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As information technology becomes more pivotal to the day-to-day operations of law firms of all sizes, it has also become imperative that firms optimize the availability and performance of their IT in order to gain the greatest economic value from these investments. Even more importantly, it is critical that they minimize the risk of any IT failures, which could adversely impact their business.

This IT management challenge can be particularly daunting for the small-to-midsized firm (SMF) that typically lacks enough in-house skills and resources to systematically manage today’s technologies and business applications. Many SMFs feel as if they are not getting the return on their IT investment they expected and are often at the mercy of their IT rather than fully leveraging it to achieve their organizational objectives. And at a time when many SMFs are facing stiff budgetary constraints, a growing number of law firms are looking for a new way to satisfy their IT requirements and reduce their day-to-day IT management costs.

Managed IT Services has become an increasingly attractive “out-tasking” alternative to traditional outsourcing for many SMFs. Managed services enable the SMF to assign specific IT management responsibilities to the IT service company and relinquish either partial or total control of their IT operations. Managed-services providers (MSPs) continuously monitor and proactively manage an organization’s IT environment to address potential problems before they can disrupt their operations. In fact, they can also optimize the performance of end-users’ systems to allow them to do their jobs better.

Why Managing IT Can Be a Frustrating Task for SMFs

Although the computing needs of SMFs may seem less complicated than the IT issues facing large firms, IT complexity is still a major challenge for SMFs. System failures are more commonplace in many SMFs because these organizations typically lack the in-house skills and resources to implement essential management tools and perform routine management tasks. In addition, the threat of computer viruses, spyware, malware and other security attacks is now an ongoing concern.

As a result, many SMFs spend more time reacting to IT problems rather than fully leveraging the power of their IT investments to meet their firm’s business objectives. For instance, many SMFs unintentionally overload their servers, causing crashes that often lead to disruptions to their businesses and valuable data being lost.

Even when their IT systems and business applications are up and running, SMFs are not sure if they are getting the best performance out of these critical resources or the best return on investment. For example, for as many firms that overload their servers, there are just as many SMFs that under utilize their servers, creating unnecessary added expense and effort buying, installing and maintaining excess equipment and software. SMFs in many cases may be only generating 10 to 30 percent utilization from their servers but don’t know it because the equipment is poorly configured, translating into a poor ROI for this pivotal technology.

Many SMFs are unable to monitor and measure the performance of their systems around the clock because of a lack of appropriate management software or staff skills. As a result, they miss key indicators that would enable them to proactively manage their systems and prevent potential problems and costly downtime.

Rectifying this IT management issue isn’t easy. An SMF must not only have the skilled in-house staff who can select and deploy the right IT management software but also have sufficient IT staff to properly configure and monitor the management solution around the clock to meet the SMF needs. In addition, while many IT professionals are good at installing hardware systems and common business applications, it is unreasonable to expect them to also have the time, know-how and dedication to evaluate IT trend data that can uncover potential issues before they become real problems.

SMFs also face higher turnover among their IT personnel than larger organizations where there are more career opportunities. Because IT personnel within SMFs also have less time to document their work, staff turnover can make it difficult for new staff to become acclimated quickly. The discontinuity in IT staff makes SMFs more vulnerable to system failures or security threats.

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