The terms ‘managed IT support’ and ‘professional services’ are not new. But with IT requirements growing in complexity, so many organisations still don’t know the difference, or understand what either scope of work entails. To help you make informed decisions to efficiently manage your IT resources, let’s demystify these frequently misunderstood terms, together…
Once upon a time, internal IT departments were almost solely responsible for maintaining hardware and software systems within a business. That meant configuring and updating applications, troubleshooting devices, supporting wider teams with technical difficulties, protecting local files, and so on. In other words, minimising downtime and keeping performance in check.
But a lot has changed over the years. Security concerns are growing at pace, workforces are becoming geographically disparate, and tech estates are more complex than ever. More recently, budgets have come into sharper focus too. Today’s IT professional therefore occupies a much more expansive role. As such, organisations are increasingly leaning on external expertise to help ease the load (and the headache!) — from managing routine helpdesk support tickets to implementing robust security measures, facilitating tech stack relocations, offering end-to-end consultancy services, and more.
The challenge is, how do firms know which kind of support they really need? Of course, jargon doesn't make the decision any easier. Managed IT support and professional services are two of the most talked about topics in the IT space right now. They're also two of the most frequently confused. So, what’s the real difference? And which one could help take your business to new heights?
What is managed IT support?
With this service model, companies partner with specialised providers to oversee and maintain their IT infrastructure. This may include remote monitoring and maintenance of the IT estate, incident response support and disaster recovery, technical assistance and troubleshooting, to name just some examples.
As well as helping to reduce costs, offloading technical duties in this way can help free internal resources for more revenue-generating tasks. In turn, this could have a crucial impact on customer service quality, employee productivity, stakeholder relationships, and more. Plus, the holistic approach helps streamline operations and maximise efficiency too.
There’s also much to be said about the level of expertise and experience available with a specialised managed service provider (MSP). Working day in, day out with varied threats is a holy grail for managing cybersecurity threats, and exposure to a variety of challenges means they’ve probably ‘been there, done that’ many a time. Therefore, downtime should always be minimum.
What are professional services?
This refers to a category of specialised, knowledge-based services provided by experts in various fields — including consulting and project management, data and analytics, disaster recovery and business continuity, cloud services, compliance and regulatory assistance, software development, and so much more.
Unlike managed IT support, it typically involves a more granular, in-depth analysis of a firms’ needs. Once a provider has a true grasp on the requirements, they’ll then formulate and implement a strategic roadmap to help navigate a specific challenge or capitalise on a unique opportunity. Think of a healthcare provider that wants to modernise its IT systems to improve security and meet regulatory requirements, for example.
Generally speaking, professional services are usually more project based, whereas MSPs can feel like more of an extension of your internal teams.
How do you know which option is right for your business?
Both services can deliver significant value to your business, but it’s important to consider which might fit the needs of your organisation best. While an MSP will oversee day-to-day operations and manage their own scope of work under a service level agreement (SLA), a professional services provider tends to undertake a specific project, to a set deadline, and empower your internal team to carry it forward. They won’t generally be involved in upkeep or management thereafter.
Of course, the choice between managed IT support and professional services doesn’t need to be an either-or decision. They can work in tandem to meet your business’ needs effectively. The key lies in assessing your current IT capabilities and resources and identifying specific challenges and opportunities. Recognising when to leverage professional services for specialised projects or improvements can pave the way for a seamless transition into managed IT services when necessary.
How do you choose the right technology partner?
Choosing the right managed IT support or professional services provider hinges on many factors. But here at Central, we’re big believers in true tech-agnosticism. Solutions should always be tailored to your firms’ specific needs, rather than selected for tech brand loyalty. Don’t be sold any old piece of kit, if it’s not going to add real value to your business.
A human-centric approach is equally important. Your chosen partner should craft personalised solutions that make you feel like your goals and objectives have been heard. To make an informed choice, evaluate their expertise, case studies and client testimonials, service level agreements (SLAs), and willingness to foster ongoing collaboration. This ensures alignment with your organisation's goals and adaptability to evolving technology needs.
Whether you’re seeking managed IT support of professional services, you’ll always be more than a ticket to us here at Central. As a family-owned business, we have the resources and flexibility to keep it personal too.
Keen to see how we can take your IT strategy to new heights? Get in touch, and let’s get that no-obligations chat booked in.
Firewalls and encryptions were once the epitome of cybersecurity resilience. But the growing sophistication of attacks means traditional methods will no longer suffice — particularly for the UK’s housing associations, which are responsible for an ever-increasing volume of sensitive tenant data. Sharing why an active, proactive strategy beats reactive every time, our operations director John Blackburn explores the holy grail of cyber crisis simulation…
There are a number of pressures adding to housing associations’ plates right now. Plates that are already spinning at 100 miles per hour.
