What is managed services? Well, put briefly, managed services is what us IT people refer to as a service that is outsourced to another company that manages all aspects of that service so the end user no longer needs to. These managed services could be managing all of the data backup services for a customer to ensure that everything is properly being backed up, managing email services so that an organizations smart phones all operate and sync properly with the users email client, or managing all of the computer systems for a small business, basically operating as a help desk when a small business can’t afford to hire that many people for their own staff.What follows in this article are 11 ways that a small business can save money and maximize their IT dollars by utilizing the services of a managed services provider.1. No unexpected, unbudgeted costsWhen you team up with a MSP (Managed Service Provider), you will typically be paying only a monthly fee to take care of your entire computer network. If any problems are detected, they are fixed and taken care of as part of your agreement. This eliminates any unexpected project costs.2. Any unanticipated issues with the system will be fixed as quickly as possibleWhen you work with an MSP, it is in both parties interest, both yours and the MSP’s, to make sure that all problems that do arise get resolved immediately. There is no need for you to wonder if the service provider or technician is taking longer to fix or resolve an issue, just to pad an invoice. The quicker the MSP resolves the issue, the more available they can be to take on any other potential issues.3. It can be used to complement any deficiencies of staffYou may already have a help desk staff member that takes care of any user’s issues but can’t be in all places at once, or maybe doesn’t have the expertise to take care of more specialized aspects of the network. In this scenario, you can employ a MSP to take care of that specialized aspect, rather than handling all of the day in, day out routine user issues.4. Eliminates a non-IT trained staff member from needing to be the go to person for all technical issuesMany small businesses have a person employed that holds a job function or title that is non-IT related but that still is required to handle all network issues because they ‘know a lot about computers’. This may seem like a cost savings measure, but oftentimes it actually leads to more downtime for the organization. When this is the case, the staff member needs to take away part of their day (or week, or month) in what they would normally be involved in to take care of another issue. This time is compounded when the staff member needs to research how to fix any particular issue, thus causing even more downtime for all the other employees that need to access the computer network and causing them to reduce their productivity. When working with a service provider however, that ‘go to’ staff member can contact the service provider about the issue and have them resolve it in a timely manner and the staff member can go back to their regular job function.5. Known issues and solutions for other businesses help benefit other business’s issuesYou can benefit from the experiences of many other small businesses and even find out some of the technologies that your competitors are using. While MSP’s certainly won’t share data and they’ll protect the data of all of their customers, other small businesses have had similar issues to what you are experiencing and therefore there are known solutions to your issues. Also, MSP’s can recommend technologies that will help your business by possibly automating a process that would normally take you or your staff much more time to complete.6. Any security threats can be acted on before an issue arisesAlong with services that are provided, often there is monitoring that is included with support. The MSP will install secure software on one or more of your network devices and that software can monitor all of your anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, etc. software and notify them or anyone you choose at your location with a report of any potential security issues and along with a recommended course of action to take to quickly resolve the issue.7. Hardware can be monitored for potential issues that can be acted on before it causes any downtime for an organizationAt many small businesses, it is a typical occurrence for a problem to arise on a user’s computer. Maybe they have a virus, or their hard drive is failing, but these issues often go unreported because the user doesn’t want to get in trouble thinking that they may get blamed for something going wrong. While a user could certainly cause problems on company owned computers, it is not typically the fault of the user, rather a failure of hardware or some other anomaly that may be causing performance problems. In any case, with MSP monitoring, you or any of your staff can be alerted to these types of problems so that they can be resolved.8. All systems are up to date and current with any software updatesMany of the software packages provided by managed service providers include the ability to update all systems and software that need updates, including but not limited to Windows Update. I’m sure you’re familiar with that nagging prompt that says something like ‘updates ready to be installed’. These software packages inventory all of the software on all the computers on your network and have the ability to update the software that needs updates and also you can specify any exceptions. Sometimes a 3rdparty application vendor finds that an update interferes with your software and it can’t be installed. With the MSP’s software, you can add an exception for any particular update but allow for all other updates to continue to be installed. This greatly improves the security of your network.9. Backup systems are monitoredDo you have someone on your staff that verifies you data backups? How do you know that everything is being backed up and stored properly? Let’s consider this – you have a staff member that spends 10 minutes per day to go and check on the backup. That’s 50 minutes in a 5 day work week, 200 – 250 minutes in a month. And then say that this person finds that the backup isn’t being performed properly or that it’s failing, what does it take to resolve whatever is causing the problem? MSP’s can monitor this for you and notify you the moment something fails to be backed up or to let you know that it is being backed up successfully, also doing this in an instant, right to your inbox.10. Any maintenance tasks that are currently ran manually can be automated to run in non-peak hoursMany small business computer users are told to defrag their computers, delete their temporary files, etc. MSP’s can automate all these tasks with their software at off peak hours to ensure all of these types of tasks are run and to eliminate the need for the computer user to take time out of their day to run these tasks, along with making sure that they complete successfully.11. Any unauthorized hardware or software can be monitored forHow many times have you worried that, after terminating an employee, they may have copied secure company data to a flash drive for their own use? Have you ever had an employee install software that caused other problems or that wasn’t authorized to be installed to put you at risk? With the technologies that many managed services providers employ, these types of situations can be avoided and can be disabled before any unauthorized activity can take place. Also the methods that MSP’s use can also report an inventory of all allowed software and hardware that exists on your network.
