Managed IT services: an introduction
Managed IT services are a core function of many businesses today. If you haven’t already engaged with a managed services provider, the chances are that you have considered it.
But to the uninitiated, it can be difficult to navigate the complex and variable landscape of managed IT services contracts. What are the basic components that you should always look for?
The first core aspect of any managed services solution is remote monitoring and management of the client’s IT. The core goal of a remote monitoring solution is to maximise system uptime for the client, so that they can get on with their day-to-day operations, but how this is actually achieved can take many shapes. It may be a purely reactive system, which identifies flaws or incidents and triggers alerts accordingly; or it may incorporate more proactive elements, actively seeking out potential problems, or features which run the risk of escalating.
It is also becoming increasingly common for remote monitoring systems to incorporate a certain amount of automation, with mundane and repetitive tasks delivered on schedule without the need for human intervention. This might include patch and upgrade management, antivirus and anti spam updates, or configuration of firewalls and other tools.
Remote monitoring and management of some or all of the IT infrastructure may be viewed as the foundational element of all managed IT services contracts. It enables organisations to focus on core activities with the peace of mind that their IT is being watched over automatically.
This, too, can take many shapes. It can be available during normal business hours only, 24/7 or other set parameters. It might be telephone or online only, or it might offer a series of tiers, culminating in on-site technical assistance as required. It might be there only to actively repair faults and fix incidents, or it may also be on hand to respond to functional queries and provide guidance on how to operate particular systems. Service desks may be remote from the client organisation, onshore or offshore, or they may be deployed on the customer’s site as part of a bespoke solution.
The point is, a managed IT services contract should always include a problem management and remediation service, and this almost always includes some kind of human interaction.
When a service request is made, whether because an incident has taken place on the IT infrastructure, or simply because a user has a question, the managed services provider should have a ticketing system in place to log and triage the request. In this way, urgent problems can be resolved most quickly and by the most senior individuals within the managed services provider. Problem resolution via the service desk should usually be part of the overall service level agreement, with factors such as average time to resolve an incident, and proportion of incidents resolved remotely generally considered as key metrics.
Remote monitoring and the service desk are usually the first core elements of a managed services contract to be considered, but engagement with software and hardware providers should not be neglected.
Very often, particularly for smaller clients, managed IT services providers act as a pool of expertise and IT qualifications that the customer cannot afford to maintain in-house. This makes them the best port of call for technical conversations with vendors, and for providing advice regarding the ongoing development of the client’s IT infrastructure.
Good managed services contracts should consider the relationship between the client and its hardware and software vendors, and how the managed services provider can form a bridging service between them. This generally adds huge value to the end user, by dramatically speeding up and de-mystifying procurement and integration processes. However, it is vitally important to choose a trusted managed services provider who can deliver a sensible ‘translation’ between the two.
With these three elements in place, you can develop a bespoke managed services contract which suits your precise needs, whilst delivering the core benefits of enabling you to focus on core business strategy in the peace of mind that your IT is being taken care of.