IT Support vs Managed Services: What’s The Difference?

When running your own small or mid-sized business, you know that IT is a crucial component of your day-to-day operations and the overall success of your business. But with so many variations of IT solutions available and confusing buzzwords, it can be difficult to figure out what kind of IT support services best fit your unique needs.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be confused any longer; in this post, we will break down the differences between IT Support vs Managed IT Services.

The different kinds of IT Support

What is IT Support?

Traditional IT Support can be described as the assistance that you might receive for any IT-related problem.  

No matter who is involved with troubleshooting a specific project, the person or group providing technical support would be providing IT Support services. These services could be performed by someone on your payroll or a third-party vendor.

Internal IT Support

Internal IT support, often called your “in-house IT team,” is a technician (or a team of technicians) employed by your company on a part-time or full-time basis.  

As a staff member, the internal IT support team will only be focused on resolving your company’s IT needs and will be responsible for all facets of your organization’s information technology within that group.  

While it’s not uncommon for an Internal IT team to work with an outsourced IT group, the Internal IT team group would typically manage any other companies, groups, or individuals involved with finding resolutions to their respective IT problems. 

Outsourced IT Support/Managed IT Services

If you don’t want to hire W2 employees to work in your IT department, another great alternative is looking for outsourced IT support, often called Managed IT Services.

When you outsource your IT and work with a Managed Services Provider (MSP), you’ll partner with a dedicated technology team of experts to proactively handle your ongoing IT needs (not just when something breaks).  This agreement is typically paid for in one all-encompassing monthly fee.

Co-Managed IT Services

Within a co-managed IT environment, you can use a hybrid support structure where your information technology tasks are divided between an internal in-house team and an outsourced IT team.  While your internal IT team may be on your payroll, you might have a service contract with your Managed IT Services Provider. 

You can think of co-managed IT services as a partnership that enhances your existing IT capabilities, offering you access to specialized expertise and advanced technologies.

A graphic with icons showing the difference between IT support vs managed services

Key Differences Between IT Support vs Managed Services

The best way to describe IT Support vs Managed Services is by stating that Managed Services includes IT Support.  IT Support does not include Managed Services.  IT Support would be one of many services included in how we partner with our clients.  

Nature of Services: Reactive vs. Proactive

No matter which industry your company is in, a Managed IT company will partner with your company and each of your organizational units to identify and solve challenges.  A high-quality managed service provider operates under the working guidance that their company does well when its clients do well (both financially and emotionally).  

To truly experience a technical advantage, businesses need to trust that their IT company is working on, securing, and building their IT infrastructure and IT business goals.  That proactive support should be included within a Managed IT Service Provider model.  

The general term “IT Support” could assume proactive or reactive support.  (It is important to us at FIRN Services that our clients understand IT Support is not the sole product included in a managed services agreement).  The managed services model should promote designing more logistically efficient and cost-effective solutions for your day-to-day IT operations.  

Additionally, an MSP should include ensuring your critical business processes and systems are up to date.  A managed services provider should also be proactively providing remote monitoring and network management around the clock. Most MSPs deploy an RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) tool designed to identify technology issues.  The issues would then be remediated by a team of IT consultants. 

A reactive IT Support agreement would exclusively include support in response to IT issues.  This is not typically the best option for small businesses.  However, it may be the answer to specific challenges that some business owners face.  

Scope of Services: Specific Issues vs. Comprehensive Management

During the sales process, and especially during onboarding, the IT staff of a Managed IT team will identify the type of support and type of services your business requires. That group should spend time understanding your business and the technical issues that your company faces.

Managed services providers will work with you to provide a collaborative approach to find the best solution for your specific problem or specific needs.

Most MSPs will use an ongoing support model.  The idea is to become an extension of the client’s business, a trusted advisor.  For most businesses, this is the right choice because you’re looking for a partner that will take responsibility for all of your IT systems.  

A typical managed services team provides IT Help desk services, network monitoring, backup and disaster recovery services, and cloud services, while also providing comprehensive data security using best practices from the most trusted antivirus and anti-spam providers.  

Specific issues or one-off projects can be completed by a third-party group or in-house IT department.  The most significant difference between a company focused on specific issues and a company focused on comprehensive network management is that the comprehensive IT manager should be thinking about how all of the specific tasks relate to the rest of that company’s needs.  

The Role of Availability and Monitoring

You should be looking for your MSP to use best-in-class proactive monitoring tools to alert their team (and yours) that your information technology stack may not be running as designed.  For most businesses, a core focus is on customer satisfaction through quick response times.  

As a professional services provider, well-designed monitoring tools should identify issues to alert your teams so they can immediately begin working through and identifying the cause and remediation of those problems.  

Availability in IT Support

Availability is everything to most businesses.  Whether that’s the availability of the IT staff, their data, or their infrastructure.  When meeting with clients, MSPs should never hear the complaint that “I created a ticket and never heard back!” or “Our server has been down for 3+ days,  this is not acceptable.”  

