By Tom Lambotte, GlobalMac IT

mac_deskIn this the third installment of the four-part series, Running a Mac-Based Law Firm we discuss the third most common option for IT support: Managed Services.

Managed Services is the opposite of the reactive, hourly model. The biggest benefit is helping budget IT costs and shifting the support approach from reactive to proactive.
The majority of Managed Service offerings are offered in a tiered model, such as Bronze, Silver and Gold. Bronze, for example, provides only phone support, with Silver providing slightly more, etc.

In January 2012, my company ceased providing hourly support when I realized the business model I built the company on (hourly support) had many flaws. Hourly support is equivalent to driving your car until it breaks down, and only then taking it in to the mechanic. I would set up my clients or resolve their issues and then say, “call me when you need me.” I prided myself on my ability to resolve issues promptly and enjoyed working with my clients. However, there was always a subconscious voice in my head wondering how I could prevent reactive issues. There had to be a better way. When I discovered the Managed Services model, I embraced it fully, studied everything I could find and prepared to make the switch. When we did, we moved to Managed Services overnight and completely stopped providing hourly support. We have never looked back as it allows us to provide our clients with a tremendously improved experience and improved service level.

Law firms using Managed Services benefit from fewer problems, less downtime and less unexpected issues. This pro-active approach takes the role of managing I.T. out of the firm and puts it into the hands of experts - at least that is the promise of Managed Service providers. Unfortunately, like any business, whether they deliver is another story. You must perform due diligence when choosing an I.T. company, which is why I wrote a report titled "What Every Attorney Must Know About Hiring An Honest, Competent, Responsive And Fairly Priced Apple Consultant." []

Managed Services provide a dramatic improvement over the options of doing it yourself and hourly support. However, as our experience grew working with Managed Services, we saw some shortcomings with the tiered model of Managed Services. These insights led to the evolution of our current service offering, which has several radical differences from the norm (and which we will discuss in the next and final part of this series). The tiered model means some things are included and others are not. Items such as Project work, training, after hours or emergency support, setting up new team members, office moves, on-site support, for example, is rarely included, and therefore billed hourly. I found this tiered model often made clients feel they were being nickel and dimed even on top of the regular fee.

The overall impact of this model ends up hurting your firm in several ways:

One of the big benefits of Managed Services is being able to budget your I.T. costs. If project work is not included, how can you budget your I.T. costs? The biggest problem this leads to is the delay of important projects that would be beneficial to the firm. Since these additional costs are not in the budget, important projects that are not urgent often end up being delayed. This impact's the firm's profits, assuming the new solution would have addressed a bottleneck in the firm or boosted productivity in some way. This hinders the growth and advancement of your firm and hence impacts the bottom line.

  • For example, we have seen many firms fail at rolling out new technical solutions on their own. The data is often neither migrated not configured properly, they don’t provide training at the proper pace, or they don’t provide enough training. Ultimately, the staff does not buy into the solution and it fails after the firm spends a LOT of money trying to get it off the ground.Not knowing whether a support issue is included or not, will deter your staff from calling the I.T. company, because they don’t want to rack up additional bills for the firm. They end up suffering in silence, dealing with their issues without resolve. This leads to small issues developing into bigger issues. When the pain is finally high enough, they call in dire emergencies, causing more lost productivity and downtime for the firm that could have been avoided.A word of caution: Windows-based Managed Services CompaniesManaged Services in the Apple World is a fairly new model, with less than 100 all-Mac Managed Service Providers in the nation. This means many Mac-based law firms looking for a proactive support option often only come across Windows-based Managed Service Providers who say they can support Macs.

    The number ONE issue with most Windows-centric Managed Service Providers supporting Macs goes right back to the hobbyist principle we discussed in the first part of this series. It is financially impossible for a Windows-shop to provide the same level of support to Macs as they do to PCs. They cannot justify spending the same amount of resources on training, tools and support for the 5-10% of their computers that are Macs. This means you will not receive the same quality of support provided to their PC users. In the majority of cases, when they say they can support Macs, they have one person who's the “Mac expert." When that person is out of the office, Mac-using clients are out of luck.

    Sadly, we’ve seen multiple cases where the “Apple Certified" person is not certified at all. A few of examples from direct experience:
    - One sold iPhones over a holiday break at Apple, and claimed himself as Apple Certified on his company’s website.
    - The CEO of a Windows-centric Managed Service Provider had taken a self-paced, free online test on how to connect a Mac into a Windows network, and labeled himself as Apple Certified.

    Now to be clear, simply becoming Apple Certified does NOT make one an expert. It is a step in the right direction, however, there is still a long way to becoming proficient at supporting Macs. I have heard many stories where the client ended up knowing more about Macs than the person providing support! Talk about a horrible experience. If you are an all-Mac law firm, you really need to do extra diligence if you are considering hiring on a Windows-centric IT company to support your firm. Not everyone out there is negligent in this area, but sadly I can say from experience that the majority are not able to support Macs properly.

    I hope this article has provided additional insights into Managed Services for your Mac-based law firm.

Yours truly,
Tom Lambotte

TomLambotteAbout the Author: GlobalMac IT was founded by Tom Lambotte – renowned nationwide as an author, speaker, trusted IT advisor, and cutting edge, successful provider of the #1 complete end-to-end IT solution for Mac-Based Law Firms in the world. Private firms from throughout North America – and as far reaching as American Samoa - running with a staff of 5-50 - have relied on his expertise to help them put their IT headaches behind once and for all. Using his real world experience, where results rule and dollars can't be wasted on negligent computer consultants, he wanted to help managing partners and office managers of Mac-based law firms to put an end to wasting their time and money on IT support that does not work and rescue them from the frustration. Our unique “TotalCare” approach integrates classic IT support with proven proactive support that truly converts IT from something to be dealt with, into a tool that truly increases law firm profits, increases staff productivity, and provides piece of mind that firm and client data is secure and that their security is never at risk.