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Two characteristics of the IT industry are the continuous development of more complex technologies and the evolutionary business models designed to capitalize on these advancements.

The latest of these business models is the managed services support model. When I speak to VARs about the managed services industry, it is commonly defined by two key services: network management and security management. However, for VARs that seek to provide managed services to the growing and highly underserved market of small and midsize businesses, managed services must include more than network and security management.

Although those services are essential to the model, SMBs need more. SMBs seek a partner that operates as their entire IT department. For example, VARs must provide a communication path to clients that allow for resolution of user issues in a timely and effective manner. This can easily be achieved with a help desk solution that enables client requests to be defined and tracked to completion. The help desk serves as the contact for all IT-related issues. It can log and track user requests and, in most cases, it can solve issues over the phone.

In addition to tracking issues, the help desk ensures that problems are escalated to the correct resource. In this way, if clients are experiencing a problem with their accounting application, the appropriate resource is consulted. Once the vendor management process has been defined, the help desk is responsible for managing the problem to resolution. If VARs seek to offer managed services and do not include a help desk component as part of their support package, they fail to provide a key managed service required to deliver comprehensive support to the SMB marketplace.

The advancement of technology has created a world where remote support is almost always possible. However, there still exists and there always will exist a need to provide on-site support. When a remote connection cannot be established between the company and the client, an on-site visit is the only way to resolve the problem.

This means that SMBs must have an on-site component of support when they seek an outside IT department. These on-site visits should be scheduled at regular intervals (to minimize cost) with the flexibility to solicit immediate assistance should a critical issue arise. In order to provide the SMB marketplace with comprehensive support, VARs must include an on-site service component.

Together with network and security management, help desk and on-site support form the foundation for a suite of managed services from which SMBs can choose to create a support plan that meets their particular needs. For VARs, leveraging new service options available as part of the managed services model, including remote management and immediate user issue resolution, gives them a way to differentiate themselves from other VARs within their territory.

IT-dependent SMBs are seeking partners that operate as their entire IT department. VARs that can meet this demand with solutions offered at a fixed monthly fee will have clients sign up without blinking.

To successfully deliver managed services to the SMB market, VARs must offer the various service components required to establish a comprehensive support plan. If you can create this suite of services, package it correctly, and offer it at a reasonable recurring fee, the SMB market is yours to capture.

Don Begg is CEO and principal sales consultant for Do IT Smarter, a San Diego-based provider of managed services to end-user companies that also partners with VARs to set them up as MSPs.