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  • What is a Managed Service Provider and Their Responsibilities?

    What is an MSP and what they do


    As business requirements only grow more rigorous with each passing year, the role managed service providers play in serving London businesses with their IT services shows no sign of stopping. Their influence on IT infrastructures can expand into services like disaster recovery, managed WiFi solutions, cloud computing, Office 365 solutions and more.

    No matter what size your business is, you may soon find yourself turning to an MSP for assistance. After all, the investment is not without merit; MSPs are known to help businesses on various levels, from eliminating the need to pay salaries for an in-house IT team to “future-proofing” IT infrastructures with regular upgrades.

    Perhaps it’s time for your business to drop its in-house IT support in favour of an MSP, or maybe you’ve yet to decide. No matter what point you are in your journey, you’ll need to know the full scope of what your business is getting into.

    In this article, we’ll cover the basics of managed IT services and help you determine how they might improve your overall operations.

    What Is A Managed Service?


    As modern technology continues to evolve, you’ve probably heard the word “outsourcing” repeated time and time again. Essentially, any service that businesses use to outsource technological operations is an MSP, though, much like businesses themselves, not every offering is built the same.

    ” Essentially, any service that businesses use to outsource technological operations is an MSP “


    You will work with most MSPs on a subscription basis; with more services offered the more you pay. Alternatively, some offer ad-hoc support if you only need one-time IT consulting or a quick-fix for a technological issue.

    Your business’s IT infrastructure — to the extent defined in your contract — will be managed and maintained by a separate company with a managed IT service provider. This support tends to be done remotely, but some providers may offer on-site services if located close to your business.

    The services you receive from your MSP can vary. Still, most will actively monitor your IT infrastructure to spot potential problems, prevent network outages and keep your hardware updated when necessary. More extensive offers can include cybersecurity protection, backup/recovery services, cloud computing, managed WiFi services and more.

    MSPs aren’t beholden to operational magnitude; London businesses of all sizes can outsource their IT services, from family run shops to multination corporations – The sky is the limit.

    Why Choose An MSP?


    Even if your business doesn’t yet require an MSP, it should understand the benefits that come with such a valuable addition to its operations. With your IT infrastructure managed by a separate team, your business can focus on the things that truly matter — rather than waste time on technological upkeep.

    ” With your IT infrastructure managed by a separate team, your business can focus on the things that truly matter “


    Furthermore, managed IT service providers tend to have years of experience in the industry, enabling them to meet even the most rigorous business requirements. Compared to traditionally small in-house IT departments, MSPs have large teams comprised of multiple IT experts hailing from various backgrounds. No matter what troubles your infrastructure faces, an MSP is bound to have an employee who’s dealt with the issue before.

    Most importantly, MSPs can save businesses an impressive chunk of money in the long run. In-house IT departments can become costly over time, with companies needing to pay salaries, holiday hours, benefits and more; costs that are a bit hard to swallow, considering the fact you might not even need their services for one-third of the year. Lastly, since in-house teams are usually relatively small, a business can find itself vulnerable if one of their IT employees are too sick to work.

    In comparison, outsourced IT services boast large workforces and can easily replace a missing employee. Their upfront costs tend to be lower, as your business is only responsible for paying service fees rather than entire salaries. Some providers even offer ad-hoc services, so you’ll only pay for IT help when you need it.

    However, no matter what your agreement looks like, there are some common factors you’ll deal with when working with an MSP: let’s take a look at some of those in further detail.

    What to Look for in a Managed IT Services Provider


    Outsourcing your IT infrastructure to a separate organisation can be frightening, especially if you’re a newcomer. But, much like other services your business utilises, there’s nothing to fear if you’re thoroughly prepared. To ease your hesitation, we’ll go over the critical points to keep in mind when starting your search.

    Don’t Discount the Future

    Business is all about growth, and you need an MSP who’s ready and willing to propel your operations into the future. Find a provider who’s able to grow alongside your requirements: look for those who offer flexible agreements, large workforces and IT support that can reach multiple locations — whether in London or beyond.

