Gartner defines IT services like this:
“IT services refers to the application of business and technical expertise to enable organizations in the creation, management, and optimization of or access to information and business processes.”
Essentially, it’s the labor and expertise that makes technology run. For most SMBs it doesn’t make sense financially to hire full time employees to fill this need. IT is also a skilled position with higher labor costs. They need an expert, but managing their networks isn’t a full-time job. What they need is a fraction of an expert’s time who is available when they need them.
As a result, 29% of small businesses across the US work with an IT service provider to handle their technology needs. That number grows more and more every year as additional businesses recognize the massive benefits that outsourcing can bring. Small business owners are also realizing that they can’t run their business without technology. These solutions are critical to their efficiency and successful operations.
What IT services are we talking about? Why is this option so attractive to SMBs? There is no short or easy answer to those questions because there is a vast array of IT services available. The solutions that each organization needs are typically unique based on their operations. In this article, we outline 12 of the most common services utilized by SMBs and the benefits of each.
12 Common IT Services
Help Desk Support
A basic service provided by most IT service providers is help desk support. Essentially, this gives you access to IT professionals that can help you solve problems and fix errors as they come up. Support is typically provided over the phone and by remotely controlling your computer, but it can be done in person if needed.
The best help desk solutions will offer guaranteed response times. They will also have some structure in place to track each issue with a ticket and escalate issues if they prove to be more complex or need an expert in a particular area. This ensures that problems get resolved in a timely manner and never get forgotten or lost.
Business Case/Benefit: Time is money. Help desk support is there so your end users can continue to do their job and be productive. The more time they spend fiddling with IT issues, the less time they spend doing the job you hired them to do. This can get amplified when you have network wide problems that stop productivity for the entire company. The help desk responds quickly to these issues and gets them resolved. The business saves big on lost productivity and has greater confidence they will be able to overcome any issues that may come up. Without a solution like this in place, work can stop completely when IT issues arise.
Gartner reports that the average cost of IT downtime is $5600/minute. For most small businesses it’s probably not quite that drastic, but the impact can still be significant. An average employee that makes a salary of 50K per year has a fully burdened hourly rate of around $31.25/hr to the business. That’s what it costs you for every hour that they can’t do their job. Server and network issues that affect everyone get multiplied out. If you have a staff of 50, it will cost $1562.50/hr and $12,500 for one 8-hour day. That’s just labor costs, and doesn’t calculate lost sales, hurt reputation, or anything else. The math is simple. That’s why most SMBs are hiring IT support.
2. Network Monitoring and Alerting
This service allows you to monitor your network for any of numerous problems that may crop up. You can get alerts that will trigger when something exceeds designated performance thresholds. For example, you may set a monitor to alert you when disk space on your server reaches 90% full. When your server reaches that threshold, the alert is triggered, and a ticket is generated so that IT can investigate.
Monitoring can be set up for a myriad of things. Organizations can monitor if servers or network equipment go offline for any reason. They can also monitor hard drive usage, memory usage, CPU usage, and more. You can also monitor things on a more granular basis and look at individual services. This can alert you if services stop working, which may indicate that a critical application has gone offline. Monitoring is also frequently used to ensure that backups complete successfully and can alert you if they fail for any reason.
Business Case/Benefit: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can prevent your systems from going offline or having issues in the first place, it can save you even more than quickly responding after the fact. Solutions for monitoring and alerting can give your IT team an early heads up so they can stop them before they affect operations. This can be especially important if you have critical workloads that hamper or stop productivity when offline or prevent your customers from being able to do business with you. A monitored backup solution gives you a much higher level of confidence that you would be able to recover should disaster strike.
3. Backup and Disaster Recovery
This service gives a business a system that allows for business continuity in the event of a failure. This can be hardware failure, ransomware attack, or anything else that would make the business inoperable.
It typically consists of a managed backup solution with both local and offsite backups. The best BDR solutions allow for quick recovery and have the capability of recovering your entire server infrastructure if you were to have a site disaster.
