Managed Service Providers
How to Choose a Managed Service Provider
Technology helps manage business. However, it’s often difficult and expensive for a business to effectively manage its technology. The cumulative costs, increased resources and high staffing levels required to keep hardware, software and networks all up to date and running flawlessly become a challenge for companies of all sizes. For many of them, the answer is to engage the services of a first-quality Managed Services Provider.
What Drives Business Outside of Your Business
Understanding your internal IT keeps your business operating. So how do you move outside of your business to do more business? Technology is a global business growing tool. What are others doing to maximize their growth potential? How are other businesses protecting their business from failure using Global Technology strategies? Let’s build a little understanding of some of these concepts.
Understanding Managed Services Providers
A Managed Services Provider takes on some, much or all of the challenges and responsibilities of maintaining your IT infrastructure at peak performance. Full-service MSPs handle the entire IT infrastructure, including computers, peripherals, storage, systems and applications, and networks.
But it’s not all or nothing. MSPs provide the level of services that match your needs. They can work on a specific IT area. For instance, implementing the infrastructure and software needed for Disaster Recovery. They can work within broader disciplines, installing and maintaining your network, for example. Or they can take on your entire IT operation – machines, software, support, network, and more.
Companies with 10 to 100,000 employees all take advantage of the increased reliability, decreased operating expenses and reduced payroll that MSPs provide. Small and medium businesses use MSPs heavily to create and maintain enterprise-level infrastructures. These companies span every possible category and sector, however, they’re united by the understanding that, left unmanaged by experts, the costs and complications of IT are disruptive to their operation and their profitability.
The most common and effective model is to pay a flat, monthly fee for a predictable amount of services and support. Good MSPs can predict cost to the dollar. That fee will include support services such as running the help desk, uptime standards, bandwidth requirements and monthly maintenance; whatever your specified managed service requirements are. An MSP will sign a Service Level Agreement, which specifies exactly how your infrastructure must run and establishes compensation adjustments if the MSP fails to maintain that level of performance.
- Web-based ticketing, tracking, monitoring and reporting
- Comprehensive view of your IT issues and ticket resolutions
- Efficient technology workflows and processes
- Click-of-the-mouse service calls
- Performance reporting
- Remote resolution of issues over 90% of the time
- Asset inventory
- Helpdesk services
- Application selection
- Cloud strategy
- Create and maintain a technology roadmap
- Disaster recovery and business continuity planning
- Financial budgeting, forecasting and ROI analysis
- IT project management
- IT strategy
- License compliance tracking and reporting
- Network architecture design
- Network planning and integration
- Project management
- Project research, RFP preparation and proposal review
- Vendor management
That’s the short list.
MSPs work as a team, bringing together the right expertise, skill and talent to address your specific IT demands. With a first-quality MSP, your account manager will remain with you for a long time, getting to know you, your business and your infrastructure. You might work with systems engineers and architects who will advise on and specify the structure of your IT foundation. You’ll work most often with your assigned team of engineers and technicians who should be certified on a broad range of systems, platforms, networks, applications, and more.
An MSP isn’t subject to the resource issues that you can face with an in-house IT staff. MSPs draw from a deep pool of certified talent and they rarely stop because of vacation, illness or other types of absence.
A deeper talent pool also means a deeper and wider skill set. This helps you deliver innovation to your business. Communication processes are finely tuned with MSPs, both with other team members and in the granularity and accuracy of their documentation. System management is only as good as its documentation. Your MSP must provide an up-to-date solution for documentation that is uniform throughout their organization.
It’s a fairly easy question to answer. It’s about business process, money and technology. Consistent monitoring, maintenance and support of any system that runs your business is important. Rarely do the tools within your business tell you when they are having problems and might fail. When was the last time a hammer sent you a diagnostic report?
With the proper tools, and someone to monitor them, your technology infrastructure is capable of telling you when there are or will be problems. The more complex your environment, the larger your internal IT staff has to be to monitor, maintain and grow your system. It’s a never ending cycle. Grow your technology – Grow your IT staff. MSPs provide the standardized support solution, economy of scale, and up-to-date solution set that keeps your business in its best shape.
