Most small and medium businesses don’t have the resources or the budget to set up a full-blown IT department. They may have one or two designated employees, but to truly reach their goals, they usually need to outsource IT.
By outsourcing technological pieces, a business can save money and time. It doesn’t need to spend the money and resources on developing an in-house option. These expenses can add up for a small business, especially one that might not even use technology all that much.
Many companies that don’t think they need IT help are behind the curve. We live in a technology-dependent world, where our phones are never more than 10 feet away from us. IT services are practically a necessity for any modern business — even ones that don’t feel they use technology much. The back end of security and servers is more complicated than many administrators realize, and ignoring it could mean you are just waiting for an incident to happen. By outsourcing IT, you can stay ahead of these problems.
One important consideration when outsourcing IT is whether managed or professional services are right for your business. What is the difference between managed services and professional services? We’ll go over the differences and the pros and cons of each approach below.
What Are Managed Services?
Managed services are the typical image of IT support. These are the guys you have 24-hour access to whenever a server goes down or you need help troubleshooting some software. They also perform maintenance tasks and keep things running smoothly.
Some characteristics of a managed service include:
- Day-to-day maintenance: Managed services perform routine tasks like updates and tune-ups. These tasks are easy for employees to overlook since they might not directly relate to what they’re doing. A dedicated IT force, however, can ensure that your tech isn’t left open to security problems or slow software due to outdated programs. They may also take care of things like virus removal and disk management for any slow-moving computers.
- Troubleshooting: Troubleshooting is usually where people first feel the need to contact their IT department. Managed services are typically on standby and reachable whenever you have an issue. Whether your login isn’t working or some hardware won’t connect, they may be available remotely or can pay you an in-person visit to solve the issue. Many offer online chats or phone calls, as well.
- Security: Some businesses aren’t well-equipped to deal with attacks on their network, or may not have sufficient security. Small and medium firms may especially benefit from outsourcing this aspect. According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Incident Report, 43% of data breaches involved small business victims. Every business needs strong security, and managed services can set up robust security systems on your network. Some IT providers will also assist with data recovery in case something were to happen to your information.
- Administration: Managed services can set up an entire network and maintain it for you, taking care of the operational side.
- Data backup: A crash can be a high cost for a business that is unprepared for it. Recouping lost information and rebuilding a business’ resources can be expensive and time-consuming. Managed services can protect you from this cost by performing regular data backups to keep information safe. A backup can also provide security in the case of a cyberattack.
- Unified communications: Unified communications combines a variety of communication methods into one streamlined approach. By combining office phones, cellphones, instant messenger, emails and voicemails, you can have a more productive, simplified way of reaching employees and clients. A managed services provider can take care of unified communications, including setup and maintenance.
- Onboarding: Since managed services are always available, they can take care of onboarding programs for new employees. Setting up logins and installing software are some of the tasks they may perform.
- Network monitoring: Another major benefit of managed services is that they can monitor your network 24/7 for any problems. Even a small shutdown can result in major expenses for a business. Consistent monitoring ensures that your business can respond to these issues quickly and efficiently and prevent them whenever possible.
Managed services may bundle a wide variety of tasks into one, making payments simple and eliminating headaches associated with organizing vendors.
What Are Professional Services?
Professional services are more of an on-demand solution than managed services. IT professionals may be employed for one-off projects or short-term changes in a company. Think of expansions or new hardware rollouts. They may be involved in the process from start to finish, or in only one portion. Planning, design, installation and training are all aspects that professional services can take care of. Some also provide ongoing support, such as maintenance or troubleshooting, after the work is complete.
Though the projects can be incredibly thorough and comprehensive, professional services tend to be one-offs. An expanding business may need help upscaling their system, or a company looking for a new solution may require a consultant who knows their limitations and needs. These projects can be quite varied, but professional services address specific challenges posed to a company.
Some of the areas in which a company might choose to use professional services include the following.
- Consulting: Expensive losses may be the result of an uninformed purchase decision or strategy, but many professional services can prevent this through consultations. They frequently work with organizations to find the best solutions and offer expert advice.
- Cloud migration: Moving an entire system to the cloud is sometimes a monumental task and one that may be beyond the capabilities of a small organization. Professional services can step in and take care of the whole process. Transferring data to the cloud can offer a variety of benefits to companies of all sizes and is often cheaper than on-site storage. Scalability, seamless integration, networking and security improvements are a few of the ways that cloud services can help a business.
- Deployment: New hardware or software deployment can be a complicated process with many moving parts. Professional services bring in the experts to take care of these rollouts. They may install and configure new solutions and help implement them. A smooth transition can keep a company moving efficiently and avoid unnecessary snags.
- Advanced troubleshooting: Sometimes, problems are too difficult for a small in-house team. If an issue exceeds your capabilities, professional services can step in and help. You can utilize professional services on an on-demand basis as tech support, though it may become cost-prohibitive if it is a common occurrence.
