Support - The Way It Was
Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Just look at how quickly the most commonly held device has evolved from the early days of Palm or “PDA” (palmtop computer that functions as a personal organizer but also provides email and Internet access) to smart device, equipped with internet, email, calendaring, video, camera and apps – and oh yes, a telephone. We not only rely on our devices (aka technology), but we need them to operate, be entertained and available around the clock. Technology is no longer a luxury in any business. It is an essential part of our daily operations.
Supporting these devices and key technologies used to require some combination of wired networking skills and a good understanding of how Microsoft’s latest operating system worked. Network back-up tapes could take hours to load and unload and your local PBX or phone systems was so complex that separate technical expertise was required to maintain. Beyond IT expertise, your copy, and fax repair man were often on a first-name basis due to the dependency on print and fax transmittal to communicate.
The introduction of the internet into mainstream business, followed by cloud technology has radically changed our dependency on technology and IT support has evolved from a “break-fix” hourly service model to an “all you can eat” managed model. Today’s businesses must decide if they want (or need) to buy into a support model that provides everything under the hood or if they were willing to risk their (technology) bets and receive services on a case-by-case basis.
Why “All or Nothing” IT Support No Longer Works
The challenge with supporting today’s technology stack is simply that the company that sold you your devices, is not the company that supports your network, or your internet, or your cloud speeds. While your infrastructure ages, your options for moving to the cloud become more attractive, but what speeds, infrastructure, and security considerations now come into play with a move to the cloud? Who do you call when the “cloud” goes down? How do you protect your network and its valuable data from hackers that want to use everyday tools like email or hyperlinks to infiltrate your network?
Worst of all, there is no longer is there a one-stop shop for all technology needs and support. Technical support nowadays is complex as the technology it supports. Automated numbers use AI to vet support calls, often routing callers to a caller overseas with a thick, hard understand accent. Vendors are never going to support another vendor part or product and internet performance and speeds are nearly impossible to diagnose. Many of today’s support packages support level 1 or 2 issues an invoice for more complex issues and/or refuse to pick up the phone at all. Finding a support package to support all your technology needs is the dilemma that impacts the bottom line. Technology has to work; security has to hold, and downtime is not an option.
Some vs. All IT Support
Technology is something that most companies grow into rather than adopt all at one time. For example, when a small business with an internal server expands its network and ties their phone to that networks, they may not be ready for an outside partner monitor and manage the entire network because they simply don’t believe that they will call for support or need 24/7 monitoring services to justify a complete outsourced, managed IT engagement. What these types of business might be looking for initially is basic IT support and help desk when needed. They often want an outside IT expert to monitor their network for errors and alerts that indicate hackers or potential network problems. Additionally, what many of these businesses need is a support plan that can manage the network, the hardware with a base level set of services around security, monitoring, patching and live, help desk assistance. What many businesses do not want out of the gate is an expensive, over-serviced, over-priced IT support package.
In this case, these types of business are really looking is a support package that provides the “essentials” vs. “complete” IT support. By this, we mean that there is a set of essential IT services that all businesses need with the purchase and on-going support of their technology.
What are the IT Essentials?
Think of IT essentials as this – a proactive support plan to keep your IT infrastructure both secure and
stable. Yes, there is more you could do, but do you really need it? When you decline any support at all, you decline the baseline or essential support that comes with security monitoring, anti-virus, antimalware
and anti-phishing protection, as well as monitoring of that equipment with alerts, desktop patching, server patches, and updates, and install remote access.
Another component of essential IT support is documenting your environment at the time of onboarding. Why does this matter? It is important to perform a thorough “discovery” noting existing equipment, set up, possible security weak points and other critical items. This information allows any IT support team, regardless of who, to provide the right technical support which helps limit unexpected expenses and time troubleshooting unforeseen issues in the future.
Top 5 Baseline IT Support Essentials that need to be in any IT support program:
- Remote Monitoring & Management: Remote monitoring of your network endpoints for alerts, irregularities & updates on all computer equipment, servers, and devices (both network and mobile). This service should include security patching, auto-maintenance, remote monitoring, remote support, and anti-virus/malware/phishing protection. Anything less and you are not getting the protection and support you need.
