IT support, managed services; these are topics we’ve covered extensively on our blog. Today, we’re culling all our best information on both IT and managed services into one ultimate guide.
This mega-guide will be jam-packed full of information that Dallas companies can use in their IT decision-making. We’ll explain IT support and managed IT services in great detail as well as answer your most burning questions such as how to hire IT pros and the benefits of doing so.
Let’s get started!
What Is IT Support?
At some point in your company’s growth, you will have to hire IT support staff. Whether this is one person or a team, onsite or offsite is up to you.
Before you make a hiring decision, you’ll want to know what your money is going to get you. That’s why we thought we’d take this section and explain IT support duties in full.
IT is short for information technology. Although many people think of IT as nothing more than tech support, the role expands so much further beyond mere troubleshooting to get your computer or smartphone running again.
Let’s look closer at the daily duties of an IT support individual or team.
Computer Systems Installation
Computer systems entail a series of integrated devices for data processing, storage, input, and output. These systems don’t come ready to go right out of the box. You need someone within your company to connect the systems to your network so everything is up and running. This is one such duty of IT support.
Hardware and Software Installation and Updating
You will also expect your computer to include a series of software options that you can use to achieve work tasks. Your IT pros will install this software as well as related hardware so your systems are ready to go.
Of course, computer hardware and software very soon become out-of-date. You can rely on your IT person or team to contact you when it’s time to update your systems so you don’t have to take care of doing this yourself.
To keep a computer system running its best requires overseeing and maintenance. This is another role that would take too much time out of your already busy schedule, which is why you need IT support.
When you have an issue with your work computer, be it big or small, your IT support will be the first person or people you call. If they’re onsite, then they’ll come into your office to troubleshoot the issue. For offsite IT staff, they can work with you over the phone and even remotely commandeer your computer to repair the issue.
Your IT staff will keep track of the issues they troubleshoot as well as the updates or upgrades they perform to your network. By reviewing your system data for months or longer, they can predict trends and areas of vulnerability.
Assessing these problem areas early can prevent your whole system from being crippled by malware or viruses.
Speaking of avoiding malware and viruses, your IT team will also meet with other stakeholders in your company to determine which systems might be vulnerable and thus should be upgraded and even which ones should be replaced entirely.
You don’t want to upgrade to a new solution only to find it doesn’t work. Your IT support will always test the latest technology they implement before it’s added to your network. If there are any bugs or other kinks to be worked out, that will happen before you start using the hardware or software.
How Is IT Service Different Than IT Consulting?
Now that you better understand IT support, we want to discuss another area of IT known as IT consulting.
An IT consultant is a technology expert. That’s not to say that your IT pros aren’t experts as well, but IT consultants are sought after specifically for their breadth of knowledge.
When you hire an IT consultant, they’ll ask about your technology goals or concerns and then craft a solution using their expertise.
How is IT consulting different than IT services? Here are several key dissimilarities. We also wrote a blog about this topic and you can read about it here.
Relationship Building Is Crucial in IT Consultancy
An IT consultant wants to be someone you can rely on for all your questions about computers and tech. They prefer that you feel comfortable with them so you can open up about sensitive topics such as system vulnerabilities.
You can expect your IT consultant to try to win your trust so you’ll call them over an IT services team when you need help.
We do want to make it clear that IT support is about building relationships as well, but it’s not as much of a job requirement. That said, quiet or thorny IT pros rarely get called back into the office for tech support unless they do their job exceptionally well.
That’s the biggest difference then. IT support can do its job without a relationship whereas IT consulting cannot.
IT Support Might Offer Broader Services
Although an IT consultant is generally knowledgeable about tech, some are more experienced businessmen than they are computer people. They’ll gladly help you put together a plan of attack for upgrading your network, but when it comes to doing the actual upgrades, not every consultant can help you.
You can more reliably expect that your IT support staff can carry out whatever plans you might have made with the consultant.
