I don’t want to be a doom-and-gloom promoter, but it gets frustrating. It’s a tough economy out there. We all know that. There’s so much uneasiness in the business climate that everyone’s cutting back because of fear of the future. I just read a report saying companies are sticking hoards of cash under their mattresses because they’re afraid of investing it and never getting it back. A lot of this cash is coming from cost cutting, and it seems one of the first things that gets cut when times are tough are IT resources. Getting rid of the maintenance people leads to putting Band-Aids on problems…never really fixing them, but just doing the minimum to make things work for one more week.
The Cheap Way Out
The unsettling trend of business owners becoming “do-it-yourself” IT people. How hard can it be? Head over to Best Buy, pick up off-the-shelf software, then spend time installing it on all of your computers. Afterwards you can dust your hands off, proclaim a congratulatory “That was easy!”, and the issue is never addressed again.
Much like milk passing its expiration date, PC’s tend to get a bit funky if they’re not looked after. Over time, an update gets missed here and there, some new spyware doesn’t get caught, a file is left open and doesn’t get backed up at night, software expires…after a while, you’re left with nasty mess that needs to be cleaned up.
So, do-it-yourselfers inevitably end up with a laundry list of no-no’s: expensive repairs, lost productivity, placing company data at risk, and I’m thinking the owner of a company should be focused on things like business strategy and quarterly growth instead of installing big-box-store software (but that’s just me). It’s not that they don’t have the knowledge do this maintenance, it’s just not their primary job function, so things tend to be put by the wayside.
The Right (and less expensive) Way
Much like an orchestra, all security components need to work together to get the desired result. AntiVirus software must be updated and run scans. Software must receive patches. Backups need to complete. If one of these pieces fails, your orchestra hits a sour note and that leads to bad consequences. It is the job of an IT manager to make sure each piece is keeping the beat and doing its job.
However, with all the cuts going on, it’s very well possible that you no longer have access to an IT person. This used to be a tough situation, but these days there’s a simple and inexpensive solution available: Get a virtual IT manager.
Software and services can now emulate a lot of the duties an IT staff performs. Many businesses are moving towards these managed IT services because they cover all the basics and look great on the balance sheets. Existing IT staffs are even enhancing their effectiveness by getting rid of onsite servers and employing managed services to their arsenals. Turning servers into services reduces maintenance workloads, thereby increasing efficiency and allowing for expansion with fewer resources.
How Does it Work?
A managed service is just that — a service that somebody else manages and reports to you. You can purchase a managed AntiVirus license from a provider, then the provider monitors for any virus activity, update issues, license issues, and can many times even assist in virus removal if something does get through. A Patch Management service would make sure security updates and fixes are applied to your PC’s software in a timely manner. Online Backup services make sure your file backups complete on schedule with no errors to a secure location, ensuring your files can be recovered when needed.
These managed services are an incredible bargain for the value they offer. Costs usually run in the $3-$10 per PC range on a monthly basis. Not a bad price to have a professional maintain the upkeep on your office computers. A few IT consultants I’m speaking with are even installing these services at client sites so they can take on more work. It’s an inexpensive way to hire an extra set of eyes and improve their services.
Is It For You?
Managed Services fit a lot of niches. They may be a great money-saving or service enhancing option if you are in one of these situations:
- I work in a small office (50 or fewer people).
- I work in a large office, but not enough IT staff.
- I am an IT Professional, but overworked.
- I am an IT Professional that handles multiple locations.
I love these types of solutions: inexpensive, effective, and easy to implement. I also like automating mundane tasks. Take a look at Managed Service options and I bet there’s a lot you’ll like as well.