- Enhanced Asset Management: This should include an overview of the devices which make up your IT environment, providing status on equipment warranty, end of life and system information designed to help you stay abreast of updates and changes as they pertain to your technology investment.
- Network Documentation: Similar to what is mentioned above, this useful service provides full documentation of your environment to proactively help IT support (both internal and external) quickly and economically diagnose and solve IT issues.
- Access to (Live) Support, when needed: Sometimes you need a live person on the other end to help you solve problems. Having access to a skilled person should be an option in any good support package (often at an additional billable rate.)
- Scheduled Onsite Support: Some businesses prefer a more “hands-on” approach that might include an expert visit periodically to your facilities to answer questions and provide technical advice and support when needed. Expect to pay an additional fee for these types of services, knowing that they are well worth the investment.
- Dedicated Account Management: No IT support plan is worth it's salt if it does not have a dedicated manager assigned just to your account. Simply put, you want someone who knows your business and can help with short- and long-term technology planning. Generic account management is a sign of below average IT service.
What’s Included in an All-You-Can-Eat IT Support Package?
Inclusive or complete IT support packages are commonly referred to as Managed IT services. The real difference between an essentials IT support package and what you get in a managed IT package revolves around CIO services, disaster recovery planning, enhanced security and data back-up services as well as live support. For many small to medium-sized businesses, staffing and employing expensive IT expertise is simply not in the budget. Outsourced IT experts provide the same degree of expertise (if not greater) of a multiple-employer IT team without the expensive price tag. Technology is such an important part of helping any business streamline operations, service clients and competes effectively that the investment into managed IT is hard to overlook given the need for technology to perform seamlessly around the clock.
To help distill down what you should expect in a full, managed IT support package, we have put together our Top 9 Managed IT Must-Haves:
- EVERYTHING contained in the baseline, IT essentials program plus…
- Back-up Monitoring: No one back-up system is alike. Depending on your RPO or RTO objectives, back-up plans are customized to meet those thresholds.
- Disaster Recovery Planning: Disaster in the form of cyber theft and/or natural disasters will strike. Being prepared for downtime and unforeseen disaster with a plan to recover your data to keep operations up and running is a proactive and smart way to avoid calamity.
- Business Continuity Planning: Similar to Disaster planning, this type of planning helps you review your systems, identify gaps and make small incremental changes that guarantee your data is safe and the business making smart decisions that impact the bottom line.
- Enhanced Security Services: Monitoring your data and firewalls is an essential step. More advanced security efforts will identify and remediate attacks to keep your most precious asset, your customer data, and your business, safe from outside threats and intruders.
- Virtual CIO Account Based Services: Chief Information Officers provide account manager, who can provide businesses with consulting, project and long-term IT planning services. When you don’t have a CIO in house, a virtual CIO provides the similar services included in most managed IT packages.
- Access to Live Support Experts: While most baseline IT support programs will provide access to live support at a cost, most managed IT support programs provide access to higher levels of IT expertise at no additional fee.
- In Person Visits: Quarterly, mid-year or annual visits with a Virtual CIO account manager allows businesses ask questions, explore other technology options and save yourself the considerable headache and/or out of pocket expenses associated with poor IT decisions.
Finding an IT Support Plan that Is Right for You
IT support has come a long way from its initial start in the 90s. IT support plans need to provide a baseline or essential level of protection and proactive monitoring. Inclusive managed IT support programs provide the complete comprehensive coverage every business need but at a pricetag, they may not be willing to pay.
When you partner with Blue Fox, we’ll help you meet your business’s technological demands when we architect an effective network and manage your IT remotely. We offer both an Essentials IT and Complete IT support package to meet the needs of any organization. We won’t nickel and dime or over-sell you on services you don’t need.
Still not sure? Understand what needs to change – schedule a free IT assessment today.