Global Tech Q&A
Your Place, Their Place or The Cloud
What is “The Cloud” anyway? The Cloud is a fancy way of saying that your application or data exists on a computer other than the one you are working on.
- If you are in a business with a network server on your campus that stores your data, that server is in your Private Cloud.
- If that data in on a server in another building, and you connect to that building via the Internet, a MPLS Circuit (Multi-Protocol Labeled Switching), a Virtual Ethernet Circuit, or another telco provided service, and you/your company owns that server, then that is still in your Private Cloud.
- If you pay another entity, like your MSP, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft to host your data and applications on their servers, that is a Public Cloud. Office 365 is a Public Cloud service. The email is yours, however, you do not own the hardware or software that stores or runs your email server.
- In many cases, you might store your data on a “virtualized” server located in one of those Public Cloud provider’s data centers. In that case you are in a Hybrid Cloud. Your data, on your server, is located in someone else’s equipment and facility.
- Co-location is a type of Hybrid Cloud. It is most commonly referred to your equipment (servers, firewall, switches, routers, internet connection, battery backup, etc.) usually located in a vendor’s facility, usually in close proximity, driveable distance from your office. In most cases, your IT department or MSP will service and maintain that equipment remotely. On the occasion that it needs to be physically touched, it’s close enough to your team to drive there and take care of whatever service is needed. The facility usually houses dozens, even thousands of clients’ co-located networks.
Your business needs will determine which parts of your infrastructure you keep in house, which parts you co-locate with your local data center or IT Vendor or which parts you move to “The Cloud”. That includes storage, security, applications, traffic management, or any other piece of your IT landscape.
What most people understand and experience about the Internet exists in its smallest part – The Surface Web. This is where you will find .04% (less than ½ of 1%) of the actual content stored in the Internet. Here is where you search Google, Yahoo, Bing & DuckDuckGo for your much needed noodle recipe and YouTube videos; You use Facebook and Twitter; You read your daily news stories and stream movies on Netflix.
This is your Internet!
Deep Web & The DARK WEB
It’s better that we define these together as one contains the other. Here is a quote from our friends at ID Agent: “The Dark Web is a hidden universe contained within the “Deep Web”- a sublayer of the Internet that is hidden from conventional search engines. Search engines like Google, BING, and Yahoo only search .04% of the indexed or “surface” Internet. The other 99.96% of the Web consists of databases, private academic and government networks, and the Dark Web. The Dark Web is estimated at 550 times larger than the surface Web and growing. Because you can operate anonymously, the Dark Web holds a wealth of stolen data and illegal activity.”
It is said in our industry that There are only two types of networks: Those that have been hacked and those that don’t know they have been hacked. For you as a business executive, protecting your intellectual property is a must. Protecting your business, your creations, your money, your trade secrets… this is the lifeblood of why you are in business and what keeps you there. When hackers exploit your business in a way that compromises your success you feel angry, threatened and violated. So what do you do today before you become the victim?
If you live in a cold, wintery climate you understand the concept of layering your clothing before you go outside. The layers keep you warm. Your approach to security within your network needs to have this same concept. Each layer of the network has an operator and a control. Here are some of them described.
- The User – Common Sense Security (don’t click a links in email or open blind attachments)
- Intrusion Detection Software – Behavioral inspection of data as it is used and transferred
- Firewall – Rules and policies that allow, restrict, inspect, and block traffic between networks.
- Anti-malware/ransomware – real-time protection against today’s most deadly IT threats
- Anti-Virus – Primary defense against computer infections
- Operating Systems – Patch Management from the OS vendor
But what about The Dark Web?
When a hacker exploits your network and steals your data it usually ends up on The Dark Web. This process may take a while; it may take a day. It may have even been there before you ever know you were compromised. This is why it is so important to add an additional layer to your security posture where you monitor The Dark Web for your information.
Unique security companies spend their entire existence searching and combing The Dark Web for stolen data. Then, they provide services to you that search what they find for information about you and your company. Once they find it, they send you a report with what they found and where they found it. Your task is then to work with your technology team to determine the remediation process and the ramifications of the compromised data. But at least you know! Not have this tool as part of your security profile leaves you in your own little Dark Web.