Competitive businesses understand how vital IT services are to their daily operations, but developing and maintaining an effective IT system can take significant resources. Large companies may have the capital to employ a full in-house IT team, but many smaller businesses may find themselves using the break-fix method when something goes wrong. This approach can sometimes be more budget-friendly overall but comes with its own set of issues.
To save money, small problems are left to evolve into serious issues before being addressed, and simple IT services can actually cost more, on average, using a la carte pricing systems. Fortunately, managed service providers offer SMBs the chance to get the best of both worlds without breaking their budget.
What Is a Managed Service Provider?
Managed service providers (MSPs) offer companies the chance to outsource their comprehensive business IT support without the need to maintain an IT team on-site. Through the provider, small businesses have access to a full suite of IT support services to help them with designing new IT infrastructure, maintaining existing systems, upgrading to new technologies, managing their cybersecurity, troubleshooting problems and managing their data storage. All this is offered for a flat monthly fee that’s significantly more cost-effective than hiring equivalent in-house IT staff.
The savings are possible due to the structure of the managed services provider, using remote IT professionals who are able to handle the IT needs of multiple companies without sacrificing the time and attention required for each. This means clients have access to 24/7 support with seasoned IT professionals for all their networking needs.
Managed Service Provider Benefits
Services offered by MSPs will vary, but many of the common benefits you should have available include:
- 24/7 help desk
- Affordable pricing options
- Customizable cloud services
- Data storage and protection
- Disaster recovery options
- Remote monitoring and management
- Security services
- Network development
- Software development
- Troubleshooting/technical support
How Do I Choose a Managed Service Provider?
Which managed service provider you work with is an important decision, and some time should be taken to ensure the company you choose is a good fit for your needs. Ideally, you’ll be working with the provider for an extended period of time, so you want to be confident in your selection before you establish yourself as a client. To do this, when researching the providers available to you, there are a number of questions you should be asking.
Does the provider have experience in your industry?
Different industries have unique needs, so a provider with experience in your industry will be better equipped to guide you through the IT options that are most appropriate for your situation. Additionally, many industries have regulatory bodies that set security standards and have reporting requirements. A provider familiar with these regulations will know how to keep you in good standing, saving you potential time and money lost for noncompliance.
Is the price structure acceptable?
One of the benefits of opting for a managed service provider is the potential savings to the company’s bottom line. This perk is negated if you choose a provider that’s out of your comfortable price range. The payment structure can also have an impact. Some companies charge a monthly rate that includes all their available services. Others may charge based on the number of devices covered or offer a tiered pricing model that increases as more services are added. Check the pricing options carefully to ensure that you’re receiving everything you’ll need for your money and that the final bill won’t break your budget.
Do they offer everything you need?
Most MSPs offer basic IT services, but what other options are available? Are their IT solutions comprehensive enough to cover all your current and anticipated future needs? How much maintenance and oversight is provided? How much will they be involved in securing your data? What happens if you experience data loss? What are their data recovery options? Once you know the kind of IT service you need and how much you’re willing to handle in-house, you eliminate any providers that would leave you with coverage gaps.
What is the provider’s reputation?
A managed service provider can look excellent on paper but still be a wasted expense if it doesn’t fulfill its obligations. Check the reputations of any providers you may be considering. You can find reviews online to get you started, but the best indicators are the opinions of other companies in your industry. Get recommendations from businesses that have similar IT needs, especially those in your local area. This can help narrow your options if other local companies have had negative experiences with any of the companies you’re considering. It’s also a great way to create your list of potentials when you do your initial search.
How are their performance indicators?
Find out how each company measures success. What performance indicators do they use? Are those performance indicators based on client experience or provider interests? Some examples of good performance indicators include average resolution time for submitted tickets or the average number of same-day ticket closures. Minimal downtime is an important factor for any company, so evaluate their indicators to see if they’ll meet your expectations.
How proactive are their security services?
IT security is an important part of any managed service plan, and it’s critical to know the kind of approach the provider offers. MSPs that have a heavy focus on preventive actions are generally more up to speed on the latest threats and solutions and will reduce the need for reactive damage control.
Do they have the flexibility to handle your company’s future growth?
It’s important that the provider you choose will be able to remain with your company through future business goals. As your company grows, your IT needs will evolve to support new infrastructure and greater demand. It can be frustrating to develop a relationship with an MSP only to find your business has outgrown the provider’s abilities. Anticipate your future needs and start with a provider that can accommodate you as your business grows. Also, consider potential service reduction. Sometimes your current IT needs will become obsolete as the industry landscape changes. You want a provider that can be flexible with shifts in either direction.