IT Professionals aren’t as comfortable as they used to be.
During the technology boom of the mid-90’s, those working in IT were looked upon as the top of the food chain. They were amazing! They were miracle workers! They could accomplish anything using little more than their pocket protectors and some magic DOS commands.
Times are a changin’. PC’s are as user friendly as ever, cloud computing is replacing complicated office network setups, most hardware is to the point where you plug it in and it works…a lot of IT workers are starting to look like the Maytag Repairman. As a result, many small and medium businesses are focusing their computer staff on development, putting them on a contract basis, or getting rid of internal IT staffing all together. This is a great money saving idea in theory, but there is a flaw in the logic — with nobody running maintenance on the hardware, problems inevitably creep up and costly repairs can result.
This gap has brought rise to a whole new view of IT. Over the last few years, business owners have trended towards consultant based network support, meaning someone stops by at regular intervals, checks things out, and takes off. A buddy of mine is in this business and charges $125/hour to make sure everything is patched and secure. He stops by his client locations once a week, and usually for a couple of hours at a time. I’ve become very familiar with his “I can’t believe how messed up a network can get in a week” stories over lunch…mostly because nobody is on-site keep an eye on things.
For this reason, many companies have begun transitioning to managed services. Remote services are now offering everything a dedicated IT staff can do at a tiny fraction of the cost. Here’s a quick overview of the most popular types of managed services:
Antivirus Protection: – Sure, anyone can install antivirus software. The trick is to make sure it’s getting updated, not being turned off by employees, and is catching everything it should. Managed Antivirus solves this problem by “subscribing” to a monitoring service. This service will provide an antivirus client, monitor update and protection status of all computers, and even send you a security report so you know where you stand. These services are often the same cost or even cheaper than “off the shelf” solutions, so this is a no-brainer. I’d go as far to say that there is no reason any business should not be using a managed antivirus solution.
Patch Management: Hackers can practice their craft because of flaws they discover in common software. They depend on you running around the Internet with your security hole showing so they can take advantage. That’s why Windows, Adobe, Java, and other software makers constantly release endless streams of updates. All those updates can become overwhelming, and sometimes you’re not even aware they’re available. Patch Management services review your computer’s vulnerability status, then either pushes down any needed updates or gives you a status list letting you know which computers have targets painted on them. I like these services because they let you focus on working rather than PC maintenance.
Online Backup: One of the jobs of my IT consultant buddy is to restore files from backups for the companies he visits. They make a laundry list of files that need to be restored, he sorts through tapes, runs buggy software, and hopes he can get them back. This means there’s no guarantee a file can be restored, it’s a lengthy process, and they have to wait for him to show up once a week to make the restoration attempt. The better way to go about this is Online Backup. With these types of services, you run a small client on your computer, it automatically runs backups on selected files daily, and files are stored “in the cloud”, so there’s no physical media to deal with. The main advantage of Online Backups is your files are available from any location instantly. You can restore files to a new computer, a home computer…anywhere you want simply by logging into your backup account. This type of service can be used in addition to or as a complete replacement of your existing backup systems (if you even have one).
If you’re in a situation where an IT staff is either affordable or impractical, Managed Services are definitely something you should be considering.