IT Services and Managed Service Providers (MSPs)

In-house tools can make you more efficient at monitoring, patching, providing remote support, and service delivery. But you also need to ensure regular scheduled maintenance of every client system. That’s where a Managed Service Provider (MSP) comes in.

What’s a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

A managed service provider (MSP) caters to enterprises, residences, or other service providers. It delivers network, application, system and e-management services across a network, using a “pay as you go” pricing model.

A “pure play” MSP focuses on management services. The MSP market features other players – including application service providers (ASPs), Web hosting companies, and network service providers (NSPs) – who supplement their traditional offerings with management services.

You Probably Need an MSP if….

Your business has a network meeting any of the following criteria:

  • Connects multiple offices, stores, or other sites
  • Is growing beyond the capacity of current access lines
  • Must provide secure connectivity to mobile and remote employees
  • Could benefit from cost savings by integrating voice and data traffic
  • Anticipates more traffic from video and other high-bandwidth applications
  • Is becoming harder to manage and ensure performance and security, especially given limited staff and budget

What Can You Gain?

1. Future proof services, using top-line technology

IT services and equipment from an MSP are constantly upgraded, with no additional cost or financial risk to yourself. There’s little chance that your Managed IT Services will become obsolete.

2. Low capital outlay and predictable monthly costs

Typically, there’s a fixed monthly payment plan. A tight service level agreement (SLA) will ensure no unexpected upgrade charges or changes in standard charges.

3. Flexible services

A pay-as-you-go scheme allows for quick growth when necessary, or cost savings when you need to consolidate.

4. Converged services

A single “converged” connection can provide multiple Managed IT Services, resulting in cost-savings on infrastructure.

5. Resilient and secure infrastructure

A Managed Service Provider’s data centres and managed network infrastructure are designed to run under 24/7/365 management. Typically, their security procedures have to meet government approval.

6. Access to specialist skills

The MSP will have staff on hand capable of addressing specific problems. You may only need this skill once, and save the expense of training your staff for skills they’ll never use.

7. Centralized applications and servers

Access to centralized data centers within the network can also extend access to virtual services, as well as storage and backup infrastructure.

8. Increased Service Levels

SLAs can ensure continuity of service. A managed service company will also offer 24/7/365 support.

9. Disaster recovery and business continuity

MSPs have designed networks and data centers for availability, resilience and redundancy, to maintain business continuity. Your data will be safe and your voice services will continue to be delivered, even if your main office goes down.

10. Energy savings

By running your applications on a virtual platform and centralizing your critical business systems within data centers, you’ll lower your carbon footprint and reduce costs.

Functions of an MSP

Under Managed Services, the IT provider assumes responsibility for a client’s network, and provides regular preventive maintenance of the client’s systems. Technical support is delivered under a service level agreement (SLA) that provides specified rates, and guarantees the consultant a specific minimum income.

The core tools of Managed Services are:

  1. Patch Management
  2. Remote Access provision
  3. Monitoring tools
  4. Some level of Automated Response

Most MSPs also use a professional services automation (PSA) tool such as Autotask or ConnectWise. A PSA provides a Ticketing System, to keep track of service requests and their responses. It may also provide a way to manage Service Agreements, and keep track of technicians’ labor.

In essence, though, it boils down to this: If a system crashes, and the Managed Service Provider is monitoring the network, that MSP has total responsibility for the state of the backup and the health of the server.

As their client (and this should be spelled out, in the SLA), you can hold the MSP totally responsible – up to and including court action, for failing to provide the service they’re contracted to provide.

How to Choose an MSP

Here are five key characteristics to consider, when selecting a managed service provider:

1. Comprehensive Technology Suite

The MSP should have a broad set of solutions available to meet not only your current needs, but to scale and grow as your business develops new products and services.

A well-equipped MSP will offer support for virtual infrastructures, storage, co-location, end user computing, application management capabilities, etc. The MSP should be able to accommodate a range of applications and systems, under a service level agreement starting at the application layer, and extending all the way up the technology stack.

2. Customization and Best Practices

Look for a service provider with the expertise to modify each architecture based on individual business goals.

Their best practices should ensure seamless migration for customers, by taking an existing physical machine infrastructure and visualizing it. Comprehensive support should be available, throughout.

3. Customer-Centric Mindset

The MSP should provide a dedicated account manager who serves as the single point of contact and escalation for the customer. Support should be readily available, along with access to other service channels, as required.

The most effective MSPs will be available to address problems around the clock, and have effective troubleshooting capabilities.

4. Security

For customers working in regulated environments such as healthcare and financial services, security and compliance issues are paramount.The MSP should have robust, tested infrastructure and operational fabric that operates across several geographical zones. This cuts down their susceptibility to natural disasters and service interruptions.

The provider should continuously monitor threats and ensure that each system is designed with redundancy at every level.

5. The Proper Scale

If a small business selects one of the largest service providers, they may not receive a high level of customer-centric, flexible and customized support. Conversely, if a business selects an MSP that’s too small, it may lack the scale and expertise to offer the necessary support.

Having direct access to a senior member of the MSP’s management team by direct email or cell phone can be a good measure of the degree of personalized attention a customer is likely to receive.

Understanding the different types of service providers is the first step in making the right decision for your organization.

OK, folks that’s it for this post. Have a nice day guys…… Stay tuned…..!!!!!

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