From the growth of managed networks to managed cloud, managed devices and everything in between, it’s never been easier for technology providers of all shapes and sizes to tack on the tagline of “managed services provider.” But what does a managed services provider do? Let’s start by defining managed services. They refer to remote services outsourced to professionals whose skills and expertise are necessary for the everyday operations and growth of a company.
The managed services provider (MSP) remotely manages the client’s infrastructure or end-user tools and supervises the specialists tasked to perform the functions the client requires.
Managed services are often IT and consultative in nature and more affordable than an in-house set-up.
An MSP can play a minor role in a client’s operations or be responsible for most of them. Regardless, MSPs are often integral to the health of a business. Additionally, MSPs give access to exceptional talent and experts whenever the need arises.
In business tech-speak, managed services is pretty straightforward: a managed services provider remotely manages a business’s infrastructure and/or end-user tools, often on a proactive model that includes some form of subscription to those services.
For the standard business owner, however, that description might not be so simple.
After landing on the annual MSPmentor 501 list again this year alongside hundreds of other companies calling themselves “managed services providers,” we thought we might pause to ask the question: what is a managed services provider, exactly, and what do they provide? Let’s take a more in-depth look at this unique tool you can use to streamline operations.
Types of Managed Services Providers
MSPs take on such a broad and diverse range of responsibilities that defining them in one short statement would be an oversimplification. To better understand what a managed services provider is, you need to look at what it offers and the role it plays in an organization.
MSPs may be classified into three types based on their involvement in their clients’ operations:
Service Subscription MSPs (Low-level involvement)
- These are MSPs that specialize in one or a few services and offer them as turnkey services to clients. They focus on delivering output, meeting quality metrics, and keeping the clients’ technology running. They are essentially pure play enterprises, which explain their high level of expertise and affordability. These MSPs aren’t involved in the client’s business planning.
Value-Added MSPs (Mid-level involvement)
- These MSPs take things a level higher and provide value-added services on top of remote operations and management. They offer a broad range of IT services, such as disaster recovery, cloud computing, and security management. They also offer insight on how clients can scale their businesses using the MSP’s services.
Full-Service or Partner MSPs (High-level involvement)
- These are MSPs that provide the lifeblood of a company by providing the technology, skills, and infrastructure that generate the client’s income. Partner MSPs embody the outsourcing nature of managed services: they have an office or facility that full-time employees report to every day. Being partners, they strive to give full assistance their clients needs and participate in their strategic planning.
Who Needs MSPs?
Any company that wishes to cut costs while increasing efficiencies and has plans to scale operations can benefit from the managed services a company like NetStandard provides.
Most of our clients are small- and mid-sized companies; they have more needs than what their current workforce and infrastructure can provide, but they don’t have enough capital to finance the creation of in-house IT and services departments. We, however, already have the infrastructure and specialists in place. We can start working and generating revenue right away—no lengthy skills training necessary.
The Benefits of Hiring MSPs
Apart from taking care of the legwork, our remote and outsourced business solutions offer advantages you won’t get elsewhere:
- Cost Reduction – MSPs bear responsibility for updating and upgrading their technology so they can meet the expectations and needs of the client. You only pay a previously agreed upon price for contracted services; your MSP will shoulder the operating costs, including employee salaries, benefits, and overhead.
- Minimized Downtime – IT managed services providers worth their salt have back-up plans and hardware specifically created to circumvent lengthy downtimes. This downtime could be caused by software bugs and glitches, power loss, or damage in the MSP’s facility. Should a major issue emerge, we have IT engineers who can fix things quickly.
- System Centralization – Simplify how your staff and executives access company data by creating a single data center for your servers and network applications. It will be easier to increase your in-house staff’s efficiency, protect data, and maintain transparency if you have a centralized system. It’s cost-effective, too, as you’ll only have to invest in and secure a single, robust system.
- High-Level Support – MSPs offer regular (and often 24/7) remote support for your IT infrastructure and end-user platforms or software. In other words, we can provide customer support to you and your clients. At NetStandard, upgrading and ensuring your IT technology is current is a large part of our systems monitoring and management service.
- Efficiency and Security – Contrary to fears that outsourcing will fragment your operations and increase security risks, managed services are incredibly cost-effective and secure. We follow strict standards for work quality, timeliness, and security (including installing redundant back-up servers and recovery and support tech) at little to no extra cost to you.
- Extended Relationship – MSPs make it a mission to learn the managed services industry, from market trends to technological developments and everything in between. We have extensive networks and connections with reliable product and service providers that are relevant to the industries we serve. Working with well-connected MSPs like NetStandard will give you access to a valuable extended network.
Of course, these benefits are contingent on the IT managed services provider you choose. An established company with an excellent track record in providing managed services for your industry will be an asset and can give your company advantages beyond what’s listed above.
Commonly Managed Services by IT MSPs
Before you choose a provider of managed IT services, you should know what your company requires first. If you’re not fully cognizant of what you need, NetStandard can help you find answers. As a managed services provider for almost two decades, we can spot which segments of a business operation need support and what kind of support is necessary to encourage growth.
Bespoke IT managed services is standard in this industry. There are, however, common services MSPs offer that benefit many small- and mid-sized companies.
Remote Monitoring and Management Tools
One of the hallmarks of a true managed service provider is the use of remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools. These tools enable managed services providers to take a proactive approach to managing customer networks by allowing the provider to remotely troubleshoot and often repair issues—often before the customer even knows there’s a problem with their IT.
With RMM technology, we can provide remote IT support and managed services to clients based outside the city, state, or country. It eliminates the need to visit a client’s offices every time there’s an IT issue. We can also remotely install and upgrade software, which means less disruption to your daily operations.
