Managed IT Services – management in practice
Managed IT Services are services where the user gets exactly what they want for the optimal price and multiple benefits.
Managed IT Services (MS) is a concept which throws new light on the way how to provide support in managing the IT infrastructure is handled, with a goal to achieve a more agile approach, as well to unburden user’s human resources so that their potential could be directed into innovation or improving and developing already existing systems.
Because of the all above, compared to the classic maintenance, Managed IT Services are services where the user gets exactly what they want for the optimal price and multiple benefits:
- Increasing the operational efficiency
- Reducing the operational costs
- Cost-effective approach to the enterprise level of support
- Minimizing the downtime period
- Switching focus from the technology to the core business
The idea behind Managed IT Service management is helping the user to switch their focus from everyday operational tasks to the system development, in which the user can ask for assistance from the Managed Service Provider as a part of the agreed service.
Managed Services compared to break-fix maintenance
To understand Managed Service maintenance concept, it is important to know the history of its development. Everything began from service provider companies that specialized in maintaining small networked systems.
Implementation of these systems was very simple, but as was done by semi-professionals, it was effected with working errors. Consequently, companies would feel the “bitter taste” of closing down the businesses.
Then, at the end of the last century, there was no adequate tools which would assist service providers to prevent or automatize solving of potential problems, so everything was based on the break-fix methodology for problem solving.
At that time, remote control access had been just a remote dream. Break-fix maintenance was based on the following procedure: when a problem would appear, and noticed by the employee who was responsible for the system in question, then it would be reported to the support provider. This whole procedure would take more than one day, from the moment when the problem appeared until the moment when the problem was solved, which was not tolerable.
That is why the investment focused on developing procedures and tools that would enable periodically analysis of the system on the location (on-site), that in combination with talking to the user managed to provide some small level of prevention, would stop small problems to become big and unsolvable ones.
Unfortunately, this approach could cover only a limited period in the past and the day of the visit, but could predict what will happen in the future, until user would call and reports the problem. With this a large step forward was made in the way of maintaining, although break-fix mentality was there.
Next revolutionary step in the development of providing maintenance was 10 years ago when the design of the Managed Service concept was made, and it was based on:
- Managing incidents through the Incident Management tool, where a user has possibility to use already existing procedures to report incidents and monitor the progress of resolving them
- Almost simultaneous access to the corrective activities upon user report, which includes communication with the supplier about the software issue, root cause analysis or the problem and patch installation
- Development and signing of the service-level agreement (SLA) to protect the user’s business from negligence of Managed Services provider, regardless is that 24/7, 8/5 or any arrangement.
With this, old practices of system maintenance and questionable efficiency definitely stopped. Since then, the concept is continuously improved on mutual interests.
About Managed IT Services
Although developed from the category of management/maintenance of the network systems, Managed IT Services didn’t stop there, in fact, with the time they took over almost every domain of services in management/maintenance of different ICT areas, like:
- Workstation maintenance
- Server maintenance
- System management
- Disc management
- Archive management
- Database management
- Application management
- Security management
- Incident management
- Log error management
- Business continuity
It is obvious that Managed IT Services concept with its content overcomes the classic maintenance, without mentioning the way of providing the service which separate it from the classic maintenance:
- System snapshot
- Proactive maintenance
- Remote access
- Adaptive maintenance
- Transfer of the everyday operational procedures to the Managed Service Provider (MSP)
- Consulting and continues improvement
Managed IT Services contract
As well as signing any contract, regardless what service is in question, the most important parts of the contract are the price and the subject of the contract, to be more precise what service will be provided for the specific money investment.
Contracting the Managed Service is adjusting the MSP (Managed Service Provider) to the user demands. Some users prefer more the flat-rate type, while others prefer more the variable type with a possibility to change the tariff rate during the contracted period, for which each specific component of Managed IT Services (incidents, operational procedures, consulting….) gets more or less available hours.
