What Exactly Are Managed IT Services?

If you own a small to mid-sized business, chances are you’ve heard the words managed IT services. You’ve probably been contacted at least once by a company pitching you their services. 

But you may not know, exactly, what managed IT services are, or maybe you have a vague idea but you aren’t really sure why you should consider them.

If you check any of these boxes, this post is for you.

Let’s start with the what: 
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The primary objective of managed IT is to ensure your systems operate seamlessly, securely, and align with your business objectives. Providers can offer a wide range of services — from network monitoring and cybersecurity, to data backup and recovery, cloud services, help desk support, and more.

So that’s the what, but before we get into why you should consider partnering with a managed IT services provider, we need to talk about the different types of IT services that are available.

The IT starter pack

When a company is first opening its doors, IT is usually not that big of a priority. 

Unless your industry involves things like healthcare and financial data, you probably just need to keep the computers running and a way to back up information.

But as your business grows and you bring on more employees, things start to get more complicated — and time consuming. And this is when an individual — either a friend or someone a friend recommended to you — is often brought onboard to ensure your tech is running smoothly.

For companies that never expand beyond, say, five to ten employees, having one person on staff or working part time to keep the lights on isn’t that big of a deal. You probably only need someone you can contact when things break, or you need to set up a new computer, or you need software updates.

As your business grows, though, so will your IT needs. New employees will mean new computers, new email addresses, new connections to your network. Your risk of a cyber breach also grows, which means purchasing cyber insurance, conducting employee cybersecurity training, ensuring all data is encrypted, and putting protections in place against email phishing attacks and other cyber threats.

Juggling all these and other needs can quickly outpace the capabilities and capacity of a lone IT team member, which means you’ll eventually arrive at a point where you have two choices: build an in-house IT team, or find an outside solution.
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The in-house route

For small to mid-sized businesses, building and maintaining an in-house IT team is usually less than ideal for 4 reasons:

1. Finding talent

Building an in-house IT team requires hiring, training, and retaining skilled professionals. These people are often in high demand, and they usually charge a premium for their services.

2. High costs

Beyond paying for the individual talent, maintaining in-house IT can be prohibitively expensive. Benefits, hardware purchases, software licensing, infrastructure upgrades as you grow — the costs can quickly skyrocket.

3. Scalability

Scaling an in-house team to accommodate fluctuating business needs can be both challenging and time-consuming. Plus, specialized projects can require expertise you may not have on staff, which only adds to the complexity.

4. Flexibility

In-house IT teams often struggled to keep pace with the constant monitoring and maintenance required to prevent potential issues and security breaches. This means they have to be reactive rather than proactive, and a reactive approach to IT management can result in costly downtime and bigger headaches.

Going with an “IT shop”

Since in-house IT is usually off the table unless a company has hundreds of employees, the next best option is to partner with a smaller IT shop.

These providers often consist of a handful of people with varying levels of experience, and their business model is to give your company the basics — some monitoring, help desk ticketing, and so on — on a fee-per-user model.

While IT shops aren’t inherently a bad choice, there are some common issues companies going with them often run into. 

One is the false sense of security they can provide, since it’s natural to assume that by paying professionals all your hardware and systems will be safe. But most IT shops are not full-fledged managed services providers, meaning they lack experts in every position and are unable to tackle every potential problem, which can lead to them outsourcing work to others.

Another issue is the unfortunate fact that many IT shops take a Trojan Horse approach with companies by selling a client on an initial cost (say, $175 per employee) only to find problems or service upgrade needs so they can steadily increase the costs.

This is why less reputable IT shops often offer three tiers of service. Let’s call them silver, gold, and platinum. Silver gets you to sign up, gold is what the level they really want you to pay for, and platinum is just there to make the gold level seem cheaper by comparison.

Again, not every IT shop is like this. There are many reputable ones out there who genuinely want to help their clients. But even then, as your company grows, you’ll eventually reach a size where you’re too big for a smaller IT shop’s capabilities. 

This finally brings us to…

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The benefits of managed IT services

Every successful company eventually reaches a size where technology can easily hold them back rather than propel them forward.

IT is complex, after all, and it has a habit of breaking down at the worst possible times. Meanwhile, hackers and other bad actors are always out there exploring — poking and prodding companies of all sizes for potential weaknesses.

Managed IT services help inoculate your business from these two problems by providing you with:

  • Access to enterprise-grade technology you may otherwise not be able to afford
  • Enhanced security and compliance through robust security measures like firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and data encryption
  • Proactive support and maintenance when you need it to minimize downtime and keep your operations running smoothly
  • Cost savings and predictable budgeting from a subscription-based model, especially when compared to in-house IT or smaller pay-per-user IT shops

Then there is the fact that a quality managed IT services provider will have the time, capacity, and expertise to manage all your technology needs — not just now, but as you continue to grow and expand.

They will own the risk inherent in managing IT, help you leverage technology to meet your business goals, and provide you with a roadmap for upgrading hardware and software to keep costs from being unpredictable.

Most of all, a managed IT services provider will be more than a monthly invoice you pay, and instead be a valuable resource for your company. 

From small projects like setting up a new computer to larger, more complex problems like moving offices, you will know that the technology your business needs will always be ready and available when and where you need it.

That way, you can focus on what really matters — the work that really drives your business.

This post was originally published in 2019 and has been rewritten and expanded with new information.

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Kevin is the Founder and CEO of Dynamic Computing. He’s both a visionary leader and an expert hands on practitioner with years of experience in all things IT. Dynamic Computing makes technology work for top-performing small to mid-sized organizations in the Seattle area. We offer managed IT services, IT consulting and transformations for companies from a few to a few hundred employees. Kevin founded Dynamic Computing in the year 2000 while in attending the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. As a fourth generation small business owner and entrepreneur, Kevin knew that small to mid-sized companies needed a better solution to help guide and support their use of technology. So he set out to build a company that would look closer to truly understand our clients' businesses and partner with them to guide and support them on their path. Over the past few years, we've focused our energy on growth, change and improvement, scaling our operations and improving our processes with every step. We've managed to triple the size of our team and revenues while consistently ranking among the best in class for industry performance. Kevin was recognized as a 40 under 40 honoree by the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2018 and as Washington State's Mr. Future Business Leader by FBLA in 1998. So what’s next? Well, we're building the premier managed IT services company in the Pacific Northwest and we won’t stop until we get there. We hope you’ll join us on our journey.