The Internet allows SMBs to compete directly with businesses of any size - often successfully.
Technology means you can use social media to market your business, eCommerce allows you to sell nationally -- and globally, communicate in seconds with email and online messaging and chat tools, use mobile devices to connect to the office wherever you are, and cloud-based products and services provide enterprise-level tools at an SMB-friendly price point.
However, to take advantage of these opportunities, an SMB needs a strong, stable, and secure network.
Of course, with opportunity comes risk in the form of security challenges and difficulty in finding staff to support these opportunities.
Reducing risk is the first reason for turning to proactive network management. The other two are less downtime and cut through technology complexity.
But first, what’s the downside of the business-as-usual approach?
Break/Fix: The Usual Approach
Most of you will be experienced with the break/fix approach to IT -- your server crashes, network goes down, need a security upgrade, etc. (something breaks) and you pay to fix it.
This reactive approach can expose you to risk and also leads to a perverse incentive for your IT partner. Your IT partner doesn’t make money if there aren’t any issues to fix, they depend on network disruptions for revenue. Of course, most IT providers do the best they can to help you, but they have no incentive to proactively address potential issues.
Other ways a reactive approach to your network can hinder your business:
Out-of-date anti-virus software and patches on computers, servers, and your firewall open holes in your security.
Users have to wait on internal IT staff for support, leaving them less than fully productive until they get the help they need
IT hardware and software will become outdated and slow your business down
Managed Network Services: A Proactive Approach
You can read about managed IT services and managed network services in more detail here and here.
In brief, you outsource the care and maintenance of your network to a managed services partner. They monitor and update your network 24/7 to proactively update software as needed, execute a data backup strategy, and provide help desk support for your staff.
Unlike the break/fix scenario, IT managed services companies don’t want to see you! The less the IT functions they run for you breakdown, the better their bottom line.
For customers, this means more uptime and usually better security than you can provide with in-house IT staff.
Reason 1: Improve Security
SMBs are low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals. They’re network security is often out-of-date. Many SMBs don’t realize how much of a goldmine of data they have for identity thieves.
Even the lazy cybercriminals can use ransomware-as-a-service to target SMBs and get paid for releasing insecure information that’s critical to your business’ success.
Managed network services ensures that your network is continually updated and patched to block known security holes that these cybercriminals exploit. Email is proactively monitored for phishing attacks and malware.
This proactive approach moves your data “fruit” to the top of the tree, making it harder to reach.
An unmonitored data connection that can cause phones and computers to go offline
Simple user error
What happens when your “IT guy” can’t fix these issues immediately? Or your IT staffer who handles these issues is on vacation? Consumers are impatient today. When your network goes down, that breaks customer trust, which is hard to regain.
Managed network services means that your network is proactively monitored. Issues are identified and addressed before they can cause issues for your business. This allows you to focus on your business while your MNS partner focuses on your network.
Reason 3: Help With Technology Complexity
IT professionals have a hard time keeping up with the constant changes in information technology. You have a business to run. Staying on top of the latest trends to ensure you’re planning for the future and moving on from outdated IT tools isn’t something you have time for. It’s probably not something your IT staff has time for either as their days are spent troubleshooting user issues, patching software, etc.
The job of your virtual chief technology officer (CTO) or chief information officer (CIO) from your IT managed services provider is to stay on top of these trends. They will help you plan your IT roadmap so that you’re never at a strategic disadvantage because of your IT infrastructure.
Find a Partner
IT infrastructure like networks and security has become basic functionality every office needs. Without it, your business suffers. But as basic, “lights on” functionality, you don’t need to do it yourself. After all, you wouldn’t create your own electrical grid to power the lights in your office!