Types of IT Services for Small Businesses

Not long ago, small businesses complained of an equal playing field, where large corporations enjoyed the advantages of scale and resources. But now tech has leveled the ground, handing small businesses a platform to compete with the best in the world. Yet technology by itself is not enough, you need to combine it with IT services - the use of technical expertise to deploy and manage technology within the organization.  This is the proven way your competitors are now using to get the most out of technology.

It’s much wiser to ensure your IT infrastructure is running smoothly without being so much invested as the business owner plus your teams. This can be achieved by procuring small business IT services that match your small business IT needs in terms of size and industry.

This post outlines the types of IT services that can help your small business take off and scale while saving you a lot of money and headache along the way.

Why Small Businesses need IT services

Look at it this way. You started your business so that you can sell your products or services,  turn in a profit, scale and grow to a hugely successful company. You never started it so that you can double up as an IT ‘guru’, racing to fix all the IT needs of the business. Unfortunately the attempt to become a master of all is what is killing many small businesses. This is more exemplified in today’s context where IT is inseparable from any business - no matter the niche.

While big businesses have the luxury of in-house IT professionals, small businesses often have to outsource their IT needs. And that's where the IT service companies or MSPs come in.

Here are 5 reasons why small businesses need IT services:

  1. Cost savings: Having an in-house IT staff can be very costly. Small business IT services costs are not so high and outsourcing your IT needs will save you money in the long run.
  2. Time savings: With an experienced IT service company, you'll get the most out of your technology and save time on troubleshooting and repairs.
  3. Access to latest technologies: Small businesses often cannot afford to update their technology as frequently as larger businesses. By outsourcing your IT needs, you'll have access to the latest technologies and applications.
  4. Expertise: A good IT service company will have experts in all areas of information technology, from network security to cloud computing.
  5. Scalability: Your IT needs will grow and change as your business grows and changes. A good IT service company will be able to scale with your needs and provide you with the best possible service.

In the outsourcing model, you can choose between managed IT services for small business or Professional Services. There is a slight difference between these two, and it’ll help to weigh your options carefully from a long term perspective.

Managed model of IT services for Small Businesses

The managed model of IT services is a delivery approach in which a service provider manages and delivers IT services to a customer (small business in this case).

This differs from the traditional IT service delivery model and the break/fix model. In the pure traditional model, the customer manages and delivers IT services to itself. The customer is responsible for procuring, implementing, managing and maintaining all components of their IT infrastructure. In the break/fix model, the business pays for services as they're needed. This can be problematic because it can be difficult to anticipate and budget. The cost of sustaining these models is prohibitive in the long run, and this is why the managed model is replacing them.

The managed model of IT services is often seen as a more cost-effective and efficient option for small businesses that don't have the internal resources or expertise to manage their own IT infrastructure. It offers businesses more predictability and planning certainty. Under this model, the business pays a monthly fee in exchange for all of their IT needs being taken care of by the Managed IT service provider. This can include everything from technology maintenance to help desk support and more.

The trend now is that businesses of all shapes and sizes are turning to managed IT services to take the hassle out of managing their technology infrastructure. This is turning out to be a game changer, and reports show that more and more small businesses are embracing managed IT Services.

Benefits of the Managed IT services model

The managed model has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among small businesses. There are many reasons for this, but these five main benefits;

  1. Reduced IT costs: The managed model of IT services can help reduce IT costs by allowing businesses to outsource their IT needs to a service provider. This can save your businesses money on hardware, software, and other IT-related expenses.
  2. Improved efficiency and productivity: The managed model simplifies and streamlines IT processes. This can free up employees' time so that they can focus on more important tasks.
  3. Increased security: The managed model increases security by providing businesses with access to the latest security technologies. This can help protect your businesses from data breaches, cyber attacks, and other online threats.
  4. Better customer service: The managed approach can improve your customer service by providing businesses with access to 24/7 support and assistance. This can help resolve customer issues quickly
  5. Peace of mind: This is perhaps the benefit that sums up all the other benefits. By letting teams of experts manage your critical IT needs, you are able to enjoy the peace of mind you need to fully focus on your main business. So there is no need spending all your time running up and down fixing IT, since this is not why you started your business.

Further Reading: More Benefits of Managed IT Services

What are the challenges of the Managed IT model?

