Software

What Is an MSP (Managed Service Provider) and What Can It Do for You?

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A managed service provider is simply a company that remotely manages a client’s IT systems based on a subscription of services. In the world of IT, many tasks can be automated, and jobs such as patch updates can be performed remotely; due to this, many larger organizations turn to an outside company to handle their IT operations. In my opinion, relying only on an external party to keep your networks and hardware up-to-date isn’t the best option for when disaster strikes, however, when coupled with an in-house IT team, this arrangement can be both cost-effective and productive.

Modern businesses rely on many outside services to keep up with the competition, such as email suites and telecom systems, and IT is no different. Everything from security, licenses, network administration, hardware installs, and troubleshooting a company’s issues need to be both performed and checked daily; with small to medium-size businesses, these complex and lengthy tasks are often outsourced. Usually, an MSP will handle the time-consuming, repetitive, and complex tasks, while an in-house IT team will handle day-to-day operations.

While an MSP offers many advantages, their services can be quite costly; however, the peace of mind you feel every time you hear about a new crypto attack, malware, or virus wreaking havoc is well worth it.

What Can an MSP Do for You?

Backups

When it comes to IT, every part of the system, from an employee’s desktop computer to the server, are vital links in the chain; if one fails, the entire system is in jeopardy. By implementing an MSP’s 24/7 performance and QoS monitoring, critical data can always be at your fingertips, thanks to the remote monitoring services that many MSP’s provide. Also, having your data backed up in multiple methods is necessary to increase redundancy. Many of the popular MSP’s backup managers are state of the art, offering both cloud and on-premises storage methods. Additionally, an MSP can provide virtual machine support, fast backup and recovery, as well as high security using private keys.

Automation

Automation is something we all strive for with today’s always-advancing level of technology. While having multiple IT technicians who are handy with scripting languages can achieve satisfactory outcomes with network management, utilizing an MSP allows you to obtain the same (if not better) results, for a much lower price. Furthermore, a highly-rated MSP can boost efficiency, self-heal errors, offer detailed reporting, and provide users with complete control of all automation aspects of the product.

Patch Management

One of my most feared IT duties is patch management. A poorly timed or faulty patch can cripple a network if not planned for accordingly, thus halting business for an unknown amount of time as IT technicians scramble to find a solution. With an MSP’s patch manager tools, patches and updates are automatically applied through a user-designed schedule, ensuring that software is always kept up to date; this maximizes efficiency, as well as ensures that network equipment is equipped with the latest security defenses.

Visibility

Visibility is everything in an MSP. Having an easy-to-use dashboard providing you with error reporting, employee internet histories, security overviews, device and capacity management, as well as help desk reports, empowers a business with the tools it needs to manage and direct resources to their entire system adequately. Many of the larger MSP’s have a detailed and expansive user interface which allows for smooth operation and unparalleled levels of accountability.

Security

Above all, security reigns supreme in an MSP. MSP’s security software and processes provide users with top-tier security features that are very simple to deploy and manage. Some of these features include rules, signatures, behavioral-based scans, proactive notifications, enhanced firewalls, web content filtering, profiles and application controls, as well as reporting.

How to Choose the Right MSP?

There are many MSP’s out there and choosing the right one for your business can either strengthen your IT operations or cripple them. Below, are some factors to consider:

Security

The security provided by the MSP, as well as the security it uses to do so, is vital to ensure both your data and the data from the MSP is protected. Research the procedures that each MSP uses to defend against threats, keep shields updated, and what they do when a disaster occurs.

Services

There are such a massive amount of IT services than can be provided by an MSP; determining which ones you need is just as important as the cost to get them. While many MSP’s offer services based on subscription, try to find one that allows you to customize exactly what you require, and not pay for what you do not need.

Customer Service

Before signing any external company’s subscription, I like to create a test ticket with their customer service department to see how long it takes to be responded to and determine the level of expertise they have in finding the solution; also, give their tech support phone number a call to do the exact same thing. You can thank me later.

Onboarding

Every MSP is different, so ensure that you find out the exact timeline and cost of the initial setup of their services. Many MSP’s might have both tasks in-house and externally to perform; you need to know who does what, when it will be done, and what the estimated date of going live is.

Cost

Above all, the cost of the services provided by an MSP should be your top priority. While you do get what you pay for, be sure to shop around and get quotes from multiple companies. Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to inform an MSP of what another company quoted you (getting companies to try to out-bid each other is always fun and can lead to reduced prices or freebies to get you to sign).

Is an MSP the Right Choice for You?

It has been the norm for quite some time to merely hire someone to be the go-to guy for IT operations, an individual who knows a bit of everything (jack-of-all-trades); however, as many know, the ending to that term is “and master of none”, and this indicates what while your lone IT tech may be proficient in all areas of keeping your IT infrastructure running, they may not be ideal for solving top-tier problems. Here is a quick comparison of using an in-house IT team/person compared to hiring an MSP.

In-House IT

Pros

  • Develop a deep internal understanding of the company’s infrastructure and needs.
  • Offer immediate in-person support opposed to waiting on an MSP to send a tech out to you.
  • Grow with your company and provide a personal touch.
  • If they help your company become more successful, they can potentially earn more money (motivation).

Cons

  • Higher cost depending on the size of the team (salary, benefits, training, taxes, raises).
  • If they leave the company, they take their knowledge with them.
  • Do not have the manpower and resources that large MSP’s have.
MSP

Pros

  • Use of industry experts and specialists.
  • Stable monthly rate of costs.
  • 24/7 availability.
  • Legally binding SLA.

Cons

  • With so many to choose from, finding the right MSP can be frustrating (and picking the wrong one can be disastrous).
  • On-site availability is limited; it can take some time for a tech to get to your company to fix something.
  • Placing your trust in another company, instead of someone at your own, can be daunting.

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