What is IT support and why do I need it?

IT support encompasses a variety of services designed to optimise, repair and maintain IT systems. These services can be contracted on an ad hoc or reactive basis or as part of a managed services plan. Plans of the latter type typically include a variety of services provided by a managed services provider (MSP), an IT support firm that specialises in providing comprehensive IT support to its customers.

One key point of differentiation between managed and reactive IT support is that managed support focuses on preventing problems before they occur to optimise system performance, whilst reactive support is mainly focused on solving problems after they have occurred. This executive summary provides a concise account of what IT support is and why your company needs it.

The evolution of IT support

Historically, technology support was focused on dealing with system issues or breakdowns when they occurred. As time went by, computer technicians began to recognize certain signs that tended to precede system breakdowns, and instead of simply fixing problems after they happened they began to make regular visits to test system performance for signs of problems. As the Internet developed, much of this diagnostic testing began to be done online, which increased the popularity of the procedure. By the mid 2000s the cost of bandwidth had dropped and the technology had progressed sufficiently to enable small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) to be able to afford 24/7 system monitoring.

Today, IT support covers a wide variety of services, including:

  • Setting up and integrating all IT system elements
  • 24/7 monitoring of an IT system to improve its functioning ability
  • Managing and resolving system problems
  • Implementing and maintaining system security software and protocols
  • Virtual CIO services
  • System optimisation analysis
  • Disaster recovery and backup
  • End-user training
  • Helpdesk services

Why you need IT support

Unless your firm is very small (5 employees or less is a good benchmark in this regard), IT support is increasingly necessary in today’s technology-driven business world. Many SME’s don’t have the resources to devote to hiring full time IT experts as employees, making the retention of an IT support firm the preferred option when it comes to ensuring their IT infrastructure functions properly. The reasons for this are discussed in detail below:

Complex modern business IT systems require extensive provisioning to function optimally

Most SMEs typically utilise a variety of IT assets in the normal course of business. This may include both internal and external systems such as email platforms, FTP servers, corporate wikis, database programs, communication platforms, and much more. Setting up this complex array of solutions often requires a high level of expertise, especially when dealing with IT assets from different suppliers.

Customers expect nearly 24/7 system availability from IT systems

When locked in head-to-head battles with larger competitors, SMEs can find that they are handicapped by less reliable IT systems if they haven’t made arrangements to outsource system operations to a specialist IT firm. An IT support firm can help improve email server availability by arranging for a SLA (service level agreement) that mandates levels of uptime sufficient to allow your company to compete on a level playing field with your competitors.

IT systems perform mission critical tasks for many SMEs

As information technology has become more powerful, its use has become increasingly embedded in the business processes of many SMEs. IT support companies perform a number of services that can help improve system resiliency and minimise downtime. These include system optimisation routines, remote monitoring, SLAs, and other such functions.

Malfunctioning or poorly designed systems impose costs in the form of impaired productivity and reduced efficiency

Aside from helping to prevent catastrophic failure or outages, IT support can benefit a company by helping to optimise system performance. This is important because systems that function poorly can result in less obvious costs that nonetheless can be significant when considered as a whole.

Security breaches can imperil a company’s intellectual property and trade secrets

With an ever-increasing amount of business around the world conducted online, the phenomenon of security breaches has grown in lockstep. An IT support provider can help you take the steps necessary to ward against data breaches and other threats to your company’s IT system.

Proactively seeking and dealing with system issues before they can cause major problems improves system efficiency

Instead of waiting until something breaks and fixing it, the preferred model today is system optimisation, which stresses monitoring an IT system to detect any signs of impending faults before they occur. Contracting with an IT support firm to provide this type of monitoring and analysis can offer significant benefits in the form of reduced downtime and enhanced overall system performance.

Enables a company to focus on its core competencies, rather than operating its IT system

Even a properly functioning IT system can require a significant amount of time to manage. As these systems become more complex, an SME must spend a correspondingly greater amount of time managing and maintaining them. Retaining a specialist IT support company to perform these services allows your company to focus on what it does best – its core competencies.

Employee education and helpdesk services improve overall efficiency

The increasing complexity of modern IT systems means that in many cases employees require training in the use of various IT assets to ensure these systems are operated efficiently, which an IT support firm with the necessary expertise can provide. In addition, when issues arise which require outside assistance, having access to a helpdesk allows them to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

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