You may have heard the acronym “MSP” without knowing precisely what it means. So what does MSP stand for when it comes to IT?
- Managed Service Provider?
- Money-Saving Proposition?
- More Secure PCs?
The answer is all of the above. A Managed Service Provider (MSP) provides many benefits, including cost savings and security, explored below.
What is a Managed Service Provider, or MSP?
According to CIO Magazine, a “Managed Service Provider (MSP) is an outsourcer contracted to remotely manage or deliver IT services such as network, application, infrastructure, or security management to a client company by assuming full responsibility for those services and determining proactively what technologies and services are needed to fulfill the client’s needs.
“Services delivered by an MSP are delivered by employees located at the client’s locations or elsewhere. MSPs can also bundle in hardware, software, or cloud technology as part of their offerings.”
What are the Advantages of Using an MSP?
There are many advantages of using an MSP; some may seem obvious, while some may surprise you. Here’s a partial list of the benefits that you could realize by working with a Managed Service Provider:
- Reduced Costs
One of the most significant benefits you may see when partnering with a qualified MSP is reduced costs for IT hardware/services and IT “people” costs. Working closely with an MSP can help you lower operational costs, minimize capital budget for IT expenditures, and reduce your overall IT expenses. Most MSPs will work to fit within your budget constraints, when possible, by matching their services to your specific needs.
If your systems are in the cloud, you receive massive benefits to support your business with resources that most small to mid-sized companies would never be able to afford by themselves.
- Increased Depth of Expertise
A vital benefit of a Managed Services Provider is that you are partnered with an entire team of IT professionals that bring a broad depth of knowledge from your industry and others, all at a flat monthly rate. The reality is that no one person can keep up with all the changes happening in technology today, and it’s often not in the best interest of a business, law firm, or municipality to remain “status quo” no matter how comfortable the IT manager and their team may be with that status quo. When you partner with a qualified MSP, you partner with a team of IT professionals, project managers, cloud experts, help desk professionals, and virtual CIOs that allow you to focus on your business rather than your IT needs.
As your business grows and changes, your IT needs grow, change, and evolve, and you will need to scale your IT systems up or down to accommodate those needs. Suppose you’re in a cyclical business such as retail or a CPA firm. In that case, you may be carrying expenses in the slower months because you need higher resources in the more hectic months, and those resources can be maximized or minimized depending on the season when using a Managed Service Provider.
IT demands can be changed in real-time to meet your unique needs in the cloud. The MSP should monitor your needs and provide suggestions to scale up or down based on your hardware usage to ensure that your user experience is maximized while costs are kept low.
Cyber security is not a “set it and forget it” function as it may have been years ago. In today’s world of ransomware and cyber-crime, every company needs to maintain high-quality cyber security software. Managed Service Providers offer the most current cyber products in the market, including training your staff, email and network monitoring, and even artificial intelligence to detect potential issues before they become a problem.
- Timely Support for your Business
Many MSPs offer 24/7 support for the flexibility you desire. An internal IT team works 8-5 Monday through Friday, but an MSP is available after hours, weekends, and even holidays to provide real-time support whenever you need it.
- Freedom to Focus on Your Core Business
The best computer network is one which you never have to think about. Most companies don’t want to be in the business of making sure the computer software is up to date; cyber security is keeping the bad guys out. The network is running fast enough to please the most discriminating employee. Most small to medium companies find it difficult and expensive to maintain all those tasks with internal resources. Partnering with an MSP gives you the freedom to stop worrying about your IT and move that energy to focus on your core business.
What Size Company Benefits from Working with an MSP?
Any size company can receive enormous benefits when working with an MSP. A small or mid-size company, law firm, or municipality that may not have a permanent IT staff can retain a Managed Service Provider to act as an outsourced IT staff that keeps the computers and the network running, makes sure that software upgrades and patches are done, provides cyber security services to minimize the risk of hacks or ransomware, and often replace the aging internal servers/network by moving everything to a cloud environment for greater accessibility and flexibility.
