Blog

Can Small Businesses Afford Managed Service Providers?

posted Aug 19, 2011, 10:38 AM by John Ungerer

Small business owners often find themselves in a position of trying to balance a limited budget while making sure they have the proper tools to grow their business. It is a challenge many business owners face, in that they recognize the need for additional products or services that will allow their business to continue to thrive, however funds are in short supply to achieve these goals. This is especially true today, when small business owners find financial institutions are less willing to extend credit in the current economy.

Faced with this challenge, many small business owners are forced to make difficult decisions as to where they can afford to spend money to improve their business. One of the areas in which business owners are on the fence is whether or not hiring a managed services provider is something they can afford. In some cases the cost is not worth the benefits, however there are many situations where cutting costs will end up costing you more money in the long run. Here are a few reasons why managed service providers may be more affordable than the alternative.

Technology- In order to be competitive in this day, small businesses must remain up-to-speed with current technology. The amount of money invested in this area can be quite large, making it necessary to ensure you have someone in your corner who can help manage and support the technology used in your business. While the average person is becoming increasingly well versed in the use of basic technology, there remains a need for experts in the industry to ensure your business can stay up and running on a daily basis as well as in the event of a natural or man made emergency.

Internal IT- Larger corporations have the budget necessary to support an internal IT department that provides expertise and support of the technology used by the company. Small businesses do not have the same resources and often find themselves either without backup or paying a high price when they have to bring in an outside expert.

Services provided by MSP's- When a small business enlists the help of a managed service provider, they will agree to a contract which covers specific services at a specific price. This allows the the small business owner to see upfront what they are paying for and how it will work in the budget. Some of the services provided by msp's include; computer and server support, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, remote network monitoring and technology evaluation and planning. Depending on the business these services can be customized to meet the specific needs of the client, making it possible to reduce costs in certain areas.

There are many reasons why a small business owner might feel managed services providers are not something they can afford. Unfortunately the services provided are often not realized until there is an emergency, where small business owners quickly discover the amount of money spent to "fix" a problem or recover from a disaster is much more expensive than planning for it in the first place. In this case it is not a matter of if you can afford manages services, rather if you an afford NOT to have them.

Content by Managed Services Provider University

When Is Your Business Ready For Managed Services?

posted Jul 21, 2011, 4:11 PM by John Ungerer

If you are a small business owner and considering whether or not managed services will benefit your company, the answer is almost always- yes. There is little doubt that most small businesses can benefit from managed services, yet that in itself does not always justify the cost of bringing on a third party provider. Accepting that managed services providers can offer solutions to common problems found in small business operation, the real question is when does it make sense to switch from in house IT solutions to the next level which includes managed services.

There is a good chance if you are already considering managed services the time might be near when you are ready to make the switch. Small business owners do not have the luxury of a never ending IT budget, therefore it is very important to recognize when your current IT management is no longer cost effective. For most small businesses this occurs when the business grows to the point of needing either a contract with a local service provider who is "on call" for IT needs or hiring a full time IT person to remain on staff. There is of course another option for small business owners to consider and that is hiring a managed services provider to oversee their IT needs.

If you are still unsure that your business is ready for the switch, ask yourself the following questions;

  • Do you find IT costs are continually increasing?
  • Is it difficult to find and retain quality IT staff?
  • Is your network and workstation performance and speed decreasing?
  • Are your employees spending more time dealing with IT issues than focusing on job they have been hired to perform?
  • Do you have problems with viruses, spyware and other security issues that could threaten the confidentiality of proprietary information?
  • In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, would your network be at risk? Would recovery be a concern?
  • Do you find network downtime is increasing?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, then your business is ready for managed services.

Now that you have determined managed services are right for your business, the next challenge is finding the right provider of these services. This is a decision that should not be made lightly or rushed as the wrong provider can end up costing your company more money than your current situation. Before you begin the search for a managed services provider you should first consider your IT budget as well as issues or problems you want to be addressed. It is important to remember that managed services are not a one-size-fits-all type of solution to business problems. Each business and industry has their own issues to contend with and a qualified managed services provider will work with you to find the solutions that will benefit your company the most. If a potential provider is more intent on selling you services and not listening to the needs of your business, move on to another provider who is willing to listen to your concerns and offer customized solutions that address these needs. The point of outsourcing your IT management is to save money while freeing up time to focus on other business operations. For this reason it pays to put forth the effort to find the best managed services provider to oversee your technology needs.

Content by Managed Services Provider University

3 Simple Things To Protect Your Company’s Data

posted Jul 6, 2011, 4:55 AM by John Ungerer   [ updated Aug 20, 2011, 6:18 AM ]

John T. Ungerer
While it's impossible to plan for every potential computer disaster or emergency, there are a few easy and inexpensive measures you can put into place that will help you avoid the vast majority of computer disasters you could experience.


#1: Make Sure You Are Backing Up Your System

It just amazes me how many businesses never back up their computer network. Once it’s gone, it’s gone permanently! 


#2: Perform A Complete Data Restore To Make Sure
Your Backups Are Working Properly

Many business owners set up some type of backup system, but then never check to make sure it’s working properly. The WORST time to “test” your backup is after a disaster has happened and you desperately need it!