As our client, you can benefit from our 24/7 systems monitoring. RMM monitors the health of your machines (e.g., computer terminals, servers, and any device connected to your network), so we will know the instant an issue arises, and you can count on our immediate action towards a resolution. We also help keep downtime to a minimum thanks to RMM.
Help Desk, Engineering and NOC Support
A managed services provider can eliminate a business’s need for an internal IT person by providing a help desk (some are offered 24 hours a day) and networking operations center (NOC) staff. The NOC is composed of technicians whose priority is to support and look after the functions of the RMM. While the RMM runs digital trackers on the endpoints at our client’s premises, the NOC acts on their findings. They make quick decisions to resolve issues before our client and their clients (the end-users) notice technical glitches from their respective ends.
What are the benefits of NOC support? For starters, you get more people with greater expertise available via email, chat, or phone whenever you need them. If the big guns need to be called in, an IT managed services provider of our caliber has plenty of engineers available to tackle the particularly tricky issues.The cost-savings to your company in this regard alone is tremendous.
The NOC at NetStandard is the reason we can merge software and professional services seamlessly. These three—our NOC, help desk services team, and engineers—work together to serve you and your clients efficiently.
Cloud Backups and Data Retention
If you’ve ever lost data, you know that you never want to experience that feeling again. Managed services providers can assist with remote—and automatic—data back-ups to the cloud, often in secure facilities equipped with extra layers of back-up recovery. This strategy ensures that customer data is protected and backed up, just in case.
MSPs like us do everything to ensure IT systems and networks are protected from destructive bugs, viruses, and hostile external activities. Cloud storage and data recovery systems are crucial for us to fulfill this goal. By taking data back-up and recovery outside your premises, you’re fortifying your data protection strategy without increasing the burden on your in-house IT staff.
NetStandard offers cloud computing services and value-added data security enhancements so your information stays protected and accessible no matter where you are, or what happens to the hardware in your offices. As we already have cloud systems in place, all you need to do is choose the capacity and bandwidth that can accommodate your storage needs.
There are plenty of companies that don’t think IT security services are applicable to them, but managed services providers know differently. If a company has ever even handled a job application, then security measures should be in place to protect sensitive data, like social security numbers of job applicants. Managed services providers can help implement IT security services and best practices—as well as provide compliance consulting—for companies handling sensitive data.
An IT provider delivers products and services that a business can use to function in today’s market. A managed services provider delivers the same products and services with a focus on where the company would like to be in a year, five years, and ten years down the road. Thus, the company has a plan that maps their technology to their business growth goals.
We call these special people Technology Managers, but you can think of them as a personal CIO. These people are dedicated to providing guidance, service management, procurement services and technology roadmapping to each of the customers they serve.
Support for a Remote Workforce
The office building isn’t as important as it used to be, but remote workers can create security holes and connectivity issues for companies with flexible work policies. Managed services providers have access to mobile device management tools and cloud-based software that can keep a remote workforce productive and secure.
Service Level of Agreement: The Foundation of Client-MSP Relationships
The signing of the Service Level of Agreement (SLA) marks the start of the partnership between a company and the managed services provider it chooses. It is a contract that outlines the specifics and the scope of the services the MSP commits to provide. It includes details about the agreed-on payment structure, duration, service warranty, minimum response and turnover time, performance standards, termination clauses, and service goals along with the client’s success metrics.
The SLA will also detail the responsibilities of the client, like providing critical information and access to the MSP and liability protection for the remote IT services provider.
SLAs set the expectations on both sides. It is the foundation of the business relationship between client and MSP, so drafting a comprehensive and fair SLA is necessary before any work can begin.
What is the Pricing Model of an MSP?
Most managed services providers create a different pricing schedule for each service they offer.
Managed IT services, for example, may have per-device or per-user pricing structure. The former charges a flat fee for each piece of equipment the provider manages, while the latter attaches a price on the number of users (bandwidth) that can access the provider’s remote infrastructure, like cloud applications.
As for consulting services, an MSP may charge based on the duration of the consultancy.
Disaster recovery and turnkey IT solutions are another group with a different pricing strategy. As these are sold as products, they are offered as one-time purchases (although, you may have the option to request value-added features and customer service support). In comparison, the per-device and per-user pricing structure fall under the subscription model, which gives us providers recurring revenue.
Whether you opt for one-time pay or subscription services, you can expect NetStandard to deliver service with quality. It reflects our desire to help small to mid-sized companies, as well as to forge a lasting relationship with everyone who needs our help.
What Are the Challenges in Outsourcing Managed Services?
As with any investment, there is no guarantee that the managed services you outsource will be 100 percent problem-free. Take comfort in the fact, however, that the very nature of outsourcing ensures there’s minimal risk to your company. As your provider for managed IT services, NetStandard strives to minimize it further; but in the spirit of transparency, below are some of the challenges you might encounter in the process:
- Your expectations might outpace the resources currently available.
- As you gain more knowledge about IT infrastructure, you might develop a habit of over-thinking processes and second-guessing decisions.
- Unstable Internet connection will make communicating with your outsourced teams difficult.
- Outsourcing segments of your IT will free up your in-house teams. You’ll need to give them opportunities to grow and branch out so that they aren’t underutilized in your organization.
- If you choose to outsource project management, you need to orient your workforce about communicating and receiving instructions from the managed services provider that will oversee the project.
- Cloud computing and other commoditized technologies could evolve fast. Better versions could emerge mere months after you’ve set up new IT infrastructure with your MSP.
NetStandard guides clients into getting past these challenges. Given that IT services are becoming increasingly mainstream, it’s easy to be distracted by developments in tech. While we welcome changes that can better our services, we keep our clients’ goals in sight and focus on how to achieve them best.
Want to learn more about the specifics of our managed services offering? You can read more here.