5 Benefits of Smartsourcing IT in Higher Education

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Technology is rapidly changing the educational landscape and how institutions are operating day by day. With the plethora of platforms, software, and applications available to decision-makers today, it can be daunting for internal resources to work through the logistics of incorporating these technologies into their existing IT infrastructure. We have also seen many universities shift to a virtual learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the dust is beginning to settle, some are contemplating adopting e-learning as a long-term solution for faculty and students. Keeping up with all the different components of a university’s IT solution and technologies can be challenging for even the most elite IT team, which is why smartsourcing those responsibilities to a managed IT services provider may be a smart move.

Access to Resources

One of the biggest benefits of smartsourcing IT in a campus environment is the numerous resources that will be available, both from a technology and personnel perspective. Managed service providers are experts in their field and can recommend and implement the most cutting-edge IT solutions for your campus, as well as provide subject matter experts to deploy and manage the technology. Many universities are located in rural areas that may not have a technology-driven workforce, and even if a skill set is available for hire locally, it may not fit within the university’s salary structure. Smaller universities that typically house fewer in-house IT resources and adhere to a strict budget may also benefit from smartsourcing, as IT resources may not be needed on a full-time basis, but rather concentrated in certain portions of the academic year. Smartsourcing managed services also ensures coverage during key personnel gaps due to vacations, sick leave, retirements, and departures. Most importantly, if the university’s network goes down or they experience other connectivity or technical troubles, an MSP can quickly resolve their issues – perhaps more efficiently than an in-house team could – to significantly reduce the amount of downtime.

Increased Efficiency

Smartsourcing IT also benefits colleges and universities through cost savings and reallocation by lowering IT operating expenses and reducing operational costs. Sometimes, managed service providers can even combine the desired services into a procurement package – including licensing – to make it easier for schools to allocate the necessary funds. Additionally, campuses of all sizes will likely need to do a fair amount of technology upgrades on a network and equipment level, and smartsourcing these types of projects to a service provider allows for these improvements be completed without the commitment to paying salaries or benefits. As IT solutions expand and become increasingly complex, more time will inevitably need to be allocated to troubleshooting technical issues and decreasing downtime. By smartsourcing some or all their IT solution to a managed IT service provider, technical and non-technical resources are freed up and allowed to focus on important revenue-generating projects for the university. Oftentimes, MSPs can act as an extension of a business – in this case, a college or university – when it comes to communicating with other vendors related to their IT solution. As they are the subject matter expert and have a wealth of knowledge, they will be able to speak to the infrastructure in place and ensure third-party technologies and applications will complement the overall solution.

Enhanced Service Levels

Managed service providers can also equip colleges and universities with tools to increase end user communication and satisfaction scores. One way this can be done is through a dedicated helpdesk. Not only can a helpdesk address common technical issues, such as account administration and network connectivity support, but it can also provide business process support through customer service and client relations as well as ticket and escalation management. Additionally, with the varying levels of helpdesk available – whether it is overflow coverage, after-hours support, or 24/7×365 – institutions can select the coverage that best fits their specific criteria and ticket counts and budget. Though level 1 support to address basic inquiries is most common, higher levels of technical support are also available. Ideally, managed service providers will have proven, ongoing processes that drive constant knowledge for each institution. This allows the MSP to become familiar with the environment, geographic placement, and common challenges to provide a more customized approach to the end user. Having a solution in place – such as a dedicated helpdesk from an agile and responsive MSP – will yield a quicker resolution of questions and issues, leading to higher levels of service and customer satisfaction.  

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Customized Solutions

No IT solution is one size fits all, and no one recognizes that more than a managed service provider. MSPs are experts at identifying technical gaps and areas of improvement within an organization’s IT environment and making recommendations to correct issues and advance technologies for a highly-functioning, synergistic solution. This, in turn, will provide a more standardized approach to the university’s overall IT solution and related processes.

If a fully outsourced solution isn’t the best fit, a blended model may be the answer. This is where internal IT staff work together with the MSP to tackle various IT objectives. While the MSP mostly handles day-to-day IT monitoring and maintenance, such as break/fix assistance and troubleshooting network connectivity issues, internal resources can supplement the work the MSP is doing and focus on more important initiatives to keep the university’s technology projects moving forward.

There are several services that MSPs provide that an organization can choose from, including managed services complete, managed network devices, service desk, backup and disaster recovery solutions, cloud services, assistance with special IT projects, and much more. MSPs can also assist with implementing a learning management system (LMS), which is an outlet for instructors to manage online interactions and collaboration and provides learning resources and other content, tools to develop and track assignments and assessments, and some reporting and analytics capabilities.

Lastly, it is important to choose an MSP that can quickly staff up or down to provide the necessary levels of IT support as well as the ongoing maintenance that is associated. Having an IT partner that implements scalable solutions will ensure your IT framework is future-proofed and ready for changes in demand.

Reduced Risk

There is no shortage of data to safeguard in higher education. Employee data, student records, and financial documentation are just a few examples of information needing to remain confidential and secure. Today, most of this data has been digitized and resides on a network, allowing for easier unauthorized access if not properly monitored. With the right solutions in place, coupled with a network assessment and 24/7 system monitoring by an MSP, these assets will remain better protected from ransomware and viruses.

Another important component of data security is having a backup and disaster recovery plan in place. A successful disaster recovery plan will help colleges and universities achieve business continuity after a disaster has occurred. With a disaster recovery plan, all the data and applications that have been saved during a previous backup can be recovered and restored to defined recovery points within specifically established time parameters, removing concern about extended downtime and data loss. This can be accomplished through the services of an MSP for hands-off management of critical assets and infrastructure.

Moving data and applications to the cloud can also help reduce risk for colleges and universities. MSPs can conduct a cloud assessment to see what steps need to be taken to prepare for migration as well as handle the deployment of the technology. Cloud solutions are especially ideal for campuses due to their scalable nature.

Next Steps

There are numerous benefits for colleges and universities smartsourcing some or all their IT solution to a managed service provider. Depending on what funding is approved to accomplish your goals this year, an MSP can work with you to conduct an assessment and provide an all-inclusive hardware, software, and project or management services package that allows you to understand exactly what you will receive. If you are a higher education facility with significant on-premises IT infrastructure and assets needing support, contacting an MSP is a great first step to help you reach your goals and provide better service to current and prospective faculty, staff and students.

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