Managed Services has become a fashionable term. And sometimes this label has nothing to do with technology.
This article aims to provide an IT-centric definition, present the six defining traits, and explore the associated benefits, so you know how to identify and choose a genuine MSP.
What are Managed IT Services?
Managed Services is the proactive management of an IT (Information Technology) asset or object by a third party known as an MSP, on behalf of a customer. The operative distinction that sets apart an MSP is the proactive delivery of their service compared to reactive IT services, which have been around for decades. (MSP Alliance)
According to MSP Alliance, MSPs typically have the following six distinguishing attributes:
- Recurring Revenue Model
Most MSPs have a fixed-fee billing model that allows them to provide their clients with comprehensive solutions and predictable expense management.
For this to work, mature MSPs will always lead with strategy, delivered by strategic account managers and vCIOs. They’ll challenge your way of thinking to solve problems rather than agreeing to offer bandaids.
The best prescription for long-term success is finding a partner who will align your strategy and budget then apply both to a proven IT process based on standards and best practices.
Does your definition of long-term success include growth and performance enhancement with lower risk and liability?
Make sure you’re with a genuine MSP. If you have a R700K per year employee babysitting your IT provider and running interference to keep a lid on costs, every time a support issue arises, you may want to investigate.
Is your IT provider transactional? If they are charging you to fix the same things repeatedly, the answer is yes.
- It’s more expensive than paying a fixed fee.
- It creates bottlenecks.
- The person playing gatekeeper is almost always more productive, spending more time on their core competency.
- You are more likely to experience a significant operating fail with high payroll costs and PR backlash.
- Proactive Management
MSPs who proactively manage their clients create quiet, stable, and resilient IT systems. Chance always favors the prepared.
If your IT systems were a person, would you prefer they eat right, exercise regularly, and sleep 8 hours per night, or pig out, binge on Netflix, and pull all-nighters?
It’s a binary choice between a healthy lifestyle or regular doctor visits, expensive medication, and surgery.
Planning is key. Proactive MSPs will map out your IT budget a year in advance and systematically walk you through their recommendations.
They know precisely how much time it takes to support a healthy environment and choose this approach over reactive measures every time.
There are only so many hours in the day; why waste them on preventable emergencies?
The following qualities are hallmarks of the proactive mindset:
- Notifying you before there’s an issue.
- Helping you create an Acceptable Use Policy.
- Providing Security and Compliance Guidance.
- Delivering Cyber Security Awareness Training.
- Updating all equipment before it reaches end-of-life status.
- Upgrading your Internet from T1s or Fiber to SD-WAN.
- Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) BEFORE a cyber-incident
- Making sure you have the right Office 365 licenses in place.
Does your IT provider lead the charge, or do you have to take the reins?
- Cloud Computing Expertise
Microsoft defines Cloud Computing as the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping you lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.
Most MSPs consider the cloud an essential ingredient of managed services rather than a separate category and can administer thousands of services on your behalf.
Unless you’re an enterprise business (500+ employees) with a large in-house IT department, you’re not going to have the expertise or the time to deal directly with providers like AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle, VMWare, Dell and, Alibaba.
Best in class, MSPs embrace the cloud and will be your guide every step of the way.
The importance of moving to the cloud cannot be overstated. Why? Premise-based hardware and software solutions are going the way of AOL email addresses.
Is your MSP trying to sell you a new on-prem server? Be skeptical unless you have an application that won’t function under any other circumstances.
- Network Operation Center (NOC)
MSPs always have some form of Network Operation Center (NOC) in place.
Fifteen years ago, MSPs built their own NOCs. Shortly after that, many moved their servers and client assets to large data centers like QTS, where they rented rack space.
These days, MSPs lease virtual capacity in NOCs – for the same reasons, they advise you to shift as many assets as possible to the cloud: cost-containment, business continuity, flexibility, future-proofing, system redundancy, collaboration, simplicity, cybersecurity, compliance, and more.
The NOC is a basic table stake and serves as the true nerve center of any mature MSP practice. It happens to be home and command central to each piece of technology that is cost-prohibitive for most SMB’s and quasi MSPs – unless they have a trust fund.
Annual fees run close to $750,000 and are only cost-justifiable when an MSP can amortize these wholesale expenses across a client base of 50-100 businesses who are committed to paying fixed and predictable monthly fees.
- Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM)
Speaking of NOCs and $750,000 annual fees, RMM tools deployed from NOCs give your MSP granular visibility and control of each endpoint in your digital estate.
RMM is part of an entire ecosystem of integrated management tools that monitor, automate, update, report, prompt alerts, and more on each of the following departments and service categories:
- Professional Services Automation (PSA)
- Tech Support
- Mobile Engineer Dispatch
- Vendor Technical Assistance
- Internet Connectivity
- Power Outages
- Mobile Devices
- Cloud Applications
- SIEM Devices
- Project Management
- Backup and Disaster Recovery
Can your MSP manage thousands of endpoints without getting in the car?
- Help Desk
Genuine MSPs always have some form of Help Desk and a multitude of ways for their clients to engage with support: phone, email, website, a desktop shortcut, text, and chat.
Help Desk ties it all together with a friendly handshake and generation of a trackable service ticket, classified based on the severity of your issue.
Priority One, Priority Two, Priority Three, and Priority Four are popular rankings and dictate the required resolution’s time-sensitivity and which MSP resource needs to be engaged.
A Priority One means all systems are down. Let’s get some network engineers on this right away.
A Priority Four means someone can’t find a folder in OneDrive. This goes to a system engineer and has a longer turn-around time.
The Help Desk not only allows the MSP to get a constant pulse on the health of the client’s environment, but all tickets are also tracked and rated by the client. This provides insights to reward top-performing tech support personnel and offer training when improvements are warranted.