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New Trends In Managed Services: P Is For Profitability

We’ve all seen the benefits of managed IT services. But have you ever wondered if there’s a better way to grow you business from the inside out?

Many CFOs are approaching 2015 with a deep focus on culling out areas within their core businesses to pinpoint new sources of revenue. Ones that have been overlooked for years and yet can add profits with minimal investment. However, what many executives don’t look are ways to increase profits by maximizing manpower and IT costs.

Often when we speak with an organization interested in learning how can help them migrate their systems to our managed services, there’s usually one question that comes up. How do we protect our existing network and technical infrastructure while also growing our business?

We recommend taking a critical look at your line-item expenses. But not merely by evaluating your costs with your accounting department. What’s common with most sized companies is something we call detachment. Here’s how it goes…

IT technicians spend nearly 75% of their time fixing and repairing internal technology to support your users.

Accounting reports to the CFO on what types of fixed-costs are required to keep your organization afloat. Besides payroll and facility costs, technology typically trails at a distant third.

Users and service personnel spend much of their work week processing profit-generating tasks.

Middle-management supports your workforce while also answering to senior managers to report on whether projections will be met.

What’s missing? It’s almost always an in-house assessment whether your current in-house IT department can decrease costs while also increasing production. Granted, your company can only grow at a pace your manpower can support. But what we find unique in many cases when speaking with companies looking to outsource is they usually don’t know what their true IT costs are at any given moment.

Why should they? Based on our research,

A large percentage of organizations have little to no hard data on the cost of running their IT.

Is this shocking? Yes and no.

Obviously, not fully understanding the financial impact maintaining your networks and servers have on your profitability will make you wonder if you’re overpaying. But honestly, most companies are so busy operating their core businesses they do not have the resources or time to pinpoint IT expenses.

If you’re wondering about your own internal IT costs, the next question to ask yourself is whether or not a hybrid approach may fit your organization.

Hybrids come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps you’re ready to implement a public or private cloud network but don’t quite know if it’s financially prudent. Oftentimes hybrid scenarios can prove far more profitable. Meaning you may not need to outsource all of your technology needs but do need help to maximize ones that are falling behind in performance.

One size fits all thinking when considering a MSP solution never works. In fact, you’d better do a full-scale analysis of your networks, users and frequency of downtime. Remember, when your networks are down production always suffers and impacts your profitability.

7 Things to consider when hiring an IT Services Company  

ITOutsourcing

Selecting an IT partner who can provide the best support to organization is an important task for any business. If you take the necessary time to do your research and understand some key concepts; finding the right partner shouldn’t be a daunting task. Below are seven questions to ask when shopping for a qualified IT Support Services Company.

  1.  How long has your IT Company been in business for?

According to Gallup research, about 50% of new U.S. companies fail in their first five years. It is important to look for an IT partner that has been successful in their business at minimum 5+ years. It will ease your concerns to know that your IT partner has a successful track record.

  1.  How many employees does your company have? Ask the potential IT partner to provide a breakdown of employees by job titles.

It is important to understand the size of the company you are working with. Usually 20 or more employees would be an ideal size. It is also a recommendation to ask for the specific certifications held by technicians and engineers.

  1.  What are your technical capabilities?

IT companies love technology and would be willing to take on any problem surrounding technology, even if they are not subject experts. To best measure the best IT partner for your company, look to suppliers that can provide reference and experiences that speak to your particular industry.

  1.  Currently, how many clients are part of your cloud or managed IT solutions?

Your business should seek out a company who knows what they are doing and this is an important measurement to consider. At minimum, the IT partner should have a hundred active customers and provide two or more references as you move along in the process.

  1.  Do you have a help desk or do you use outsourced help-desk services and monitoring?

Managed service providers will at times outsource help desk services to lower costs. We’ve found that in most cases, it’s better to have all services in-house with your IT partner.

  1.  Do you measure customer satisfaction for your managed service clients?

A good IT company will be calling their clients and perform surveys, providing reports. Ask for random client surveys that are random. Ask to see a mix set of reviews. Ask for good and a low scoring review. It is important to see how they resolved the customer’s issues. Customer service should be rated by: professionalism, timelines, security, reliability and problem resolution.