    Tell Them What You Want to Know 

    Managing an entire IT infrastructure is no easy task, and your MSP will have no shortage of reports to update you with. This can quickly get overwhelming, and your business should understand what it wants communication to look like: will it come in weekly reports? Monthly? How detailed do you want those reports to be, and what will they focus on? (i.e., updates on every problem they come across, regardless of size, versus updates solely on broader IT issues)

    Know Your Contract Expectations

    Contracts aren’t inherently evil, but your business should remain careful when it comes to signing off on any agreement with an MSP. Keep a close eye on “small print” to avoid paying any fees you didn’t plan for and ensure you fully understand the length of your contract — 12 months is standard, but some may allow you to break things off if you’re unsatisfied.

    Don’t Get Stuck in The Past

    The technology businesses will utilise five years from now could be unrecognisable compared to present-day tech. As such, you need a managed IT services provider who has the capabilities to adapt to any significant changes in your requirements. Preferably, the MSP you choose will provide you with a roadmap or estimate of how they’ll keep your business up to date with the latest in technology.

    Understand Your Helpdesk’s Limitations

    Most MSPs offer helpdesks in their service packages, and it’s easily the most crucial aspect for maintaining your IT infrastructure. Even if their employees pack up and head home once evening arrives, it’s hard to find a modern business that isn’t a 24/7 operation thanks to technology.

    A helpdesk can keep your business’s online presence safe and secure at all times of the year, but some are not without limitations. First and foremost, don’t settle for anything less than a 24/7 helpdesk — disaster can strike at any second, and you don’t want to be caught empty-handed. Furthermore, it’s essential to know where the helpdesk is operating from; you won’t gain much use if it’s located in a geographic area prone to natural disasters or power outages. 

    Do You Need a Managed IT Services Provider?


    Businesses around London — and the world — are turning to MSPs for IT assistance more than ever, whether for simple consulting or full-scale infrastructure management. Your business could soon join the growing ranks, but perhaps you’re still stuck on one crucial question: how do I know when it’s time to switch?

    Unfortunately, there isn’t one strict answer considering how many factors can influence your decision — but by examining your own business, you should know where you stand. Examine the points listed below; the way you answer should clarify whether or not an MSP could benefit your business.

    In-House IT Assistance

    Some businesses just aren’t cut out for a full in-house IT department — especially smaller operations. Ask yourself this: can you justify the cost of in-house help? Or will your in-house employees still require outsourced aid to comply with your more significant technological requirements? 

    Cost

    Your business should also consider how compatible it is with purchasing outsourced IT help. Does it approve a fixed monthly fee? Is it comfortable signing a 6-month or even 12-month contract?

    Security

    While many managed service providers pride themselves on keeping your information safe through a variety of modern means, you might not be comfortable sharing sensitive documents. In contrast, an outsourced provider could have the resources to keep your data safer than an in-house team: it all comes down to what your choices — and limitations — are.

    Expansion

    Is your business looking to Transfer its data into the cloud? Incorporate remote working in the future? Move one or more of its self hosted platforms to an Office 365 based solution? Frankly, nothing beats MSPs when it comes to expansions, as you won’t be responsible for transferring an in-house IT team to another location or managing a cloud service by yourself.

    Ultimately, outsourced support is a service worth looking into — even for small businesses. And, by the looks of it, it’s a trend that doesn’t show signs of stopping.

    Still on the fence? Don’t worry — our team is always available to answer any questions you might have. Reach out to one of our IT experts today and find out how our managed IT services can push your business ahead of the competition. 

  • How to Switch IT Support Providers Without the Trouble

    Maybe your business has outgrown your IT support provider’s capabilities. Perhaps their service productivity has declined in quality, and you need someone who has the experience to match your business’s growth objectives.

    Regardless of your reasons, switching IT service providers isn’t unheard of — in fact, it can be the spark to light the flames of your business’s success. But how will this switch impact your company, especially when a healthy IT infrastructure is the backbone of most London businesses in the 21st century?