As well as resourcing constraints and stretched budgets, to name just a few challenges, organisations are plagued by the possibility of falling victim to a cybersecurity breach. Not only more frequent than ever, these threats are becoming more nuanced too. And the sector’s close proximity to government and public sector organisations makes them an even more attractive target too. So what can be done to mitigate the risks?
Today, it’s all about delving deeper than defence. Unless you’re a seasoned cybersecurity professional, working closely with variations of attacks on a daily basis, getting ahead of the curve and knowing which systems threat actors will target next can be difficult.
And with human error posting more risk than ever right now, factors beyond technical vulnerabilities should play a key role in boosting resilience. According to researchers from Stanford University and cybersecurity firm Tessian, approximately 88% of all data breaches occur at the hands of an employee mistake.
What is cyber crisis simulation and how can it help?
Proactive penetration testing methods certainly have their place — pinpointing weaknesses in a company’s IT estate that could be exploited elsewhere. But they not only fail to account for human error, they also only provide a snapshot of cybersecurity defences at the exact time the exercise was conducted.
Here’s why cyber crisis simulation is better:
Keen to simulate a cyberattack of your own? Get in touch, and we’ll help you formulate a robust strategy.
Central Networks and Technologies (Central) has recently announced the addition of two new members to its growing team. The recruitment of James Clarke as a technical engineer and James Robertson as a third line support engineer signifies Central's commitment to expanding its workforce and strengthening its capabilities to better serve its clients.
With the arrival of James Clarke, the firm gains a skilled technical engineer who brings a wealth of experience to the table. James started his career as an internal systems administrator and has since honed his expertise at various organisations, including Lima Networks and Frontline Consultancy and Business Services. His background in social housing and his extensive knowledge of cloud computing and virtualisation software Citrix make him an invaluable asset to the engineering team. James will primarily focus on project work, such as upgrading clients' Citrix environments and ensuring increased capacity to meet the growing demands of the industry.
Also joining Central, James Robertson assumes the role of third line support engineer. With an impressive career spanning several decades, James brings a vast wealth of experience to the team. His previous role as a senior support and network engineer at Working IT Solutions and his speciality expertise as a senior engineer position him as a seasoned professional in the field. James will serve as a senior figure on the service desk, offering his expertise and guidance to the team while mentoring and upskilling other staff members.
"We are thrilled to welcome James Clarke and James Robertson to our team," said Nick Bowling, service desk manager at, Central Networks and Technologies. "Their extensive experience and commitment to excellence align perfectly with our company's goals. With their addition, we can continue to deliver exceptional technology solutions to our clients while further expanding our capabilities.”
In today's fast-paced digital landscape, SMEs are confronted with a critical decision: should they entrust their data to the public cloud or navigate their course towards the private realm? It's a choice that could make or break any organisations' digital journey. But with cloud environments growing in complexity, it’s a decision that demands careful consideration, as well as a keen understanding of both present and future business needs.
What you need to know about public cloud
Public cloud services are like the bustling markets of the digital world. They offer a plethora of resources and services on a pay-as-you-go basis. Need more storage? No problem. Want to scale up your computing power? Done. Public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) have become household names for a reason.
The drawbacks (and how to remedy them):
Implementing robust encryption, strict access controls, and thorough auditing mechanisms are some of the key ways to overcome this challenge.
Remedies such as edge computing and multi-cloud setups minimise latency by locating servers strategically and distributing workloads across nearby data centres. Upgrading network paths and devices is also vital for efficient data migration or backup operations.
What you need to know about private cloud
Built and managed solely for your organisation, private cloud architectures provide a dedicated and secure infrastructure that caters specifically to your business’ needs.
The drawbacks (and how to remedy them):
To remedy the challenges of cost associated with building and maintaining a private cloud, organisations can consider implementing a phased approach, starting with a hybrid cloud model that integrates existing infrastructure with cloud services, gradually transitioning to a fully private setup. Additionally, outsourcing certain management tasks to specialised cloud service providers can reduce the need for extensive in-house expertise and upfront capital expenditure.
Addressing the (Im)mobility dilemma of private clouds, companies can establish secure and efficient remote access solutions, such as using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or deploying edge computing nodes strategically in various regions — enabling improved performance and accessibility for international users while maintaining data security and compliance.
So, which cloud solution steals the march?