  1.  What response times does your service level agreement (SLA) guarantee cover?

A trustworthy IT contract will outline that someone from said managed service provider will respond to request and or issues within a given period of time. This could pertain to helpdesk calls and onsite visits. This also applies to up and downtime of servers and networks. Without these safeguards in place, your business can be susceptible to other pressing higher-priority commitments the service provider is working on.

5 Outside The Box ROI Tips On Outsourced IT

Last week one of our clients, Margaret, called our support staff. “We’ve saved more than 43% on our IT expenses in the last six months thanks to your outsourced IT,” she told us. How?

Look at your IT department’s hardware and manpower expenses. These are two line-item costs most finance managers ignore as they’re mission-critical factors in your core business. In the last three decades, too many companies have given their IT department’s a pass on expense management. However, new trends in expense management are catching the attention of many CFOs.

Outsourced IT Tip #1

Smart CFOs are investing in virtual outsourcing.

We’ve helped many of them develop a plan to win over their IT department senior technicians to consider the concept. But don’t ignore the human element. Face it, you’ve invested years of time and capital building loyalty among your IT team. The minute you suggest you’re considering outsourced IT, they’ll worry about one thing: job security.

It’s a delicate process. One that requires your IT team to feel as if they’ll remain on the payroll despite your efforts to cost-control your technology. The benefit of virtual outsourcing is that it offers your staffers to be empowered in the process rather than feel like an expense. Ask them to get involved in the vetting process when interviewing prospective off-site contractors.

Outsourced IT Tip #2

Negotiate rather than place orders for new technology products.

Your IT people have years (perhaps decades) of expertise keeping your servers and softwares working. Guess what? They almost always lack the necessary negotiating skills when ordering from vendors.

Are you paying retail? If so, it’s time to give up merely placing orders online and think about negotiating better prices. Have your IT gurus meet with your senior management. Develop a plan to negotiate all future purchases with a projected 10-15% discount.

Outsourced IT Tip #3

Let professional IT services help.

Professional IT services can pinpoint areas in your technology that can be reduced by implementing their outsourced IT protocols. Most of the time they can relieve your IT headaches much faster and more cost-effectively than having your in-house IT resources to do it. Why? Considering the limitation of a usually small in-house IT department: will having one or two part-time IT personnel(s) solve the problems quicker and better than a large and dedicated team of professional IT services?

The only challenge here is how to choose a really good professional IT service vendor – check out this list to get some ideas: although it talks about evaluating in-house IT team, it works equally well for IT outsourcing qualifications.

Outsourced IT Tip #4

Evaluate whether or not your company can benefit from cloud computing. It’s no surprise your IT resources can be scaled by consolidating your storage. Many firms discover by converting their server needs to pay-as-you-go streamlines their initial out-of-pocket expenses.

Read our outsourced IT recommendations for cloud computing…

Some companies are shifting their outsourced IT needs to our Amazon Web Services platform. Since 2006, we’ve been leaders in the process helping organizations migrate their resources to AWS servers.

Outsourced IT Tip #5

Learn how companies have moved their outsourced IT into an AWS quick start package. We recommend a transitional migration. Doing so allows you to try before you buy into the concept of moving all of your IT needs in one fell swoop. If you need help analyzing your outsourced IT possibilities, contact us today.

Gartner Announces Leaders in End-User Outsourcing

Leaders In End-user Outsourcing 2013 Leaders In End-user Outsourcing 2013

 

In its recent Magic Quadrant for End-User Outsourcing Services report, Gartner acknowledged growing interest in the use of service providers to help businesses with IT processes. The report specifically looked at the popularity of outsourcing service desk, desktop, and mobility needs. While Gartner anticipates desktop support outsourcing will hold steady over the next few years, compound growth of 14 percent is expected between now and the year 2018 in the area of mobile device outsourcing.

