When Is Your Business Ready For Managed Services?

When Is Your Business Ready For Managed Services?

If you are a small business owner and considering whether or not managed services will benefit your company, the answer is almost always- yes. There is little doubt that most small businesses can benefit from managed services, yet that in itself does not always justify the cost of bringing on a third party provider. Accepting that managed services providers can offer solutions to common problems found in small business operation, the real question is when does it make sense to switch from in house IT solutions to the next level which includes managed services.

There is a good chance if you are already considering managed services the time might be near when you are ready to make the switch. Small business owners do not have the luxury of a never ending IT budget, therefore it is very important to recognize when your current IT management is no longer cost effective. For most small businesses this occurs when the business grows to the point of needing either a contract with a local service provider who is “on call” for IT needs or hiring a full time IT person to remain on staff. There is of course another option for small business owners to consider and that is hiring a managed services provider to oversee their IT needs.

If you are still unsure that your business is ready for the switch, ask yourself the following questions;

  • Network or system keep going down, failing on you ?
  • Recurring IT Issues ?
  • Taking a long time to resolve and recover from IT Issues ?
  • Your current IT cant support your company operations ?
  • IT employee issues with retraining or rehiring ?
  • Your IT employee or provider doesnt seem to know what to do ?
  • Dont feel you are getting the value for what you are paying for ?
  • Slow and unresponsive IT Provider ?
  • Your Company failed your IT Audit ?
  • Unable to focus on your company’s core competencies due to ongoing IT issues ?
  • There’s no IT Strategy Plan to achieve your business goals ?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, then your business is ready for managed services.

Now that you have determined managed services are right for your business, the next challenge is finding the right provider of these services. This is a decision that should not be made lightly or rushed as the wrong provider can end up costing your company more money than your current situation. Before you begin the search for a managed services provider you should first consider your IT budget as well as issues or problems you want to be addressed. It is important to remember that managed services are not a one-size-fits-all type of solution to business problems. Each business and industry has their own issues to contend with and a qualified managed services provider will work with you to find the solutions that will benefit your company the most. If a potential provider is more intent on selling you services and not listening to the needs of your business, move on to another provider who is willing to listen to your concerns and offer customized solutions that address these needs. The point of outsourcing your IT management is to save money while freeing up time to focus on other business operations. For this reason it pays to put forth the effort to find the best managed services provider to oversee your technology needs.

Technology Increases Small Business Profitability

Technology Increases Small Business Profitability

During times of economic struggle, most small businesses end up making cuts and changes to keep their businesses in the green. From laying off staff to decreasing business travel, reducing marketing efforts and ending bonuses and raises temporarily – there are a variety of ways small businesses look to cut their expenses. At the same time, they look for ways to increase profitability – especially when operating with reduced staff. Technology becomes even more useful as small businesses strive to increase productivity and efficiency.

There are so many gadgets and technology solutions out there that it can be easy to buy more than you need, or to buy the wrong types of products that just don’t deliver the solutions your business needs. When deciding what types of technologies can help your business reach its goals, here are a few things to look for:

Communications – technology is well known for its capability to improve the ability for people to communicate with one another. Whether you’ve got employees on the road or down the hall, virtual phone systems can route calls to cell phones and keep everyone in touch regardless of location. Instant messaging and email provide quick ways to communicate with the written word and keep documentation of these conversations for future reference. Social media and networking sites provide a way to keep in touch with co-workers, customers, and the competition at a glance.

Data Storage, Warehousing and Search – If you find employees are spending a lot of time looking for certain reports, forms or other data that they need to perform their job responsibilities, investing in network hardware and software to keep track of the whereabouts of your data can be useful.

Telecommuting – many small businesses also find that there isn’t a need for all employees to work in the same office building in order to get their work done. Having employees who telecommute requires the technology to make that happen (a secure network for employees to access data they require to do their job; improved communication systems to receive incoming phone calls at their homes or on their cell phones and the ability to keep in touch with co-workers in different locations). Having employees telecommute can save you from needing a larger office space, which keeps your overhead costs lower, too.

Customer Relationship Management – having some sort of CRM software to help you manage your database of clients and prospects is well worth the investment. Many businesses will tell you the “money is in the list”; meaning the amount of money a company earns is directly proportional to the number of people on their mailing list. Some companies use software like ACT, Goldmine or SalesForce to track their clients and leads. Others have custom-built software developed to handle unique needs that can’t be addressed with existing software.

