Any way you slice it, running a small business takes hard work. Today’s businesses need solid IT management and support to stay operational—but with an internal IT team, that usually means paying the big bucks for highly qualified candidates. Your budget is stretched thin enough without the added weight of several IT salaries, not to mention that most IT employees probably won’t stick around long in a role that mainly covers basic maintenance and upgrades.
Enter managed service providers, or MSPs. MSPs are happy to take care of routine IT work so that you can focus on your business’ core competencies. Many will also help you initiate more complex projects and offer customer support and security, too. Today, we’ll walk you through the basics of what MSPs are and how they can help your business.
All about IT managed service providers
You don’t need us to tell you that the technology in the workplace is changing fast. Today, 95% of businesses use cloud technology daily, compared to less than one-fifth five years ago. Employees are also doing more of their work remotely—in 2015, 22% of workers said they regularly worked outside the office, compared to 19% in 2003.
Meanwhile, the security landscape is on the move as well. The Department of Justice calculated that in 2016, there were about 4,000 ransomware attacks per day. That’s a sharp rise from 2014, when just 6.8% of businesses reported ransomware attacks. In fact, in just four years, cyberattacks may collectively cost businesses over $6 trillion per year—twice as much as in 2016.
Needless to say, those changes have impacted how businesses must manage their IT needs. Mainly, the landscape is much larger than it used to be, even for small businesses. But thanks to virtualized servers and online monitoring, your company’s IT can transition from an in-house team to a huge, fully staffed professional department ready to assist at any time of day.
MSPs monitor your network for outages, inconsistencies and signs of intrusions. They make sure your data is backed up and secured. They watch over your equipment and assets, and help you install upgrades and patches. They’re available for real, live support. They can even assist you in keeping tabs on other vendors, such as ecommerce providers, data entry services and customer support, which means you’ll spend less time wrangling vendors and more time focused on value-add projects.
Benefits for your small business
You’ve probably already gleaned some of the benefits of the MSP model from the information presented above. Below, let’s look at how MSPs make small businesses more technologically sound and financially successful.
- Scalability: MSPs offer flexibility, allowing you to rapidly scale up during a heavy growth period. Many providers also serve as de facto consultants and will work with your business to develop a long-term IT strategy for those intense growth periods ahead.
- Better talent: With an MSP, you’ll have access to better talent than you might with an internal team. Working with external IT providers lets you choose from a huge pool of skill sets, certifications and expertise levels, removing the need for you to make present-day predictions about which program proficiencies you may need in the future.
- Responsiveness: Because MSPs have a larger staff, they can also supply you with better technical support. Provider team members proactively monitor your technical environment and are often able to resolve the worst issues before they even become a problem. That also means MSPs can move faster when you have a new project, because their bandwidth is bigger than that of a single IT staff member.
Cost versus scope
For most businesses, MSPs offer large cost savings over an in-house team, since you won’t have to fund the recruitment, hiring, salaries and benefits of several employees. (For more on how those numbers break down, check out our cost comparison).
You’ll also get better value for your dollar. Essentially, the MSP model allows providers to offer more client services at a lower rate than would be available with a one- or two-person staff. Some of the most popular offerings include:
- Regular data backups: Backups are essential to recovery in the event of an attack or human error. In fact, regularly backing up your critical data makes you much less vulnerable to ransomware attacks, since you’ll have a copy of everything you need at the ready.
- Continuous monitoring: Monitoring your environment allows technicians to detect inconsistencies and potential issues that may threaten your systems. On a more practical level, regular reporting highlights efficiency issues like network sluggishness that may be slowing your employees down.
- Vendor management: Most MSPs are willing to oversee other related vendors, such as your VoIP provider. This helps internal employees focus on their work instead of tangling with vendors all day. MSPs also work with providers to ensure that vendors’ networks and security practices don’t leave you vulnerable to attack.
- Support: MSPs typically offer fast-tracked support, ticketing and tracking to quickly resolve any issues that spring up, meaning employees no longer have to waste time googling issues or on hold with support services. Many MSPs will even outline their response time and process in their SLA.
- Consulting: Perhaps one of the most useful aspects of working with an MSP is the access to quality advice. Many will help you design an IT roadmap for future integrations and projects that you can roll into your technical business plan, meaning you save on external consultant fees.
With an internal team, each of these functions would likely be performed by a different employee with a different skill set, costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars—or you wouldn’t have access to those services at all.
At MyITpros, we understand that it takes time to develop the right IT model for your company. We’re happy to discuss the ins and outs of your business to see if managed services is a good fit for your company—just give us a shout!