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:
- 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.
- Time savings: With an experienced IT service company, you'll get the most out of your technology and save time on troubleshooting and repairs.
- 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.
- Expertise: A good IT service company will have experts in all areas of information technology, from network security to cloud computing.
- 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.
Related reading: Benefits of Managed IT Services
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.
Also read: Difference between managed services and professional services
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 service provider. This can include everything from technology maintenance to help desk support and more.
The cost of managed IT for small businesses depends on the features and services that are included.
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.
The 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 specialist 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.
A key element of the cloud is hosting, and there are three types major namely: Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud Hosting. In public cloud hosting, you rent access to computing resources from a cloud hosting provider who manages all hardware and software. This means you don’t need to invest in your own infrastructure or worry about keeping it up-to-date. You simply pay for what you use, when you use it. Private cloud hosting is one where businesses own the hosting. This means you control who has access to the cloud, and you can set up specific rules and regulations about how the cloud is used. Hybrid hosting is a mix of both public and private cloud hosting. Your data is hosted in both environments, which gives you the best of both worlds.
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 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 the cloud IT infrastructure.
Here are common examples of cloud services:
Cloud migration services
When you're looking to move to the cloud, you need a partner who can help make the transition as smooth and seamless as possible. That's where a cloud migration service provider comes in. These providers have years of experience in the field and know how to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
They will work with you to assess your company’s readiness to migrate, as well as plan out a migration strategy that's tailored to your business. The cloud migration service provider will then handle the actual process of migrating your systems to the cloud. This includes tasks such as preparing the cloud environment including setting up remote, cloud based storage spaces, transferring your data, and finally migrating your systems,
Once your data and applications are in the cloud, the provider can also offer ongoing support including server management to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Cloud Security services
Cloud security has become a big issue in recent years as more and more businesses are moving to the cloud. And with good reason—the cloud offers a lot of benefits, such as scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. But with those benefits come risks, which is why it's important to have a robust cloud security strategy in place.
A cloud security service provider is a company that provides cyber security services for businesses who host their applications and data in the cloud. The main role of a cloud security service provider is to manage and protect the business’ data and applications. They do this by providing security tools and services, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems. They also provide consultancy services that guide businesses to create appropriate security policies and procedures.
Cloud security service providers also play an important role in incident response. They work with the customer to investigate and resolve security incidents. They also help to prevent future incidents by providing advice on how to improve the security of your systems in the cloud.
A good cloud security service provider should also be able to help with compliance and regulatory issues.
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
- 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 prodiver will monitor your networks for any signs of intrusion, 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
- 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
- Network Security Policy Implementation
- Cybersecurity Budgeting
13. IT Support / Help desk services
An IT support helpdesk is a team of experts who are specially trained to offer software and hardware support. They can help your staff or even customers with everything 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 advancing into manageable problems.
IT Support providers can also provide important reporting and analytics derived from the issues they handle, so you can track your company's performance and make necessary adjustments.
Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for the best IT Support provider for your business:
- Cost: Make sure you're getting good value for your money.
- Experience: You want a provider that has a lot of experience and knows how to handle all sorts of issues.
- Availability: You want a provider that's going to be available when you need them. You don't want your employees or customers to have to wait hours or days for help with a critical issue.
- Credentials: Make sure the provider has the proper credentials and is reputable.
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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
- McAfee Web Protection
Your provider will install these services across all your teams’ devices and monitor them consistently to guarantee effective filtering.
15. IT Consulting
However small your business might be, there are certain functions that need professional IT experts to evaluate them and help you make the most out of your technology investments. In other words the key role of an IT consultant is to guide your business in making critical IT decisions, ensuring that each technology you deploy ultimately aligns with the objectives of your business objectives.
A good IT consultant should be able to analyze your IT needs and implement strategies that will optimize your IT infrastructure technology, and guide your teams in using this infrastructure to improve the bottom line.
Here are some of the most common areas where IT consultants offer great help for small businesses:
- Data backup and recovery strategies
- Network design and planning
- Server installation and configuration
- Security assessment and implementation
- Software selection and implementation
It's important to select a firm that has experience working with businesses like yours. Make sure to check references and case studies to get a sense of a company's past success.
Don't be afraid to ask potential consultants tough questions about their experience and expertise. The more information you have, the better equipped you'll be to make a decision that's best for your business.
16. 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.
Further reading: Steps to implementing the Managed IT services
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!