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How SMBs Can Address Specific IT Needs with a Flexible IBM i Managed Services Provider

Posted by Dave Kravitt

integrated_managed_service_provider.jpgWhen it comes to IBM i managed services, most small and mid-sized businesses think big – perhaps a little too big. Given the broad range of system and OS support services many MSPs offer, people often make the mental leap from handling everything in-house to outsourcing all IT-related processes and equipment. From hardware to hosting to backup, analysis and other support services, they’ll automatically envision an all-or-nothing approach to hiring an MSP. When outsourcing seems like such a major undertaking, companies with smaller, more intermittent needs tend to avoid the process altogether. 

In reality, however, managed services are flexible – or at least they should be. A versatile, adaptable IBM i MSP can offer scalable services appropriate to the size, immediate needs and long-term goals of each client. Larger firms with significant operational budgets may favor a completely outsourced, hands-off approach. But for organizations that have recently lost key personnel, or who only need help with a specific operation, hiring an MSP is still the most efficient, cost-effective way to improve processes and provide for the well-performing IBM i platform.

Available Services 

Just how can an MSP assist a company that wants to keep some IT operations in-house? Almost every service a comprehensive package might include can be hired out a la carte, including:

  • General troubleshooting
  • Disaster recovery
  • Operations management
  • Operating System and PTF Installation and implementation
  • Hardware management
  • Performance analysis
  • Performance tuning
  • Access and permissions
  • Project management

One of the most common scenarios we see is outsourced disaster recovery. Clients often have a handle on the services that keep their day-to-day operations up and running, but they don’t have modern systems in place for unexpected shut-downs and quick recovery. Instead of transferring complete control of their servers to an MSP, the MSP can just manage the current backup process, use the cloud for backup storage or even mirror the server in the cloud. They can also work with the provider to create and implement the plans that will have their mission-critical applications back up and running as quickly as possible following the outage. 

Performance analysis is also a top concern for SMBs that want to ensure their in-house systems are running as efficiently as possible. For these companies, an MSP can perform assessments, uncovering inefficiencies and recommending (and sometime implementing) changes to hardware, operating system release levels or even business processes. 

Common Roadblocks 

With so many ways to leverage third-party tools and expertise, why aren’t more SMBs buying managed services? For many companies, a major roadblock is the perception that hiring an MSP is a costly, risky move that requires giving up a great deal of control. Purchasing those services a la carte allows a firm to retain control in areas they desire. In most of these cases, companies also keep their production servers on-site. 

As for expenses, partnering with an MSP for specific functions will often be cheaper than hiring new employees or contractors. When employees retire or move on, it can be much more efficient to fill their shoes with a third-party service provider. Many MSPs bring broad and deep technical experience, industry-specific knowledge, and sophisticated tools the client may be able to take advantage of. Furthermore, an MSP can often leverage those tools and automated processes to complete the same jobs as on-site employees in much less time. 

Leveraging a Strategic Partner 

Ultimately, whether you want to hire an MSP for specific, intermittent needs, or you need someone to handle your entire IBM i infrastructure, you want a company that can become your strategic partner. Take a look at the industries they’ve supported and worked in, and make sure their knowledge and specific skills align with your needs. The airline industry has different IT needs from the medical field which has different needs from manufacturing and food production. As your business grows, your MSP should be able to recognize and proactively address new concerns with new hardware, software and services. 

In the same vein, you’ll want a provider who offers a holistic approach: OS support, application support and business consulting. This new generation of provider is known as an integrated managed service provider, or iMSP. From your servers to your workstations to your manufacturing floors and warehouses, an iMSP can provide the comprehensive technical and strategic support required in today’s business environment. They cover everything from the power plug on your servers to the end user screens on the manufacturing floor!

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Tags: IBM i Platform, Managed Services