#3: Keep An Offsite Copy Of Your Backups

What happens if a fire or flood destroys your server AND the backup tapes or drive? What happens if your office gets robbed and they take EVERYTHING?  Having an off-site backup is simply a smart way to make sure you have multiple, redundant copies of your data!


For the absolute BEST offsite backup solution, go to:
http://www.1nsolutions.com/services/disaster-recovery

Should We Move to the Cloud?

posted May 30, 2011, 8:28 AM by John Ungerer   [ updated Aug 20, 2011, 6:19 AM ]

John T. Ungerer
What’s the benefit of moving our servers to the cloud? What do we gain by making such a big change?
It’s a question we get asked a lot, and the answers vary greatly, depending on the client. I have found though, that our clients end up focusing on three key areas to make their decisions. Availability, Resources and Budget.

 

Availability. Do you have servers, systems or applications that require high availability? Do you have members of your staff that travel and require access to your systems wherever they may be? Has your business ever suffered due to internet outages, or loss of power? Moving toward the cloud increases your system availability. It’s your network, anywhere you are, anytime you need it.

The datacenter’s we use have redundant power circuits to their location and are backed up by generators. The likelihood that there is a loss of power is slim. They also provide over 5 different internet backbone providers so ensure that they are always available on the internet. In fact, just about everything is redundant in our setup. Servers use multi-disk SAN systems for redundant hard drives, systems are imaged for backup to secondary SANs, server resources are pooled to counter hardware failures. And if that’s not enough, the datacenter itself has a redundant counterpart in a physically different location in the country.

With all this redundancy, you are promised a 99.99% uptime, which is much higher than most on-premise servers can match. Having your core services or critical applications in the cloud, you benefit from a much higher availability. Whether you are connecting from the office, or from the road, or at home, your network experience will be the same, across the board. 

Resources. Most of us have worked for an organization that has had their own server rooms and have handled everything internally. New servers are put in place, and upgrade/replacement schedules are setup for when that server will be retired and the data moved to newer hardware. In my experience, the day comes when a server or two are scheduled to be replaced but you hit a roadblock. The powers that be inform you that the budget won’t support replacement at this time, and now you are scrambling to find ways to squeeze more out of an older server, or beef it up with lower cost upgrades to keep it going.  All of us have had to deal with this at some point, and even recently I’ve been asked to help take a look at a server that’s pushing eight years but there is just no money for a replacement.

The cloud can help. With your servers in the cloud, you are no longer dealing with physical boxes. Your servers are most likely virtual machines working from a pool of resources. The cloud provider will deal with the physical hardware, all you need to deal with is how well your servers are running. Need more RAM, another CPU to pick up the slack? With just a few clicks your server resources can be expanded. RAM, CPU and even disk space can be increased while your business is running, and on demand as the resources are needed. Need a whole new server, no problem. You can have a new server provisioned in minutes.

Costs/Budget/ROI. In the end, the decision to make changes to your IT infrastructure usually boils down to money. Will these changes lower your budgets? Will support costs be lower? What’s the return on investment? You need to be able to show a cost savings, an increased value to making a change like moving to the cloud. Availability may be the most attractive benefit of moving to the cloud, but if it doubles your budget, it may be quickly discarded.

When I talk to our clients about moving their servers to a private cloud within our service, I try to show them all the costs savings involved. At first glance, a lot of people think it’s just the cost of the hardware they are saving and when they see a monthly fee for cloud services, they are quick to jump to the conclusion that it’s more expensive. But it’s much more than just the hardware cost that’s removed from their budgets.

On top of the hardware costs, there are cost savings in power and infrastructure by moving your servers offsite. If you have a dedicated server room, chances are there is an AC unit running full time to keep the room at optimal temperature. Reductions in power and infrastructure can significantly add up over the course of a year.

Your servers are virtual machines, and you can consolidate physical servers to fewer virtual servers. Maintenance and support costs of ten physical servers will be drastically cut by consolidating down to four or five virtual servers.

With our service, nightly back up and windows licensing are included in your monthly cost. Removing expensive tape systems out of the equation, and the support needed to check and test tapes and backups is a considerable savings. Time spent on those duties can be spent on more important tasks.

And lastly, another cost factor is your staff’s time. How much money is spent when systems are upgraded, either with on staff personnel or by outsourcing?  How much time and money is spent on regular maintenance or hardware issues? These types of issues add up quickly. How many times has an upgrade been budgeted to an hour or two, and six hours later its almost finished. Costs like these really increase the total cost of an IT budget. By eliminating them, the savings add up quickly.

It’s easy and quick to see, that over a three year span, a set monthly cost to run your servers in the cloud is significantly lower than keeping those systems in-house. Each company is different, and some may not make sense to move to the cloud. But the ones that can be moved will quickly lower their overall IT budgets. We’ve had clients cut their budget by fifty percent right off the bat. And they are quick to roll those savings into other projects they may have held off on before.

 

There are many reasons for moving to the cloud, and I’m sure there are more cost saving reasons than what I have listed here. From my own experience, the three main reasons listed are usually the focus of what our clients want to hear about. It’s the main driving force behind their decisions. Especially when it comes down to budgets, everyone is looking for ways to lower them. Each client is different and accurately evaluating their costs and network will help make the decision to move them to the cloud. 

1-4 of 4