By: Brian DeVault

Managed IT Services are delivered by a Managed Services Provider (MSP).  What does all of that mean and how could it benefit your business?

What is an MSP and what do they do?

Managed IT Services, provided by Managed Services Provider (aka MSPs), provide businesses the opportunity to outsource the management of their IT assets and operations. MSPs can provide either partial or total outsourcing of IT responsibilities, depending on what service models they offer and what the client’s requirements are. These services are typically paid for monthly at a fixed cost, which helps businesses plan for expenses rather than rack up high hourly costs for IT professionals to work on their systems.

The Managed Services Model has been around for well over 10 years, with some providers dating back even further. Forward thinking business owners tend to adopt this model as it allows them to project their cost of doing business consistently.

Evolution of the MSP

We first started seeing MSPs appear in the early 2000’s as businesses starting relying more and more on computers and computer networks to execute their business functions. The proliferation of the Personal Computer on the desktop of the task worker and the dependence on that technology for that worker to do their job demanded a model where computer repair technicians could quickly detect and resolve problems. The earliest organizations to adopt the MSP business model were operating as traditional Technology Consultants, providing overall guidance for hardware and software to businesses, and recognized the need for ongoing support services through a subscription model.

By the year 2010, there were very few IT support companies that didn’t offer Managed IT Services programs in some form. The historical ways of delivering IT support created inconsistent cash flow for the support provider, and represented significant cost fluctuation for the consumer of the services. This model was referred to as Break/Fix as the consumer would wait for something to break, and then pay to have it fixed. One month a customer might spend $500 to keep their computer network up and running, and the next month it might cost $5000, all subject to change based on what support was required during that service period. In a managed IT services model, the expense to support IT assets is spread across a longer term, say 24 months so both the MSP and the Consumer can plan better for expenses and understand how the addition or removal of IT assets affects their budget.

Managed Service Providers are now highly evolved and we are starting to see MSPs have specific areas of specialization, such as Network Operations Centers as a  Service, where businesses outsource the monitoring and alerting of their IT assets to a 3rd party organization, complete turn-key Managed IT Services, Cybersecurity Services, Cloud Asset Management, and others. The inclusion of a 24 x 7 Network Operations Center is now mandatory for MSPs so that they can monitor and resolve problems anytime they occur. While they still dispatch technicians onsite to solve problems where a hands on approach is required, they deliver 95% of the services rendered on a monthly basis remotely using software and tools built specifically for the industry.

Advantages and Disadvantages

A Managed IT Services subscription enables a business to stay up to date on technology and have access to a deep bench of resources at a fixed reasonable cost. It can scale up and down based on the number of employees or assets the organization has at any given time and provides an exceptional value versus direct hiring of an IT professional.

For businesses that have inconsistent income over the course of the year, seasonal businesses, or businesses that are subject to economic changes could have challenges adopting a fixed cost model during lean times whereas they may have a large demand for it during flourishing times.  The most successful MSPs will work with their customers to develop subscription plans that help accommodate their business conditions.

Managed Service Offerings

Some of the most common managed services offering that are consistent across the industry are listed below.

How do I know if Managed IT Services are the right choice for me?

There are many factors that will contribute to whether or not Managed IT Services are the right fit for your organization. Here are some (but not all) of the contributing factors to consider:

  • Budget
  • Dependence on Technology
  • Type of Technology
  • Proficiency of your Staff
  • Physical Location of Assets
  • Organization Size

How do I select a potential Managed Services Provider?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a Managed Services Provider, including:

  1. Culture and Operations of the Organization. Are they customer service focused or technology centric and which fits your organization best?
  2. Expertise in your industry and experience working with your types of technology.
  3. Size and Depth of the MSP. Not having enough resources to keep up with customer demand can be a problem, while a very large organization might be more rigid and offer less flexibility.
  4. Do they have a service offering that fits your businesses needs?
  5. Check references, talk to their existing clients about their experiences. Narrow these down to organizations that are of similar size and shape to yours for the best results.
  6. Review Terms and Conditions and contract language. If an MSP won’t allow you out of a contract based on their non-performance or failure to meet contracted service levels, it should be a red flag.  Find an MSP that is confident enough in their service delivery team to offer an out if they don’t keep up their side of the bargain.
  7. Talk to your peer professional groups. Find out which providers they’ve had good or bad experiences with. This can go a long way towards finding the right fit for you if the organizations are a close match.

This is an example of some criteria to consider, you should always allow your general level of comfort with how the organization presents itself to influence your decision.

I hope this article has been helpful. If you have any questions about NETRIO’s specific MSP and Managed IT Services offerings, please reach out to us for more information.