Nothing good is without challenges, and the managed model may present these challenges from time to time:

  • Initial costs: One of the primary challenges of the managed model of IT services is the costs in the short term. As a result, small businesses may be reluctant to make the switch, even if it could ultimately save them money in the long run.
  • Commitments: Some managed services can require a high level of commitment from businesses. Once a contract is signed, it can be difficult to scale back or cancel the service. This inflexibility can be a problem for small businesses that experience sudden changes in their IT needs.
  • Communication: In order to get the most out of a managed service, small businesses need to be very proactive and communicative with their service provider. If you’re not, you may not be getting the most value from their service.
  • Risk of disruption: There is always the risk that your service provider will make changes to your system that cause problems or disrupt workflow.
  • Finding the right provider: It can be difficult to find a service provider that is a good fit for your business. Luckily there are many providers out there, who all have different specialties and capabilities.

Steps to implementing the Managed IT services

Implementing the Managed Model of IT Services for small businesses does not have to be difficult or time consuming. In fact, it can be quite simple to implement if you follow these steps:

  1. Define your business goals and objectives - What are you hoping to achieve by implementing the Managed Model of IT Services? Do you want to improve efficiency? Boost productivity? Save money?
  2. Assess your current IT infrastructure - Take stock of your current hardware, software, and network infrastructure. This will help you determine what changes need to be made in order to support the Managed Model.
  3. Engage a provider - The provider will work with you through planning and migrate your infrastructure to their platform. This process can take some time, but it's important to make sure everything is done properly so there are no interruptions in your operations.
  4. Implement the plan - Once the plan is created, it's time to put it into action! This may involve the provider training employees on new software, upgrading hardware, or making changes to your network infrastructure.
  5. Monitor and adjust - Finally, once the Managed Model of IT Services is up and running, monitor its performance and work closely with your provider to make adjustments as necessary. This may involve tweaking processes and constantly training your staff. 

How much does the managed model cost?

The cost of managed IT for small businesses typically starts at around $45-120 or a bit more per user per month, depending on the features and services that are included. Some Managed Service Providers (MSPs) also offer flat-rate pricing for a certain number of devices or users, so be sure to ask about that when you're shopping around.

In addition to the monthly service fee, most MSPs also require a one-time setup fee and/or a contract term (usually 12 or 24 months). So when you're adding up the total cost, be sure to include those fees as well.

The 15 most important types of IT services for small businesses

These are the 15 most essential types of IT services that are vital to keep  small business systems running smoothly, improve productivity and prevent any costly downtime.

1. Network Support 

Network support is the nerve of IT, the silent ‘cog’ that gives motion to the IT infrastructure and keeps it afloat. You can have the coolest technologies in the block, but they’ll all suck if network support is sub optimal.

Network support refers to the services and assistance provided by organizations responsible for managing and regulating networks. This can include everything from providing updates and patches to ensuring adequate bandwidth and dealing with performance issues. In many cases, network support teams will also be responsible for monitoring systems for signs of intrusion or malicious activity, as well as providing incident response in the event that something does go wrong.

For businesses, having reliable network support is essential for keeping operations running smoothly. Interruption to even a small part of the network can have a ripple effect that quickly impacts productivity and profitability. This is why many businesses choose to outsource their network management to network support providers who can offer around-the-clock coverage and rapid response times in case of any problems.

2. Disaster Recovery

The importance of disaster recovery for small businesses cannot be overemphasized. This is the process or set of processes used to protect an organization from the effects of potentially devastating data loss. This may include storing backup copies of data in a remote location, typically known as a "disaster recovery site", which can be used to rebuild systems and restore data if the primary system becomes unavailable.

While DR approaches differ, they all share the goal of quick and reliable recovery from disasters or other disruptions. However, choosing the right DR solution for your business can be complicated, as there are many different types of disasters that can occur, each with its own unique impact on operations. That's why it's important to work with a disaster recovery services provider that can tailor a solution that is specific to your business environment.

3. Cloud Services

Cloud services are all the buzz right now and for a good reason - they are enabling businesses to achieve milestones in record time, something that would never have happened in the pre-cloud era. A study conducted in 2021 by Infosys Knowledge Institute established a strong relationship between cloud usage and increasing profits.

MSPs offer small businesses a level of expertise and experience with cloud services that they might not be able to get on their own. They have the ability to provide a portfolio of managed cloud services that are tailored to the specific needs of small businesses. They can also manage and monitor these services so that you can focus on running your business, not worrying about IT infrastructure.

