IT managed services, understanding the benefits and risks

All services have their benefits and risks and IT managed services are no exception. Most of the time the risks are essentially just the flip side of the benefits, so each company has to decide for themselves which matters to them more. With that in mind here are some benefits and risks of IT managed services.

Access to IT expertise versus developing IT expertise in house

When you use IT managed services, you are basically purchasing access to someone else’s expertise. You are not developing the expertise in-house. While this may be a concern in some areas of managed services, when it comes to IT managed services, this is probably a moot point, especially for SMBs.

First of all, very few SMBs actually need a high degree of IT expertise. IT is something they use for their business, it is not a part of their core offering. Secondly, a large part of the reason many SMBs turn to IT managed services is because they struggle to recruit and retain skilled IT staff, particularly skilled cybersecurity professionals.

IT Managed Services Benefits and Risks

It is true that IT managed services work best when the client and the IT managed services provider work in partnership. As a result, it is usually very helpful if there are people at the client’s side who have at least a decent, working knowledge of IT. At the same time, one of the signs of a good IT managed services provider is that they will be able to explain technology in terms the average (non-technical) person can understand, so even if your staff doesn’t have any IT expertise, it shouldn’t be a huge issue.

Trusting someone else with your data security versus taking care of it yourself

Similar comments apply to the issue of trusting someone else with your data security. In theory, the person who has the biggest stake in maintaining the security of data (or anything else) is the person to whom the data belongs.

In practice, however, IT managed service providers do have a huge stake in ensuring the security of their clients’ data for the simple reason that being responsible for a data breach could put them out of business. They are also likely to be in a much better position to look after the data, since they will probably have a much stronger cybersecurity team than any SMB could reasonably be expected to build.

This is therefore one instance where theory and practice tend to be very different.

Flexibility versus enforced processes

On the one hand, IT managed services offers massive flexibility of infrastructure, particularly if you use it in combination with cloud computing. You can easily scale your usage up and down to suit your business cycles without having to worry about sorting out the hardware, software (and licenses) and staff required to run IT infrastructure in-house.

On the other hand, IT managed services providers will generally have their own standard processes for routine situations (and probably extraordinary ones as well). As a client, you may have some degree of influence over these, but there will probably be an additional cost for any special arrangements and there may well be a limit as to how far an IT managed services provider can accommodate special requests.

In simple terms, IT managed services providers will have developed their processes for very solid operational reasons and will typically want to stick to them as much as possible because they have been proven to work.

Freedom to choose versus being locked into a vendor’s service

In theory, working with an IT managed services provider can give you a massive degree of freedom to choose what works best for you. This is true and if your business does require the highest possible level of room to maneuver financially then opting for IT managed services is probably the best way to get it.

Having just said that, there is usually a cost associated with moving to a (new) IT managed services provider. This is typically charged upfront rather than integrated into any monthly billing. There may also be a requirement to upgrade your existing infrastructure and this might also be payable upfront (although there can be other options such as leasing). This in itself is an argument for staying with one managed services provider for as long as possible.

Additionally, since IT managed services providers tend to prefer regular cash flow as much as anyone else, their pricing structures generally reward people who make longer-term commitments. What this means in practice is that your freedom to choose is at its highest before the migration. Afterward, your options may be more limited, but if you have chosen your IT managed services partner wisely, you’ll be perfectly happy to stay with them over the long term.

Managed Services Providers