IT Consultants Always Have a Strategy
When you hire an IT consultant, they have one broad goal: to take your company’s computer systems to new heights. That requires a lot of strategic planning both in the short-term and the longer term. IT support thinks longer-term too; they have to, but there might be less strategic planning involved.
Should Your Dallas Company Hire an Onsite or Offsite IT Team?
Another question that your company might internally debate is whether your IT team should be onsite or offsite. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, when the working day is over and you’re the last one in the office wrapping up a big project, you can always reach out to your offsite IT team. Some companies prefer the reliability of always having a local IT person or team on-call who can come to the office immediately.
Here’s how your Dallas company can choose whether offsite or onsite IT support best suits you.
If You Want a Relationship with Your IT Support, Choose Onsite
For some companies, they must be friendly with their IT person or team. After all, if your IT support is stuck in your office for the afternoon fixing particularly difficult issues, it’s nice if you have a good rapport.
Others don’t care so much about this. In your situation, offsite IT would be the best choice.
When you call offsite IT support, you might never talk to the same person twice. That makes it very difficult to get to know anyone, especially well. There’s also the disconnect of you two only chatting on the phone or through a messenger service rather than seeing each other in person.
If You Often Need Tech Support When the Office Is Closed, Choose Either
There’s a reasonable expectation that your onsite IT support staff could be called into work at any time. You tend to feel bad bothering them after they went home for the day, especially if they live far away. If you have to though, you’re willing to do it.
It might be easier for you to hire an offsite IT team if you have enough tech issues after-hours. This way, if you have to call them late at night on a weekday or sometimes on a weekend or holiday, you won’t have to worry as much about disrupting them.
If You Need Hardware Assistance More Often Than Software Assistance, Choose Onsite
Both offsite and onsite IT can troubleshoot your software issues, but offsite IT is only useful in repairing hardware problems to a point. There’s no way to remotely access your hardware, so if their troubleshooting tips over the phone don’t fix the issue, you’d have to call in an IT technician anyway.
You’re better off using an onsite IT professional if the bulk of your issues are with hardware rather than software. Your IT pro can come to your office and scope out the hardware in person, identifying issues and repairing them.
If You Want to Save Money, Choose Offsite
The appeal of offsite IT is that it’s often more inexpensive to work with them than it is to hire an individual or a team of onsite IT pros. For small businesses, startups, or companies that are on a lean budget, you’re better off with a third-party IT squad for the time being.
If You Like Being Taught In-Person, Choose Onsite
You’re not one of those people who lets the IT guy into your office and lets them passively do their job. You like to watch and learn if you can. It’s a lot harder to see what an IT pro is doing when that person is clear across the world and fixing your software issue remotely. You should hire in-house IT.
We also wrote a whole blog about how to know if you require onsite IT. Check it out here.
What to Consider When Hiring an IT Team
When it comes to making the decision on which IT team your company will hire, price is usually a top consideration, right? While you shouldn’t discard your budgetary reasoning when onboarding IT staff, you must keep other factors top of mind as well.
Here are some such factors, and you can also check out this blog we wrote a while back.
The Contract Terms Must Work for You
Contracts are legally binding, so whenever you blindly sign your name to one, you’re then agreeing to those terms whether you bothered to read them or not. One such area that companies sometimes gloss over when reviewing an IT contract is the duration of service.
We always recommend a short-term contract to start, such as six months. You can think of this as a probationary period. During the six months, you’re feeling out the IT team to determine if they gel with your Dallas company.
If they can’t offer services at the times that you need them or you’re otherwise unsatisfied with the level of service you’ve received, then at least you know the contract is six months long.
Now imagine that you agreed to a three-year deal because you didn’t study all the terms of the contract before you signed. You’re still unhappy with your IT services but getting out of the contract is going to be a legal nightmare.
They Must Keep Their Skills and Certifications Current
Tech is a fast-moving world that never stops. This means that an IT pro never stops learning. They must stay abreast of changes to software, hardware, and general tech so they can continue expertly serving their customers.
