We've heard it many times before - "this is the future of computing". First it was the PC, then the network, then Windows, then the internet, then outsourcing, then blah, blah, blah. And now we have Cloud Computing and Virtualization. Where does it end? It seems like whenever anything new comes along, we're told "this is the future…". More often than not though this approach seems like it's just another way for the big boys to sell us more "stuff". I'm sure you'd agree that as a business owner, I'm tired of being told how to spend money. Rather, I'd like to be shown how we can save money. How we can get "more for less". Especially these days. What we hear from our clients is - How can we get more value from the technology we've already invested in while reducing our overall costs?
What we're seeing now is a huge push in the industry towards addressing this. It's an industry wide move towards fixed fee IT support - or what the industry has dubbed "Managed Services". The idea of this isn't revolutionary, but rather evolutionary. It's about time. For years, clients have been asking pretty much for two things - 1) to know what their IT support costs are going to be and 2) to know that their IT Solution Providers are on their side. It's hard to preach that you're objective and a trusted advisor when the whole Time and Materials billing concept is at odds with that. The more we work on something the more we get paid. It's sad but true. So, how are we truly on our clients' side? Regardless of our integrity and honor and the trust we’ve built up over decades with clients, this methodology of billing for our services is still at odds with what the client wants - which is the least amount of fees as possible.
Well, now the industry has a solution for this - and it's called "Managed Services". Because of the maturity of the monitoring systems and underlying technology, we're now able to truly and (more importantly) proactively "manage" a network. These new tools give us the power to see events and deal with them BEFORE they become critical problems. Before they create time intensive repair work. Before they become nightmares. We can now really KNOW what's going on with a network immediately, without being onsite, and without having to manually do anything. It's simplifying the management of a computer network down to something like having an "oil change" light on your car. Well, almost this simple. Not that the response is any less technical than before, but now we can deal with the symptoms rather than at the time of crisis.
These tools also allow us to automate certain tasks that we used to have to do manually. We can now push service packs and patches down to specific machines. We can now run scripts to install software across multiple machines. We can now remote control machines and devices quickly, easily, and with an audit trail. We can now have a real time inventory and know whenever a user installs something they shouldn't have onto their machine. We can now run reports and have quantifyable information about the network that we never had in the past.
So, how does this give us the ability to offer support at a fixed fee? Well, it allows us (the service provider) to commit to a better service level, because we can now prevent many things from happening, increasing the uptime, and ultimately decreasing the frequency and impact of issues. This now gives us the ability to be in control of the network rather than the network controlling us. Essentially, we're changing the IT Support paradigm - from a reactive approach to a highly proactive one. This gives us the ability to be accountable and responsible for the network. This gives us the capabilities to OWN IT!
So, is this truly the future of computing? In time (and not that long), every business computer system will be monitored and under a Managed Services or Flat Fee Support Plan. How can they not?