What is a Managed Service Provider?
An organisation will bring on an MSP (Managed Services Provider) to take on the risk and responsibility of maintaining their IT equipment and services with the added bonus of it being a subscription model.
Many companies tend to rely on their own internal IT departments to manage their IT requirements. But what happens when a small to medium-sized business does not have the resources or financial capabilities to employ a full time IT department?
Typically, this is when the MSP steps in. The MSP operates remotely and is essentially the IT department for multiple companies all at once. They provide services including Security, Infrastructure, Networking and Helpdesk for a flat fee paid monthly.
It is also common for businesses to use IT services that are based on billable hours and are used as a one-time deal. They are brought in to address a specific issue and focus on only that issue. Businesses tend to opt for the cheaper option in this case, which can lead to a poor level of service and further costs if the problem persists.
With an MSP, businesses are quite often happier to pay a little bit more due to the fact they are investing in a long-term relationship. The customer gets the security of a fixed fee, paid upfront each month. In return, the MSP stays proactive about IT maintenance to achieve peak stability and performance. With a clearer view on their finances each month, it becomes easier to invest in upgrades and better software, which helps grow their business overall.
Managed Services differ from the Break/fix model. With a purely Break/fix model you are effectively putting a bandage on your failing IT and never truly moving forward. There are many different advantages to be gained by enhancing or outsourcing IT through an MSP. For a more detailed look at these benefits, read our ‘Top 10 Reasons to Reach out for Outsourced IT Support’.
How can an MSP help me?
We can all agree that the general principle of operating a business is to make a profit. One of the best ways to ensure your business makes a profit is cost controls.
It is recommended for a business to start the year with the goal of making a specific amount of profit, this is commonly known as forecasting. Once you put an effective set of cost controls in place; you will know exactly how much money to allocate towards your IT costs each month, greatly increasing the likelihood of achieving that profit objective.
Your understanding of what customers want, combined with your employees’ know-how, can be regarded as your knowledge base. It is accepted that generally, a limited number of people = a limited knowledge base.
An MSP provides you with a wealth of knowledge from a whole group of engineers, for usually around a 25% reduction in costs when compared to employing your own IT department; as demonstrated by a CompTIA survey taken of 400 businesses that have recently hired out their IT needs to an MSP.
You will gain access to engineers who have been working in the industry for many years, and who specialise in specific areas. You are no longer limited by the knowledge your own staff have, and to accompany this, you no longer have the added expense of training your own IT staff.
Imagine being able to turn to a certified expert in the field every time you need advice, or a problem has occurred.
Unlike your own staff, an MSP will never be unavailable due to holiday or illness. Nobody likes being ill, but even the healthiest employees can fall victim to illness at some point. For employees, this means taking at least 1 day of rest at home to try and recover for their return to work.
For employers though, the story is very different. Figures from the Labour Force survey show that in 2016, on average 4.3 working days were lost to illness per employee. Based on the UK average hourly rate at the time, assuming employees work an average of 7.5 hours per day; each individual sick day in 2016 would have cost employers £107.85! With the average of 4.3 sick days per year, the average UK employee would receive almost their entire standard weekly wage in sick pay each year!
A good MSP can detect and address issues through proactive monitoring, even before the user has become aware that there is a problem. According to a 2019 survey, 86% of respondents worldwide reported the average hourly downtime cost of their servers as being a minimum of $301,000. 15% of the respondents reported that the average hourly cost of their servers downtime was in the millions. Not only can downtime cost a company financially, but there can also be very damaging effects to their reputation.
Another way an MSP avoids any unnecessary business downtime is through regularly scheduled data backups. In the ever-increasing likelihood of a ransomware attack, your network may go down and you may have to restore it to the most recent backup. This backup prevents your business from experiencing any sever downtime.
If a data backup is not being regularly scheduled, you may have to restore your network to an older backup from days or potentially weeks ago. Without an MSP, some companies leave backups to an internal IT employee with little to no IT experience. This can lead to a backup being completed incorrectly and infrequently, putting your network at risk.
How do I choose an MSP?
It is important to find a balance between price and quality of service. One of the biggest goals a business will have when choosing an MSP is to save as much money as possible. This is great, except if the MSP chosen provides a low standard of service, you might end up spending more than you bargained for in downtime, etc.
Always make sure to have a look at any case studies the MSP has available, read into customer reviews, and make sure that the MSP can deliver what your business truly needs.
How quick are they to respond and resolves issues? It is recommended to have a stated Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place to cover both initial response and solve/escalate time.
The SLA serves as the core document that defines the services the MSP will commit to deliver. It helps them understand and manage your own expectations around their service offering. In short, the SLA is the documentation of what you and your MSP are looking to get from each other.
Always ensure that the knowledge pool within your chosen MSP is sufficient. Do they have a sufficient number of experts on hand to help you? Do they regularly train and retain their staff? The MSP should have accurate and consistent documentation about your environment to share throughout the entire technical team.
If your company goes through a period of major growth, can your chosen MSP quickly scale to keep up? Some MSPs can face restrictions on the size of their infrastructure. If your MSP relies on an on-premise server rack for instance, they only have a limited number of servers.
Scaling beyond that number can prove difficult, not least because of the setup time involved, but also due to the cost of the new servers. This is something to bear in mind when considering the future of your business.
How does ICC’s MSP offering differ?
Traditionally, businesses have utilised a reactive break-fix only solution for their infrastructures. This means that when a problem occurs the external partner organises a physical presence onsite to maintain or repair the issue. Although a practical solution this can sometimes be slow and unpredictable, causing frustration and unnecessary downtime to systems.
Managed Service Providers such as ICC provide this solution in a more pro-active way with guaranteed SLA fix times alongside pro-active monitoring and remote assistance, enabling problems to be resolved, sometimes before the client even knows there was an issue.
These solutions combined with a fully managed service desk solution, IT procurement including hardware and software and true technology consultancy can reduce unnecessary expenditure and improve the overall impact IT has on a business.