According to House of Commons statistics for 2021 there are over 6 million SMEs (with 0-250 employees) in the UK and over 360,000 small businesses in Scotland. Across the UK they make up over 99% of all businesses.
So, it is safe to say that small companies, and their performance, are fairly important to the economy.
Today, arguably more than ever, technology is essential to the success of their business. In an environment where staff and customers are able to connect via a plethora of devices – from laptops to mobile phones – and are increasingly using sophisticated business applications to meet, chat and share information on projects.
And keeping all of that IT infrastructure working and secure from Cyber threats is no mean feat and can be a complex management issue. One way to simplify the issue is to look externally and appoint a 3rd party to manage your IT. And many businesses are already doing this – in fact, according to research done by CompTIA, Managed IT services companies are used by 64% of businesses for at least one of their IT functions.
In this blog, we take a closer look at why more and more businesses are looking to outsource their IT support function and also to explore the reasons why SMEs are making the choice.
What exactly are Managed IT Services?
Before we dive into why you might need it might help to provide a quick definition. So, what exactly are Managed IT Services?
Managed IT Services allows SMEs to effectively outsource the running and management of your internal IT infrastructure to an expert 3rd party IT support company. Who then take on responsibility for your business applications, email hosting, network monitoring and systems security. Covering everything from keeping devices patched and up to date to protect against security risks to providing round the clock support to your teams as IT issues arise.
Usually in return for a fixed monthly fee – although different pricing models do exist.
So, what are the reasons for choosing and benefits of this type of approach to managing your IT? We consider some of these below:
You simply can’t manage your IT needs internally any more
As your business scales it is highly likely that you are going to be fighting on a number of fronts from the need to bring in new customers, to ensuring a good customer experience to balancing the needs of growth with effective financial management within the business.
And growth will inevitably mean that your IT requirements are going to grow too. In the early stages of growth the management of IT typically sits informally with a member of staff who is IT literate and provides informal IT support outside of their core role. But as you scale, those staff find themselves overwhelmed and spending more and more time on IT related issues and less time on their own jobs. Which means your team is effectively reactive and treading water on a daily basis. And there is also the accompanying need for more sophisticated IT systems and support and an expert view on how to make then effective for your business.
This is where a Managed IT support company can help. By removing the burden of informal IT troubleshooting and getting them back to focusing on their day job.
Enables you to tap into a depth of external IT expertise
The sheer complexity of the business applications and IT systems landscape these days demands a level of expertise to ensure that your business gets full value from their IT investment.
As SMEs grow often their first instinct is to hire in a junior IT Support Executive. In perception terms this feels like the safe option. As it typically provides dedicated IT resource within the existing business which is available for support within working hours. While this approach has some benefits it also has a number of issues including limitations in:
- The ability of a more junior staff member to cover the wide range of technical IT specialisms needed right across the business
- An upper limit in terms of the support capacity that can be provided both in, and out of, office hours
- Lack of a strategic view and plan for how IT can support the business effectively
- An initial hurdle in terms of the time it takes to get a new internal IT resource up and running
By hiring an experienced IT Managed Service provider, you are able to much more quickly tap into a deep pool of expertise and knowledge. Which is instantly available to your business – in the shape of a full team that includes Account Directors (who shape and plan your IT strategy), IT and Operations Specialists, IT engineers and Helpdesk staff.
And because they are working across a range of clients it is highly likely that they will have solved the same type of IT challenges and issues for other, similar businesses. Which means they are able to quickly onboard and support your business – providing expert but also highly cost-effective advice that helps your business growth.
You can save money on your IT bill
We have hinted at it above but its worth calling out in full here again – as research by Comptia shows that 46% of companies using a Managed IT provider have cut their annual costs by 25% or more.
Hiring internal IT resource is a costly business. When you take into account salaries, pension payments and other HR related expenses. Which can very often be very difficult to predict in advance. And that is before you begin to add in the full costs of the expensive and specialised IT tools that are needed to support your business.
A key benefit of outsourcing your IT support to a Managed Service Provider is that a lot of these costs are absorbed into a single monthly fee – which is based on actual monthly usage and prevents you from paying for services and infrastructure you aren’t actually using. Many IT support providers will offer packages from as little as £170 per month. Plus, you get access to a fully skilled IT team at a fraction of the cost of doing the work yourself.
