When businesses need help with their IT, the number of options can seem confusing. This is especially true as many IT outsourcing companies can tend to use terms such as IT Support and Managed Services almost interchangeably.
They do not make it clear to customers what the differences are or the implications for you as the customer. This blog takes a look at the different types of outsourced IT services available and which might be best for your company.
In an IT Support model, you as a company buy and own all IT hardware and software. You then pay a support provider an additional amount to fix any issues that you have with your IT infrastructure. This is also called a ‘break fix’ model.
Many IT Support companies also act as hardware and software resellers. You may purchase your IT technology from the same company that supports it – but will always pay a price for purchase plus a price for technical support.
Whilst support packages vary between providers, an IT Support contract will generally cover the majority of your infrastructure. Pricing will vary depending on how quickly you would like your issues to be resolved by the service desk and the amount of remote/ on-site engineer time you would like to prepay for. If you go over the amount included in your package, you will generally be charged per hour and this can quickly start to add up. A cheaper support contract can end up costing you more in the long run.
In a Managed Services model, you outsource a particular IT function to an IT provider, such as cloud services or email security services. You pay a fixed fee per month or quarter to licence any technology involved and receive a certain level of service.
Fixing any issues will generally be part of your service agreement. A Managed Services provider (MSP) will generally also take a more proactive approach to maintaining your service levels. This will include monitoring your system and pre-emptively identifying and resolving your issues. Their aim is to prevent your system from having issues, rather than just fixing issues when they arise.
As you are licencing the technology, Managed Services include all upfront hardware and software costs. You will only pay the ongoing monthly or quarterly fee. This also means that if you decide you no longer want the managed service, any technology involved will generally be returned to your provider.
What are the Pros and Cons of IT Support vs. Managed Services?
IT Support companies will only step in when something breaks. This means that you will have to wait for a period of time until whatever has been broken is fixed by a support technician. Depending on how serious this is, it could mean anything from a minor inconvenience to full business shutdown whilst the issue is resolved.
With a Managed Service offering, things may also break and cause inconvenience whilst they need fixing. However, a Managed Service is based around the premises of proactive rather than reactive support. This means that they will aim to resolve potential issues before they develop into problems that would cause business disruption, rather than waiting until a fix is needed.
Under an IT Support model, it is your company is responsible for all hardware and software purchases. This means that the modernity of your technology is in your hands – but also that if you want up-to-date, efficient technology you will need to pay the price.
Most Managed Services will provide automatic updates for software or a regular upgrade schedule for hardware to ensure that your IT infrastructure is up to date. This benefits them as well as you, as it helps them to maintain a high level of service.
Trust and Control
In an IT Support model, businesses often feel like that have more control. The business purchases and owns all hardware and software. You have control over when you call the IT company and can choose how much access to allow the IT company to have to your IT systems.
However, this control can rapidly diminish if an important or critical issue does occur. If a business cannot function due to an issue, this issue will need to be fixed whatever the cost. The business will have to pay whatever the IT Support company charges for resolving the issue and restoring business operations.
When you choose a Managed Service, you place a lot of trust in the provider. The provider will have access to your system and will be responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. They will also have ultimate ownership over the hardware or software you are licencing from them.
It is therefore important to choose a reputable provider and build a strong relationship with them. Under a Managed Services contract, you will also have a service level agreement that the provider will have to adhere to so you can ensure that you can expect and receive a high quality of service.
On an initial look, the costs of IT Support can look cheaper – especially if you are an established business and already have the majority of your hardware in place. If you have few problems and are happy to use technology which may be a little older or slower, then this may indeed be the case.
However, many businesses find that when they add up the costs of hardware replacements, IT Support covered by their agreement and additional IT Support that they have had to pay an hourly rate for, the price is higher than it would have been to engage with a Managed Services provider.
Another pricing element is budgeting. With a Managed Service, the cost will be the same every month and this is easier for financial managers to plan for. With IT Support, once-off hardware and additional support costs can often come unexpectedly. They can also come at the same time – for example if you have repeated issues with your server, incur additional costs from support team call-outs and then have to replace it.
Ultimately, You Decide
The IT industry is steadily moving towards a Managed Services model, due to the additional benefits that this model can give to both companies and IT providers. However, ultimately it is up to you as a business to decide which model works best for you.