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February 20, 2017
Most people have heard of cloud computing. Even if they have not heard of it, they use it nearly every day. Netflix, Instagram and Twitter are all cloud computing platforms. Those a little more in-depth into the cloud community may have heard of managed service providers. Are they the people that provide the cloud? No. They are a different animal. They are part of the cloud, but their services go way beyond what normal cloud providers offer.
What Exactly are Managed Service Providers
Essentially, think of your IT department somewhere else. You pay a subscription and all your IT needs are taken care of. Your servers are typically located at the service providers data center, and through a contract, they take care of all the needs you require for your business. This means they make sure the servers are running, repair hardware issues, perform upgrades, monitor and analyze data as needed, and fix any other problems that may occur.
So They Just Manage Servers?
No. That is the basic level of what managed service providers do. They can also set alerts, allocate several layers of security as needed, perform patches or upgrades to applications, perform backups, and create a disaster recovery plan for your company. As far as hardware goes, they have moved well beyond the “just servers” mentality. Managed service providers can also set up private, public and hybrid cloud infrastructures. They also help companies manage the Internet of Things (IoT).
In other words, they help manage laptops, desktops, smart phones, wireless medical devices, tablets, and pretty much anything else that uses wireless technology. Included in this offering is the ability to use virtual devices that replicate corporate machines anywhere employees are located.
So, They Are A Valuable Asset?
Very much so. The purpose of managed service providers is not to have you fire your IT department, at least not all of it. Their purpose is to remove the day-to-day duties associated with your IT department, so your IT personnel can focus on higher-value projects.
There are a lot of physicalities still required by your IT department. Also, this frees them up to worry about infrastructure and other future endeavors. Small businesses can benefit from managed service providers by not having an IT department, or by hiring just one or two personnel. Enterprise corporations still have large IT departments, but their servers for HR, accounting, shipping and receiving, client assessment, and other services dependent on a daily acquisition of data are outsourced to managed service providers. Not only does outsourcing help with saving man-hours, but it can also help to prevent problems from occurring. At the very least, problems will get fixed faster with a dedicated team of professionals watching over your servers.
What to Look for When Selecting a Managed Service Provider
This is not a trick, but managed service providers come in many different breeds. You have to find one that caters to your needs and your business. For an example, TOSS C3 specializes in services for accounting firms, healthcare facilities, insurance companies, and law firms, but that does not mean they are limited to those areas. They can meet the demands of almost any business, regardless of the size or industry. Not all managed service providers can do that, so here are some helpful hints to help you in your search:
• Experience – As noted above, TOSS C3 has experience in several industries. This means they know what requirements are needed in these industries. They are aware of HIPAA regulations, state regulations for storing data for law firms, and criteria needed for disaster recovery processes across the spectrum of industries. Make sure the managed service provider you are considering understands your needs outside the server room. Are there compliances or regulations that need to be met? You can also see if they have training available for your IT department in certain aspects of technology when it comes out.
• Aligned with IT Practices – Believe it or not, IT has its own set of criteria to be considered the best at what they do. ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is an industry standard that promotes a good standard for IT practices. They cover performance management, inventory, configurations, capacity management, and many other practices. Ask your managed service provider if they follow the ITIL standards.
• The SLA – The SLA, or Service Level Agreement, is the contract between you and your provider. It is imperative when the provider is telling you all the things they can do to help your company, that all those words find their way into the SLA. A good business relationship can start early, but you also want to make sure to cover your assets. If everything is in writing then there will be no suspect to what you expect in service, or what they are willing to provide.
• The Company Profile – This is not your profile, but the managed service provider’s company. You want to find out how long they have been around. Ask for a list of companies the provider is providing for. It is important to know if the company has the stability to stay around as your company grows, and that others have been happy with the performance of the provider.
• Think Ahead – Ask the provider if they are forward thinkers. Do they stay up on the new technologies as soon as they come out, or do they like to wait a couple of years to see where the technology is heading in the market. You want the forward thinkers to help your company grow. If new technologies arise and they are too expensive for your company at the time, that is fine, you still want the options as they become available. This shows the provider is competitive and has plans to stay in the industry for the long term.
Managed service providers offer a new level of experience for your company. Not only do they bring technologies and stability to your company, but they can enhance your work experience. They let you focus on everything within the company, except IT. An important part of every business, but not a part that has to be a problem for growing companies. Find out how TOSS C3 can help your organization:
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