5 Lesser known benefits of choosing the co-managed IT model

5 Lesser known benefits of choosing the co-managed IT model

Even companies with IT staff on their payroll can’t deny having an MSP onboard offers benefits that exceed what they get from having just an in-house team. This blog explore 5 lesser known reasons why the co-managed IT model is popular.

An extra hand during emergencies
In the event of any unforeseen emergency such as a natural disaster or a terror attack, you may need additional IT support to get things up and running again. Your IT team may not be able to do it all instantly and of course adding to your IT staff wouldn’t be an option during such times. In a co-managed IT services model you will have your MSP to support your IT team which will help you recover faster.

Especially useful when you have a small in-house IT team
For a lot of SMBs, an in-house IT team comprises one or two IT technicians who take care of all their IT needs. But what happens when they are both out of office at the same time, due to unforeseen circumstances? You can only cross your fingers and hope no major IT problem comes up. But, in the co-managed IT services option, your virtual IT team is just a call away!

24/7 Support
24/7 IT support is a luxury for most SMBs. Their in-house IT staff usually works the same hours at the business. Most managed service providers, however, offer 24/7 services at affordable costs.

You still retain control over your IT
In a co-managed services model, you are not completely entrusting your IT to an MSP, as your in-house IT team will be collaborating with your managed services provider to meet your IT needs better. Thus, you retain quite a bit of control over your IT.

You get useful IT insights
When you bring an MSP onboard, you benefit from their expertise and on-ground experience. They can advise you on the latest IT trends in your industry and help streamline your processes and IT infrastructure based on what’s effective. This kind of insight cannot be gained with an in-house IT team as they would only be working with you.

Co-managed IT model is not replacing your IT team with an MSP. It is augmenting your existing IT support setup with an MSP and leveraging their expertise to bring thought leadership IT strategies into your organization.

WFH: Remote Data Access and Data Security

WFH: Remote Data Access and Data Security

This may be the single biggest concern you may have to address when looking at WFH. When your employees are working in your offices, you control their methods of access to company data. For example, when they are on-site, they access through a network you have secured. They visit via tablets, PCs and mobile devices that your IT department maintains. In other words, you have much greater control over data security.  Once access goes remote, data security becomes a bigger challenge.

Here are just three examples.

  1. Employee knowledge of the potential risks to your data may be limited. Employees aren’t trained as experts in data security and are probably unaware of the many ways data may be compromised. As a result, when left on their own, they may be far more likely to inadvertently take actions that compromise your data or create vulnerabilities that would not be possible when on-site. As a result, if you go to WFH, you will have to provide ongoing training to everyone about the potential risks to company data and their responsibility to maintain secure behaviors.
  2. IT has greater challenges overseeing security. Your IT department has a serious challenge in keeping up with data security. That challenge grows exponentially as your workers disperse to remote locations where IT has considerably less control over access tools and network connections. It is also much harder for them to update tablets, PCs, mobile devices, etc. with the latest software and security updates when that hardware is located who knows where. Again, this means pushing responsibility for upgrades and security patches onto individual remote employees.

    Companies that were designed around the model of onsite employees accepted as “normal” a paradigm of centralized control over the IT infrastructure by the IT department. With WFH, however, the IT infrastructure and its oversight become decentralized. IT management suddenly becomes even more complex, requiring far more planning and careful design than ever. With WFH there are far more moving parts.

  3. The BYOD problem. BYOD–Bring your own device–is just an extension of the above two points. Once you allow employees to use their own devices for work, that makes decentralized IT support even more difficult. Not only does IT have to support devices remotely, they also have a wider range of devices to support. Handling this involves a calculus of interests you will have to weigh against each other. BYOD can save you equipment costs. It is also generally popular among employees.

    WFH increases your IT oversight costs and increases data security concerns. It is an issue that you have to consider when evaluating WFH policies.

Four reasons to opt for the co-managed IT services model

Four reasons to opt for the co-managed IT services model

Co-managed IT services model is one in which the business has its own IT team, but still contracts with an external managed services provider for certain services. In this blog we discuss four benefits of a co-managed IT services model.

