Managed Services – What is needed for your business.

There are many managed service providers out there who can support your business network and make sure that it is proactive, sustainable and resilient.  Unfortunately, out of that large number of managed services provider companies, there are also a lot of half-hearted and unresponsive ones.

Providing managed services for information and communication technologies (ICT) is one of the most unrestricted business models available.  The managed services provider industry is unregulated, which means that anyone who “knows computers” can start a managed services business.

How do you know you are getting the best available?

Here are ten points that you need to focus on to ensure YOUR business will get the best managed services provider available in your area.

They own all of the problems associated with your business systems.

The main principle around a managed service provider for your business is to allow your staff and yourself to be productive and profitable.  This can only be achieved when all of the technology is working in harmony.  Understanding every aspect of your technical systems is a complicated and time-consuming process, but is one that your managed service provider should take charge of.  A good managed service provider will do it all.  Whether a computer is broken, the internet is down, or the phone system isn’t working, one call should be enough to solve it.

You should never have to hear “that is not our problem.”  They have to take ownership of all of your business problems.  One phone call to fix it all.

They do test restores regularly.

There is nothing more depressing than doing a restore of information in the heat of battle and finding out that the right information has not been backed up.  This is also noticeable when the backup has been completed, the data is verified and the media is corrupt.  A good managed service provider will do a regular restore of information so that they are happy to put their name to the quality of your business data backup.  Your business resilience is assured.

They have an all-inclusive support plan.

No additional costs, no hidden costs, no unforseen costs.  The one contracted amount that the managed service provider charges your business should be a total amount for the month.  It has to include all on-site work (including regular maintenance visits), off-site work, remote work (server restarts and patch updates—any time) and help desk components.  It is the responsibility of the managed service provider to make sure all of your ICT is working correctly, and they have to prove that the responsibility lies with them at all times.

They deliver monthly reports.

At the end of each month you should get a health report on what your business systems have been doing over the preceding month.  This report can be a one-page report or it can be 20 pages; it depends on what your business requires.  The reporting process should also include quarterly and annual reports on licensing and less important components of the business.

They are monitoring 24/7/365.

To create the reports, the managed service provider should have some type of agent on all of the computers, servers, tablets and phones.  This allows all of the systems within the business to be monitored and, more importantly, managed.

They give proactive advice.

The monitoring component of a good managed services provider will have a flow-on effect on your business.  These reports generated by the agent will allow business decisions to be made based on analytics, not on seat-of-the-pants situations.  The reports will tell you when your servers are getting overloaded or running out of disk space, which will allow for a planned approach to replacements, upgrades and improvements.

No geek speak.

In the world of managed service providers, geek speak is rife.  There is nothing worse than being told by your managed service provider that something needs to happen but all you understand about the conversation is “blah blah RAM blah blah.”  You need to be informed, in business terms, what is happening, why it is happening and how to fix it and make sure it does not happen again.  Times like that, you need people to speak in common English, not code.

They guarantee response times.

The managed services provider will have genuine service levels that they have to adhere to.  They need to be able to guarantee that in an emergency, they will be focused on your problems within a minimal amount of time.  Response times should be guaranteed by their service level agreement.

They answer their phones live.

There is nothing in the world like ringing up your managed services provider and getting an automated response, especially in your time of need.  A good managed service provider will have a human answer the phone.  They may not be the most technical person, but they will take a message and ensure that someone rings you back ASAP.

They offer a free audit.

If a managed service provider is as good as they say they are, they will have no problem with doing a 20- to 35-point security and business network audit—for free.  They will quite happily give you the audit and a report to show what their systems can do and how their network support can help your business.  The audit should accurately reflect what they discover about your network, and should reflect nothing wrong, if there is nothing wrong.

If all this sounds like a lot to ask, that’s because it is.  A good managed service provider can give you peace of mind and save your business from costly technology failures.  There are managed service companies out there who will offer all the features listed above—it’s worth spending a little extra time and asking a few probing questions to find a provider that won’t disappoint.

Roger Smith, is an educator. Teaching students at ADFA (UNSW) and showing them how vulnerable they are to cybercrime.

He is also CEO at R & I ICT Consulting Services Pty Ltd, an Amazon #1 author on Cybercrime and founder of the SME Security Framework. He is a Consultant who specialises in inexpensive and highly effective security strategies for small and medium businesses and not for profit organisations.

He has developed and authored the SME Security Framework and the Security Policy Training Course which are considered to be the definitive guides to helping SME's protect their organisation using the principles of Technology, Management, Adaptability and Compliance.