All Posts By

Ed Grauel

How to Choose the Best IT Solutions Provider for Your Business

By | Insight

More and more companies are realizing the benefits of working with an IT solutions provider — often referred to as a Managed Service Provider (MSP) — to help utilize technology better, ideally increasing efficiency and productivity, while assisting with security, support, and projects like cloud migration.

There are components that form the foundation of smart MSP partnerships that are nice to have. And then there are the critical components that may not even be on the checklist when considering partnering with the right MSP. Understanding these known and unknowns is critical to selecting the right partner for your business.

Calyx takes a different view of providing managed services than most others do and we want to share our perspectives here to help businesses understand that choosing the best MSP hinges not so much on the provider, but on you and your company.

They establish trust.

A best-in-class Managed Service Provider isn’t in business to sell technology and services to benefit themselves. They are sincerely interested in helping their clients achieve success through business growth and becoming a trusted partner. Trust is something that grows throughout the course of the business relationship but there are clues at the beginning of the partnership that indicate a strong intent.

Some things to consider when evaluating a new MSP partnership are tangible such as IT support, security initiatives, budgets, etc. but you should have a good feeling about your interactions with a Managed Service Provider before entering into any agreement. They should welcome any and all questions and happily provide references. Remember, this is the future of your business and you need to trust any other providers who enter into that critical zone.

A provider who has a fast answer to every question or seems to have an off the shelf solution to any business challenge should be vetted carefully. Having an established way or principle is critical, putting every client within a single product, service or other “box” does not ensure fit.

They identify the gaps between IT and business objectives.

Most businesses lack a comprehensive understanding of their true cost of IT, how it relates to business objectives, or where they stand relative to competitors and industry standards. This clarity will help you organize and prioritize your current and future objectives, and help you make better business decisions. Identify an IT solutions provider who is willing to invest the time in comprehensive discovery and planning to ensure ongoing alignment between business plans and IT strategy. In doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re on the same page technically, philosophically and financially, and have a firm foundation for future success.

The best MSP will design a total system that promotes your business growth.

An exceptional Managed Service Provider knows that it is supporting the growth of your business, not only your technology. To support the growth of your business, your IT partner must work in lock-step with your business to ensure that your IT overcomes today’s challenges and prepares you for the future.

They’ll want to know your tolerance for risk. What are your business-critical processes? Are there any possible bottlenecks that could be eliminated by technology? They can only build the ideal support plan for you if they know what challenges you face and how you plan to address them.

Understanding your overall business strategy and how technology aligns with your goals is the foundation of a true partnership. Knowing what is needed today to be successful, paired with strategic planning for future needs, is the road to a productive relationship.

Don’t base your decision on pricing only.

We’re talking about the IT operations, security, ongoing support and growth of your business. So basing your decision on price alone is not a guaranteed recipe for success. IT should be an investment and an asset, not just a cost center on your P+L. This isn’t a lunch special. Trust that a best-in-class MSP will always be looking for new ways to improve your IT operations and will offer continual recommendations. Some of these may add to the budget but you will always get a thorough explanation as to why they’re critical and how they’ll add value in moving your business further toward desired growth.

Reputable IT solutions providers will also look for ways to make more effective use of your money, either cutting cost where possible or looking for improved technology for your spend. This is part of that trust issue that builds over time. They are looking for ways to benefit your long-term business success and cost just shouldn’t be the first factor in making such an important choice. Look for a partner that provides value beyond the bottom line. As Warren Buffet suggests, “price is what you pay, value is what you get.”

Service and support, without passing the buck.

A common complaint among business who’ve experienced frustration with their MSP is lack of accountability. All too often, providers pass the buck and place blame when a technical issue arises. The right IT solutions provider ensures white glove, end-to-end-service and support, working on behalf of the client as their single point of contact. It should be clear that their sole interest is to address issues in a timely manner and mitigate future issues whenever possible. Look for a provider who is willing to be candid and accountable when things go wrong, not providing unclear answers or passing the buck.

Look for industry-specific expertise.

MSPs are expert in technology, security and execution. But you’ll want to partner one which has experience working with other companies in your industry. Many IT initiatives share the same equipment, same processes, same philosophies. But if you have a financial business, it helps to know that they have dedicated experience working in the financial industry.

Knowing that they know about financial companies puts them ahead in the learning curve with you and they know what to look for on a daily business. It’s another one of those aspects that build trust at the onset and as time goes by. The same holds true across any industry. Having shared experience or knowledge only serves to build a more successful relationship.

A total solutions pricing model.