Expertise
Your in-house IT team may not have all the expertise needed to manage all your IT requirements. There are new developments happening in the tech space everyday and an MSP is better positioned to stay up-to-date with them as IT is their business.

Flexibility
Opting for a co-managed IT services model allows you the flexibility to scale your IT up or down based on your business requirements. This is especially useful for companies that experience seasonal spikes in their business, such as CPA firms, around taxation times, or retail businesses around the Holidays. You don’t have to hire new IT staff to handle the sudden extra load on your IT.

Lower costs
Choosing a co-managed IT services model saves you costs that you would otherwise incur when hiring new IT staff. Bringing someone on your payroll involves HR expenses including health insurance, 401 (k) etc., which can be avoided when bringing an MSP onboard.

Help your IT team focus better
Research indicates that in companies that have an in-house IT team, their IT specialists are so caught up with the day-to-day IT tasks that they don’t have the time to focus on new technology. Tasks like security patches, software updates, backups etc., keep them busy, so they don’t get time to research or learn about the latest on the tech front. This defeats the purpose of having an in-house IT team, doesn’t it? If you could have your MSP take care of the mundane IT routine, you will be enabling your in-house IT technicians to focus on new technology, which will help you become more efficient as a business.

If you already have an in-house IT team, it is not unusual to think you don’t need the services of a managed services provider. But, as you can see, co-managed IT has its advantages and you shouldn’t strike an MSP off your list completely just because you have your in-house IT technicians.

The inevitable increase in Working from Home and the move to VoIP

The inevitable increase in Working from Home and the move to VoIP

As you are surely aware, working from home (WFH) has been the primary way that white collar, office-based jobs are being handled during stay-at-home rules. As everything began to shut down with the virus, WFH–what used to be called “telecommuting,” became the only safe option for work to be conducted.

For companies that had already been utilizing WFH policies, they probably already had the tools and devices selected to make the transition from office to off-site thoroughly transparent. For those organizations that eschewed WFH, being forced into it overnight probably created a lot of dissonance, as workers struggled to find the ways to conduct their jobs using tools designed for office-based work.  No matter what your situation, now is the time to start adopting technologies that facilitate work from home, because even when things begin to “open up” it is likely that even those who once looked askance at WFH will have discovered it is a productive and potentially money-saving approach to conducting business. Right now WFH isn’t just an option and you need to be as agile and productive as possible. Old tools won’t cut it.  And don’t view what you are doing to facilitate WFH today as just papering over a temporary problem. WFH will never go away. WFH may decrease, but it will probably never drop back to the levels prior to the start of the Covid crisis. And even as companies adopt only partial WFH, they may continue to move away from permanently assigned offices/cubicles and adopt “hotelling” style workplaces. Inherently, these will require VoIP technology to be functional.

One of the simplest and most significant changes you can make to facilitate off-site collaboration and improve productivity is the adoption of the VoIP telephony model. It is time to abandon that on-site PBX and move ahead to internet-based voice communication and the array of new collaborative tools that accompany this communications model.

Implementing work from Home: Planning Matters

Implementing work from Home: Planning Matters

Work From Home, also commonly known as telecommuting, is a fairly general term that encompasses a range of workplace policies. Most generally, it refers to a policy permitting an employee to work from home (or any other approved remote location-the range of acceptable locations will differ depending on the organization’s policies). Beyond that WFH may or not be restrictive regarding working hours, breaks, equipment used, etc. For example, some WFH policies may require that an employee work within the standard corporate-approved workday. Other policies may simply require tasks to be completed when required.

Once a business has determined that it wishes to explore a WFH policy, plans need to be put in place to roll out a new workplace telecommuting strategy.

Implementation: Some Considerations

Initial Note: Unless your firm is facing some unexpected risk event that requires you to quickly implement a WFH policy, the design and adoption of a policy should be carefully planned with forethought. There are many ways that well-intentioned WFH plans can stumble at the outset, setting everyone up for a failure that will be unfairly blamed on WFH.

