As IT becomes more central to business operations, the management of IT services is, unsurprisingly, an increasingly busy task.
Where once an internal IT team may have comfortably self-managed every aspect of a business’s infrastructure, the configuration, maintenance and support demands of today’s numerous systems can be overwhelming – not to mention costly.
Hence, the creation of managed services –the practice of transferring the day to day management of your IT infrastructure to a specialist provider.
Both powerful and cost effective, the advantages of managed services are:
With experts managing configuration and deployment, managed services can be put in place much faster, for better ROI.
Priced on a per user or per device basis, managed services make IT costs predictable, making cash flows easier to manage.
Access to the latest technologies
Under managed services, upgrades are organised by your provider – giving you access to the latest systems and capabilities, without the hassle.
Managed services free your IT team to focus on business improvement, rather than the routine management of backups, support and other aspects of day-to-day operations.
But, while managed services are easier to deploy and manage than other solutions, they’re not always a case of ‘set and forget’.
Indeed, managing your managed service provider is an important process, so how should you go about it?
Ensure an adequate agreement
The definition of what constitutes a managed service can be broad. It’s therefore important to understand what will be covered by the agreement and what will not.
Your first task is to define your business requirements – both operational and financial.
Negotiate with your provider to make sure that your agreement is as comprehensive as you need it to be. Contracts must accurately reflect the details of your arrangement. Understand termination and exit conditions. Remember that some industry agreements can auto-renew.
Ensure adequate SLAs
Service level agreements describe how well your managed service is expected to perform, according to a set of criteria.
As a consumer of managed services, you want an SLA to be strict. The more important a particular service is to your business, the more important it is to ensure that its SLA has real-world penalties.
Not only do you need to motivate your provider to perform, you also want to be able to seek redress if they don’t.
Ensure detailed reporting
Managed services should be accompanied by as much reporting as possible – everything from uptime to usage.
This is important because – while you won’t be managing the service – you will still be managing your business requirements. Usage metrics and other data will allow you to understand whether your service is suitable for your needs.
‘Managed’ should never mean ‘locked in’. Managed services agreements should provide scope for adjusting your service in accordance with changing requirements, whether they be up or down.
Deployed correctly, managed services are an effective and economical way to meet your IT requirements without having to recruit and train staff or make significant upfront investments.
Managing your service arrangements plays a key role in making sure that they reflect your business needs. In addition to holding your provider to account after your service has commenced, it’s important to pay special attention to contracts and SLAs when agreements are first put in place.
Stephen Sims is general manager sales & marketing, Brennan IT