Technology makes it possible for small business to increase productivity and compete with larger businesses on a smaller budget, thereby increasing profitability. Efficiency and organization is improved through the use of appropriate data storage, search and mining, customers are better managed through customer relationship management systems, and it is possible for money to be saved when employees telecommute from home. Before investing in any new technology, identify the unique needs of your business and determine which technology will best meet your needs.

Making The Switch To Managed Services

Making The Switch To Managed Services

When the time comes to make the switch to managed services, it is important to know what you are looking for from a provider. As most business owners have or are beginning to realize, there are plenty of benefits that can be realized by bringing on a managed services provider to address IT and other needs. In order to get the most from your managed services contract you must carefully compare all potential providers to ensure they are willing and able to provide the services you need to keep your business moving forward in the future. If your managed services provider cannot supply the following three things (at minimum) keep looking until you find a company that addresses these issues.

  • Security- The managed services provider that you choose should work with vendors that guarantee security. This is imperative when trusting an outside party to handle and maintain private and confidential data that is crucial to the running of your business. Service providers should provide detailed proof of security procedures as well as how they intend to keep abreast of changes in the industry.
  • Recovery- Managed services providers are not only contracted to help keep the day-to-day running of your business going smoothly. They are also an important part of any recovery situation that follows a natural or man made disaster. It is important to discuss with potential providers what procedures they have in place to guarantee your downtown will be minimal and that you will be up and running as soon as possible after an emergency. These precious minutes and hours can make or break the recovery of your business.
  • Customer Service- As with any other business, if there is no customer support backing up the products or services, there isn’t much of a commitment from the provider.

Why are these three things important? To understand you must consider the managed services model. Managed services providers are hired by a company to provide any or all of the following services:

  • website hosting
  • network monitoring
  • network security
  • remote data backup
  • recovery services

Originally these services were provided to large corporations while small to medium size companies struggled to maintain an IT budget that was often more expensive then beneficial. Managed services providers charge a flat, or monthly fee, making it possible for smaller businesses to reap the benefits offered at a much lower price than in-house IT staff or outsourcing on an as needed basis.

The managed services platform continues to grow as many businesses look for ways to reduce costs in this tough economy. By offering technological services that might otherwise be beyond the reach of a small business budget, managed services make it possible for smaller businesses to remain competitive with others in their industry. Small business owners must take the time to carefully review and research each provider before signing on the bottom line. A good managed services provider can change the way you do business- in a positive direction, whereas the wrong choice could be a costly mistake that does more harm than good to your business.

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff Or Outsource to an External Service Provider?

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff Or Outsource to an External Service Provider?

Most small business owners handle all aspects of their businesses, including acting as the information technology department. This will work for as long as you remain a small business without employees. When you grow and start hiring staff, will it make sense to use your business-building time on IT issues?Unless you are an information technology service provider yourself, chances are your time will be much better spent marketing your products and/or services, establishing relationships with your clients, providing exceptional customer service and just otherwise growing your business.

How do you know when it’s time to get IT help? If the information technology demands are affecting your day and negatively impacting your actual business related activities – it’s definitely time to consider finding an IT resource. If you start adding new employees and computers, it’s probably a good time to look into adding IT help, as well.

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff or Outsource?

When you make the decision to find an IT resource, your first decision will be whether you need to hire one or more staff to fulfill the role, or if you’re going to outsource IT services. Having dedicated IT staff means they are 100% committed to your business. They’re not splitting their time among numerous clients the way a contracted company might. One of the benefits of having an IT department is that the staff develops a strong understanding of your unique business needs and should be in a good position to manage your short and long term IT requirements. With your own IT staff on payroll, you know you’ve always got someone available (unless they’re out sick or on vacation!) should an emergency or urgent situation present itself.

The primary disadvantage of hiring IT staff is that you’ll be paying for their benefits, their training, and a variety of other costs associated with hiring a new employee. Not to mention, you have to pay them the agreed upon salary regardless of how much IT work you end up having, which means you may be overpaying based on workload!

There are a variety of advantages of outsourcing to an IT service provider over hiring staff. You can choose to outsource your information technology needs to a flat rate IT service provider and reduce your monthly and overall costs. Having a virtual IT department lets you focus more on running your business rather than the technology that supports it. You aren’t stuck paying employee benefits or other employee costs, and you aren’t responsible for making sure the IT team remains up to date with their training and knowledge.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right information technology help for a growing business needs is challenging. When you think strategically about your business’ unique IT requirements, you can make sound decisions that further promote its growth and profitability.

