Due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, new rules and requirements have been mandated for small businesses to remain open. As we have seen thousands of employees have been mandated to work from home. In many instances there have been voluntary work from home requirements. This sudden shift to a remote work force has put enormous pressure on IT support, IT Systems and IT security.
Hopefully your company has the right IT support systems and IT services in place to support your people working from home. If you’ve faced challenges with IT technologies and your current IT support systems this article is going to demystify how to get great IT support and an IT system in place to deal with the challenges of supporting a remote work force, and getting the right IT support platform for your small business.
Not so long ago every company had what I refer to as an IT-Super Hero. This was the IT support and IT Network person that we all came to love. Ever vigilant and ready to jump in and fix something our IT-Super hero was there with a fire extinguisher ready to put out IT fires. For the time the single IT Support person, the technical Super-Hero worked fine! And even now the IT-Super Hero is still a valuable piece to the IT support needs and IT strategy for small businesses. But as information technologies have evolved, they have also become more complex. Servers and applications have moved to the cloud. A single hardware server platform can now host multiple applications and virtual servers with a technology known as server virtualization. Phone systems have become IP enabled requiring robust networks. Enhanced IT security technologies have been developed because of all the new hacker threats out there. Firewalls, Security Incident and Event Monitoring, Intrusion Prevention and Detection Systems are standard security systems that small businesses must deploy to keep their data and IT resources safe. The vast amounts of data generated by small businesses require storage systems called Storage Area Networks. These newer systems have many moving parts. Can you imagine all the knowledge you would need to be able to manage, deploy and maintain all these systems? You’d never have time to sleep. You would need to be an IT-Super Hero with Superman powers.
Despite our love and admiration for the single IT support super-hero technician things needed to evolve. Companies realized that it was risky to have a single IT person responsible for the IT-Systems. Business leaders began relationships with IT support companies. The IT support and technology partners would assist the company’s IT department with IT consulting and IT engineering services on an as needed basis. These services usually included technologies that the internal IT department didn’t have the skills necessary to deploy and maintain in house. They needed an outside, third-party IT consulting firm to provide the network systems support and IT project support necessary to make upgrades and deployments successful. The 3rd party consulting firm would come in roll out a new server, a new storage area network, or firewall and leave the systems administration to the in-house support people. Many times, the IT support and consulting firm would come in periodically to make sure the systems were performing and doing what they were supposed to be doing. Or the 3rd party IT support company would come in when called in an emergency to fix something that was broken. This was called the break fix model of IT support. Having an 3rd party IT support company backing up your single IT person was better then just having a single in-house IT person; however, the break fix model has weaknesses. Waiting for something to break before it was fixed didn’t make much sense. It created a fire drill environment. Where systems would be unavailable or not working until the 3rd party support company could come in and fix it or fix it remotely, and essentially put out the fire.
Fortunately, 3rd Party IT Support and Services evolved enough where the fire drill element could be eliminated somewhat by the introduction of network and systems monitoring technologies. It would work like this; software agents would be put on critical equipment, and in the event equipment like servers, printers, workstations, firewalls, or switches went down the monitoring software would send out an alert there was an issue. This alert would then be acted on by the third-party consulting or network support firm and actions were taken to fix the problem. You may even experienced situations where a server went down, your people stopped working, and you called the IT Support company. And they may have responded and said we were alerted this morning of the problem and are working on it now. This is referred to as reactive IT support service model. The IT network support company receives an alert that something is wrong they react and fix it.
You may have heard various IT support models and systems referred to as IT Managed Services. In order to really evolve and get the most from your Information Technology systems a proactive model of IT support must be implemented. I have heard one-man IT department, break-fix IT Support model, and the reactive IT support systems all referred to as IT Managed Services. However, none of those systems should be referred to as IT Managed Services.
True IT Managed Services is a pro-active platform that predicts problems and mitigates them before they impact your business. An effective IT Managed Services platform is going to manage your systems 24/7. Pro-Active IT Managed Services are going to alert you before something shuts down so you can avoid downtime. IT Managed Services is also going to give you a predictable cost for your monthly IT support and services.
The best IT companies all use a Network Operating Center as the foundation and core of their computer and network support services. A Network Operating Center (NOC) is the mission control for Information Technology Support and Network Services. Imagine trying to send a rocket to the moon without mission control? A NOC provides the data and telemetry needed to maintain today’s highly technical and robust computer and network environments. A NOC is going to alert you if something is about to fail. A computer hard drive may be close to failing, well the NOC is going to get error notifications. RAM is not enough in your server; the NOC is going to get you an alert. Backup is not working, or files have not been backed up in some time it’s the Network Operations Center that will keep you posted. A good Network Operations Center will be staffed by a team of experts 24/7. These are specially trained network engineers and computer technicians that will get the alerts from the systems and apply the fixes to make sure the systems don’t fail. The fixes may involve software updates, and patches. Other fixes may include security updates and other updates the software operating systems require. A true NOC doesn’t sleep and is always manned by people. The foundational system of any Top IT company will be the Network Operations Center. If your current IT support provider does not have a NOC, you are exposing yourself to risk.