Before you sign on the dotted line, ask what kind of training the IT team undergoes as well as how regularly. Some IT pros receive company time and funding to further their education. Others pay for everything out of their own pocket to learn about the latest tech.
It doesn’t matter so much where the education comes from, just that they’re receiving it.
Ask as well about the current certifications the IT support has. Most certifications are only good for two years, others for three years, and some for life. For every expirable certification, if the IT pro doesn’t take the time to get recertified, that might limit the breadth of services they can offer.
Some of the certs you can query about are COMPTIA A+, Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), and Cisco’s certifications, such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP).
Their Availability Must Work for Your Company
Whether it’s offsite or onsite IT, if you need them there on a Saturday afternoon or the Sunday of Fourth of July weekend, you must be able to depend on your IT services. When you meet with the IT pros or have a phone consultation, ask about their availability.
If they’re a standard nine-to-five but you work later hours, that can cause headaches for you. You would hate for your computer to crash in the middle of a marathon work session and be unable to get any assistance until the next day or even Monday morning.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to prevent these issues if you have the foresight to ask ahead of signing any contracts.
What Are Managed IT Services?
Now that we’ve thoroughly covered IT support, let’s move on to talking about managed IT services. If you need the recap, managed IT services are outsourced IT responsibilities to save money and further your company’s successes.
Rather than use the break/fix model, which requires you to only outsource IT services when something goes wrong, with managed IT services, you’ll know you have the reliability of a great team (known as managed services providers or MSPs) on your side.
The concept of managed services is not exclusive to IT and tech, by the way. In areas such as electricity, water, media, marketing, transportation, and supply chain management, managed services are widely favored. There are many benefits to managed services and you can read a whole blog about it here.
Getting back to managed IT services, you can rely on your managed services team for many tech tasks around your office. Here’s how managed IT services can further your Dallas company’s objectives.
Security threats are a risk to your company around the clock, but what can you do when your IT staff goes home at 5 p.m. every day? That’s more than 10 hours that your company’s systems are vulnerable to hackers, malware, trojans, and viruses.
That’s why your MSPs offer around-the-clock monitoring. In some cases, they can identify a threat before it happens. Even if your company does fall vulnerable to a threat or virus, you can rely on managed services to quickly mitigate the issue.
They’ll also work with your company to find a way to beef up your systems so you’re at less risk of viruses and other malicious computer attacks in the future.
Data Backups and Recovery
How often is your Dallas company currently backing up its data? If you’re like a lot of people, the answer is probably never, right? You should get into the habit of backing up your systems data often, ideally every day but at least once or twice a week.
With managed IT services, you can get into the swing of backups, as your MSP will institute regular backups for you, even scheduling these so they happen automatically.
You can also count on MSPs for data recovery. After all, if your computer crashes and you lose everything, this is often a worst-case scenario. Having your precious files recovered saves you all the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into your latest project since it isn’t gone forever.
Read more about defining frequency for server-level backups here.
In some areas, managed services and IT support overlap, and systems management is one of them. Besides identifying security threats and backing up data, MSPs can also update hardware and software so your systems run seamlessly.
Migrating to the cloud can be confusing stuff, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether your company decides on private or public cloud services or even a hybrid, you’ll be able to embrace this newer technology for more seamless operations.
The Benefits of Managed IT Services
If the last section didn’t quite convince you that your Dallas company needs managed IT services, this list of benefits ought to.
Keep Your Focus on Where It Should Be
Whatever your role at your company, we bet IT support isn’t on your resume. Yet you often tackle computer jobs because they have to be taken care of. This can take away from the tasks that are on your to-do list, causing that list to get longer and longer by the week.
Before you know it, you’re working long overtime hours just to get caught up. Then you have another IT headache and the whole cycle repeats.
Continued lapses like these can cause your company to miss out on valuable opportunities, fall behind on goals, and underperform. Your revenue is below projections, which puts your company at risk of having to shutter your doors.
With MSPs at the helm, you don’t have to be the company IT person anymore. You can let managed services take care of the tech-related tasks while you can focus more on running your business.