Any third-party provider should spend time performing regular maintenance to prevent these types of issues, but if they occur, that third-party service provider should immediately hop into action.

Continuous Monitoring in Managed Services

Additionally, an MSP should be using the latest technologies to help provide continuous monitoring 24/7 365 days a year.  Most regular IT maintenance occurs outside of regular business hours.  So any IT staff should properly schedule major updates or maintenance windows so your business continues to perform optimally.  

Patching, Upgrades, and Maintenance

Computers, servers, mobile devices, and even software applications work very similarly to an automobile.  These systems and processes need maintenance on an ongoing basis.  There’s no single update that will serve as the “last update.”  

But, some upgrades and maintenance plans are difficult and must be handled with care.  Professional service providers need to have experience with many different software and hardware vendors.  Partner with your IT vendor to ensure successful patches, upgrades, and regular maintenance. 

Approach to Upgrades in IT Support

There are thousands (and realistically probably millions) of hardware & software companies across the world.  Each of those companies has a unique method that they would consider “best practice”.  You need an IT partner that will consider how each application or device functions within your network.  Look got a firm with many years of experience partnering with software and hardware vendors making sure that upgrades are applied correctly and your schedule.

Proactive Maintenance in Managed Services

A Managed IT Services provider will typically customize service level agreements (SLAs) that work for your business.  Those agreements are designed to ensure that your expectations are met and exceeded as they relate to IT needs.  

Whether the need is for data backup, data storage, or a digital transformation, your IT provider should be proactively building an IT infrastructure that supports the growth of your business. Your service provider should design a proactive approach that works with you to help identify problems before they occur. 

Choosing the Right Service for Your Business

So, with so many types of services available, which type of IT service is right for you?  Do you need a team of experts thinking about the core competencies of IT in your business even when you’re not?  Or do you want to hire a company to complete a task on an as-needed basis?

When to Opt for IT Support

Our general recommendation is that if you have a computer with access to the internet within your organization, then your business needs IT Support.  The world is full of “bad guys” and those bad actors are always looking for ways to steal your data and your money.  They’re also very good at it.

Don’t assume because Microsoft pushes Windows Updates a few times a week that your computer or network is completely safe. 

Situations Ideal for Managed Services

While every company with a computer with internet access should opt for IT Support, forming a relationship with a Managed IT Services provider is a process that requires much more thought. Most businesses have some level of complexity in their day-to-day IT operations.  That complexity could equate to multiple office locations, multiple software vendors, or even compliance-driven requirements.  

If your business needs a solidified approach to IT security services or is looking to perform a complex cloud migration, then you’re a candidate for Managed IT Services.

Co-Managed IT vs Managed IT Services vs In-House IT Support

So now that you know the difference between Co-Managed IT, Managed IT, Internal IT, and general IT support, how do you which type of IT professional to call?

When to Opt for Co-Managed IT

A Co-Managed IT solution is usually preferred for business leaders and larger organizations that can support the cost model and also need access to specialized expertise, and scalability or are looking to spend fewer resources on recruitment or training.  Businesses are typically able to provide specialized training for the set of needs that their employees are expected to meet.  Because of this, In-House IT and Managed IT can work very well together

Situations Ideal for Managed Services

Some businesses can’t afford or justify the need for two groups of IT professionals.  In that scenario, Managed IT Services through an MSP is typically the most cost-effective solution. Businesses don’t have to pay health insurance or other benefits to MSPs, so there is a significant cost savings when compared to their internal team.

Additionally, an MSP typically has multiple technicians who can be involved in the troubleshooting or solving of those IT needs.  When hiring an individual to perform the IT duties within an organization, you’re only getting the skillsets that each individual has.  Since MSPs often have multiple employees, the skillset is more diverse.  

Finally, what do you do as a business owner, when your IT guy takes PTO or goes on sick leave?  Does the need for IT issues to be resolved stop?  Of course not!  With an MSP, IT doesn’t press pause when your staff goes on vacation.

Making an Informed Decision

Making the right IT decisions can make or break a company.  Which line of business software do you choose?  Should you use QuickBooks in the cloud or should you use the Desktop version? Hiring the right IT support company could be a good idea to help solve all those problems.  

The right IT provider wants to be your partner.  They want to understand your business processes because improving the way you do business will separate you from your competition.

The right IT provider is agnostic to your software and hardware. They generally see themselves as an extension of your organization – The IT department. 

Work With FIRN Services

FIRN Services is providing Managed IT Services for companies in all industries throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex.  Our clients rely on us to make educated IT decisions that protect and secure their IT infrastructure.  They expect us to partner with their vendors forming strong relationships that complement their teams and processes.  

If you’re ready to hire an IT company that is fully focused on promoting a healthy IT landscape, then schedule a call with us today.  We’d be honored to partner with your business to provide the technical expertise that you’ve been looking for!