The Evolution of IT Support: How Managed Services Have Adapted to Modern Technology
Everyone has had occasion to sit and listen to an Old Timer story. In decades past, the neighborhood’s elder statesman would interrupt stickball games to reminisce about Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak or Carl Hubbell’s screwball mowing down five consecutive Hall of Famers in an All-Star game. Grizzled veterans would weave tales of a strange, long-ago world, where television was in black and white, had only a handful of stations, and relied on twisted rabbit ears for reception. Those days seemed bleak and foreboding, not to mention hard on rabbits. But given the accelerated pace of technology over the last couple of decades, you no longer have to be an Old Timer to have “olde time” stories. Anyone with a little stubble on the chin or the faintest of crow’s feet can recall the early days of the Internet, when we couldn’t use the phone and the computer at the same time, had to endure the awful screech that emanated from a dial-up modem, and waited endlessly for the rainbow death spiral to stop spinning. And, as computer technology and usage have evolved, so have the ways IT professionals service computer users. So, take a moment to sit here on the stoop with us, as we harken back to those bygone days, tracing the path of change up to this moment and beyond.
Set it and forget it, until it breaks
Early computer network use was a combination of “trial by fire” and “sink or swim.” Vendors would send an IT specialist to a business for the initial installation, whereupon the company owner would be gifted with an operating manual as thick as a Manhattan phonebook. (“What’s a phonebook?” you ask. Sorry we brought it up.) Anyway, the user would attempt to learn the basics from the manual, which was often written in language only a computer science major could decipher. This generally meant the user only scratched the surface of the system’s potential and was totally at a loss if the system didn’t operate as expected.
The service model then was “fix it when it breaks.” Business owners only saw an IT specialist when the system failed, and once the network was up and running again, no one really gave a thought to preventive maintenance. Because owners were dealing with IT specialists who knew nothing about their business or usage patterns, diagnosing the problem often took longer, which resulted in higher costs for the business, which in turn discouraged further IT dealings, until the system broke again.
There’s gotta be a better way: the Beginning of Managed Services
As businesses relied more on their networks, they couldn’t afford the downtime typical of the break/fix model. IT professionals responded with plans for ongoing maintenance, much the way you would have your car serviced every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Thus, in the 1990s and early 2000s, MSPs came out with service plans that included support, monitoring, and maintenance. This model has endured because it’s proven to be cost effective.
Remote Monitoring and Management
Further technological advancements have allowed IT services to monitor systems remotely and to diagnose infrastructure issues before they cause a service interruption. Remote monitoring was a significant advance that improved prevention, while reducing costs and downtime. This led to greater business efficiency and worker productivity, which further drove the adoption of technology solutions for businesses.
The Rise of The Cloud
The cloud refers to remote data storage and backup. This innovation meant that businesses would not have to invest heavily in servers, avoiding costs associated with the purchase, maintenance, and real estate they require. Instead, MSPs would lease their servers and assume the related responsibilities. More small businesses could afford to adopt and expand their networks. Businesses could also be nimbler with their tech planning, expanding or contracting to meet their business goals.
The Burden of Compliance
As businesses began to store customer data, cyber security breaches became more and more consequential. Regulators responded by imposing requirements on companies that stored sensitive information, and businesses needed to maintain compliance or suffer potentially crippling liability and sanctions. Again, MSPs responded by offering security solutions to cybercrime.
Is AI the Future for MSPs?
Where will the next advance in managed services come from? Many insiders point to artificial intelligence, which has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses monitor their networks and stay ahead of security threats. AI can analyze data at incredible speeds and can be programmed to identify patterns. AI can extrapolate from trends to predict the next steps in consumer usage and hacker attacks. AI will soon relieve IT professionals of various tasks, so we can use our time to personally service our customers. While the IT world is rich in gallows humor about machines taking over Terminator-style and enslaving humanity, the near future is likely to be made much easier as we find new uses for AI.
If you have questions about how managed IT services can make your small business network more efficient, an IT professional at KMF Technologies can provide personalized advice.