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IT Support Services vs Managed IT Services - What's the difference?

Many of us have heard of IT support and think we know what it is, but Managed IT Services may be a new term for some companies! Both are a methodology of dealing with IT systems and issues, however there are some significant difference and it pays to educate clients on them.

IT Support Services

Traditional IT support is typically a team of tech experts and consultants who are available when something goes wrong. You as the customer ask for help as and when you need it, but don't usually receive any on-going inclusion in the management of the IT.

Depending on the maturity of the IT company looking after your system, you may also receive varying levels of support and inconsistencies in repair times, or just general service level issues.

These types of IT companies operate on what can be referred to as a break-fix model, and although workable for small businesses who are not concerned about security or ongoing management, it won't be suitable for growing businesses who need to ensure consistent levels of service, and who want to be kept informed of developments in the technology world.

Things like backups, firewalls, IT policies, budgets and roadmapping are rarely covered in basic IT support contracts.

Managed IT Services

The term managed IT (also known as Managed Service Provider) was born out of the ever increasing reliance on IT departments to tackle all manner of business IT issues which started to go way beyond typical tech woes.

The reason for this shift was the rapid rate of change in IT, and also the demands being placed on IT departments to not only support technology, but also monitor uptime, keep systems patched and secure, and also keep the clients up to date with technology. It soon became clear that this was far too much to handle for your typical IT support worker on their own.

Thus Managed IT was born, and all the elements of good IT practice split out into appropriate departments to be provided by what were later called MSPs. There are different interpretations of what true Managed IT services are, however we believe it falls into four areas:

  • 24/7 IT Support - Helpdesk

  • Monitoring & Centralisation - NOC/SOC

  • Netadmin or Technology Alignment - IT STANDARDS

  • vCIO or IT Director - IT STRATEGY / BUDGETS

Now we won't go into the details of these four areas, but if it's of interest, see our Four Blocks video which goes into detail on how these areas work together.

It is vitally important to educate clients on why a managed service is nothing like IT support and why at a certain point for the sanity of their staff, the growth of their business, and the protection of the clients and suppliers, they really will need Managed IT over IT support.

How should companies decide which management they need?

Many businesses are starting to turn towards managed service packages for the obvious benefits and reasons above, but typically the main difference is around direct (£) cost, usually not considering overall value to the business.

Pricing for IT support typically works on an annual contract basis. You can negotiate prices depending on how many calls you make for help. Other services are pre-paid depending on an hourly rate. You can also sometimes pay for help on a drop-in basis only when you need it.

Managed services usually work on a fixed-rate annual basis on a per user model, incorporating all the services (Four Blocks) needed regardless of how much IT support is needed, as the cost is not only for a helpdesk, but the other skills needed to truly manage an IT system and ultimately drive down the requirements on a helpdesk.

A client's choice should depend on how much their business depends on IT. If the business cannot afford for services to be down for several hours, or can't live without knowing someone knows the system inside and out, then managed services is an absolute must.

If its a smaller company with a lower budget, then basic IT support may work, on a pay-as-you go basis. But beware, this model doesn't guarantee anyone will be there to help when needed, and means no one is watching over the IT system or providing advice on what should or shouldn't be happening with the technology.


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