Here are some common types and examples of cloud services:

Cloud service Popular Examples

File storage

  • Google Drive
  • One Drive
  • Dropbox
  • IDrive 
  • Zoolz

Communication

  • Twilio
  • Slack
  • Infobip
  • Vonage
  • Whispir

Hosting

  • AWS Hosting
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Cloudways
  • DigitalOcean

Design

  • SlideShare
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Evernote

Computing Power (suited for developers)

  • Amazon EC2
  • Google Compute Engine
  • Azure Virtual Machines
  • Vultr
  • IBM Cloud Virtual Servers
  • Rackspace

 

The best example of a cloud service that will require you to engage an MSP at advanced levels is Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS can make a huge difference in your business, but you need a highly skilled team that is dedicated to offering IT help for small businesses, with special attention to AWS

4. Mobile device management

Mobile Device Management services can improve the productivity of your employees without compromising your business’ security. These services will help your business to manage the company devices that you have deployed to your teams. Some of the common devices include  smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. This may also include operating systems such as iOS, iPadOS, macOS, Chrome OS and Windows. 

The management can entail setting up the devices, monitoring them to ensure they are always functional so that employees’ time is not wasted, and remotely wiping data from lost or stolen devices. These services can also help your business to keep track of employee mobile expenses, manage mobile applications, and restrict access to certain websites and content.

This service is particularly important because as the use of mobile devices continues to grow, so does the need for effective mobile device management services. By implementing a Mobile Device Management solution, you'll easily gain a competitive edge in today's mobile world.

Examples of device management services:

  • Jamf (for Apple devices)
  • Kandji (Apple devices)
  • ScaleFusion (Unified mobile device management)
  • Esper (Dedicated device management)

5. Employee Training

According to MaryVille University, employees who are constantly trained are most likely to stay and grow with the company. This means regularly training staff not only on how to use tools but also updating them on the latest security risks, how to spot a scam, and what to do if they encounter a potential cyber attack.

It's also important to have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Employees should know who to contact in the event of a data breach or system crash, and be familiar with the company's backup and disaster recovery plans.

Examples of employee training platforms;

  • TalentLMS (Compliance)
  • 360Learning (All-round training)
  • Trainual (Onboarding)

There are providers who focus on training and these are some of the platforms they would normally use, but some will also have their own custom training software.

6. Email management

Email is the unsung hero of business communication, one of the most important tools that a business has in its arsenal.

Services such as email filtering will prove essential as your business grows. This is the process of sorting and organizing email messages as they enter your email server. This is an important step in protecting your organization from spam, malware and other email attacks. Email filtering also helps to ensure that your employees are productive by only seeing relevant messages in their inboxes.

Examples of email services:

  • Google Workspace
  • Rackspace Email
  • Amazon SES
  • SendGrid
  • Zoho Mail
  • Office 365 Outlook

So what your provider will do is to help set up these services, install all the necessary security features and most importantly keep monitoring them to ensure uninterrupted performance.

7. Website management services

Maintaining a website can be a daunting task, but it's a necessary one for any small business. That's where website management services come in. A good website management service will take care of all the day-to-day tasks of website maintenance, so you can focus on running your business.

Some of the tasks that a good website management service will take care of include:

  • Updating website content regularly.
  • Monitoring website performance and fixing any errors that occur.
  • Managing website backups to ensure your data is always safe.
  • Adding new features or functionality to your website as needed.

8. Managed VoIP services

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, a phone system that makes it possible to make calls over broadband internet instead of the traditional phone network. This allows you to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection.

Your VoIP service provider will manage all the details for you and help you through the process of transitioning to cloud communications in a hassle-free way so that your data is secure and your team can continue functioning without interruption.

The services that are offered by managed VoIP providers generally include:

  • Full setup including account and infrastructure
  • System management including troubleshooting and maintenance
  • Monitoring and optimization
  • VoIP consulting/small business IT consulting

VoIP phone systems are quickly becoming the most popular choice for small businesses. They offer a number of benefits, such as cost savings, portability, and scalability.

9. Application management 

Applications have become mainstream, impacting how we connect and most importantly how we work. It’s amazing how apps have grown to play huge roles in industries such as finance, pushing financial institutions like banks to embrace them. As apps grow in importance, they get complex and businesses find it hard to cope with the management of their most critical applications. This then calls for application management services.

The purpose of application management services is to offer continuous support to the apps that drive your business, ensuring crashes are rare and resolving issues real-time.  According to a report by Grand View Research, the Application Management market size is on course to pass US$ 80 billion by 2025, a sign that businesses are already using these services. The healthcare and finance industries are fueling this demand.

10. Hardware maintenance

According to Gartner, hardware maintenance services are preventive in nature and aimed at repairing or optimizing hardware. Ensuring your hardware is always up-to-date and in good condition is crucial for the success of your small business. That's why regular hardware maintenance is so important.