Yellow page advertisements shout that plumbers can do almost anything in the way of repair and replacements. Their range of services is always extremely impressive, but we usually only think to call in a crisis. It should be noted that the fellows who work diligently under our sinks and in and around the crawl spaces beneath the house, are really skilled, highly trained, and technologically savvy experts in their field. We are all familiar with the traditional plumbing services they provide, like bathroom plumbing, toilet repair and replacement, faucets, sinks, garbage disposals, drains, gas connections, waterlines, stoves, dryers, and gas and electric hot water heaters.More than Pipes and FixturesIn addition to all the things we expect, there are plumbing contractors who are adding new technologies and methodologies that allow them to extend their services to offer greater value to their customers. Due to technological innovation and this new diversity, it will pay the savvy homeowner or business owner to research a plumbing company’s areas of expertise and additional service capabilities.It should also be remembered that it literally takes years for a plumbing contractor to become expert in installing and maintaining fixtures for residential, commercial and industrial clients. Water is always the key word and that element is studied with intensity. Knowing how to fix drainage problems is a vital skill, and of course, their studies do not end there. Many concentrate on the interactive ties between plumbing and hygiene and become highly qualified in the ins and outs (pun intended) of waste removal systems.Water Treatment ServicesDoes your tap water smell or taste bad? Is it cloudy or leaving oddly colored stains? Do you suspect impurities? You can now call upon certified water-rights specialists for answers to questions like this. And you guessed it- the specialists are now innovative plumbers who will analyze and optimize the water treatment in your home. In fact, some plumbers actually feature water treatment as a specialty and promote the fact that their unique water treatment systems provide quality solutions to the most challenging water problems.What’s New in Water Heaters?If you haven’t heard yet, the standard storage tank water heater is often considered out-dated technology. Plumbers have now been introduced to tankless water heaters, also known as Flash water heaters, many of which qualify for tax credits (since they offer more hot water with less carbon emissions). They are considered instantaneous or on-demand water heaters that only heat when you need it at 89% efficiency with no pilot light.With such technological advances happening almost faster than we can imagine, there are more alternatives such as high efficiency units that take the flue from the burner and instead of venting it through the top of the heater, return it to the inside of the tank so that heat can be absorbed by the water.Clogged Drain?Did you know that your plumber technician can inspect your sewer line with remote video cameras to determine, with confidence, whether a clog is your responsibility or the city’s? He or she can then help you work with your city to get your drain pipe running freely – obviously a utilization of technology that can work to your advantage.Can Your Plumber Do This?The above examples are just a few of the technological advances happening in the plumbing industry. Consider water recycling with new gray water (sink water) technology, rain water harvesting, biofuel and solar technologies and green plumbing innovations.As you search for quality work at reasonable costs, also remember to look for a plumbing firm with imaginative thinkers who go beyond conventional materials, equipment, and training. These are the individuals who can offer highly effective, innovative solutions to a myriad of problems.It will pay to do some advance research to determine specific areas of expertise as well as overall capabilities in addressing traditional plumbing issues. And if you have what you think is a unique problem, the question you should ask is, “Can my plumber do this?” The answer may be surprising.