    Well, the answer varies, but we do know this for sure: the switch must be a cautious, strategised and thoughtful one. Without the right preparation, your business could see negative side-effects that’ll place a damper on your productivity.

    In this article, we’ll help you determine whether your business needs to switch its London IT support provider in the first place and, when the times comes, how to complete the process without the hassle.  

    Alternate Providers: Are You Prepared?


    It’s natural for humans to be resistant to change; It’s the reason why many businesses can find themselves stuck with outsourced IT support that isn’t thoroughly meeting their requirements.

    Don’t be one of these businesses.

    At some point, you’ll need to make changes to maintain momentum and ensure your workforce remains prepared for the future — especially when it comes to your IT infrastructure. But when’s the best time to move?

    Look at the statements listed below and determine how true they are when applied to your current provider. The way you answer should grant you some clarity into your current relationship.

    • My current service provider satisfies all of my expectations
    • A new provider will help my business grow and solve my current problems
    • The new provider delivers more value for its price compared to my current provider
    • I understand how the switch will impact my business’s operations — both negatively and positively


    If you’re unsure about any of these, it means it’s time to learn a bit more about your alternate provider before taking the next step. But, if you’re 100% certain you know these details, it’s time to look into the next topic…

    Making the Move: What to Accept and Avoid


    Utilsing outsourced IT support doesn’t mean your providers can’t be just as passionate about your business as you are. There’s no time to lose in a fast-paced market, and it’s your duty to discover those who are ready to play the long-game with just as much vigor — if not more — as your workforce.

    Regardless of who you partner with, your IT infrastructure should remain their priority. Fortunately, London has a diverse range of IT support partners who can fulfill this promise, but there’s never a wrong reason to double-check that they meet — or don’t meet — the following criteria.

    Be Careful with Lengthy Maintenance Contracts


    12-month contracts are generally the base for most IT providers — quite a long commitment for businesses to sign off on, especially for smaller operations. As such, your business shouldn’t agree to any lengthy contracts without a guarantee that the provider is worth the commitment.

    Its worth noting, at Sphere IT we take pride in the IT support we provide and are confident that you will be happy with out services – for this reason we offer our IT support plans on a 30 day rolling period to give you peace of mind.

    If you can’t imagine signing a paper with such an extended amount of time on it, don’t. Regardless of what you might be told, there are always alternative options to fulfill your needs. Some IT helpdesks offer shorter agreements ranging between 3- and 6-month contracts for the commitment-weary.

    Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Pitfalls


    Deceit and trickery are a sad truth when it comes to business support, and it’s one that the IT support industry is no exception to experiencing. As such, your business should keep a careful eye out for any “small print” on your contract that could cause issues in the future.

    Searching specifically for a provider that, even at first glance, is entirely transparent in all aspects should eliminate some of the lesser offerings. As always, maintain thorough communication with the potential provider to ensure they’re the best fit for your business before making any hard agreements.

    Ultimately, the contract you sign should be easily understandable, provide transparency, list service level agreements and clearly display all of your costs — without hiding any extra fees. Don’t forget to examine the length of your contract; you wouldn’t want to get tricked into any agreements longer than your preferred period or sign off on clauses that keep you from breaking the contract if things aren’t going well.

    Look for the Best Customer Service Possible


    While your staff may pack up and head home around evening time, your IT infrastructure won’t take the same time off — it runs 24/7. As such, you’ll need an IT helpdesk that can guarantee high-quality service throughout the year and handle any issues — without a decline in that service’s quality.

    At this stage, reviews and testimonials are what you need to search for. Client reviews are the social proof an IT support partner needs to prove their worth; if they’re worth your time, they’ll have plenty to display on their website.

    Ultimately, the IT provider you choose should have a track record of successfully handling a variety of constraints while still meeting all service level agreements stated in the contract. While things like ill staff members or downed networks will inevitably impact their abilities, the way they respond to such situations should be a clear indicator of their quality.