In the public versus private cloud face-off, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. The choice boils down to your company’s unique needs, priorities, and financials. SMEs with lean budgets and dynamic growth patterns might find solace in the agility and scalability of the public cloud. On the other hand, those who handle sensitive data and prioritise security might lean towards the controlled environment of a private cloud.
Remember, there's no shame in mixing and matching solutions either. The hybrid cloud approach lets you cherry-pick the best of both worlds.
As you embark on your cloud journey, keep in mind that the cloud you choose isn't just about technology – it's about the foundation on which your digital dreams are built. So, make sure you choose a reliable provider like Central to take care of the groundwork. Get in touch, and we’d be happy to walk through your requirements together.
Here at Central, we have over 30 years’ experience within the tech industry. We’re passionate about IT and doing a great job for our customers, and we pride ourselves on being a trusted partner that organisations know they can rely on – no matter the time of day, or level of support required.
Our mission is to put IT at the heart of business – ensuring only the right strategic solutions are implemented. And this is something we achieve by working with our network of best-in-class partners.
That’s why, in our partner-led blog series, we’re shining a spotlight on the innovative companies we work with – exploring what they do, how they work with Central, and their top tips and advice related to their specialist field.
Next up, it’s Jonathan Burgoyne, senior account director and EMEA team lead at Darktrace…
1. Tell us a bit about your organisation:
Founded by mathematicians and cyber defence experts in 2013, Darktrace is a global leader in cybersecurity AI, delivering complete AI-powered solutions in its mission to free the world of cyber disruption. ~8,800+ customers of all sizes trust Darktrace’s technology to mitigate risk from the world’s most complex threats — including ransomware, cloud, and Software as a Service (SaaS) attacks.
2. And if you had to sum up your expertise in three words, what would they be?
3. Describe your relationship with Central?
We support Central and their customers when questions arise such as:
4. And how long have you worked together?
Central and Darktrace have been in partnership for three years (about a third of the time that Darktrace has existed).
5. What is the cyber AI loop and why is it important for organisations?
By leveraging self-learning AI that learns ‘you’ and your business ‘on the job’ without human resources to configure a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement and adaptive cybersecurity, organisations can stay ahead of the curve.
6. Share a top tip on how companies can make their cyber security strategy more robust:
People. Process. Technology.
It's not enough to just buy state-of-the-art tools or solutions. You need the right people with the right skills and well-defined processes to make sure these tools actually work and keep your company safe from cyber threats.
Best practice is to team up with vendors who can provide different functions, so there's no redundancy. This way, you're covering more bases and making it harder for attackers. It's like building layers of defence to protect your company's valuable information.
7. Describe what it’s like working with Central in one sentence:
An absolute pleasure. It’s awesome when a partner really ‘gets’ the mission and understands what customers are aiming to achieve, and they place trust in us by leveraging our solutions.
8. What are the biggest cyber security challenges facing businesses over the next 12 months?
Over the next year, organisation will continue to grapple with escalating MFA attacks, persistent 'hacktivism,' growing instances of crypto-jacking, increasingly sophisticated ransomware threats, and an imperative for proactive security measures to safeguard against these evolving cyber risks.
My colleague and Darktrace’s head of threat analysis, Toby Lewis, recently wrote an article that details more of our 2023 cyber security predictions. You can find it here, if you’re interested in reading more.
10. And how has the cyber threat landscape evolved over the years?
It’s evolved in two key ways:
11. Finally, what should organisations’ biggest priority be when investing in cyber security solutions?
Ensuring your tech stack doesn’t overlap in the approach each solution takes towards cyber security and mitigating risk for your business.
If there’s a bunch of perimeter tools that focus on what perpetrators have done before and what they might do next (rules, signatures, training data-based technologies), then that will absolutely take care of a majority of the risk.
But it does leave a gap for businesses when management asks ”‘okay, but what if something (like ransomware) does get through these defences? How will we know it is happening? How will we respond to contain it, especially since the team can’t work 24/7?”
That’s where it becomes important to have something, like a Darktrace solution, that aims for the same end-goal — minimising cyber risk — from an opposite direction.
If you possess a solution that concentrates on understanding the typical behaviour of legitimate users within your organisation, then any unusual activity that strays from this established norm, regardless of where it occurs within your combination of on-premises and cloud systems, will trigger a system that is simultaneously attentive to both favourable (normal operations for your business) and unfavourable (recognised attack patterns) actions. This layered approach aims to provide a more thorough and comprehensive defence strategy.
With a modernised IT provision, and new offices, the charity can take the first steps towards an even brighter future.
Here at Central, people are at the heart of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of everything we do.