Through its series of Magic Quadrant reports, Gartner seeks to provide insight into trends in the market. The unbiased report ranks vendors on two major qualities: completeness of vision and ability to execute. Within those two criteria, vendors are grouped into four quadrants based on their levels of innovation and depth of service.

Leaders

  • CSC: This Virginia IT company provides end-user outsourcing services using MyWorkStyle, which gives businesses five work personas.
  • IBM: With the goal of providing a virtualized workplace, IBM supports approximately 3.5 million end users.
  • Unisys: In 2013, Unisys’s end-user outsourcing business grew 14 percent, with 2,275 desktop technicians supporting users.
  • CompuCom: Based in Dallas, CompuCom has more than 600 defined personas and can pinpoint systems that need to be replaced before they become problematic.
  • HP: Supporting more than 5.4 million users globally, HP offers everything from client virtualization to Context Analytics.
  • Dell: Client solutions are tailored to meet their own specific needs, and the company plans to further customize its offerings by creating plans designed for larger clients.
  • HCL Technologies: The India-based company uses remote delivery and automation to reduce the need for on-site technical support.
  • Atos: This French IT services company provides a low-cost base price that lets clients add on services as needed.

Visionaries

  • Fujitsu: The company’s Workplace Anywhere uses its own cloud and Citrix-based technology to provide support for both mobile and virtualization.
  • Cognizant: With its monthly risk-free subscription, Cognizant has grown significantly.

Challengers

  • Xerox: The Connecticut company takes a service catalog approach for its document management offerings.
  • Pomeroy: The company has an emphasis on mobile, supporting four mobile devices for every 10 PCs.
  • Wipro: This India-based company is expected to boost its end-user outsourcing performance in the next few years.

Niche Players

  • CGI: The Montreal company hosted a technology trial and 140-day review in order to give customers a chance to try out its hosted virtual desktop service.
  • Stefanini: This Brazilian company encourages performance improvements through rewarding employees for any savings it can bring to clients.
  • Long View Systems: This Calgary-based firm has a focus on mobile technology, rebadging employees to other companies when needed.
  • C3i: C3i focuses on the life science industry, providing support for labs and medical facilities.
  • Maintech: Clients benefit from training through Maintech’s IT Infrastructure Library.

 

Cloud Redefines Outsourcing in Multiple Industries

The stigma once attached to outsourcing is quickly fading as businesses realize there are many ways to send work offsite. Thanks to the growing popularity of cloud hosting, businesses are discovering that certain tasks can be completed by contractors and service providers directly from an online account. Third-party providers can log into the site and view and complete work without being able to access sensitive company information.

Outsourcing Transactional Tasks

As automation and outsourcing has replaced certain jobs, professionals are shifting attention toward higher-level tasks such as strategy and management. After obtaining a college degree and/or years of experience in a field, an employee is unlikely to be interested in a job that requires sorting through pages of data to find one item. These tasks can easily be sent to the cloud to be handled by an offsite employee.

Helping with the transition is that it is gradual. Large staffs aren’t being replaced by outsourcing. Instead, individual mundane work is being outsourced as current employees simply become too busy to handle them. This allows staff members to turn their attention to higher-level tasks, which pushes a business in the direction it needs to go to grow.

Software as a Service

Part of the outsourcing trend can be traced back to the growing popularity of Software as a Service (SaaS), which allows tasks such as HR and database development to be automated. Once automated, employees can serve in an administrator capacity, reviewing information and issuing approvals as needed.

The cloud has made it easier than ever for businesses to send tasks offsite. The many collaboration tools available today allow businesses to work together on projects in the same place, allowing for streamlined management of both onsite and offsite workers. This helps businesses save money without losing the team mentality that makes their organization strong.

