What is managed services and professional services?

What’s the difference between managed services and professional services?

As a business owner, controlling costs is always at the top of your to-do list. That becomes particularly challenging when looking at IT services.

Few small businesses have the luxury of maintaining a fully staffed, in-house IT department, which leaves you looking for a third-party vendor. And with such a heavy dependence on technology, IT support is not optional. This being said, how you choose to work with providers can determine your costs and help with service level selection.

Most IT service providers offer either managed services, professional services, or a blend of the two. But how do you choose? What is the difference between managed services and professional services?

Contract-based managed services

Managed services typically include a complete package of options. Get everything from data protection and recovery to security and helpdesk support, all from a single provider and for a flat monthly rate.

À la carte professional services

With professional services, you can “buy” the consulting, services, or support you need for a specific project. Moving to a new building or planning a cloud migration? Partner with a professional services company, and they can handle all the strategy, implementation, and testing.

Exploring the differences

There’s no one recipe for the right IT solution. Some companies need a lot of help and work in several environments, making a managed solution the better option. Other companies rarely need IT help and usually only seek out professional IT support for new and highly technical projects.

Professional services

  • Get expert help with existing or future IT projects
  • One-time service for IT needs such as cloud migrations, audio/visual, cybersecurity strategy, and network cabling
  • External support for your internal IT department when highly technical projects arise

Managed services

  • Recurring, flat-rate fee for all your IT needs and for a predetermined period of time (sometimes as long as 3 years or as short as 6 months)
  • Dedicated helpdesk IT support and IT consulting
  • Routine maintenance, upgrades, and updates to your hardware and software

Selecting the right level of service

So, the real question is: what type of IT service do you need?

Do you need someone always on-hand to answer questions, help with changes, update your security, train your employees, etc? If you envision a full-service IT solution, then you probably need a managed services agreement in place.

If you have some technical expertise under your belt, then maybe you’re comfortable handling the day-to-day issues. If a network outage doesn’t send you flying to the phone for help, then maybe you don’t need all of the services that come with a managed partner. Instead, you might only need to contract with an expert when you pick up a new technology or scale your business. In this case, professional services is right for your business.

Top considerations when choosing IT support

Before you decide on what IT solution is right for your business, make a list of the IT services you’d like off your plate. Then, think ahead three to five years.

Are you planning a major expansion or releasing new products? Are regulations going to hit your business? On that note, data privacy is an issue that can be tricky for anyone doing business. Which also brings up the concern of network security and mobility. Do you have those areas covered?

Whether projects or needs like these are three to five years out or a few weeks down the road, your best bet is to talk through your technology with an IT consultant. They can give you an idea of how an IT partner can help your business.