The “managed” part of this solution means that backups are completely administered by the provider. They monitor the backups for success and respond if backups fail for any reason. They also can perform disaster recovery testing as part of this service.
Key elements of an effective disaster recovery plan are a clear understanding of your RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Object). These are how long it will take to recover and how far back can we recover from (data retention).
Business Case/Benefit: Increasing cyber security attacks in the last few years have made having a solid backup and disaster recovery plan in place more important than ever. In fact, 96% of businesses experienced an outage in a 3-year period. Couple that with the fact that 40-60% of small businesses don’t reopen after data loss, and you get a feel for the importance of having a plan in place.
Having a solid solution in place for backup and recovery is essential. Without it, when faced with a major disaster many businesses will be forced to shut their doors. In many industries it is required for compliance reasons as well. In addition, many insurance companies won’t issue a cyber insurance policy for a company that does not have a DR solution in place.
A solid DR solution protects your organization against risk and provides peace of mind that your data is safe. It can also save your organization from substantial financial losses if disaster strikes.
4. Office 365/SASS Application Management
Many businesses have made the move to the cloud for email and other business applications but are now realizing that this move doesn’t eliminate the administration of SASS applications like Office 365. There is still a significant amount of work that goes into ensuring that these tools are secure and administered appropriately. New account creation, user offboarding, permissions management, license management, and various other tasks can be part of successfully administered SASS applications.
Business Case/Benefit: Poorly administered SASS applications can lead to a significant amount of waste. Most carry monthly licensing costs per user. If licenses are not assigned and decommissioned properly as users come and go, your organization can end up paying monthly forever for employees that don’t even work there anymore. If the wrong licenses are applied to a user, you can pay more than you need to. Poorly administered security can put your organization’s data at risk. Hiring a professional can help your company eliminate waste and ensure the security of your SASS applications.
5. Hardware Support
No matter the nature of your business, broken hardware is bound to happen. When it does, you need a service provider that knows how to evaluate it, fix it, or put in a warranty request.
Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense to repair broken hardware. A 6-year-old laptop isn’t worth putting any money into. Having someone that can look at broken hardware and determine if it’s worth fixing is the first step.
If it is worth fixing, they need to have the skills to diagnose the problem correctly and replace parts as needed. If the machine is under warranty, they need to know the right channels to put in that warranty request. The ability to provide loaner hardware if the fix will take time is a plus as well.
Business Case/Benefit: Again, downtime is the main thing that we’re trying to save here. The cost of human capital is far more expensive than new hardware. You can also save money on hardware by knowing when it’s not worth saving, being able to quickly diagnose and repair, and by efficiently processing a warranty request.
6. Network Security
There is a lot to discuss when it comes to network security. This is a whole separate area of IT services that could be discussed at length. For the sake of this article, we’ll try to be succinct. The best network security services are typically layered. They will have several layers of perimeter protection, a strong firewall, layers of endpoint protection, security maintenance, security policy, and end user security training. These are some of the elements of a complete security solution. There may be additional elements if your business has any kind of compliance such as HIPAA, PCI, SOX etc.
The services part of security is that you need someone that can evaluate your needs, recommend solutions, implement, and maintain them. Security is not a one-time project and typically includes ongoing work that needs to be done regularly to keep the network safe and ahead of evolving threats.
Business Case/Benefit: The global average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million, and the average cost per lost or stolen record in a data breach is $150. It is also estimated that a business will fall victim to a ransomware attack every 11 seconds in 2021. Essentially, it’s no longer a question of IF you will get hit. The real question is WHEN you will get hit, and if you’re ready to respond.
Frequently small businesses think that they are too small to get hacked. They believe that there is security in obscurity. This is a mistake. What they need to realize is that hackers frequently aren’t targeting a specific business at all. They use automated scanning tools to scan the web for a particular VULNERABILITY. Essentially, they’re looking for an open door or window. Once they’ve gained access, they can decide what to do once they’ve poked around a bit. Assuming your business is too small will NOT keep you safe.