    Find the Best Engineers and Response Times


    London businesses of all sizes can thank downtime for lost revenues, decreased productivity and impacted business productivity. When it comes to issues involving your IT infrastructure, you need a provider who can handle things quickly and efficiently — and no less.

    Remember: It’s your money — and business — on the line.

    To keep your business rolling at full speed while facing an IT issue, your provider’s engineers need to be readily available. Search for a supplier with a 24/7 IT helpdesk who can assist you when you experience a problem or who can send an engineer to your physical location as soon as possible.

    Of course, none of this means much if the staff isn’t qualified to the fullest extent. Your new outsourced IT service provider should have trained and incentivised engineers who consistently prove to be the best in their field. Without this promise, you might not see your service level agreements fulfilled to the appropriate extent.

    Determine Their Experience


    Your business wouldn’t employ a worker who doesn’t portray the most experience and proficiency in their field possible — the same goes for your new IT support partner. Their staff should boast a wide array of expertise in their area, both new and old, to keep your business “future-proof” and prepared to tackle any issues that arrive from the ever-changing market.

    Regardless of their size, the IT partner you choose should be proficient in server support and maintenance, office applications, cross-platform content, hardware installations as well as expertise with networks. Not only that, but they should have a proven track record of evolving to any changes in the market.

    Any provider who strictly focuses on only a few IT pieces — rather than the whole picture — is one you want to avoid. Technology is always evolving, and you need the freedom to tell them where you want them to focus their energy, rather than the other way around.

    Don’t Forget About the Rules


    As businesses and technology continue to shape the face of London, your firm needs to ensure it complies with the newest regulations set by the government — even if you utilise outsourced IT support.

    As the public grows more aware of subjects like privacy protection, you’ll need to pick a specialist who follows the rules; anyone who doesn’t could risk tarnishing your brand’s name or get you into costly legal troubles.

    Any IT service without the proper accreditations or certifications should be wiped from your list, and the remaining options should be examined thoroughly to ensure they’re staying up to date with recent regulations and changes. Providers with ISO9001 and ISO27001 certifications are a good starting point, though it’s essential to keep the previous criteria in consideration; a compliant IT provider doesn’t always equal a worthwhile provider.

    Trouble Finding the Right IT Provider? Maybe We Can Help


    Finding the right outsourced IT support desk can be a long process — switching providers can be even longer. We know the ins-and-outs of the process, and we’re determined to provide you with the IT assistance you deserve to keep your business prepared for whatever the future might throw at it.

    With cost-effective pricing and premier customer service, our team can walk you through various IT infrastructure solutions from full-scale IT support plans to office IT relocation services. No matter how rigorous your requirements may be, our industry experts have the experience necessary to keep your operations running at full speed.

    Don’t wait! Get in touch with one of our team members today and take the next step in future-proofing your business’s IT capabilities.  



  • Why Outsourcing Your IT Support is a great idea

    Technology has undoubtedly become the single most important and central component of any and all business strategies and infrastructure. Without new and modern technology, it is simply impossible to scale the heights and challenges that the contemporary industry poses in terms of competition and customer expectations.

    This is especially true in an environment where the entire process revolves around your client- customer experience and satisfaction comes before any and everything else.

    A good IT support system is equally as important as it makes sure that all of your networks are up and running at all times. A simple lag in your technology can have disastrous consequences in regards to production of your products and delivery of your services, thus negatively impacting the customer experience with your brand.

    Business owners today, especially those having small and medium sized companies, are thinking about outsourcing their IT support in London for a multitude of reasons. Here is why outsourcing your IT support is actually a good idea:

    CUTTING DOWN ON IT AND LABOR COSTS

    A successful business strives to be as efficient as possible- meaning achieving their goals in the given amount of time at the expense of the least possible amount of resources.

    Creating and maintaining a whole IT department can be extremely costly when you factor in the employee wages and the training costs. With your IT outsourced, you can eliminate these costs and still access the skills of expertly trained individuals.

    Similarly, you also rid yourself of the need to invest in the infrastructure needed to create a fully equipped IT support department, as well the resources needed for maintenance and servicing.