We started out on our IT journey back in 1991, and our mission and ethos haven’t changed. We’re a family-run firm that pride ourselves on our integrity, honesty, and objectivity – and we make IT stress free by keeping it as simple as possible.
But it’s our people who make this all possible. Get to know them more in our staff spotlight.
Name: Finlay Grady
Job title: Helpdesk support officer
Sum up your role at Central in one sentence:
Providing technical support and assistance to our customers over the phone.
What three words would your colleagues use to describe you?
Helpful. Funny. Dedicated.
And what do you enjoy most about your job?
Encountering new challenges that I can, in turn, learn how to fix.
Check your phone, what was the last emoji you sent?
The maple leaf 🍁.
Who was or is your biggest inspiration?
A specific example of an individual doesn’t spring to mind, but I’m always inspired by people who demonstrate determination and resilience, which is something that I often see in my line of work. Troubleshooting isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding to get to the crux of an issue and know you’ve played a hand in making something better.
You’re hosting a three-course dinner party, what’s on the menu?
I’m not a talented chef, but if I was, it would most likely be pan-fried halloumi, followed by Filetto Rossini, and sticky toffee pudding to finish.
Back to Central, what makes the company stand out?
Everyone in the team knows how to work hard together without taking themselves too seriously – it keeps things fresh and fun, for both colleagues and clients.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself we might not know:
I have no cartilage in my nose!
What would the title of your autobiography be?
I don’t think my autobiography would be a very interesting read – I’d probably title it 'boring” so everyone knows what they’re getting into from the start. Managing expectations!
Central’s mission is to ‘place IT at the heart of business’ and act as a ‘trusted technology partner’ for customers – tell us more about what this means to you:
Helping people truly understand the systems they have in place and become confident in using them, as well as staying ahead of the curve with the latest advancements in IT — whether that’s more effective pieces of kit, new ways to manage budgets, or anything in between — so we can remain knowledgeable and dependable for customers.
The community we have created here at Central over the last 30 years is the beating heart of our business, and we wouldn’t have been able to provide a valued service that clients can rely on without it. With that in mind, we’ve been keen to spotlight our behind-the-scenes team as much as possible this year — from events attendance and goings-on at HQ, to demonstrated expertise, personal achievements outside of work, and more.
If you caught our first instalment of the series, you’ll know we had a very busy and fulfilling start to the year. And with plenty of events and client-related activity spanning the spring season, it’s been an equally pacey second quarter too! Here are some of the highlights…
Success in business is not just about technology and innovation. Crucially, it’s about building strong, honest relationships to — and the best way to build a fruitful partnership is by taking the time to connect on a personal level. That’s why our team was so pleased to join Jonathan Daniels at First Garden Cities Homes for tea last month.
This client's server cabinet was a tangled mess of cables and old, outdated hardware — difficult to navigate, and troubleshooting was a nightmare. After some much needed decommissioning and re-organisation by Andrew Walker, our technical engineer, the cabinet now looks much sleeker, and operations are far more streamlined too. Excellent work, Andrew!
It was a pleasure to be involved in the annual DTX 360 expo at Manchester Central earlier this month. With an expert speaker line-up delving into all-things IT strategy and innovation, and a host of like-minded professionals to knowledge-share with, it was great to hear about the exciting technologies and methodologies shaking up the industry.
…Plus, this clone trooper knows the ultimate 'force' in a tech event is a well-timed 'firewall' shot!
We had a wheel-y good weekend earlier this month, coming together for our latest team building exercise at our local go-karting haunt. The competition was fierce and the overalls even fiercer, but it was a well deserved win for our technical architect Jordan Gallier in the end, who dominated the leaderboard.
That’s all for Q2! We’ll be back with more of this in September, to share what the Central team gets up to over the coming months. If you’re keen to see more in the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
From smart devices and artificial intelligence, to machine learning, big data, and more, technology is evolving at an astonishing pace – meaning that the investments you put into your IT department today, may not be enough to meet the demands of tomorrow.
So, how can the sector’s professionals be sure what they’re currently working with is truly up to scratch? Jordan Gallier, Central’s technical architect and engineering team lead, explores…
Firms' tech stacks comprise various interconnected components — including hardware, software, networks, and security systems — that work together to support day-to-day operations and enable seamless communication, data management, and overall productivity. Each component plays a crucial role in ensuring the reliability, scalability, and security of the IT infrastructure.