CFOs and CIOs can keep up with Business’ growth with Cloud Computing, discovers Deloitte report

The latest issue of CFO Insights from Deloitte investigates the role of cloud computing and focuses on the benefits and decision-making concerns offered by transitioning to this new technology environment.The assessment from Deloitte’s report addresses technology decision-makers, notably the CIOs and CFOs, who will soon need to face the reality that they need to transition their organization’s computing technology, it services, and data to “the cloud”. As cloud computing technology attains wider usage, more businesses will soon have to deal with the decision to shift from an on-premises technology setting to a cloud based one.The idea of cloud computing has prevailed for a long time. The basic premise behind it is that the business can outsource daily management of resources on a need-only basis, identical to buying utility services, such as water and power. However, one crucial factor is that the cloud computing resources are delivered over the Internet.

The Deloitte report underlines the need to have a productive working relationship between the CFO and CIO. The decision to embrace cloud computing is broader in scope than just the information technology department. The CFO can strategize cloud computing to execute financial objectives, and at the same time create a risk intelligent culture. The CIO can increase the visibility of the technology department as an esteemed part of the organization.

Cloud resources can broadly be classified into these four categories: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Most individuals assume SaaS to be the only cloud computing resource, which involves the administering of software applications on demand. The software applications can range from email, backup and file storage solutions to customer relationship management (CRM) and financial applications.

However, there are other use cases for cloud computing. For example, PaaS is used a software development platform to develop new applications, whereas IaaS is used an on-demand hardware resource platform.

The Deloitte report advocates the introspection of relative costs and benefits of different cloud resources before taking the decision. Most organizations reserve the use of cloud computing to low-risk projects, or tasks ideally unsuitable for on-premises technology.

The most cited benefit by various CFOs and CIOs in their interviews is the flexibility that cloud computing offers; it can scale and react to technology changes very quickly. Significant reduction in infrastructure costs and IT support staff requirements are also a few of the other benefits cited.

However, the CFOs and CIOs also raised a few concerns in their interviews regarding the safety and reliability of using cloud computing. Is the data safe? Where is it stored? Is the data backed up? What should a business do when it needs to shift from one cloud technology provider to another? These are all the questions that are asked frequently an organization before embracing cloud computing.

Nevertheless, the CFOs and CIOs also reported that cloud vendors are more likely to provide higher levels of performance and better security. The vendors have to perform as their business depends on it; if they fail to provide a good service, then they will lose all their clients and reputability.

The report recommends the business to assess its technology needs in the context of its purpose and needs. As the business changes and evolves, the technology also needs to keep up with it. By evaluating the business’ administrative concerns and how the availability of cloud technology will influence the organization, the CFOs and CIOs can make sure that their business transits fluently into a cloud computing environment.

If you’re interested in learning how ComputerSupport.com can help your business save money by utilizing cloud services, be sure to reference our cloud computing consulting services.

Getting the Most Out of Outsourcing

When you’re a small business every dollar you spend is important.  So when you have to hire outside help, especially outsourcing IT needs, how do you insure your money is cost-effective.  One word: benchmarks.

Traditionally, benchmarks have been touted by outsourcing firms as ways to compare themselves to their competitors.  For example, they would say, “we X company have decreased system downtime by Y percent on average.”  They would use these benchmarks to help set the price.  However, with the changing market, the usage of benchmarks has changed.

Today, benchmarks should be used to ask” what is the best usage of company X’s resources for me?” rather than “how much should I pay company X?”  So how do you decide what is best?

Get a Baseline

To judge how effective a project is you need to know the amount and rate of change.  That’s status after compared to status before.  Outsourcing companies can spin the after data much easier than the before data.  However, you should take a stock of what position you are in.  In the downtime example, if you’re having trouble with your network crashing, you should time how long your network is not working.

Unit Consumption

In this day and age, it’s important to know what you want.  After getting a baseline you should work with your IT service provider to decide how much per unit of improvement will cost.  That way you can zero in on what you want and what you can have.

In-Check

As always, keep yourself in-check.

Latest Trends in IT Managed Services

Your company’s arrangement with its janitorial service or break-room supplier may not have changed much in the past 20 years, but chances are you’re looking for something much different from your IT managed services provider than you did even a year or two ago. And if you’re not, maybe you should be.

Here, then, are four important trends in IT managed services that you may want to consider.