As we established earlier, it’s hard to tell when an IT issue can befall your network. It can happen right now, two seconds from now, three months away, or a year.
The response time of your IT pros can be the difference between your system being down and out for days or the system being up and running again in a matter of hours.
Time is money, and we’re sure we don’t have to tell you that. Each minute of the workday that you and your employees sit idly by until someone can get to your tech issue, that’s dollars out the window.
Even one hour of downtime can cost your company $100,000. Yes, that’s a lot of money for only 60 minutes of inactivity. No company wants to bleed six figures if it’s preventable, and with managed IT services, it is indeed.
Cutting-Edge Technology Access
Are you using the latest hardware and software at your office? You have some tech that’s up to date, but not everything because that’s expensive. Managed IT services can help you bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
You’ll be able to access the latest versions of hardware and software on the market through your MSPs. When your systems run efficiently, you can meet your customers’ standards and continue to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Surprise charges are never fun, and when you’re a new company still struggling to find your financial footing, these charges can be hugely detrimental.
Your MSPs will charge a monthly fee that shouldn’t deviate from month to month. Your company can reliably budget for this expense and predict how much cashflow you’ll have left for other areas of business.
How to Prepare for a Managed IT Services Consultation
You’re convinced that managed IT services can help your Dallas company excel. You’ve researched MSP options in your area and now you’re meeting with several potential service providers.
To make the meeting fruitful, here are several areas you want to address, and we wrote a whole blog about this subject you can read it here.
Unlike IT support, in which you sign a contract for a certain duration (the term), MSPs follow one of several types of pricing structures or models.
They might charge you for every user on your network or for each device that’s part of the network.
Some MSPs offer an all-you-can-eat pricing model, which includes a bevy of services rolled into one plan. Others use a tiered pricing structure where the cost of services increases as you add more services or higher-end ones.
Only your company can decide which pricing structure you can afford. Be clear on the prices the MSP charges during the consultation. You can even ask to see a sample contract so you have a better idea of how much money you might pay.
As we covered earlier, if you and your IT support team can’t gel, then every time you have to interact, it can be bumpy. You ideally want an MSP who prefers communicating like you do, be that through the phone, in email, or even via text message or instant message.
You’ll always feel like you’re on the same page with your MSP so you can focus less on niceties and more on the problem at hand.
The scope of services an MSP can provide is broad. There might be some services that are must-haves versus nice-to-haves, so we recommend you sit down and make a list before the consultation. Then ask the MSP which services they offer.
After you meet with several MSPs, you can compare their list of services to your must-have list. The company that offers the most services on that list is the one you should hire for managed IT services.
How Managed IT Services Prioritize Customer Satisfaction
At the heart of what your Dallas company does is customer satisfaction. Managed IT services can help you improve your customer bonds in a way that you never have before, here’s how.
Embracing the Growth Mindset
Your MSPs are always thinking of how your company can grow now and in the future. When your company stays on top of what’s the cutting edge, you continually impress your customers, whose expectations will be raised.
Compared to the competition, you’re prioritizing what’s important to your audience, and that matters a lot.
Staying Compliant with Data Regulations
Customers care more about where their data goes than they ever have. Compliance missteps can erode customer trust and cause even loyal customers to abandon your company. Your MSPs can ensure that your company remains compliant for every data regulation law, from the GDPR to the CCPA.
When your company goes down due to a tech issue or a virus, it’s not only your internal staff that’s affected but your customers as well. You can’t ship customer orders, your customer service department can’t assess customer concerns, and your sales and marketing teams can’t find new customers.
Preventative planning through managed IT services in Dallas makes these disruptions fewer and farther between by evading or reducing risks.
Back in July, we wrote a whole blog about client satisfaction. You can read it here. We also talked about customer satisfaction on our podcast. You can listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.
The right IT support is about more than fixing computer errors but making operations more efficient and futureproofing your tech so your business can continue doing what you do best: offering fantastic service.
Herrod Tech is the leading provider of managed services and IT support. Contact us today to learn more.