Mid-size and large companies, law firms, and municipalities that have an IT Manager or some IT staff often hire an MSP to avoid hiring and training additional IT staff that have the added expense of company-paid benefits and the risk of turnover that is prevalent today.
When there is an internal IT team, the MSP staff often takes care of the “day-to-day” issues, such as helping when there are forgetting passwords, updating, or assisting those with network issues. In addition, the MSP often monitors the network hardware or, again, helps migrate the client and their workflow to a cloud-based system. Many large companies hire an MSP to manage cyber security software and provide “tier 3” technical support beyond the capabilities of internal junior-level IT staff.
What Should I Consider When Selecting a Managed Service Provider?
If you’ve read this far and are thinking, “I could really use the services of an MSP,” what should you consider when finding the right partner?
- Range of Services
Every MSP has a range of services that they provide to take care of your IT and cloud needs. Those can include onsite IT resources, remote resources such as technical support and network monitoring, cyber security software products, cloud hosting and management, even virtual CIO services. Determine the services you need and partner with a Managed Service Provider that comprehensively addresses your unique needs.
When you understand the range of services you need, look for an MSP with the experience and expertise to provide reliable IT solutions for those services. Many small to mid-size MSPs across the United States specialize in specific products and specific industries. If your plans include moving to the cloud, look for an MSP with cloud experience. If you have a particular software integral to your business, you may wish to consider an MSP that understands and potentially even supports that software.
An MSP with the right expertise can genuinely become a partner in your business’s growth, management, and health by providing creative solutions to your unique problems.
It is critical to work with an MSP that values security and operates in protected environments to ensure the safety of your data. Find out what security products are available and if they’re offering the most comprehensive solutions to keep your data safe.
If you’re in a cloud environment, ask whether the MSP is working in a “shared” cloud or a “private” cloud, and if you are put at risk should another of their clients fall to a cyber-attack. For more information on working with a cloud provider, click here to read “5 Security Questions to ask when it comes to Cloud Hosting.”
- Customer Service
What type of customer service does the MSP provide? Customer service is vital at every stage of their operation, from the sales team to the technical support. An MSP is an essential part of your tech team, and you need to ensure you are working with a helpful and service-minded provider. Many MSPs monitor client satisfaction in real-time, and you can ask to see those customer satisfaction scores to find out how their clients perceive the customer service received.
If you have offices in multiple cities or states, find an MSP that can support you in all those locations. Does the MSP work only regionally, or do they have the resources to provide services nationally or internationally as you may need.
Turning over your IT services to an MSP is a big decision that involves a great deal of trust. Make the right decision, and you sleep well at night. Make the wrong decision, and your business will suffer.
Trust is obviously earned over time, but you can ask your MSP for references, check their customer satisfaction scores, determine if they’re established in the community, find out how long they’ve been in business, analyze how their team has treated you through the search process, and look at their partnerships to help develop trust from the onset.
- Cloud Customization
Your business is unique, and if you’re considering moving to the cloud, you want an MSP that will create a unique cloud environment to meet your needs. Choose a Managed Service Provider that will customize its services and solutions to help optimize your business rather than trying to shove your business into its cookie-cutter solution.
Cost is always a consideration in any business decision but comparing the cost of the services provided by an MSP to the value received is an integral part of that equation. Typically, a small to medium company, firm, or municipality cannot hire the expertise and resources available at the cost an MSP charges. Work with the Managed Service Provider to help them understand your budget and choose services that meet your IT desires and requirements that also fit within your budget.
To stay competitive in today’s market, reduce IT costs, accommodate the ever-changing technical needs of your organization, and keep your data secure, you need to consider partnering with a Managed Service Provider.
Choosing an MSP is a big decision, but when partnered with a Managed Service Provider that understands your business and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with you to fine-tune your IT systems to meet your business challenges, you’ll experience benefits and find peace – rather than worry – when you think about your IT and all it entails.