Why Choose A Managed Services Provider? We Look at the Pros and Cons
The innate desire to 'do it all’ is in the DNA of most small business owners. But while this trait can come in handy when replacing a pressure relief valve on a fermentation tank for your microbrewery–restaurant, doing IT by yourself can be a little more complicated.
Fortunately, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that can handle the IT function for you are ready and willing to help. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision about using one.
The Emergence of MSPs
MSPs emerged in the late twentieth century as a cloud-based extension of application services providers. According to TechTarget, they “initially focused on the remote monitoring and management (RMM) of servers and networks.” Over time, they expanded the scope of their services to differentiate their services from other providers.
Small businesses with thin margins and little capital to hire IT staff matched up nicely with MSPs offering services on a subscription basis. For a manageable monthly or annual fee, they had the IT support needed to keep networks running, safe and current.
A Wide Range of Functions and Services
While initially involved in network support functions, MSPs have expanded to provide a variety of tech-related functions, including infrastructure management, technical support, user access management, contract management, compliance and risk management, and even payroll.
Despite the expanding scope of MSP-offered services, the subscription model has remained largely intact. In a typical arrangement, the subscription is accompanied by a Service Line Agreement (SLA) that outlines the terms and details of the service.
Pros and Cons of MSPs
Small businesses can enjoy a variety of benefits when using an MSP. For starters, MSPs can help fill in the gaps with individuals and expertise when needed. They also offer monitoring above and beyond what an In-house IT staffer can be expected to deliver.
In addition, because the arrangement is subscription-based and monthly fees are fixed, small businesses can enjoy greater savings than they might when compared to hourly service rates.
Conversely, MSPs may not be as responsive as in-house IT staff. Furthermore, an MSP may be more interested in selling additional business services that are unnecessary, costly, or both.
Costs and Pricing Models
MSPs offer a variety of pricing models to work with, according to TechTarget. These include:
The MSP charges your business a flat fee for each device it manages.
The MSP charges a flat fee for each user, which is great for users who use multiple devices.
All-Inclusive (All You Can Eat)
The MSP charges a flat fee for its IT infrastructure support and management services.
Your business chooses the bundle of services that best fits your needs (a favored pricing model for MSPs).
MSPs only offer monitoring and alerting services for an organization's IT infrastructure.
Cybersecurity and MSPs
Because the risks to small businesses are severe regarding issues such as cyberattacks, a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses are turning to provider that offer information security functions like an MSP.
In this case, the provider will offer network monitoring, firewall protection, and even awareness training and testing for employees to help the business mitigate the effects of phishing and cyberattacks.
An SLA accompanies the subscription and outlines the terms of the arrangement. Costs and plans depend on the levels of protection you desire.
An In-House/Outside Solution
Many small businesses need tech support but don’t have the means to keep an IT staffer on the payroll. In cases such as these, one solution is to create a hybrid model that includes part-time staff with MSP support.
In this arrangement, the small business gets the benefit of in-house help that understands the business well plus the expertise and support of an MSP that can fill in gaps. The staffer can also learn from the MSP and expand their knowledge base.
It’s Your Decision
Keeping up with tech is an ongoing endeavor for all small business owners. While the decision to engage an MSP may be the right one at a given time, changes can lead to an in-house or hybrid solution.