As mentioned above, cyber attacks can be financially devastating for a company. They can also cause massive lost productivity, lost data, lost customer trust, and badly hurt your brand. Good security can protect you.
7. Vendor Management
Another IT service that most businesses need, but don’t often think about is vendor management. In any IT organization there are items that touch the network and require an IT expert to coordinate their efforts with a vendor to troubleshoot. Good examples are things like phones, copiers, and software.
Most companies have another provider that isn’t their IT that manages those things. It’s difficult if you’re required to be the go between with our IT support and these organizations. Vendor management is an IT service where the IT provider works directly with all vendors to resolve problems and allows you to step out of the middle.
Business Case/Benefit: Poor communication can be costly. Sometimes when you have a non-technical person relaying the information between IT and a vendor it can become a bad game of telephone. This can make issues take longer to fix and ultimately cost more. A good vendor management solution allows for clear communication from tech to tech, and eliminates time waste, frustration, and additional costs.
8. Cloud Computing Solutions
This is an area of IT that has exploded over the last few years. It’s also an area of IT services that is sometimes misunderstood. Much of the cloud computing marketing materials and commercials make it appear as though support is suddenly not needed when you move to the cloud. While there are some great cloud products on the market that make management on certain things easier than ever, there is still a significant amount of support needed.
You need a partner that can help you find the right cloud solutions, migrate you to them, and then support and maintain them. Most IT services in the cloud revolve around these three items.
Finding the right cloud solutions can be a challenge all by itself. Each company has specific needs based on their internal workflows and processes. These differences may make them more suited to one cloud solution or another. A quality IT service provider for cloud will help to match your specific needs to the solution that fits best.
Once you’ve found the solution you need you must get things migrated. Most companies aren’t starting for nothing and have existing data that they need ported into the cloud. This can be a significant project based on the type of data, where it needs to go, and the complexity of the cloud solution selected. There are a lot of options with the cloud as far as where to house your data, how to do backups, and more. A quality IT service provider will help you to make sense of it all, plan and execute the migration project, and ensure that you’re happy with the results.
Now that everything is up and running in the cloud you’re done, right? Not typically. You’ll have an ongoing need for support when there are problems, account administration, license management, security updates, and strategic planning. The best providers stay with you after the fact to help support the solution.
Business Case/Benefit: The ability to work from anywhere has become a necessity over the last couple of years. Employees are demanding more flexibility in how and when they work. Quality cloud solutions allow you to securely give them that flexibility.
Studies have shown that properly administered cloud solutions can also lower downtime and support requests. That means that your business can stay productive.
There are additional benefits to the cloud as well. It scales easily. If your business starts to grow more rapidly you can easily scale up most cloud solutions to accommodate. In addition, cloud solutions will frequently be more secure than an on-premises server. The ability to work from anywhere is a huge benefit. Some cloud apps offer an opportunity for easier collaboration that can accelerate how your teams work together. The flexibility, efficiency, and strategic value the cloud offers are significant.
9. Account Management
An IT service that is frequently overlooked is account management. Account managers handle everything related to IT that is not a support request. It can include specking out and purchasing new hardware, planning projects, preparing IT reporting, strategic planning, and ensuring excellence in service delivery.
This is a key IT service for many companies because the account manager can help them have visibility into the success or failure of the current IT solutions. They help put processes in place for continuous improvement. Account managers can also resolve problems and help plan.
Business Case/Benefit: IT services are sometimes delivered without an account manager at all. This can frequently cause communication issues, a lack of forward thinking, and waste. An account manager helps overcome those problems by effectively communicating with your team, providing transparent information, reporting, and resolving conflicts when they arise.
They can also save you a huge amount of time specking out and procuring hardware, and planning projects. Part of their job is to look forward to the IT needs that are coming up in the next 6 months to a year and make you aware of them. This enables you to plan more strategically with your staff, and it can save you both time and money.
