Introduction To Managed Services
Managed services have become synonymous with effective management of IT assets and objects for thousands of companies and businesses that are seeking ways to save money by outsourcing the management of certain aspects of their IT operations. The concept is catching on quickly and as such many more Brisbane businesses are adopting the philosophy behind the operation of such a service. It has saved the companies who use managed services countless amounts of money that would otherwise have been spent utilizing the services of an IT support contractor who would come in to perform single jobs when issues arise and then bill them accordingly. Managed services have, over time, gotten better with improved and scaled-up services that are tailored to the needs of their clients. Just like how we could not imagine a world without automobiles, many Brisbane based companies cannot imagine a world without managed IT support services. It has become a need that helps their IT support teams to focus on other pertinent business functions that in effect aid in the smooth functioning of their operations. If your business has not yet contracted managed services, you may be contemplating going that route in the very near future. If you already use that service, then you have seen the many benefits that been derived by managed services.
History is a topic that has fascinated many people through time. This is no less the case pertaining to the specific history of managed services. This article will focus on the history and evolution of managed services as well as what the future holds for this business model.
The Old Way of Doing Things
In the past, when technology was young, computer repair services were performed only when needed, based on a break and fix model. The break and fix model basically encompassed calling an in-house IT technician to quickly rectify issues that are encountered, or requesting the service of an off-site person who would come in to effect repairs and be paid a nominal fee for his services. In some cases when the magnitude of the problem could not be handled by in-house personnel or an off-site contractor, a managed services specialist would have to be called in to make the necessary repairs, a service that could prove very costly at times. In the early 1990s, the person who built the PCs for the company would be the one who comes in to service and repair them. The drawback with that, however, is that there was no guarantee that he would be able to come right away to resolve the issues that had arisen, a situation which meant that the problem could get worse as time progressed.
Another major drawback of having someone come in only when computer repairs were needed to be done was that of troubleshooting inefficiencies. This is because the tools that were used to service the ever-changing computer systems had trouble catching up with new technologies. This resulted in the persons who were charged with repairing computers not having the proper tools every time they went on a job, resulting in repair delays and in some cases no repairs at all. In addition, the IT technicians would have to do periodic on-site reviews of the infrastructure in an attempt to find hints of issues before they escalated into massive problems. The problem with that was the service technicians were only able to observe what was happening on the day of their visit. When things took place in the future, they would be unaware of it until their customers informed them, at which time they would have to come and ascertain why the system failed and then make the necessary repairs. Human errors were also a cause for concern as IT technicians tried to be accommodating and had to spend a lot of time correcting end user issues before being able to substantially address the real issues. So, the break and fix method was not the best way of keeping a company’s IT infrastructure running optimally. A more systematic and well managed way had to be devised in order to have a more efficient way of getting things done.
The Beginning of Managed Services
Managed Service Providers evolved around the late 1990s when Application Service Providers, or ASPs, began to emerge on the scene, helping to pave the way for remote support of IT infrastructure. Large Fortune 500 companies began building enormous IT networks to run their business operations, making them the first to pave the way for managed services. Software and hardware vendors began adding new and more improved ways for systems to alert them as early as possible to potential problems using advancements in the Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP. By way of definition, Simple Network Management Protocol “is an Internet-standard protocol for collecting and organizing information about managed devices on IP networks and for modifying that information to change device behavior.” Large networks that were complex to manage were the first systems that had the ability to take advantage of SNMP to monitor networks and turn the data gathered into usable information. This protocol was too expensive small businesses at the time.
As time progressed, by 2005, the monitoring systems had matured to the extent where smaller companies were able to take advantage of some of the benefits and features of this technology, a move that effectively started the widespread managed services movement. After initially focusing only on remote management and monitoring of networks and servers, Managed Service Providers expanded their services to include managed security, mobile device management, managed print services, security-as-a-service, and remote firewall administration. In 2005, Amy Luby of Managed Service Provider Services Network that was acquired by High Street Technology Ventures, Erick Simpson of Managed Services Provider University, and Karl W. Palachuk were the first to advocate and pioneer the use of the managed services business model. This model effectively has two main objectives:
- The assets and objects on the monitored network that will result in a risk or an issue sends alerts to the Managed Service Provider in real time, either before or when it happens.
- Each and every alert that is received is viewed as important and needs to be addressed immediately.
The managed services model made reporting of issues the top priority so that they could be addressed before they became a huge problem. This provided the basis from which MSPs could effectively manage IT networks so as to ensure reduced risk to the infrastructure and provide maximum up-time. As the model improved, IT technicians became more efficient, devising plans and formulating ways of performing regular on-site checks of IT infrastructure, user information, and logs to locate clues to potential problems before they got out-of-hand. They started using detailed checklists to record their findings so that future visits could become more productive on their part.
As the availability of information on managed services grew, books were published to further impart that knowledge to those who needed to know more about how it works. For example, the first books on the topic of managed services were published in 2006 by two of the first advocates and pioneers of the managed services model. They were:
- Palachuk, Karl. Service Agreements for SMB Consultants. Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 978-0976376026.
- Simpson, Erick (15 August 2006). The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice. Intelligent Enterprise. ISBN 978-0978894306.
Since the publishing of these books, the managed services business model has gathered momentum among enterprise level companies. The Value-Added Reseller (VAR) community has also evolved to a higher level of services by adapting the managed service model and tailoring it to Small and Medium-sized Business, or SMB, companies by adding features or services to existing products and then reselling those products as integrated products or complete “turn-key” solutions that are specific to the needs of the SMBs.
Presently Available Managed Services
Over the past decade and a half, the evolution of managed services has produced a wide range of services that small, medium, and large companies have embraced with open arms. The most common managed services that can be accessed now include:
- Connectivity and bandwidth
- Network monitoring
- Disaster recovery
- Desktop and communications
- Help desk and technical support
As managed services continue to evolve, we are likely to see more diverse offerings from the various providers. This can only mean better IT infrastructure management as well as more improved and faster means of identifying issues long before they manifest themselves in any way, shape, or form.
What the Future Holds
Businesses, regardless of their size, need technology to grow, function efficiently, and compete effectively. As such, within the last few years, the most resilient Managed Service Providers have been those who (1) are keeping up-to-date with trends in the IT market, (2) have adopted cloud technology, and (3) understand that social media, mobile devices, and cloud technology are essential in helping clients drive business solutions that aid in the running and growth of their businesses. This business-focused approach by MSPs provide IT services as well as value to their clients’ business. As more and more businesses come under the umbrella of Managed Services, they will reap rich benefits that can never be derived in any other way. The future of those businesses is bright as the MSPs continue to do their best to ensure that the IT infrastructure of their clients is on par with industry standards and secure from every angle.
As we look to the future with great anticipation, managed services promise to deliver more diverse and cost-effective services to businesses that need them. The qualitative and quantitative values of managed services are immeasurable to the extent that their effectiveness speaks volumes to their success and the fact that they deserve a place in the modern IT structure of companies all over the world. With such a rich history, managed services will be around for a long time to come. Managed Services Providers will ensure that you have the latest security, backup your important data, cut operating costs, save you money since you will not need to hire an in-house specialist, reduce downtime, and leave your mind at ease knowing that your network is being constantly monitored. Businesses that are not yet using them are missing out on these and other wonderful benefits that are derived from using a MSP. As time goes by, such companies will see the light and join the fold of the thousands of other companies that are already reaping the benefits of using managed services.