What is Managed IT Services?

The term “Managed Information Technology Services” covers a range of product offerings that busy IT departments can take advantage of. Third parties offer managed IT services as a way to outsource some aspects of the IT infrastructure in order to save money, cut down on mundane tasks and focus a business’ technology resources and investment on corporate directives instead of day-to-day operations.

Some managed services include:

*Database administration
*Hardware monitoring
*Software as a service
*End user experience monitoring
*Unified communications
*Backup and disaster recovery

The “software as a service” aspect of managed services, also known as “hosted applications” or “cloud computing,” can be a very attractive option for some IT managers. However, it’s a tough sell for many department heads that have been raised on the concept of owning the entire enterprise. These managers may require some hand holding and a slower introduction to managed services before they fully embrace the cloud.

What is Cloud Computing for Business?

We’ve all been pouring over network diagrams for as long as we can remember. On these diagrams, what was used to represent a large network external to our own? A cloud. Cloud computing for business is essentially software and application services that a company uses, but is hosted by another entity. Instead of paying for servers, software licenses, maintenance and all other application ownership costs, a business pays fees to a third party that offers applications like email or CRM as a subscription-type service. While the cost comparison might make business owners happy, IT department managers will likely be wary at first. To see the benefits of cloud computing, some managers may want to try other managed services first.

How Can Managed Services Benefit Me?

The major advantage of managed services is how it eases daily, mundane tasks. How many IT departments complain that they can’t focus on being proactive or on planning because they’re busy putting out fires? As an example, consider backups and disaster recovery. A large organization will run multiple backups nightly. Any time an overnight backup fails, as they often do, an engineer must drop what they planned for that day and troubleshoot the issue. When this happens frequently, departments find themselves with a person hired to perform many tasks, dedicating an inordinate amount of time to one thing. A systems administrator has, in effect, become a dedicated backup specialist.

This happens a lot with IT departments. By offloading typical systems like backups, database administration or hardware monitoring to a managed services provider, IT department managers can focus their employees on long term goals. IT projects designed to improve efficiency and help a company’s bottom line can be better planned, managed and executed if engineers aren’t distracted by all the small problems that always seem to add up.

Software presents a similar problem. Owning a Microsoft Exchange server, for example, can add a considerable amount to a department’s daily grind. Little things happen and they all add up. Today a user might not be able to access a shared mailbox. Tomorrow someone might need three messages restored. Next week the company might need ten new resource mailboxes created.

These day-to-day tasks have nothing to do with a department’s long term goals and their impact on the company’s profitability; they’re just busy work that takes engineers’ eye off the ball. In this example, IT managers who get over their fear of software as a service could outsource Exchange email services the same way they farmed out their backup systems. By doing so, they would see the same benefits and even greater ones, such as decreased licensing costs, redundancy, built-in administration and more.

The Path to the Cloud

IT managers and department members who simply try managed services in a limited fashion will quickly see the benefits. Even managed services with no software component, such as database administration, backups, hardware monitoring or server colocation, have a major impact on a department’s productivity and will ease the load of those commonplace daily tasks. IT departments will become more efficient and actually proactive without all those fires to extinguish. If IT departments just sample managed services in a limited fashion, stating small with simple service monitoring for example, they will quickly realize the pluses and find their way into the cloud.

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