Which makes for predictable and transparent costs and budgeting for the IT side of your business. It also highly likely, if you get a good provider onboard, that they will find you incremental costs savings.By continually reviewing business application and infrastructure costs related to your IT activity.
Ensures better IT security and protection from the hackers
There is little doubt that SMEs have to work harder than many other businesses to find and keep customers.
But with this comes the responsibility to keep your customers – and just as importantly their data – safe from Cyber-attacks. And that is leaving aside the need to keep your own teams, business data and systems safe too. The reputational and other costs of a breach are not worth even thinking about.
And the reality is that Cyber-Attacks have become an almost daily if not weekly occurrence for businesses. In fact, research by Cloudflare indicated that these type of attacks were up as much as 37% during the recent pandemic. And according to Verizon 28% of data breaches involve SMEs.
So how can a Managed IT provider help keep you safe from this type of threat? The reality is that they are dealing with the types of threats you are facing on a daily basis. And not just with one business but with a whole host of clients. This means they are quickly able to bring their Cyber Security expertise to bear in your business and give you the support and software you need in order to protect it from any upcoming threats.
Look for a managed service provider that takes a holistic approach to protecting your business that not only includes the more technical aspects of protection – like vulnerability scanning, 24/7 remote systems monitoring, using antivirus software and intrusion detection software – but also includes key elements of the mix like a broader Cyber Security assessment and plan for your business. Plus Cyber training for your staff.
Delivers more uptime and predictability in your business
Downtime in any business – caused by anything from security breaches, to software issues, hardware failure and slow systems – can instantly impact productivity. And have a really significant reputational and financial costs for SMEs these days.
The internet and instant availability of SaaS based products has created an expectation of quick – if not instant – service from customers. And IT systems failing can very quickly create a domino effect that can be disastrous for your business. When your customers simply can’t access the business applications they need to do their day jobs it often means they can’t deliver what they need to for your customers.
And customers talk these days, thanks to online networking and social media – so even a couple of hours of downtime can have an impact that extends far beyond your current customer base. And the reputational effect can be severe.
Since IT support providers have the proactive monitoring capability to monitor, identify and rectify problems remotely – and sometimes before you even know you have them – they are able to help you minimize downtime and keep your employees and your customers moving and happy. And even if the worst should happen, and you do have a major incident like a security breach they will have planned ahead. With a business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan in place that gets you back up in running in a matter of hours. Not days and weeks.
So, if your own Managed IT provider is not talking to you about Disaster Recovery they should be!
You can get back to running your business
This is one that is often overlooked but it’s really important particularly for SMEs.
If you are a Legal Firm, a Charity, an Engineering business, an Accountancy firm or Marketing agency then you’re not in the business if managing IT systems for your customers. So why would you try and do it for your own business?
The downside in terms of productivity as non-expert staff get involved in “amateur IT fixes” is huge. This approach also runs the very real risk of making things very much worse than they were in the first place for you, your teams and your customers.
By appointing external IT support you put the business of managing IT infrastructure firmly in their court – which they are expert at. And you can get back to running your business – which you are expert at.
Which is a highly productive and cost-effective partnership in anyone’s language.
They provide the peace of mind you need
Ultimately, appointing a Managed IT support provider provides you with peace of mind.
With everything from security threats to the need for the latest patches updating on the network covered. And effectively taken off your plate.
It is no exaggeration to say that outsourcing your IT support will also provide a better nights’ sleep! Safe in the knowledge that someone else has your back on the IT front and is proactively monitoring and keeping your IT infrastructure safe and available to your business.
But, just as importantly that they are also there should anything go wrong. To provide expert and proven IT support right at your time of need.
So, if you are considering your options around IT then don’t discount external IT support in your analysis. And don’t be scared to talk to some providers as part of this process.
Many IT support companies will provide an independent and no-obligation review of your IT needs up front which will give you a clear and itemized indication of the type of support they can provide – and a firm monthly costing as part of that.
And do not hesitate to contact us if we can help with that.