  1. What jobs are eligible: The first step is identifying which jobs are eligible to be completed from home. Some jobs clearly require a full time presence in the workplace. Others, with some ingenuity, may be able to be partially handled on-site. Other jobs may clearly be eligible. (note: we refer to “jobs” here, not “employees.” There is a difference.)
  2. Which employees are eligible: Once it has been determined which jobs are eligible for partial- or full-time WFH, then the decision must be made about which employees are the best candidates to successfully adopt WFH. For instance, employees may be eligible for WFH only after they have completed a probationary or training period. Or longer, if that seems appropriate. A second criteria may be a good performance record. Employees with performance or disciplinary issues may be not eligible for WFH.
  3. A slow, incremental rollout: Adopting a WFH policy may represent a serious shift in company culture, management style, and operational processes. Doing it all at once is likely asking for trouble. Every project needs a beta stage, and WFH is no exception. Try adopting it with a few employees from one unit. Then do the same in another area. Then review and identify issues and concerns by talking with all involved.
  4. Set Parameters and Expectations: Policies you may wish to consider
    • Availability window – Will it be necessary for them to be completely available during certain periods? For example, must they conduct their WFH within standard working hours, e.g. 9-5. Or will there be a flex-time approach, where availability is only required within a smaller window, e.g. 10-2.
    • Responsiveness – How responsive must they be to emails, phone calls, text, etc? One of the risks of the modern workplace is the feeling employees have that they must be available 24/7. Because WFH may have less structure, this perception may be exacerbated.
    • It is only about deadlines – just get your work done on time. The rest is up to you.
  5. Cancellation: If the plan is partially or fully repealed, will employees be given sufficient notice to make plans to cover for child care, etc?

In short, this gives you some indication that one simply does not initiate WFH by issuing a laptop to everyone. If WFH is to succeed, it has to be designed around your company’s goals and unique requirements.

Three different issues about WFH you may have not considered.

Three different issues about WFH you may have not considered.

Today’s blog is a look at three different issues that don’t get much coverage in discussions of the implementation of a WFH policy. Much of the conversation tends to focus on productivity and oversight issues. Here are three you should consider.

WiFi
Once your employees move off-site and WFH, or anywhere else for that matter, very serious data security issues arise. Whether at home or in a coffee shop, your employees will be accessing your data via WiFi connections that will not have the levels of security or firewalls that you have in place in the workplace. This may be the single most important security vulnerability that you face with WFH. Resolving this will take a strong combination of employee training and IT support and control over remote tools and approved software applications. This is one area that you will definitely need the services of an IT specialist with deep knowledge of these security issues.

PBX v. VoIP
Moving to a WFH environment may be what finally pushes you into the work of Voice over Internet Protocol. (VoIP). If you aren’t already aware, VoIP is a voice communication toolset that takes you away from traditional “telco” lines and moves voice onto the internet. In short, you give up wires and send your voice over the internet when you make a phone call, instead of sending via traditional methods through the “telephone” provider.

What does this have to do with WFH? The traditional office phone system –the PBX–is a location-based, on-site system. It offers little flexibility once employees move off-site and becomes of significantly diminished value. VoIP offers many tools unavailable on a PBX that can improve collaboration and communication among employees and between employees and clients. In short, a PBX is a leftover from an earlier era that just doesn’t work in the modern environment. VoIP offers multiple communication tools that a PBX just cannot provide. Also, VoIP can be a significant money-saver. It can lower per-minute costs and is less expensive to maintain and support.

FLSA
Don’t leave human resource questions out of the mix of issues that WFH raises. In the US, most employment is governed by the US Fair Labor Standards Act. This is the 1938 act that set the standard 40-hour workweek, Federal minimum wage, and requires overtime for certain classifications of employees. Similar, often stricter laws exist at the state level, and sometimes even municipal.

What matters here is that when an employee who is required to be paid overtime beyond 40 hours per week is working from home, you are responsible for determining that they are compensated properly if they cross the 40 threshold. Just because it is convenient for them to do a little extra work when it comes up does not absolve you from OT requirements. In this case, collaboration with Human Resources in developing policies that protect both you and your employee are essential.