Remember when IT was about upgrading hardware and getting your computer to talk to the Internet? A lot has changed since then.
It’s enough to get a business owner worked up!
Here’s the thing. Information technology was always complicated. What changed is the volume of IT services business owners must decide about.
Complicating matters is that these services are essential for business growth. You cannot afford to avoid those decisions.
This is why so many businesses opt for managed IT services. In essence, you outsource some or all of your IT needs. It may be hosting software online or getting help designing your entire IT infrastructure.
To help you navigate this complicated issue, we’ve put together this guide to IT services.
It’s the rare business these days that doesn’t have computers, routers, switches, and WiFi. Many have one or more servers sitting in a back office.
Despite what some may think, throwing together a hodgepodge of hardware won’t get you the best results. Switches, routers, and WiFi adapters from the same company will work together better.
Computers get out of date fast, but periodic hardware upgrades can extend their working life by years.
Good hardware meets your current needs and offers some future proofing. A managed service will help you evaluate your current equipment, current needs, and future expectations. Then they’ll help you put together the right equipment to serve those needs and expectations.
Network Design and Monitoring
There is some inevitable crossover between hardware and network design. That makes it practical to bundle those IT services if you outsource.
Network design involves a cross-section of concerns. There’s the physical design of the network. That includes planning out the number and location of switches and routers.
You need to run a lot of cables to keep all of that equipment talking. Speaking of cables, do you know if you’re running Cat 5 or Cat 6? A management service can help you pick.
The hardware itself needs management. Routers, switches, and servers need firmware updates for performance and security reasons.
Network design includes setting up security features and dealing with IP addressing structures. The extremely simple explanation of IP addressing structures is creating a system that gives every device on a network a unique ID. Those IDs let the computers on the network talk to each other.
The role of network monitoring is to track how the network equipment and software perform. The monitoring software looks for hardware or performance failures and sends alerts to your admin. The admin then corrects the problem wherever possible.
Disaster Planning IT Services
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes.
A flood destroys all your computer equipment. Hackers breach your network. A virus wreaks havoc in your systems.
Imagine one of these things happening to your business. Are you ready to cope with them?
Anything but a resounding yes means that you don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place. If that’s you, you’re in the 75% majority of small businesses without one.
Some disaster recovery planning deals with your physical location. IT disaster recovery is one place where managed IT services shine.
The key here is data. You can get equipment replaced and configured very fast. You can’t replace customer information or financial records if they only exist in one place.
A good IT disaster recovery plan pinpoints the things you need to backup offsite and which files are mission critical. That lets you move the most important data back first and the less critical data over time.
The recovery plan also details what equipment you must have functioning on-site to get the data and conduct business. Again, this lets you get the mission critical infrastructure in place first. The rest can be replaced as it becomes practical or affordable.
A manages service uses your knowledge of what is business critical and their tech knowledge to craft the IT disaster recovery plan.
Phones used to be the simplest thing in business.
You got ahold of your local and long distance phone company to set up a business line. You got a private branch exchange (PBX) if your business needed multiple lines. It was simple because that was the only choice.
You can still go that route and many businesses do. Traditional phone service is a known quantity with minimal security risks.
It’s not the only choice anymore.
Voice over IP or VoIP offers businesses an effective way to reduce long distance phone costs. They also offer the added benefit of easy video conferencing and messaging services.
VoIP technology has advanced enough that VoIP-based calls can be routed to landlines and vice versa. This makes a VoIP PBX system possible.
Calls coming in from landlines get routed through a VoIP gateway to convert the signal. Then software directs to the call to the correct VoIP phone at the business.
One thing VoIP systems take fire for is audio issues, but those problems are easily managed by a knowledgeable IT team.
Keeping an IT pro on staff is practical. She can handle the day-to-day problems with hardware. She can also coordinate with your managed service provider to deal with bigger problems.
Like any other employee, she’ll want to be left alone once she’s off the clock. So what do you do when you discover a problem at 10:45 pm?
This is where a 24/7 help desk pays for itself. You can call whenever an IT problem happens and get clarification. Depending on the exact nature of the problem, it can often be resolved right on the phone.
The tech may be able to remotely access a malfunctioning piece of hardware. He should be able to adjust settings to the company’s cloud-based services.
In short, you get help while your IT pro gets to sleep.
Business owners often feel overwhelmed by all of the IT services available to them. No one who isn’t an IT pro can be expected to understand the benefits and risks of all those services.
Managed services offer an alternative to ignoring the choices or trying to become an expert on them. The company’s staff can explain the benefits and pitfalls. You get to use the services you want without the headache of dealing with the technical side.