    ACCESSING THE LATEST RESOURCES

    If you do not have the budget to be able to afford the latest, and most innovative technologies for your systems, outsourcing can be the solution for you. By doing so, you can access the latest technologies and high quality resources in IT support without having to invest the high upfront costs of making them in-house.

    MAXIMIZING USAGE OF INTERNAL RESOURCES

    This is particularly relevant for small and medium sized businesses who have limited resources to begin with. By outsourcing IT support, you open up this labor and infrastructure to focus on achieving business goals pertaining to growth and success. Your primary staff members, including managers and yourself as the business owner, you get time to focus on your core business and strategy.

    KEEPING UP WITH COMPLIANCE ISSUES

    Companies offering third party IT support are aware of the compliance rules pertaining to technology use, making them well equipped to deal with compliance issues that your company may be facing.

    ENSURING SECURITY OF DATA

    Cybercrime is at an all time high these days, and no one is safe from these attacks unless they take all the measures necessary for proper protection. Considering your customers trust you with their private information, it is important that you ensure the security and safety of their data. Outsourced IT ensures that the third party will keep your security programs up to date, maintain the firewall, and minimize the risks associated with technology and the online world.

  • Why Office 365 Makes Sense

    If you haven’t heard of Office 365, you really should have. Office 365 is the brand name for Microsoft’s Software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud offerings which include their Hosted Exchange 2013 services as well as Sharepoint, Lync, OneDrive and many others. The other part of the cloudy offering is the subscription based Office software package which also represents great value for business. The product is a mature and reliable service, having been originally launched in the second part of 2011.

    Microsoft proudly boasts several household names it has signed up to its services, such as Aston Martin, British Airways and large public sector organisations including many universities and colleges. Perhaps less well known, is that BT recently outsourced their customer’s email service to Office 365; whilst good news for your average home user, this is bad for businesses relying on BT mail as they are not harnessing the full power of Office 365, but rather a version that is crippled by being bolted onto their poorly designed and ageing back-end, the result being something akin to Frankenstein’s Monster and to add insult to injury, at a higher price point than going direct to Microsoft too!

    Business Continuity
    In today’s ever-connected business environment, e-mail is the life blood of many businesses and any downtime, no matter how small, is critical. If you are a small-to-medium sized business to have a high-availability solution with geo-redundant Exchange servers with backup internet connectivity and power can be a very expensive undertaking, easily running into the high thousands in terms of initial outlay for hardware and licensing and then of course; ongoing maintenance costs such as extended warranties and servicing, not to mention depreciation and the eventual replacement that will be needed on failure or when your organisation outgrows your current capacity.

    With Office 365 these worries become a thing of the past – your Exchange organisation is safely in “the cloud”. Powerful management tools make it as configurable as an on-premise deployment but with none of the overheads and all of the peace of mind that you have a resilient, future proof, scaleable solution that won’t cause you to lose productivity or data in the event of a power failure, loss of internet connectivity, fire, flood or any of the other imaginable scenarios that could cause a mail server in your office to keel over.

    It makes financial sense
    Traditionally you would require one Office license for each device you have and need to use Office on, so if you have a PC in the office, a PC at home as well as a laptop, you would need three office licenses which could easily set you back £745 for the professional edition.

    With the Office 365 E3 Plan which is £15 per user per month, you get 5 installations of Office which would cover all these devices as well as giving you access to the web-based office package, Office for Mac and now Office for iOS and Android devices too. Once you consider the annual cost of £180 also includes the equivalent of software assurance – i.e. you get access to the latest version of Office when it is released, rather than having to fork out again for an upgrade, as well as your 50GB Mailbox it really does start to look like a great investment.

    Ready to bring your business e-mails into the future?
    Whether you have one mailbox or a thousand, Sphere IT can provide a fully-managed deployment and migration of Office 365 services for your business, with minimal disruption to your workflow and no loss of service or data at any time.

    Contact one of our specialist IT Consultants to find out more