Benefits of Outsourcing for Technology Businesses

Benefits of Outsourcing for Technology Businesses

Most business entrepreneurs have great talent and the means to run a very successful business. The snag they most often run into is the belief that they can do it all. This mindset can be detrimental to the overall success of their business. Trying to do it all can lead to hindered growth, lower profit margins and in some cases failure.

In order to create a business that is structurally sound, expandable and profitable, business owners should focus the majority of their time and energy on their personal talents and skills that are most important to the growth of their business and those skills that will most help in the generation of income. Instead of trying to do it all they can most benefit by outsourcing certain tasks.

Outsourcing has become very popular and with technology today like the internet, outsourcing is easy and accessible. Companies can find extremely qualified candidates from around the world right at their fingertips. Many highly trained individuals have left the corporate world and are available for hire as contractors. Expertise in just about any area a business may need is available. Examples include virtual assistants, graphic designers, IT specialists, accountants, marketers, Public Relation specialist, writers and so much more.

Some of the best tasks to outsource include those that are highly skilled tasks or those have that require trained expertise. For example if you have no knowledge of your IT needs or how to build and maintain a company website, hiring a specialist will be much more cost effective that you spending hours trying to teach yourself. Initially, your cost for this type of work might be a bit high, while the contractor helps to access your needs and builds your site. Down the road however, you most likely will be able to outsource our IT needs on a maintenance basis.

Highly repetitive tasks are also good ones to outsource. Data entry or accounts payable and receivable are jobs that you most likely can do, but they will only slow down your own productivity. Many times you can hire a virtual assistant to help you in these areas for just a few hours a week. This will not be overly costly and will inevitably free you up to work on other areas of the business that would most benefit from your attention.

Executive expertise is another area to consider outsourcing, especially if the business owner does not have great knowledge in this area. Someone that can take a hard look at your business plan, profitability margin and any ideas you have for expansion can be of great insight. Many times businesses will hire someone to come in and look over these items just once a month, quarterly or yearly. Their consultations can lead to new innovative ideas that could lead your business to new expansions, higher productivity and higher profit margins.

Most often,the cost advantage far outweighs what you will actually pay out to contractors. Most companies that rely on outsourcing do much better than their competitors.

Contracting With A Managed Service Provider

Contracting With A Managed Service Provider

When the time is right for your business to bring on a managed service provider there are several things to consider before signing a contract. Businesses both large and small have certain needs that are better managed by professionals. Contracting with a managed service provider allows owners and upper level management to focus their attention on growing and managing the business. Teaming up with a managed service provider has several benefits if you choose the right partner. Conversely bringing on a managed service provider that doesn’t understand your needs or one that is unable to provide the level of service required can be an expensive mistake. Here we look at the things you should consider before signing on the dotted line.Does the contract support the goals of both parties?

When it comes right down to it, every business is in existence to turn a profit. When you select a managed service provider you want to find one that will work with you to help your company achieve its goals. A managed service provider that is interested in selling services or products that don’t match the needs of your company, just for the sake of making money is one that should be avoided. You are contracting with a provider that will maintain vital company systems, therefore you want someone on your side who is able and willing to create a package and price that reflects your needs and not their bottom line.

Will it be cost effective?

When you enter an agreement with a managed service provider, you are agreeing to pay a predetermined amount of money for their support and services. This can be very cost effective versus paying an hourly rate for IT support. In most cases hiring a managed service provider is the best way to go if you have sufficient need for the services provided. Traditionally companies who pay hourly rates tend to spend less money on IT support which may improve profit but decrease services or support that are needed. When you have a managed service provider in your corner, you can feel confident all vital areas are being covered regardless of the number of hours needed to do so.

Compare several companies before making your final decision.

It is easy to get lost in the mumble jumble of the IT world when you don’t understand the language being spoken. While this can be discerning, don’t let a language barrier lead to a poor business decision. You are hiring a managed service provider to cover technological areas outside of your expertise, however you don’t want to be completely unaware of what is going on within your company. Research several companies and look beyond savvy marketing to find a company that is the right partner to help grow your business. This includes carefully reviewing services included in the contract as well as customer service, availability and the capacity to handle changes within the industry. If you don’t understand something, ask questions or you might find yourself paying for services you don’t really need.

Signing a contract with a managed service provider ties you to that provider according to the terms of the contract. Once you have taken this step it is important to remain in the loop regarding services provided. Review progress on a regular basis to ensure the needs of your business are being met. If you have done your homework and signed on with the right managed service provider, you will have one less thing to worry about when it comes to managing your business.