It’s typical for MSPs to provide clients with a Chinese menu of options, from technology platform to security and backup/disaster recovery, from upgrades to capital equipment. Nobody likes to be nickel and dimed. The limitless line item options are overwhelming and fail to provide clarity to business decision-makers. Further, they often bind the client to a lengthy contract term. Look for an IT solutions provider who, rather than intentionally mystifying the process, adds value by simplifying the complex. Calyx, for example, offers a simple pricing model based on two key line items — people and locations, with no contract term. Hardware expenditures, which often require investment, are included.

Explore their penchant for innovation.

The best-in-class Managed Service Providers are always improving their skill sets and recommendations based on new technology and solutions. They’re inquisitive. They’re proactive. And they’re resourceful. They need to bring you the best growth recommendations, and that requires innovation.

How will you transfer to the cloud? What are your mobile strategies? What internal efficiencies can save time and money? You don’t want an MSP to plug and play with your business. You want qualified recommendations that will build trust and drive the growth of your business.

These are all great things to be on the lookout for when looking for the best MSP for your business. Calyx delivers on all counts. When you partner with us, you’ll see lower Total Cost of Ownership, business scalability, streamlined processes, better continuity, security and more productivity for your business.

Why Manufacturers Need Managed IT Services

By | Insight

All businesses today have IT requirements, but manufacturers have very unique needs. In fact, they rely on IT for almost everything. When you think about machines doing tightly-controlled production work, as well as the machines to control those machines, it’s easy to see why IT is so critical. It is part of everything operational — logistics, production, customer interaction, supply chain and more.

Oftentimes, manufacturers support the needs of multiple locations, while sharing data, applications and management from a centralized location with fixed budgets and staff. Added to these challenges, IT must help to move forward business objectives, maintain competitive advantages and ensure the security of their intellectual property. Here’s where managed services for manufacturing comes in.

Outsourcing core IT functions to a professional IT solutions provider is a viable solution because it allows IT staff to focus on strategic, business-building objectives, instead of day-to-day break/fix and routine maintenance.

IT solutions providers can specifically help manufacturers in a number of ways to overcome these unique challenges.

Consistency and standardization across systems and locations

Standardization allows for consistency for all processes, especially when it comes to rapid recovery from issues that arise. This is especially true for manufacturing companies that don’t deploy and use the same technology across multiple locations. Various CRM, ERP and other software are used to manage operations. This creates an unnecessary tangle of communications and consistency that thwarts employees and the business in general. Partnering with an IT solutions provider will decentralize IT and make it universally available in the cloud so that all users have the same experience regardless of their location.

Scalability

Scalability—or adaptability—is huge when it comes to managing manufacturer IT needs. Industrial companies often work on large projects that require a small burst of employees and resources. Once the job is completed, the resource needs decrease and the company can’t afford to maintain the additional employees. How can a manufacturer responsibly manage these situations?

Outsourcing a technology ramp-up to an IT solutions provider is the perfect solution because increased workloads can easily scale to the cloud with no upfront costs or time delays. And even better, the manufacturer can easily scale back down when the project is complete, using additional resources only for a specified time.

Predictable IT Spend

By adopting an outsourced IT model, a manufacturer can simplify budgeting with predictable monthly IT fees. Using the services of an IT solutions provider also reduces the risk of downtime through the management of computing, storage and fixed network assets. Soft cost loss and productivity hurdles are also minimized due to less connectivity downtime caused by network fluctuations.

Sufficient IT Support

Staffing appropriately can be a moving target with manufacturing companies. Plugging in the right team members and other resources can vary based on workload and more times than not, staffers spend time putting out fires, not working proactively. When a company outsources to an IT solutions provider, the correct amount of team members and resources are directed to the workload so that work emergencies don’t occur and dedicated staffers can work productively.

Rapid Deployment

If you’re a manufacturer, mergers and acquisitions are a fact of life. So, what do you do when you encounter massive technology integration needs inherent with M&A? You outsource to an IT solutions provider like Calyx that manages quick and easy deployment and integration to a new location or newly purchased business.

Simultaneous Upgrades

Outsourcing IT solutions is a particularly efficient step when it comes to simultaneous upgrades of all servers and devices. What usually would take a long time to complete—deploying machine upgrades—is now easily managed due to the resources of a professional IT solutions provider.

Manufacturing and industrial companies have special technology needs that should only be accommodated by a professional IT solutions provider. When you partner with an IT solutions provider like Calyx, you’ll see lower Total Cost of Ownership, business scalability, streamlined processes, better continuity, security and more productivity for your manufacturing business.