Over time, this complex ecosystem can become susceptible to issues such as outdated technology, security vulnerabilities, and performance bottlenecks. That’s why carefully selecting and regularly maintaining each component is key. Here are just some of the ways IT infrastructure audits play a central role in evaluating the health of your systems:
Six tips for auditing your IT infrastructure
For organisations without a technical specialist to front the process, knowing where to start when analysing the health of your company’s IT infrastructure can be daunting. Using the following recommendations, firms can gain valuable insights, enhance system integrity, and ensure their technology backbone is in optimal shape for daily operations.
1. Perform comprehensive audits
Start by conducting thorough audits of your hardware, software, and network configurations. This process involves reviewing equipment, licences, warranties, and documentation to identify any gaps or areas needing improvement.
2. Evaluate system performance
Utilise monitoring tools to assess the performance of your servers, network, and applications. Analyse metrics such as response times, bandwidth utilisation, and resource usage to identify bottlenecks and optimise performance.
3. Review security measures
Regularly assess your security protocols — including firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Stay up-to-date with the latest security patches and ensure that your data backup and disaster recovery plans are robust and tested regularly.
4. Keep software up-to-date
Outdated software can pose security risks and hinder productivity. Regularly review your software stack — including operating systems, applications, and firmware — and ensure that you have a strategy in place for timely updates and patches.
5. Consider the cloud
Cloud computing offers scalability, flexibility, and enhanced security for many organisations. Assess whether migrating some or all of your infrastructure to the cloud can help optimise your operations, reduce costs, and increase resilience. If you’re not sure, get in touch and we’d be happy to walk you through the benefits.
6. Seek professional assistance
Engaging a reliable managed IT services provider like Central can provide expert guidance and support throughout the assessment process. Our 30+ years of technical expertise can help identify areas of improvement and implement best practices tailored to your specific requirements.
Remember, technology is constantly evolving, so regular evaluations are essential to stay ahead of the curve. At Central , we're here to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to discover how our managed IT services can help you keep your IT infrastructure in top shape.
In today's digital age, cybersecurity has become a top priority for companies of all sizes and sectors. The constant threat of cyber attacks looms large over organisations, making it essential to invest in robust IT security measures that demonstrate ongoing commitment to safety, privacy, and compliance. This is especially true for the UK’s housing associations, where ‘cyber liability’ has become a central part of many insurance programmes.
But with so many competing priorities, and a lot of time and expense involved in achieving various accreditations, how can IT leaders ensure they reap the benefits of their investments, and that everything goes as smoothly as possible?
John Blackburn, operations director at Central Networks, shares the significance of Cyber Essentials certification, and highlights how a managed IT services provider can help alleviate the complexities associated with obtaining and maintaining these credentials…
How Cyber Essentials certification can strengthen organisations’ cyber security posture
Cyber Essentials is a government-accredited scheme designed to assess a firm's readiness in defending against common cyber threats. By achieving certification, companies can showcase their dedication to safeguarding their IT systems and sensitive data — demonstrating not only their commitment to cyber security, but also acting as a prerequisite for obtaining cyber insurance coverage.
What is cyber insurance and why is it important?
As organisations combat the increasing sophistication and proliferation of digital attacks, cyber insurance has naturally gained immense importance too — providing financial protection and support in the event of a crisis.
However, many insurance providers now require organisations to have Cyber Essentials certification as a condition for coverage. This requirement ensures that firms have implemented fundamental security measures and reduces the risk of cyber incidents — providing a clear picture of your organisation’s security posture, reassuring customers that you are working to secure your IT systems against threats, and increasing the attractiveness of your firm when attracting new business on a client and stakeholder level.
How a managed IT services provider can help ease the headache
Navigating the complex landscape of cybersecurity and Cyber Essentials certification can feel incredibly time-intensive. With resources already stretched in sectors such as social housing, managed IT services providers like Central Networks can prove a critical piece of the puzzle. Offering a comprehensive service to review your organisation's IT systems and ensure they meet the necessary requirements for the government accreditation, their impartial support can significantly reduce the headache throughout the entire process.
Able to be instructed on an ad-hoc basis, or as part of a larger scale support service, the service includes:
Ultimately, we’re hyper-focused on streamlining the process and making it easier for firms to maximise their security posture and obtain the certification. In rare cases where remedial work is needed, Central also provides the required support — although our thorough assessments make it unlikely that significant issues will arise.
Take proactive steps today to safeguard your company and build a resilient cybersecurity foundation with Cyber Essentials certification. Get in touch, if you’re looking for specialist support to help ease the burden.
Central Networks are a strategic technology partner. Excellent technology is a given, customer service, trust and long-term relationships are what drive our business. We support CEOs, Heads of IT, IT technicians and transformation directors to ensure technology provides an edge to their organisations.