Factors to Consider: Managed Services and ERP Systems

Making the decision to outsource the management of IT resources can help small and medium-sized businesses refocus their efforts on core capabilities, as well as relieve the stress of finding and keeping knowledgeable IT staff. It is important to consider the benefits of outsourcing IT management and how the decision can positively impact the risks present in any business today. IT companies offering Managed Services are easy to find, but it is important that an organization carefully select one that is the best fit – in reality, this IT firm will become an extension of the business and will be relied upon heavily.

The services that fall under the Managed Services umbrella are generally standard in any offering. The basics usually include remote management, which may sometimes include the ability for onsite work, if necessary, in which all IT assets are monitored, usually through the installation of a piece of software allowing the IT company virtual access. Network monitoring and patch management are also standard offerings, where the IT company may provide preventative maintenance suggestions and database tuning to ensure critical business processes are always maintained and downtime is minimized. Patch management will often be applied at off-hours to the business without additional cost, allowing for the business to stay running and software and servers to remain up to date against threats, without any interruptions. 

Many managed IT services are provided in a tiered method, allowing an organization to select the level of support that best reflects their needs. A step up from a basic tier or provided as an ‘add-on’ to a package is the inclusion of backup and disaster recovery services. The importance of having a strong backup system cannot be stressed more, particularly in the current times where a ransomware attack can shut a business down for multiple days. Having a detailed plan that outlines varying scenarios and how they would be addressed based on the level of risk imposed to the business is now a critical piece of information technology management.

Some of the additional services that may be offered under Managed Services are meant to help cover any gaps an organization may have in terms of knowledge and skill. One service that is sometimes offered is that of a vCIO (virtual Chief Information Officer), or other strategic planning services related to IT infrastructure and needs of an organization. Other IT companies may also provide website and DNS hosting services and/or management. These types of services can provide cohesiveness and minimize the number of touchpoints involved in the management of an organization’s IT infrastructure and processes. The expertise of the IT firm can be relied upon to help guide the strategic direction of a business, by ensuring that the infrastructure and technical requirements are considered when future planning.

A stumbling block that some organizations may face is finding a Managed IT Services provider that is an expert in managing ERP requirements – some may not be willing to oversee the server management of resources specific to an ERP system because they are not experts in the needs of the system, or they may only manage the very basics. In the worst-case scenario, a Managed IT Services provider may claim to have the ERP knowledge but not be true experts – this may result in customizations made directly to the SQL database because the knowledge on proper procedures is not present. This can lead to issues during patches and upgrades as well as the potential for problems with data validity. Epicor’s support and maintenance package does not cover the recovery or repair of data in these circumstances, and is a situation best avoided. When looking for services related to an ERP system, an organization has a few options: (1) manage the ERP systems through internal resources; (2) find a second IT organization to handle the management of the ERP software and related hardware; or (3) source a Managed Services IT organization and an ERP expert that are willing to partner together to provide the services required. 

The ideal situation is to have one point of contact for everything associated with an organization’s information technology systems. For those organizations using Epicor ERP, there are IT companies providing managed services that are also experts in not just maintaining the Epicor software, but also in training and troubleshooting within the software. Many of these IT companies are Epicor Certified Partners, which is an important point to consider. Epicor Certified Partners have access to Epicor support, upgrades, and patches, and are trained in the most up-to-date version of the software.

If a Certified Partner does not provide full network managed services, they may offer managed services solely for Epicor ERP. This can allow an organization to rely on the Partner to provide server monitoring and maintenance for the ERP system and be comfortable with the knowledge that the expertise is present for any issues that may arise with the software. 

The third scenario is the option of utilizing an Epicor Services Partner that will work closely with a Managed Services provider to ensure the technical pieces of the ERP system are set and cared for properly. In this scenario, an organization can work with their Managed Services provider to coordinate with an Epicor Services Partner for the expertise needed to successfully manage the infrastructure associated with the ERP system. The benefits to an organization are that they have access to experts in all areas within the IT umbrella, including those certified in the ERP software.

In the world today, it can be hard to find the resources with the right knowledge and fit to hire internally, and in small to medium-sized businesses the budget is often not available for multiple hires to fill the various IT positions required to house internal expertise. By moving to a managed services model, an organization can take advantage of a firm that is solely focused on IT infrastructure, and with some research, also bring their ERP system under the umbrella of managed services as well. By no longer having to worry about whether the expertise is available in-house, an organization can re-focus energy on their core business and make plans for growth, knowing they have the IT knowledge in the firms they have partnered with.

For a listing of Epicor Certified Partners, including Service Partners, in your area – click here. For more information on the services TeccWeb provides as a certified Epicor Services Partner, please check out our website or send us an email at info@teccweb.com

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