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Business ITAug 12, 2019

IT Management: Working with an IT Service Provider

IT Management & Collaboration

How do you keep up with your business' IT? Does it fall back on you as the owner? Do you have an employee who takes care of the technology as an add-on to his real job? Maybe, you're lucky enough to have one or two IT people on your staff. Sadly, that may not be enough. As technology becomes more complicated, so does the task of managing it.

What is IT Management?

IT management means overseeing a company's infrastructure and end-user systems on a proactive basis. It sounds simple. Then, you realize that your IT infrastructure is a lot more complex than a few desktop computers, laptops, and printers.

To understand the complexity of your infrastructure, take an inventory. How many desktop computers? Laptops? Do you have a firewall? How many routers? What about software? How many licenses do you have for each application and operating system?

It's amazing how your IT infrastructure has grown, but so has your company. Now, you must think about what an IT failure means for your business. Ask yourself how long it would take to bring your company back online after an IT failure. Think of the impact it would have on your customers or potential customers.

If you don't have the resources to ensure continuous operation, it may be time to enlist the help of a managed IT service provider.

What is a Managed IT Service Provider?

A managed service provider or MSP for information technology provides monitoring and maintenance of your network. What is included depends on the agreement between you and your MSP. You could outsource your entire IT responsibility to a third party or contract for an annual system assessment. It depends on what you need and what your budget will allow. A managed provider offers a range of IT services such as planning, monitoring, and maintaining your network.

Planning

Whether you are looking to expand or maintain your network, an MSP can assist in getting all the facts on paper to start a comprehensive plan for your system.

  1. Size of your network. You can't decide what you need unless you know what you have. If you don't have the staff to do the assessment, most IT providers can help define your existing network.
  2. Projected growth. With the rapid changes in technology, it's not enough to plan for today. You need to be thinking years in advance to make sure you include growth in your plan.
  3. Be honest with your MSP. If your current budget isn't enough to cover everything you need, work out a plan for the services you can afford until you can afford the services you need. Outsourcing IT isn't an all or nothing proposition. As you think about what your business needs, keep in mind the importance of business continuity. How are you going to make sure your business can be up and running as quickly as possible after a system failure?

Monitoring

There's a lot more to monitoring than checking to see if the network is operational. Monitoring includes checking network performance, noting potential problems with network devices, watching out for cyber attacks, and keeping your data secure.

  1. Identify mission-critical devices. Network monitoring should be proactive. Instead of waiting for a system failure, IT services include monitoring the performance of the devices on your network – firewalls, printers, routers, virtual machines, servers. The list is endless. The focus of network monitoring is detecting and fixing a network problem before it fails and impacts the network.
  2. Identify critical data. The amount of information that flows through your network is overwhelming. How much of it is critical to operating your business? Customer data? Financial records? Employee information. Prioritizing the value to your business of different types of data enables an IT provider to develop a cost-effective plan to secure your most critical data.
  3. Discuss the level of cyber protection. You may have a small business, but that doesn't mean you are immune from cyber attacks and data breaches. How do you think hackers learned how to breach large corporations? Talk to your MSP about how to cost-effectively protect your business from cyber attacks. At this point, you may want to think about disaster recovery. No one wants to think about disasters, but they are a part of doing business. What do you do when one of those Colorado snowstorms knocks out the power? Do you lose a day of work? Disaster recovery sites can help get you back in business no matter what the weather.

Maintaining

Maintenance is essential to the reliable operation of your network. It is also vital to your ongoing relationship with your managed IT service provider.

  1. Determine the level of maintenance. Maintenance applies to proactively keeping your network and its devices operational. It also means keeping your software, including your operating system, up-to-date with patches and upgrades. It may involve testing of equipment and software before placing it into a production environment. You will need to decide what level of maintenance fits within your budget.
  2. Schedule regular meetings. Meeting with your IT provider on a regular basis ensures that both organizations are on the same page when it comes to your IT direction. Technology changes rapidly, and so does your business. If you're in a regulated industry, regulations change too. That's why it is essential to have regular meetings, even if it is only a conference call, to make sure everyone is kept up to date.
  3. Communicate. Don't wait until a regularly scheduled meeting to bring up a concern or issue. Let your IT provider know so they can address your concern, correct a problem, or research an answer quickly. Don't be afraid to talk to your MSP. That's part of outsourcing IT. You have a resource for IT questions. Finally, celebrate your success. If your IT provider went above and beyond to resolve a problem that got your network operational, reward them. Leave a glowing review. Offer to write a testimonial. Show your IT service provider that you value them.

For an IT provider who values its customers, contact Propel Technology.

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