1. BYOD. You’re probably heard the acronym for “bring your own device” before, but if you haven’t talked with your IT company about it, it’s about time. If your workers are using company email or accessing your network on their iPads and smartphones, you need to know how to keep confidential data safe, and how to make the most effective use of the amazing technology that we all carry in our pockets these days.

2. The Cloud. This is another term that’s been on most of our radar screens for a few years now. Yet when it comes to one of the most obvious uses of the cloud, offsite data backup, only 33 percent of small businesses have signed on, according to a 2012 survey. Managed Services providers should be able to explain which cloud functions you might want and help you manage them efficiently and securely.

3. Managed Print Services. The paperless office is a nice idea, but most businesses still have a significant need to print materials, whether for internal or external uses. Managed print services can unify and streamline printing, help reduce costs, and give telecommuters access to secure printers. That might explain why the number of total printers managed by MSPs jumped from 86,000 to 107,000 over the past year alone.

4. Thought Leadership. IT companies once functioned something like plumbers—they were someone you called to fix problems and then go away. Now, businesses’ IT strategies are becoming a big part of their overall strategies. A good MSP can become an insider that understands your company and finds new ways to make it work better from top to bottom through technological innovation.

It’s possible all these trends may not be relevant to your business, but there’s a very good chance that at least some of them are. If you’re not sure how, you might try setting up a meeting with your managed services provider to ask some questions.

How To Build Your E-mail List

We’ve covered how to build an auto-responder for your business account.  But then the question hit us: where are you get all those e-mails?

1. Writing free e-zine and blog articles

Contrary to popular belief, people are reading more than ever nowadays.  Submitting an article to somewhere like Go Articles is a quick way to increase exposure.  Keeping up a blog and sending out articles on a regular basis helps a business appear current and stay in shape SEO wise.

2. Using Social Media

It is often said that social media is over-hyped.  However, it’s all about how you use it.  For example, answering questions on a LinkedIn group can help both break the ice and show how useful you and your product are.  Posting questions on forums can also include a link to page to sign up for your e-mail list.  People are always more willing to give something if they get something in return including good honest knowledge.

3. Creating Online Webinars

A webinar has a dual purpose.  Using tools like LinkedIn and other social media sites, you can get people to sign up and finally put a face to the company.  Services like GoToWebinar also allow you to record your session to use for later content.  Of course directly interfacing with your customers is always a good thing.

For more information on using technology to your advantage go here.

Managed IT Services Pricing: Are You Overpaying?

With companies more dependent than ever on complex networks, mobile devices and electronic solutions for everything from bookkeeping to compliance, managed IT services are looking increasingly attractive. But choosing a provider can be an exercise in comparing apples and oranges. Some managed IT services companies set their prices based purely on how many devices you use. Others let you pick and choose from a variety of services on an a la carte basis. And still others have a tiered system where “gold” level clients get quicker service and more total hours of support than their “bronze” counterparts.

The key to choosing wisely is that there’s no one perfect managed IT services package. What you need is the best package for your business. And that means you need to have a clear idea of your specific needs going into the process. How many networks do you use? If your IT is hosted on site, do you want to move it to the cloud, and, if so, how will the transition and continuing network management fit into your overall plans? Do you have employees who work from home, or who use mobile devices on the road?

If you take a look at your use of IT service over the past few months, you can probably get a sense of your needs. How many tickets have come in from employees, and what issues did they reflect? Do you need frequent hands-on help at your office, or can remote assistance typically handle the problem?

It’s also a good idea to go through worst-case scenarios. If your network suddenly went down on a Sunday at 4 p.m., would it be an emergency that had to be handled immediately or a minor inconvenience that could wait until Monday morning? If one of your field reps working on the other side of the country couldn’t get help logging a new phone onto your network, how bad would that be?

There’s a reason people say time is money. If a long wait time for help from your managed IT services provider would keep your workers twiddling their thumbs, that’s just as much of a problem as overpaying for services you don’t need.

Of course, what you really want is to avoid both those problems. So before you go shopping for managed IT services, make sure you know just what your needs really are.