sounds overwhelming and jargon filled but you need these things to run your business.

You have been getting by with support from an internal resource or two that have a little information technology experience but maintain other full time responsibilities within the business. You might also as well utilize an outside resource at your internet service provider or local computer store.  You know its not efficient, it’s a drain on your internal resources and problems seem to fester.  Its time for a change but what’s next? 

This article is intended to help guide you towards a solution, that will free internal resources from ad-hoc IT tasks and enable your employees to focus on their intended functions, as well help you to have a problem management process and secure technology infrastructure that most effectively supports your business.

Introducing the Managed Services Provider, or maybe you already have one, but it doesn’t seem to be working out. Hopefully these steps will set you on a path towards solving the dilemma and keeping your IT systems and information secure and in top shape.  

  1. Identify your infrastructure. Identify what internal and external infrastructure exists that supports your business. What I’m talking about are computers, servers, network connections and applications. If you’re not quite sure how to gather this information, many Managed Services Providers will assist in the process through an information technology assessment. An information technology assessment should be routine to an MSP and some will credit the cost of the assessment if you decide to sign up for their ongoing services.
  2. Identify your service needs. Decide what elements of the overall internal and external infrastructure need oversight. For example if you host an internal email server, or database server, is this something a third party could take on the management of? Do you require proactive management of network connections, servers, and applications, or do you just wait until they fail and scramble to identify where the problem is? Perhaps our IT problems page, or evaluation checklists can help you come up to speed and refine your approach.
  3. Assemble your business requirements. Now that you have a clear understanding of the components in your infrastructure and service requirements, such as proactive monitoring of critical systems, problem management support, support hours and response times, document these items as they will be critical in moving forward towards a decision on a new Managed Services Provider.  
  4. Interview potential Managed Services Providers. Find out what services each company provides and how they map to your business requirements. Do they have the staff, experience, and hours of coverage to support the business requirements; can they respond in the required timeframes; do they provide ongoing updates on service outages, or operating systems updates and patches?  Is there a standard service level agreement that defines how issues are managed and can it be customized to support your specific requirements?  Identify the cost of services for supporting your current requirements as well as the costs as your business and infrastructure grows.
  5. Select a Managed Services Provider. Establish clear service level agreements defining services provided, operating procedures, response time agreements, as well as key contacts and escalation procedures. Also establish the ongoing reporting provided by the Managed Services Provider and have the reports customized to meet your specific needs.
  6. Review ongoing performance. Review reports provided by your Managed Services Provider and compare them to your service level agreement. Most importantly maintain an open and honest dialogue with your Managed Services Provider. Clear open communications will foster the results you are looking for while strengthening the partnership and mutual respect and trust in the business arrangement.

Network Management Solutions has been providing custom information technology solutions since 1996 for large, mid-sized and small business.  All of our services, including our Managed Service Provider solutions are customized to support our client’s business needs. For more information please call us at 908-232-0100, also reference our online questionnaires and toolbox.

Network Management Solutions  www.nmscorp.com. Please reach out we want to assist you in making your business better.

What Applications Are Running In Your Network?

Do you know the answer?  While perhaps your company is well equipped and can answer the question, many small to mid-sized companies cannot. If you find that you are among the firms that cannot answer the question you should take an interest in knowing.

Why you ask?  Here are five important reasons:

  1. Financial – Computing and network resources are costly. Resources that are utilized for non-business purposes consume precious resources and cost the company money. Some personal communications may be acceptable but there are limits that certain individuals might take advantage of.
  2. Security – Unauthorized or rouge applications may impact information security. When properly utilized as part of an overall strategy, applications such as Dropbox or Google Drive may be great for your business. However they may also provide a platform for lost data, data leakage, or theft if being utilized without company knowledge or appropriate safeguards. The problem may be further compounded when an employee has resigned and maintains the information stored on Internet devices.
  3. Productivity – It may be within the boundaries of your business policies to allow employees to use Facebook, Twitter, personal email, and surf the web within certain timeframes. Without being able to measure usage you may have undesired activity that negatively impacts productivity, is detrimental to the business culture, and or potentially creates a hostile work environment
  4. Piracy – Software piracy not only affects the developer but also the company that installs the software. An IDC study found that 37 percent of midsized companies that participated in software audits had pirated software within their environment. While there are obvious impacts to the developer with lost revenue and potential dissatisfaction of those using pirated software, many times pirated software contains vulnerabilities including viruses, worms and Trojans. Employee devices containing pirated software that are used within the business environment can contribute to compromise of  the company network.
  5. Reputation – With all of the online media your business reputation can suffer serious harm. Social media can help spread news around the globe in a matter of moments. With companies searching online for the products or services your company offers having bad things show up in search engines can directly impact your bottom line. News of a breach, low employee morale, or piracy can seriously damage the business reputation.

Engaging a consulting company that can perform regular audits of your business infrastructure or managed service providers that can monitor activity in real-time can be a cost effective solution to the problem.

Network Management Solutions has been providing pragmatic solutions for business since 1996. For more information please contact us.

Financial Fitness For Your Business

You are always on the lookout to fine-tune your business finances. Have you thought about how Information Technology (IT) fits in that picture?  It’s likely you’ve made some significant investments in computers, servers, and networks, but perhaps at the time you didn’t consider it an investment so much as a necessary expense.   The fact is IT can and should make your business much better at what it does.  Not only by providing a utility function, but also serving as a business enabler.  Let’s focus, for instance, on what proper maintenance might do to provide a financial gain right now.

For starter, is scheduled maintenance really necessary for your IT?  Absolutely! Consider your IT as analogous to your car. Most people don’t need the frustrating experience of a roadside breakdown to understand that high-tech equipment functions much better and more reliably with regular checking and attention.  Just like your car, IT that is maintained will serve your needs better, last longer, and hold its value over time.

Not sure?  Consider what a server failure or network outage cost your business in terms of lost opportunity, employee expense or otherwise. For some business owners there is an immediate and quantifiable number obtained.

Less tangibly, but very important to assess, is what does an IT slow-down cost?  That’s a bit tougher to answer, but if your systems are non-productive, so are your employees and that is reflected in the business, including customer satisfaction.

An important final consideration in evaluating the protective benefits of scheduled IT maintenance should be the financial and even legal impacts of losing customer or project data due to a theft or crash.  Properly maintained systems enable the business to do what it does best, deliver on the promise of your brand.

So, in summary, here are the business benefits that scheduled IT maintenance provides:

  • maximum up-time of your systems
  • reduction of unnecessary slow-downs
  • insurance that sensitive information is best protected from data theft
  • certainty that your business can recover systems and information in the event of a failure

Making sound technology investments and maintaining the IT infrastructure is clearly one of the smartest things you can do for the financial success of your business.