We’re all feeling the Covid-19 impact on the economy, and business is making decisions they didn’t envision at the start of the year. Keystone is not immune to this and has reviewed and adjusted plans to meet the new challenges we all face. We asked ourselves: what has or could change because of the new business climate? What were we doing that had little value? What new things are we doing, which we would not have considered, and have long term positive impact? We asked our employees and clients about this and developed a survey to establish potential enhancements. We encourage you to examine your organization for long term improvements.
One question we recommend you ask yourself is, should we go to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) now to handle our Information Technology? In times of economic expansion, companies look for how IT drives growth; what new ideas and capabilities can we develop? Conversely, in a shrinking economy, companies need predictable, and hopefully shrinking costs. A predictable monthly fee removes an item of doubt from the financial plan allowing you to focus on the needs of the business.
In the 2008-2009 economic recession, I joined Keystone, and we added many new clients seeking the knowns and improved reliability in a world that was unknown and unreliable. Many of these clients remain with us today. We are seeing the same now: a need for knowns and reliability, a trusted advisor.
What companies should ask this question? While any can, it is best considered by small to midsize (SMB) organizations that want to have an appropriately sized IT Team for their overall employee and technology base. If you have between 25 and 400 employees, you should be asking this question. If you are more substantial, you may still consider an MSP for tactical needs like server management, backups, and Disaster Recovery, etc.
What if you have an IT staff and may add to it? Should you go to an MSP now?
An IT staff in a small business is a small staff! This means you will be limited! How?
- Limited time (40 hours a week, so scaling for projects and special needs is a problem).
- Limited knowledge – IT is very broad. Generally, you need nine people with nine skills to operate IT, even in the smallest business. One person does not possess all the skills to the depth required to support your needs.
- You will have limited insight – Leadership will not know what IT is doing and are in many respects at their mercy.
What is an MSP, and what will they do for me?
A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a company with skills in information technology, who agrees to take care of your IT needs. At Keystone, we operate as the IT department for most clients, and sometimes, supplement an existing team with specialized skills and bandwidth.
Having an MSP allows you to focus on your business. Unless information technology is a competitive advantage for you (and unless you are Google or Facebook, it probably is not), it really should be considered.
Why go to an MSP now?
It is always good to consider an MSP for all the reasons listed here, but with the Covid-19 issues, it is a timely consideration. Making a change now will remove distractions and allow you to focus on critical and urgent business needs. If you are filling out a PPP loan form, and IT is taking any time, you are missing a great opportunity. If you cannot move your employees to effective remote work, you are at risk.
Having an MSP like Keystone will solve the three fundamental problems of IT in an SMB listed above: you will have more bandwidth of time and knowledge, and will have greater insight into what IT is doing for you (or, and forbid it, to you). Keystone has a large team ready to help you with varied skillsets to provide expertise. We just moved entire user bases for many companies to remote work and allowed them to continue to thrive with little disruption. And finally, we have clear agreements for service which you can and should expect.
But, in a more detailed review of what you get, you will have an agreement with a firm to provide these essential benefits. In the list below, we cannot vouch for every MSP’s having the same capabilities, so we focus on what Keystone provides as a benefit to you.
- Service Level Agreements (SLA) – an agreed to response and system availability, so IT and user support are reliable.
- Easy to understand deliverables – we have noticed that the business does not understand what the internal IT tech needs or does, and the IT tech misunderstands the business; this makes it hard to align with and understand what IT is doing for you. A firm like Keystone has a group of business leaders with excellent IT skills. You will know what you are getting.
- Fixed Monthly Fees for Fixed Monthly Services – Our client agreements are for a defined, but liberally defined, set of services, and we bill the same amount every month. Our philosophy is any invoice should not surprise you. We set up your services for what you need, and only charge for those.
- Single Point of Contact when Issues occur – An MSP can manage third-party services like Office 365 and your internet and will assign an account manager to make sure you are receiving great value. One phone call (unless we are already on it), and we have it.
- Multiple Skills in an MSP team – When technology and markets shift, you will realize the need for a new skill or perspective. An MSP manages various client environments (Keystone has a view of managing the IT for hundreds of organizations) and can meet your requirements when you need a new capability to get over a growth or cost hump.
- An MSP brings their tools – How would you like it if you hired a company to put in a new driveway and they asked where your backhoe was? Keystone delivers high end, current tools properly configured to bring your IT to a new level of technology immediately. It would take years to do that internally. An MSP should provide the latest and most capable patching, monitoring, and help desk management tools.
- Shifts costs from CapEx to OpEx – While not all MSPs offer it, Keystone provides services like Hardware as a Service, where we bundle expensive servers into the monthly fees; this allows you to shift your costs significantly. It also means we are now responsible for the equipment, meaning you can hold us to a higher level of accountability (which we prefer)!
- Applies Best Practices – Technology is a changing target, the consensus is it changes every five years, so if you are doing it as you did five years ago, you need to evaluate what you are missing. Keystone goes to conferences and sets aside 2% of payroll hours for training for every team member, so we keep up with the latest and best practices. And for best practices, we consider them as “best-fit practices” – they work for many but may have to be tailored for you. We have created and documented best practices for IT Project Management, Design, Change Management, Patching, Automating, and User Support.
- More Secure – When security hacks happen, and they do, we can see them across multiple environments, and have a toolbox of approaches to respond to keep you safe. How can we best say it? Like our clients do: “the crypto locker virus our user clicked on was a like a blip on the radar for the organization of over 400 users”.
- Strategic Counsel – Sometimes you need more than the geeks, you need a seasoned business professional with IT skills. Keystone’s Virtual Chief Information Officer (VCIO) provides you with an experienced technologist who can help with decisions like “do I need a new ERP?” or “How can I manage my costs”?
Keystone has been providing IT services to organizations like yours in northeastern Ohio since 1997. We have the skills and capabilities described here. Now is the time to consider the question, “Why go to an MSP now”? If you want more info call 330-666-6200, or email Info@KeystoneCorp.com