A Comparison of Managed Services and Professional Services
The most significant difference between managed services and professional services is the time frame and scope of work. Managed services are on-going and typically work off of a contract. They can cover many aspects of an organization’s IT needs on a daily basis. Professional services are project-based and usually address a specific problem or challenge.
The right choice is different for each company and depends on the solutions they are attempting to develop. Other significant factors are the size, needs and capabilities of the business. Some businesses are much more tech-heavy than others, and some have a larger in-house IT team to lean on. In these instances, managed and professional services can offer different benefits to every organization.
Find the Right Solution for Your Needs
What is better — managed or professional services? The answer differs from company to company and situation to situation. To select the right option for your organization, you’ll need to identify what it is you need from an IT service. Do you want to beef up security or reorganize a network? Are you struggling with the idea of rolling out new hardware? You may want to consider professional services to help with a specific task. Are you looking to spend less time fighting with technical challenges during the workday or set up a 24/7 monitoring system for your network? Managed services may be what you need.
Once you’ve identified what you’re looking for from an IT service, you’ll want to consider the challenges associated with each one. Remember, you are entrusting critical components of your business to a third-party service, so you’ll need to make sure that they are trustworthy. Many years of experience and strong testimonies from satisfied clients can help you gauge the success of an IT group.
Some of the pros of managed services include:
- Preventative: Managed services help organizations avoid the “break-fix” mentality, which involves waiting to ask IT to step in until there is a problem. These problems can cost money and time to fix, but managed services give you an on-hand team ready to spring into action. More importantly, the steps that they take for maintenance and upkeep can prevent these problems from even happening in the first place. Network monitoring and regular updates can help keep systems secure and efficient, avoiding the need for emergency tech help. Since managed services tend to handle it all, you also won’t have to waste precious time deciding who to go to if there is a problem.
- Ongoing: Managed services include 24/7 support and include continuing care for a wide variety of technical problems. You don’t need to wait for office hours or for someone to come to your building. Since the support is always there, you can call or message to get issues fixed as they come up. You also get the benefit of having a long working relationship with the company. You can develop trust and reliable communication with them, smoothing out the interactions.
- Easy to budget: While you could factor in a revolving amount for various tech challenges that arise, managed services are easier to budget for, since they typically run under a manageable monthly plan.
The cons of managed services may include:
- Excessive options: Depending on what needs doing, a long-term solution may not be the right choice. Maybe your smaller IT team can handle regular updates and maintenance, or you only need help with one rollout. If your team can handle the day-to-day just fine, managed services could be an unnecessary cost.
- Restricted: On the other hand, some more specific services might not be included in your arrangement with the service provider. If you make frequent changes to your system or only need help once in a while, managed services may not cover all your needs.
For professional services, some of the pros include:
- One-and-done: If you only need assistance for one project, event or problem, professional services may be exactly what you need. You’ll only have to pay once for their services, and you don’t need to worry about a monthly cost.
- Focused: Professional services address a specific problem. It is more focused than managed services and may be more comprehensive. You can expect thorough assistance during as many or as few steps of the process as you need.
- Versatile: You aren’t limited to standard IT issues. Professional services often address custom solutions. Experts can develop a solution to a variety of uncommon problems.
Finally, the cons of professional services include:
- Future maintenance: With professional services, you may be on your own for future maintenance or problems. After the work is complete, professional services typically end there. You’ll either need to arrange for them to perform follow-up services or conduct maintenance on your own. You also won’t have someone monitoring your network after they finish the job.
- Slower response: If you want to use professional services as a response to technical problems, it will likely involve a bit of a wait. The downtime may result in lost profits. You’ll have to spend time finding a company and getting them set up to solve the problem, making them not ideal for responding to network crashes or crucial incidents.
- Plans: If using a professional service, you’ll benefit from knowing your project beforehand. If you have to change your strategy midway through the work, you may incur additional costs or time needed. Because of the scope of work, you’ll benefit from knowing what you’re doing at the outset.
In either solution, your IT needs are simplified. By combining your IT work into one company, you can avoid the hassle of making calls to multiple vendors and organizing the different services they each offer. You’ll get a more efficient and integrated solution.
You’ll also want to have a thorough understanding of what services a provider offers. Compare the benefits of each option to find the right fit for your organization.
Morefield Is Your Technology Partner
If you are in central Pennsylvania, Morefield can help you make smart technology decisions through a variety of channels. We are a local company with over 100 highly skilled staff members, certified in a variety of areas. Whether you have a small business with almost no IT experience or a large enterprise with plenty of technology in use, Morefield can help.
We can provide both managed and professional services, depending on your needs. With fast response times and over 70 years of experience in the industry, we offer quick, effective results in both categories. Whether you need someone to manage your day-to-day operations, spearhead a new hardware rollout or something in between, Morefield Communications is there. If you’re still not sure which approach is best for you or if you want more information about our services, reach out to a representative today!