10. Virtual CIO/CTO
Fractional IT services can be a huge win for small businesses. A virtual CIO is a great example of that. Most companies need some overall direction and strategy when it comes to their IT. Higher level consultation on needs and an intricate understanding of the business is needed to be able to give the best advice. That plus leadership is what a CIO would typically provide. Most businesses, even small ones, could benefit significantly from that type of direction and strategy.
Business Case/Benefit: The challenge for most small businesses is the cost. A C-level IT resource draws a salary that simply isn’t in the budget for most small businesses. So, what’s the solution? A virtual CIO. They consult with your business and fill the role that a CIO or CTO normally would. They just do so on a fractional basis and spread their time between multiple organizations. This gives a smaller company all the benefits of their higher-level expertise at a fractional cost that is affordable for small businesses.
11. IT Reporting
Another frequently overlooked IT service is reporting. This consists of compiling data from your IT into reports that can inform how you give service, plan, and solve problems.
There are a lot of reports that can be helpful for service delivery. Reporting that helps you understand your most common issues and requests as an organization is valuable. It allows you to put automation in place to solve common problems and prevent them from happening. It can also be a red flag that you need to look deeper and find the root cause of an issue so that you can eliminate it completely. Both lead to better resolution outcomes and happier users.
IT reporting can also help you plan more effectively. Reports that give you data on aging hardware and when it will need to be replaced allow you to plan hardware replacement, include them in the budget, and schedule the work of swapping them out. This allows you to be proactive instead of reactive and can save you from downtime and the associated costs.
Service level reporting can inform you on how long it takes your IT team to resolve issues. This can help you make decisions about who is doing the support and how that team is structured. If you have an outside provider, it allows you to know if they’re keeping their promises.
Business Case/Benefit: Data is power. Having accurate IT reporting helps you to make better decisions for your organization that improve response times, eliminate waste, and plan effectively.
12. IT Automation
IT automation is an IT service that has a lot of different applications. You can automate IT functions for many items such as patches and updates, backups, new user creation, software installation, virus destruction, monitoring and alerting, and much more.
An example: Your server is full on disk space. The monitoring software identifies this and creates a ticket for an engineer to resolve. Automation allows you to write a script that triggers when that alert is created. The script will go through the server and automatically empty the recycling, delete temp files, and go through things in the order you’ve specified to free up space. Then it will check again. If the problem is resolved and the use space is now below threshold the script will mark the ticket resolved and close it out. No human interaction necessary.
That’s one example, but it can be used for almost any repetitive task that needs to be done in IT. They can be set to run based on a particular alert like the example above, or they can be premade scripts that an engineer can use when troubleshooting to automate a part of his job and save time. These scripts can be custom to your network and set of needs.
Business Case/Benefit: Automation can prevent many issues from happening in the first place, which can save you the cost of downtime. It can also save your IT team HUGE amounts of time if used effectively in the course of their daily work. This ultimately makes them more efficient and saves you money.
Mistakes Commonly Made Before Outsourcing IT Services
If you own a small business with less than 125 employees and with typical technology needs, it’s almost certain that outsourcing IT services would offer you a superior solution and cost savings at the same time.
Sometimes small business owners want to try different solutions to meet their IT needs before they are ready to “pay the piper” and hire someone. These are some common scenarios we see that frequently end up costing businesses more money and frustration.
Scenario 1 – Accidental Techie
Another thing that we see often in small businesses is that they simply take the person they already have on staff that seems to know more and make them the designated IT guy. This is a bad idea. They have no training. They don’t know what solutions you need. If they spend the time it takes to figure things out it will consume so much of their time, they won’t be effective at the job you originally hired them for.
Your business will be better served by letting them do the job they were hired for and leaving IT to an expert. Accidental techies are frequently busy with other jobs and can’t give IT the time needed to put successful solutions in place. Most business owners don’t realize this till they have a disaster and realize that their well-meaning accidental techie was woefully unprepared.
Scenario 2 – Part Time IT “The Buddy”
Another idea that some business owners have is hiring an IT guy part time. Maybe they have a buddy that knows about computers. The idea is to get some help at a lower cost. The challenge they frequently run into is that all the support needs don’t fall within the part time hours. Users end up waiting extended periods until the IT guy is back, and productivity suffers.
