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.

Managed IT Services vs. Cloud Services Provider

Shopping for IT services can be tricky. The whole point is finding a professional firm that has more technical expertise than you do. But without all that specialized knowledge, it’s hard to know whether a service will deliver what your office needs. Things get even trickier when you start comparing providers who may be using different terms to describe very similar services.

One case in point is the term Managed IT Services, or Managed Services Provider (MSP), versus Cloud Services Provider (CSP). Some firms just call themselves MSPs or CSPs, while others may list both terms in their marketing material.

So, what’s the difference? MSPs handle all sorts of IT functions, from setting up a new network to troubleshooting an iPad that’s started acting strange. As more and more businesses are bringing some of their IT to the cloud—whether just for backup or email hosting or for their whole network infrastructure—some see CSPs as the wave of the future. Essentially, CSPs handle a company’s IT needs in the cloud. In many cases, that means they partner with one or more big cloud providers, figure out which services you can use, create a custom package for you and then keep it functioning smoothly.

Of course, even if everything is great in the cloud, you could still run into problems back in the office if an employee spills a mug full of coffee on his laptop. In many cases, what businesses need is some combination of MSP and CSP. And the good news is, that’s also what many IT firms offer. The bad news? The nature of their offerings isn’t always clear from their website or initial sales pitch. That’s why it’s important to have specific questions ready about the services they offer and the way they fit in with your business’s ways of operating.

Ultimately, you don’t have to be an IT expert to hire an IT expert. You just have to know what your company needs.