Virtually every business depends on technology in some shape or form. Technology impacts a business’s operational systems, data systems, communications, daily workflow, overall productivity, and much, much more.
Successful technology management becomes a critical aspect of any business seeking to maintain peak operational performance and minimal downtime. There are many ways to manage IT systems. Managed IT Service Providers (MSPs) are a popular choice.
A managed IT service provider (MSP) is an outside company that delivers IT support and services to businesses of all sizes. This is opposed to in-house IT service departments and teams. Typically, businesses contract with an MSPs to provide a variety of IT and technology services for a monthly fee.
MSPs can offer a wide range of services, including:
- Network and systems administration
- Data security
- Backup and disaster recovery
- Help desk support
- Cloud computing
- Software and hardware procurement
MSPs can also be a valuable asset to businesses by providing objective consulting, growth planning, budget input, training, and other big-picture services.
Alternatives to Managed IT Service Providers
In-house IT staff: Many businesses hire their own IT staff to provide IT support and services. This can be a good option for businesses that have a large IT infrastructure or that need specialized IT expertise. However, it can also be expensive and time-consuming to hire and train in-house IT staff.
Freelance IT consultants: Businesses can hire freelance IT consultants to provide IT support and services on a project-by-project basis. This can be a good option for businesses that need short-term IT support or that only need help with specific IT projects. However, it can be difficult to find freelance IT consultants with the right skills and experience from project to project.
Break/Fix Repair Providers: Many companies opt to follow the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy and look to IT services when specific repair needs arise. This is akin to calling a plumber when a leaky pipe is discovered. This approach can contain costs in the short term, but is often more expensive in the event of bigger or chronic issues.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) IT: Businesses can choose to manage their own IT infrastructure and support themselves. This can be a cost-effective option for businesses that have a small IT infrastructure and that are comfortable with IT. However, it can also be time-consuming and risky if the business does not have the right skills and experience.
Benefits of Using a Managed IT Service Provider
Like the name suggests MSPs offer professional management of a business’s technology systems. They can actively monitor systems and components, troubleshoot remotely, and pro-actively address issues before they become bigger problems. This approach provides:
Reduced IT costs: Hiring an MSP is typically much less than hiring an in-house IT manager and/or staff.
Improved IT security: MSPs can provide the latest security systems and protections from a variety of third party sources.
Increased IT uptime: MSPs can help businesses to increase their IT uptime by proactively monitoring and resolving IT issues before they cause downtime.
Improved IT performance: MSPs can help optimize IT infrastructure and provide ongoing support and training.
Improved IT procurement: These days IT-related hardware is more challenging to acquire than in times past. MSPs typically have access to a wider range of sources and discount pricing compared to individual businesses.
Improved IT perspective: Outside resources can often provide objective, insightful viewpoints that you might not be exposed to otherwise. MSPs also are technology professionals. They are adept at keeping up on the latest developments and innovations.
IT Service Options — Costs, Pros, Cons
|IT SERVICE OPTION
|MANAGED IT SERVICE PROVIDER (MSP)
Varies. Usually fixed monthly costs based on number of users, endpoints, or hourly rates
|– Reduced IT costs
– Improved IT security
– Increased IT uptime
– Improved IT performance
– Costs are consistent and predictable
|– May not be ideal for businesses with very specialized IT needs
– May not be the best option for businesses with a very small IT infrastructure
– Not as immediately available as in-house IT staff can be
|IN-HOUSE IT STAFF
|– Expensive/time-consuming to hire and train
– Involves salaries, insurance, benefits, vacation costs, etc.
|– More hands-on control over IT infrastructure
– Right there when you need them
|– Can be a drain on resources
– Can be difficult to find and retain qualified IT staff
|FREELANCE IT CONSULTANTS
|– Can be cost-effective for short-term IT support
|– Can be difficult to find consultants with the right skills and experience when you need them
– Can provide highly specialized IT expertise
|– May not be as responsive to IT needs as in-house IT staff or an MSP
– May not be able to provide the same level of support as an MSP or in-house IT staff
|– Variable, difficult to predict
– Depends on the severity and frequency of issues
– Potential to lower costs significantly
|– Risky, basically gambling that there won’t be any serious problems very often.
– May be difficult to find the right person for the job on an on-going basis.
– Not as responsive as MSP or in-house staff.
|DO IT YOURSELF (DIY) IT
|– Cost-effective for businesses with a small IT infrastructure
|– Gives the business more control over support
|– Can be time-consuming and risky if the business does not have the right skills, experience, security measures, etc.
Choosing the Right IT Service Provider
The best way to choose an IT service provider is to consider your specific needs and requirements. Some factors to consider include:
The size and complexity of your business: This will determine the level of IT support and services that you need.
Your budget: IT services can range in price from a few hundred dollars per month to several thousand dollars per month. It is important to choose an IT service provider that fits your budget.
The services offered by the IT service provider: Make sure that the IT service provider offers the services that you need. Some IT service providers specialize in certain areas, such as network security or cloud computing.
The experience and reputation of the IT service provider: Make sure that the IT service provider has a good reputation and experience in providing IT support and services to businesses of your size and industry.
MSPs are an increasingly popular choice for small to medium-sized businesses looking for optimum IT management for the most cost-effective investment. More than most any other aspect of a business, an outside resource to manage your technology systems can be a wise choice.