Additionally, the IT guy may have no way to know about problems that arise when he’s not in the office. Maybe backups are failing, or servers are going offline. With a part time schedule, they can’t get to security updates and other critical things as quickly. It’s also a difficult position to hire for part time.
Scenario 3 – Hourly IT Support
You’ve finally realized that you need help and hired an IT guy on an hourly basis. The problem is that everything they do for you is billable hourly. The bills pile up and are somewhat unpredictable. One month you have a disaster and wrack up a huge bill. Another month it’s quiet and there’s nothing.
Unfortunately, the hourly IT guy isn’t really incentivized to fix things permanently. They get paid every time things are broken. You start to see band aid fixes. There is little strategy or thought for the future. They simply fix whatever issue is happening now.
Preventative maintenance isn’t happening. Why would it? They get paid when things are broken. Backups aren’t completing successfully and they won’t be held responsible because they simply respond hourly when things are broken.
Scenario 4 – Full Time In-House IT
The reality is that with 125 computers or less to manage you likely don’t have enough to keep a full time IT guy busy. That’s not to say one wouldn’t be happy to do the work when he’s needed and to chill in his office the rest of the time.
There is also an 80/20 rule that applies in IT support. 80% of the requests that go to IT for help can be solved by an entry level IT technician at a lower cost. The other 20% of requests require someone with a lot more experience and certifications. That means that you can either hire a Jr. technician at a lower cost and when the most critical things hit the fan he’ll be lost and fumbling, or you can hire a senior tech at a much higher cost, and he’ll be working beneath his skill level 80% of the time.
In all these scenarios you’ll have additional expenses. You’ll likely need to pay for employee benefits and training with a full-time employee. IT toolsets for monitoring and management will be an additional cost. You’ll need to pay separately for all your security solutions.
Are IT Services Right for My Business?
If you’ve been through some of the scenarios above and need a better solution for your IT services, outsourcing may be a fit. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your current IT solution give you a quick response when you need it?
- Are you waiting 24 hours or more for a response?
- Do you have confidence in your cyber security solution?
- Is your current IT solution proactive or reactive?
- Do you have confidence that you have a solid backup solution in place that is being managed correctly?
- Do you experience regular downtime on your network?
- Is your network monitored for performance? If things go offline does anybody know?
- Is Office 365 being administered correctly? Are you paying more than you need to on licensing costs?
- Do you spend time interfacing with IT vendors instead of growing your business?
- Are you confident that you’re leveraging the cloud to your company’s advantage?
- Do you receive the high-level strategic guidance for IT that you need?
- Do you have the right reporting to help you plan for IT and best manage your resources?
- Is your business growing rapidly, and do you need a more scalable IT solution?
If you’re not happy with the solutions you have in place in any of these areas, you should investigate outsourcing your IT services. All these problems can lead to lost productivity, employee frustration, and shrinking profit margins. If your concerns are with backups or security your business could be at an even bigger risk.
Outsourcing your IT services with a company like i.t.NOW can help you to avoid those headaches and mitigate risk. With a quality IT managed services program from i.t.NOW you can:
- Get fast responses when you need them from a top-notch help desk (Less that 1 hour in most cases, and even faster in an emergency!)
- Build a cyber security plan that you have complete confidence in
- Get a proactive support partner that is invested in your success and motivated to eliminate downtime
- Build a rock-solid backup and disaster recovery solution that is fully monitored and managed
- Minimize downtime
- Monitor your network for performance 24/7/365
- Audit Office 365 and SASS applications to eliminate waste
- Take back the time you used to spend on being the IT go between
- Leverage the cloud to the advantage of your business
- Get the high-level strategic guidance that your organization needs
- Be empowered with data driven reporting that can help you make better IT decisions
- Scale your IT like a boss
If you’re ready to take control of your IT for the good of your business contact us today. We’d love to discuss your business in detail to see how we can help.