Managed services:  A shift in thinking

April 2 2008

Over the last few years, a tectonic shift has reshaped the norm for how IT services are delivered. It’s called “managed services.”

Traditionally, businesses have viewed IT like having a car. You own it, you maintain it (if you remember), and you hope it will work well for the most part. If it doesn’t, you may find yourself stuck by the side of the road in the rain, missing an important meeting, with a big repair bill looming. This is called the “break-and-fix” model of service delivery.

The managed-services model, by contrast, guarantees you that, for a monthly fee, someone takes care of all the maintenance so you can come out every morning and find a car that’s running well and will get you where you need to go.

Two main advantages are driving business owners toward managed service arrangements: cost predictability and enhanced reliability.

With the break/fix model, costs fluctuate wildly from month to month due to system breakdowns or intermittent maintenance needs. Preventive work such as monitoring may not happen since it represents an additional out-of-pocket cost.

In contrast, costs in a managed-services model are contracted at a monthly rate (based on number of workstations and servers, network size, etc.). This provides predictability for both the business and its IT partner.

Because the IT partner has an incentive to keep things working smoothly, your system is likely to get proactive maintenance and monitoring that it wouldn’t in the break-and-fix scenario. This leads to improved reliability — another benefit for both sides. You can relax knowing that someone else is remembering to change the oil every 3,000 miles.

It’s win-win features like these that are making managed services the new standard for IT support. They’re an answer to the common request to (as one client put it), “Just make it work!”