Most people recognize the importance of performing routine maintenance on their vehicles. If you change your oil every 3,000 miles, keep your tires rotated, and regularly inspect your brakes, transmission and other critical systems, you greatly reduce the odds of a breakdown or emergency repair.

The same logic applies to the IT environment. Servers, PCs, network gear and other devices require routine maintenance and updates to keep them running optimally. It’s also important to monitor your systems and network for signs of imminent equipment failure or other issues that could bring downtime or data loss.

However, many organizations — particularly small to midsize businesses (SMBs) — lack rigorous processes for IT maintenance and management. This is often due to a lack of IT resources, skill sets or both. Inadequate operational processes exacerbate the problem by making it more likely that a major issue will occur. Reactive management is inefficient, inconsistent and stressful, focusing on patching symptoms rather than effectively addressing the root cause of problems.

That’s why managed services are popular among SMBs. A managed services provider (MSP) helps keep your IT investments in tiptop shape so you can focus on your business. Highly qualified MSPs have well-planned, documented and tested processes for monitoring and managing your IT environment to maximize availability, performance and security.

It isn’t just about keeping the lights on, however. Beyond basic IT functions such as maintenance, updates and security patching, leading MSPs can help improve your operations by ensuring that all aspects of your IT environment work together seamlessly.

Just as cars are more complicated than they were 20 years ago, the IT environment has become increasingly complex. Companies of all sizes are embracing cloud services, mobile platforms, data analytics and more with an eye toward increasing competitiveness, efficiency and productivity. MSPs must be able to adapt their processes to handle this growing complexity and meet shifting requirements.

That’s why flexibility should be a key consideration when evaluating MSPs. Leadings MSPs are able to deliver a wide range of services that address today’s business and IT demands. Often, service levels can be adjusted up and down to match the priority of various systems or applications.

The process of choosing an MSP isn’t as simple as checking off a list of services and finding the lowest prices. It’s about forming a strategic partnership that can truly elevate your organization in the eyes of customers, employees and other key stakeholders.

A good MSP will start by asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of listening. Beyond technology, the MSP needs to understand how your organization operates and its short- and long-term goals. The right partner will be able to recommend changes to the IT environment that can help your organization meet its objectives, and explain the pros and cons of various IT solutions.

Your MSP should have disciplined processes for monitoring and managing your IT environment, and the expertise to help you maximize the value of your IT investments. Contact SSD to discuss the broad scope of service encompassed in our Assurance program.