Hardware maintenance service providers will basically ensure that any failing hardware is identified early enough and fixed before it can wreak costly havoc on your business. They often automate regular practices such as version updates and patching, ensuring you'll never get caught up in the ‘hide and seek’ of missed updates or obsolete versions.

11. Remote working management 

You can outsource the management of your remote working software to a team of experts. MSPs can provide remote IT support for small businesses through ongoing support and maintenance, as well as advice on how to optimize the use of the software. In addition, MSPs can offer a range of value-added services, such as training and user support, to help you get the most out of your investment.

Remote desktop management software, for example, gives you the ability to access your employee's computers no matter where they are in the world. It allows you to keep an eye on their work and make sure they're staying on task.

Another great feature of remote working management is that it allows your teams to safely  transfer files back and forth. This makes collaboration a lot easier and eliminates the need for emailing large files.

12. Cybersecurity services

It’s not surprising that Cybersecurity is still a foreign subject to many small business owners, yet it's one of the most important aspects of any business right now, no matter how big or small. If you're not investing in services that protect your company's data, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to attacks from hackers that could cost you a lot of money and damage your reputation.

That's why it's important to have a cybersecurity service in place that can protect your business from these threats. A good cybersecurity service provider will scan your networks for any signs of intrusion, perform penetration testing, guard against malware and ransomware attacks and help you recover from any data breaches.

Here are the various types of cybersecurity services that are essential for your business;

  • Cloud Security: Focused on securing your cloud systems
  • Network Security: Dedicated to protecting computer networks from various vulnerabilities
  • VPNs: Securing remote server access
  • Updates and Upgrades: Patching and protection against malware
  • Data Backups: For protection and prompt restoration in case of disasters
  • Timely Incident Response
  • Cybersecurity Policy Implementation
  • Cybersecurity Budgeting

13. Help desk services 

Any business, no matter how small, needs to have some type of customer support in place. This is where help desk services come in. Help desk services for small businesses provide a way for customers to get help with questions or problems they may have. There are many different types of help desk services, but some of the most common include phone support, email support, and live chat support.

Help desk services can also provide your business with round-the-clock support for all of your technology needs. This is known as small business IT support and can include anything from resolving software issues to fixing printer problems. They too can provide valuable training and support for using new software or hardware. This can save you time and money in the long run by preventing small issues from becoming bigger problems.

14. Web filtering services

Web filtering is the process of blocking employees from accessing certain websites or online content while at work or when using business devices. This type of content is referred to as NSFW (Not Safe for Work). Examples of such content include violence and hate speech. This can be done for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Preventing employees from wasting time on personal web browsing.
  • Protecting the mental health of employees.
  • Protecting sensitive company information.
  • Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. 

For small businesses, web filtering can be an essential tool for maintaining a productive and secure work environment. By blocking access to unauthorized or malicious websites, web filtering can help to prevent malware infections and data breaches.

Examples of web filtering solutions;

  • Cisco Umbrella
  • DNSFilter
  • McAfee Web Protection
  • WebTitan

Your provider will install these services across all your teams’ devices and monitor them consistently to guarantee effective filtering.

15. New technologies

Best for last? Every time new technology emerges, small businesses find themselves lost in the hype. Large businesses on the other hand have the financial muscle to quickly catch up with any new technology. For your small businesses to take advantage of new tech, your best bet is to utilize the services of providers specializing in such technologies. They will quickly align your operations to capitalize on emerging tech and accelerate your growth.

Some of the new technologies that you should already be checking out include;

  • AI powered business tools such as chatbots, smart assistants, manufacturing robots.
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
  • 5G Connectivity
  • Mobile Money
  • 4K Displays
  • 3D Printing

This is what it means to be at the true front of cutting edge technology. You may not have a 360 view of all the emerging technology, but meanwhile get a trusted provider to advise and start implementing the latest small business IT solutions that can inject unrivaled momentum in your business.

Final perspective

How about wrapping up with where we began. Again, IT has become inseparable from business regardless of size. Let’s just say it’s impossible to run a meaningful business these days without IT - it’s the proverbial  inevitable “can't do without me” ingredient that we have to live with.

Remember that the model of outsourced IT services for small businesses is increasingly becoming the go-to model as businesses now prefer to outsource their IT needs to a third-party company. This company will then manage all of the IT for your business, from maintaining the network to fixing any glitches in the system. This model is now emerging as a more cost-effective and efficient option for small businesses who neither have the time nor resources to manage their IT in-house. Give it a try!

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