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By Jonathan Husni, MBA—President of Acendex, Beachwood Ohio

August 13, 2012—Wouldn’t it be cool if you were notified before the hard drive on your main server crashed or its memory was dangerously low, saving your company from losing valuable uptime? This ability to predict IT system failure—days or even weeks in advance—doesn’t require clairvoyancy or any other paranormal gift. It’s actually as easy as obtaining the services of a capable MSP (managed services provider). The results can be as magical as any trick conjured up by Penn & Teller.

Managed services is a real-time approach to remotely directing and monitoring the virtual, physical and application segments of computer network systems, including information services; backup; storage; security and e-mail. As a strategy it is diametrically opposed to the purely reactive “break/fix” method, which isn’t as cost-effective because by the time a problem is recognized, productivity has already closed down. The advantage of managed services is that it is predictive and thus an effectively proactive measure.

MSPs use monitoring software to keep a vigilant eye on IT systems, paying careful attention to network hard drives, the most mechanical components and the ones most likely to fail. The first sign of a bad block, circuit board failure, memory shortage or logic problem will trigger a predictive failure e-mail message allowing enough time for remedial action. Other problems, such as malware infiltrations, work station malfunctions, accidental configuration changes and cable disconnects can also easily be detected and fixed via remote network monitoring.

MSPs can also offer these services:

  • a single point of contact for all IT issues
  • on-site hardware and software/application support
  • system administration (help resetting passwords, creating user accounts, etc.)

In addition to offering prescient diagnostics, your MSP can analyze the information they’ve gathered through continuous monitoring to help develop an IT strategy and budget for the future.

By all accounts, MSPs are on the ascent. Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2014, 90 percent of all North American companies will be using remotely managed services to keep their IT infrastructure operating smoothly. It’s estimated that the small and medium-size companies that do so will reduce their IT operating costs by 30 to 45 percent. In fact, with managed service typically costing about $200 per month for one location, there is simply no less expensive way to have 24/7 network monitoring.

Of course, many small companies will still prefer onsite IT managers. But given the growing availability and low cost of managed service providers, does this make fiscal sense? IT professionals typically earn upwards from $50,000 a year while the cost of an MSP averages about $2500. Also, MSP techs working with multiple clients are likely to have more varied skill sets than resident IT personnel. This depth of experience can make a big difference when a quick diagnosis and problem resolution can save a company from prolonged and costly downtime.

But before hiring a managed services provider, be certain of their reliability. Do they offer a written service guarantee? Do they have enough staff to suit your needs? Does their service offer problem resolution as well as alerts? Will they provide timely status reports? Can you get a live technician on the phone 24/7? And most importantly, who are their customers and what do they have to say about the service they’ve been receiving?

When these questions are answered, the managed services provider you select should be able to deliver results that, if not quite wizardry, will make a huge difference in your bottom line and ability to satisfy customers.

Jonathan Husni, MBA, I is president of Acendex, an information technology services firm in Beachwood. Acendex is a consultancy that advises small and medium organizations on how to achieve and maintain vital IT functionality. www.acendex.com.