Let’s start with the basic question. What are managed IT services? They are essentially fixed-fee or subscription-based services to perform proactive, reactive, and daily operational tasks to resolve IT-related issues for end users and IT staff. The purpose of managed IT services is to maintain the infrastructure to provide availability and smooth operation to your IT infrastructure on an ongoing basis. Depending on the managed IT service provider, services may also include remote help desk, firewall and security, on-site support, and backup services to provide end-to-end management.

When shopping around for managed IT services for your business, it is important to ask the following questions:

  1. Are automated proactive (or maintenance) IT services included?
  2. Is licensing and support for antivirus/anti-spyware software included?
  3. Is remote help-desk support included?
  4. Will you work with my technology service vendors?
  5. What services are not included?

1. Automated proactive IT services

Collecting information about a computer and manually reviewing alerts can be considered “proactive maintenance”, however the answer should ensure that these services also include automation. Manually reviewing and responding to alerts may cause alerts to be missed and remediation may not be immediately performed – therefore increasing risk of potential downtime in the future.

2. Licensing and support for antivirus and anti-spyware software

Antivirus and anti-spyware are essential to any PC therefore is a minimum requirement from your managed IT service provider. If anti-virus is not included, how will the managed IT service provider maintain a good grip on the antivirus policies, scheduled scans, and provide threat management? Because malware is the cause for major end-user “problems”, this cannot be overlooked.

3. Help desk support

This is an important part of the service offering, because users generally have problems that arise out of nowhere. Having the ability to report the issue and work with a local support team usually means their business hours are in line with your business and communication should be clear between both parties. It may not matter as much if you are only looking for remote support, but if on-site support may also be required this should be a very important factor. For instance, if you are located in NJ, having managed IT services in NJ means that the on-site staff are part of the same team that supports your infrastructure remotely.

4. Vendor management & support

These typically include internet service providers, web hosting providers, domain registrars, cloud service providers, and software vendors. Having vendor support can be very helpful when you are caught in the middle between the IT service provider and the software vendor. This will allow the managed IT service provider to work with the vendor directly to quickly determine the issue using the tech terms and acronyms they both understand.

5. What IT services are not included?

This question is often missed because as human beings, we are so blinded by the illusion of the marketing presentation that we invent expectations before they are even delivered. If you receive a response with a whole list of services or a document that covers what is not included, you may find yourself arguing over invoices directed your way when services are performed. Your network needs to function all the time and having to worry about unexpected invoices can be frustrating. Asking and understanding what services are not included during the interview process would be ideal. Not only will it clarify any technical gray areas, it will minimize any future invoice inquiries and retains a healthy business relationship.