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A set of skills is often referred to as a toolbox. But when you think of Managed Services, think of us as the Swiss army knife of the IT support world.

If you’re considering a career in Managed Services, be prepared to act as the true utilityperson for your IT team. In Managed Services, we handle the day-to-day management of our clients’ IT infrastructure — sometimes all of it, sometimes specific components of it. And that means you’ll need a broad understanding of several different areas of IT.

That can be a challenge. But at the same time, it can act as a career springboard, since it lets you see all of the different workings of the industry, close up. And from there, you can choose whether to build a career as a senior generalist, or choose the specialized route.

Some people use the terms Managed Services and outsourcing interchangeably, but there is a difference. Outsourcing is more about providing resources via a long-term, contractual arrangement, while Managed Services are essentially “outtasking” — day-to-day managed responsibilities as a deliberate strategy for more effective and efficient operations.

And at Long View, we do Managed Services very well. Ridiculously well, in fact. We earned back-to-back No. 1 rankings on the MSPmentor 100, which ranks the world’s top managed service providers (MSPs), in 2011 and 2012. And we were also named the top MSP on CRN’s Solution Provider list (then known as the VAR500) in 2011.

After four years as Long View’s Client Service Manager for the British Columbia region, based in Vancouver, I’ve seen us take care of a small company with one server, five desktops, and a few network devices. I’ve also seen us handle a large, 5,000-employee enterprise with 1,500 servers and a large datacenter, using a dedicated team. But what makes Long View so successful in Managed Services is the methodology and the service offering we use to maximize efficiency — handling one or more duties such as network, messaging, Cisco VoIP systems, datacenter, backup, and application support services.

The concept of Converged Infrastructure — basically, the back end of Cloud, with the centralization of servers, storage, networking and software — is a sweeping trend that’s keeping nearly all IT professionals on their toes, and that includes those of us in Managed Services.

The Converged Infrastructure model is dependent on multiple pieces, and we need to know how best to maintain and manage them using underlying technologies, such as NetApp’s FlexPod or VCE’s Vblock architecture. Extra efficiencies and complexities are fantastic when the technology is working — and when that’s not the case, it’s going to take an especially nimble Managed Services expert to tackle the problem.

The way I see it, trends such as Converged Infrastructure and the economic changes faced by our clients are creating a shift in what a successful IT consultant looks like.

Back in the day, you’d start as a generalist and build a career as a specialist in one or two areas. Now, a senior IT generalist is a preferred career path — and, ironically, you can be considered a specialist by choosing to be an IT generalist.

Either way, working in Managed Services will almost certainly set you up for success.