The legal community is highly dependent on working data systems for discovery, case collaboration, communications, and cataloging evidence. Yet, how many legal offices can afford a full-time IT staff to manage the systems required? In this article we will explore some of the advantages of outsourced IT services, namely, IT managed services. So, what is IT managed services? This can be answered by thinking through the services required to maintain a healthy IT infrastructure:
We typically measure performance by a combination of the following metrics: CPU usage, memory usage, network utilization (network bandwidth), and disk usage. Who has time to monitor these factors, especially across an array of users, both local and remote? An IT managed service provider has the software tools to monitor and manage these metrics, often remotely from their office, setting off alerts in their system to trigger immediate mitigating actions to prevent an issue becoming a problem to the business.
Often, one of the mitigating actions taken to improve performance involves the hygiene of the equipment. Because IT hardware (workstations, servers, network devices) require air movement to cool themselves, fans are often used to force air through the device. Over time, the devices accumulate dust causing the equipment to have constrained air flow. Constrained air flow will result in temperature increasing inside the hardware causing poor performance, and often, reduced life of the equipment. A relationship with an IT managed service provider should include routine inspection of the equipment and periodic cleaning of the devices and their respective peripheral devices – i.e., printers, mice and keyboards.
Storage & Recovery
The most valuable asset of any business is its data. Failure to maintain and manage data properly could have catastrophic impact to the business. Several factors can impact the integrity of the data. These can include natural disasters, failure of the backup process, and everyone’s worst fear, data loss due to a virus infection. Additionally, there should be a routine schedule for backups based on the following:
RPO – Recovery Point Objective. This metric should be determined by how much data needs to be restored to allow the business to return to operation. Does all historic data need restoration, or is there a limited subset to which a restoration can be accomplished to enable normal operation, i.e. – do we need all years, or just the last 12 months, or just the last quarter?
RTO – Recovery Time Objective. This metric should be determined by how quickly critical data and/or applications must be available for use after a system shutdown, or failure. We all want the data as fast as possible but there should be a reasonable time expectation for recovery from backup media. This is largely dependent on the RPO.
Like a requirement to have a periodic fire drill, every business should attempt to restore their backups periodically to ensure that the data is usable when needed.
Safety and security of data is one of the most important aspects of business these days. However, a lot of companies will rely on just antivirus software to secure their environment, and/or they may purchase a firewall device. A firewall device will stop several threats, but without proper monitoring and blocking of attempted breeches, the device will lose some of its potential. For example, a brute force attack is when a bad actor attempts to log into your environment by automatically trying new passwords. When this occurs without a managed firewall appliance, they may eventually gain access. An IT managed service provider monitoring the environment would receive an alert and block the IP range identified to the intruder. IT managed services provides additional levels of security with a combination of software and monitoring.
In many cases, IT managed services can be a cost-effective solution to hiring a full-time employee to manage the business resources. Services are needed for projects, software installations, and some help desk functions. But what if the needs of the business do not require a full-time staff member? In this case, IT managed services can be outsourced at a fraction of the total cost of a full-time employee. In addition, IT managed services providers are normally abreast of the current technologies and can become a technical resource to the business as the business grows. Special projects can be handled on a case-by-case basis, reducing the overhead cost of internal resources. The biggest advantage is having preventive, proactive care and feeding of the systems to help offset the cost of downtime to the business.