As MSP is user-orientated, MSP will format special items within the contract and the price for them. The basic division of the items connected to the maintenance is:
Basic price – it is always the fixed monthly amount that covers the administrative cost of providing the Managed Service, and it consists of using the Help Desk, Case Management tool, report creation, and so on.
SLA price – it is the monthly variable amount that covers the organization behind the availability of the experts for solving the issues, and it is depended about settling SLA service working hours (8/5, 12/5, 24/7 or some other) and other SLA parameters (response time, recovery time…), which can be adjusted during the duration of the contract, if it is specified like that in the contract.
Incident support price – it is the amount that can be formed by multiplying the fixed hour price for the incident support and, either the amount agreed in the contract for the quantity of hours based on certain time period (monthly, quarterly, yearly), either actually used hours in the defined time period (flat rate), the latter option is usually more expensive as MSP can’t plan their resources nicely.
Operational support price – it is an item that brings the most variables into the calculation as it depends on several factors which include the amount of contracted hours and the scope of the contracted services (surveillance, proactive maintenance, communication with SW vendors, consulting, DevOps tasks, testing, checking the licenses, upgrades…). In essence, operational support price is formed in the same way as the incident support price.
Price for servicing demands – it is an amount that covers the order for a certain amount of hours needed to do all of the operational activities that were not covered by the operational support price or reservation of the “basket” hours for future spending, which is less expensive than the flat rate tariff (exceeding contracted hours for the operational support). The order for these hours can be made at any time during the contracted period, and the consummation of the ordered hours is allowed for the whole time during the duration of the contract.
Price for overtime hours – is an amount that covers the overtime hours that were used above the hours used for the operational support, which could be avoided by using a certain quantity of hours for servicing demands.
Snapshot price – it includes a detailed overview of the architecture and system in question by top-class experts and it is all documented with recommendations to improve the architecture, increase availability and improvements to the system.
User’s most common fears
There are many advantages of the Managed Services as a tool to improve efficiency, reliability, security, and maintenance with reduced cost, but still user will find reasons, justified or not, to avoid becoming a user of the Managed Services.
Skepticism in cost reduction is the most common reason. In some cases it is a legit reason, if it is considered only a short-term period, but in a long-term run, this skepticism is not valid. This has to be viewed from a wide angle and as a long-term solution. It is true that ROI for Managed Services is hard to calculate in the domain of maintenance because there are too many factors to take into consideration, but it is the only legit method to confirm or deny the profitability to implement Managed Services concept of maintenance and it should be done.
The second big reason is usually lack of trust in other companies. Namely, most of the people do not prefer to give something personal and intimate to unknown people, and that is the same from the company point of view – it is unnatural to give to another, an unknown company, all of the IT infrastructure, which today is usually the core of company business. This skepticism is completely unjustified as the goal of any MSP is not to endanger the security of the company, but on the contrary, it is to increase the level of the security. Of course, in the most cases between the user and the MS provider, a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is signed, with which user is additionally secured in a legal sense that not even one piece of information about them would come out in the public.
Fear of losing control over your own system is also one of the fears connected with Managed Services. A user from one side fears that the activities will be done without their control, and from the other side if they transfer operational activities to the MSP, there won’t be any reason to continue having their own IT department. None of it has a stronghold in reality. The User won’t lose the control in any segment of the system, or to be more precise, in any operational activity of the system. All is done in close cooperation between the MSP and the user and everything is agreed in advance with the approval from the user side. That is also a reason why is in the contract mandatory to put down daily or weekly communication between the MS provider and the user. Regarding user’s IT department, they will be unburdened from maintenance tasks so they could focus their potential into innovating or improving and developing already existing systems.
Of course, there are a million more reasons with which we meet every day when we talk with our users, but more or less, we can say that there are only few real reasons for not switching from the classical way of maintenance to Managed Services way of maintenance and they are usually either technical (there is not a possibility to do the remote control), administrative or legal issue.
Regardless on skepticism, companies decide more and more to switch to these new services which will ultimately improve their business.
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