Another must have from your IT Managed Service provider is a help desk team. And I am not talking about texting someone and waiting for them to call back. Or sending an email. Or leaving a voice mail and waiting for a call back. I am saying you should be calling a number and getting placed in a call queue to receive immediate IT Help Desk Support. Waiting for help desk support will impact your business operations. Maybe someone on your team needs to print an important packing slip or enter some important financial information. Your business can’t be put on hold because you can’t get quick access to a help desk team. Our help desk team also handles the responsibilities of keeping your desktop machines virus free and spyware free. It also works with the Network Operations Center to make sure desktop patches and updates are getting done. IT Risk Managers LLC help desk is also responsible for an end user data base. The database and knowledge base are where all the end users’ information is kept. Including IP configurations, printer settings, usernames, directory info and any other information that may provide a better and faster resolution of the user’s computer or pc support issue. Our help desk provides excellent PC support on the latest windows and apple operating systems.
Not all network support needs, or pc support needs can be handled remotely. Sometimes a network engineer, pc support technician, or other IT support technician must visit your site. The best IT companies are going to have engineers and technicians available to troubleshoot and maintain the network on-site when necessary. As part of your IT Managed Service contract you are going to want your IT services company to outline these on-site computer and network services. Does it cost extra? Is there a trip charge involved? What is the hourly rate? What types of services will need to be done on-site? These services will include things such as project deployments of new technologies or new equipment. For instance; firewall configurations, server builds, network switch installations, router installs, desktop deployments, and other issues where physical presence is needed.
Other important considerations and IT services and support to expect from your Managed IT service provider is a cloud backup solution. This cloud backup solution is the foundation and most important part of any small businesses’ IT strategy. This is where all your data is stored. And it must be tested , monitored, and managed constantly. Just hearing that the back-up is working without a consistent audit is not acceptable. Your IT managed service company must give you constant reporting to prove your backups have been getting done properly. If there is a disaster and your on-site data is lost, your cloud backup must be 100% up to date and available. IT Risk Managers LLC’s cloud backup solution runs incremental backups, full backups, on a second to second basis. Our backup cloud solution is stored in redundant data sites, one on the east coast, and the other on the west coast. The best managed cloud backup services will not only backup your critical data but also give you a system to recover it quickly so your business can continue its operations. The business continuity solution IT Risk Managers LLC offers gives our client a recovery platform also. Not only do we protect, encrypt and store your data in an east coast and west coast data center, we also can turn on a server for you and load up your data in the event of a disaster. This is true managed business continuity and disaster recovery.
From time to time you must make investments in your IT platforms, systems, and technologies. These IT investments must support your company for years to come. The correct decisions must be made on these tech investments. How does a small or medium business know the right path to take when it comes to spending dollars on technology? Well leading Managed IT Service companies have a Chief Information Office (CIO). The CIO is the Information Technology leader that bridges the gap between technology and the needs of the business. This person must be able to communicate and make IT understandable to business leaders. If you as a business leader get in deep technical conversations that you don’t have time to understand a good CIO will be able to give you a quick business understanding. It is not the job of business leadership to understand the technicalities of Information Technology. You have a business need, it’s a CIO’s job to meet the business need with technology. And to help you understand it from a business perspective. Don’t be afraid to run your IT department like other departments. With reporting, budgeting, and accountability.
The final piece to a great IT company’s managed service offering is not technical. The final and most important aspect of getting good IT, network, and computer support is your providers’ attitude. Information Technology and support is already challenging to your team. They just want the IT support platform to work so they can get their jobs done. If you have an IT support team that spends too much time talking technology and stuff most users don’t understand that’s a problem. Sometimes IT can seem like a foreign language to most people. Don’t let your IT Managed Services company speak a foreign language to you. If your current computer support company is using a lot of acronyms and many words you don’t understand, you are not getting the services you deserve. A great computer company will have people that explain the technology in business terms. Having IT people speaking over your head about technical issues is not valuable and it’s a risk to your business. Again, make sure you have a CIO that has a good attitude and can make information technology understandable to you. How are you going to invest thousands in technologies if you can’t understand what the equipment does to drive value for your company? Spending money on technology for the sake of technology makes no sense. Yet time and time again I see business owners investing in technologies that provide little ROI. Get the right IT Managed Service firm that can explain the ROI of every IT investment and have it explained in business terms.