What IS Managed IT Services Anyway?


By Mark Hepinstall
Director of Managed Services
Trivalent Group, Inc.

I seem to encounter varying opinions on what actually constitutes “Managed” IT Services in today’s technology landscape.  The reality is that the definition has evolved and will continue to evolve as the technology we use in business continues to change.

20 to 30 years ago, it became common for larger organizations to engage with IT Service Providers in what I would call a “traditional” IT outsourcing model.  In other words, the IT Service Provider would assign a team of IT professionals to the client organization, and those individuals would report to work each day at the client’s offices and were dedicated exclusively to that one client.  There are obvious benefits to that approach, as the Service Provider bears the burden of recruiting, hiring, and staffing the team of resources actually supporting the client’s environment.  Moreover, the team resources achieve thorough familiarity with the client’s IT environment without having to be concerned about distractions or needs from other clients that may also be supported by the same IT Service Provider.   Particularly for larger organizations, this model served very well to meet the need to adequately support end user requirements as well as providing expertise to keep the network core services available and running well.

However, as technology has continued to evolve in scope and complexity and as organizations of all types and sizes have become increasingly dependent on technology to conduct their day-to-day operations, this model tends to be cost-prohibitive for most organizations in the Small and Midsized Business (SMB) space.

With the evolution of the Internet, combined with the development and ongoing improvements in remote management and monitoring (RMM) tools, Managed IT Services has developed into a cost-effective approach to provide: (1) a “shared” pool of IT professionals (2) who report to work in a central location instead of individual client sites and (3) provide support to multiple SMB client organizations (4) using a shared set of remote access/control tools, processes, and methodologies that (5) can be applied across a broad spectrum of vertical markets.

On the surface, this may seem like a simple approach that would be easy to implement and advantageous for organizations of all sizes to leverage to their individual benefit.  However, with most things in technology, there are the inevitable “gotchas.”  Managed Services is not really “just another way” to deliver the same services IT providers have always delivered for a lower, fixed monthly price.

Rather, the reality is that individual IT environment complexities, such as size, number of locations, unique applications and systems, etc., can wreak havoc with the ability of a Managed Services Provider (MSP) to deliver consistent, quality service that results in client environment stability, reliability, and security.  Receiving service from an MSP can often be a frustrating experience if a client organization is unable or unwilling to adhere to industry best-practices with regard to the applications and systems they feel they need to operate on a day-to-day basis.  The most successful MSPs have developed the ability to clearly define what’s needed to bring an environment into compliance with those industry best-practices at the very beginning of the relationship to ensure that the environment can be managed in the most efficient way going forward.  In many cases, this can translate to a significant investment in a very short time to rectify elements in an environment that are clearly not in line with those best-practice requirements.

So, when evaluating whether or not signing up for Managed Services might be the way to go for your organization, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are we ready to go about this a different way?
  • Are we willing to invest what’s needed to get our environment into a reliable, supportable mode?
  • Are we able to adopt a proactive, preventative mindset when it comes to technology?

If you answered “Yes” to those questions, be sure to look for an MSP who has been around for a while and who clearly understands that proactive, preventative approach with a well-defined, proven list of industry standards and best practices.