Managed service providers (MSPs) offer full IT support, from basic hosting maintenance to general cyber security. They are mostly used by large enterprise businesses, but because of the internet's opportunity many small businesses need someone who understands hardware and software support.
MSPs work with contractual obligations where the client business has a chunk of hours each month that can be used for any purpose. If you need someone to install upgrades and perform basic maintenance, you can pay an MSP a few hours a month to make sure this happens. It takes the task off of your plate so that you can spend time focusing on more important business obligations.
The thought of contracting an MSP usually comes with the growth of a small business. You started the business with just a website and your own time, but technology maintenance becomes cumbersome for a business owner who needs more time to focus on sales and revenue. A full-time IT staffer is costly. Most IT people make at least $60,000 a year, and this can be too much for a fledgling business.
Instead of spending $60,000 a year for a full-time IT staffer, you can go with an MSP and pay $75-$125 an hour. It's a higher hourly cost, but a small business only needs a few hours a month unless there is a critical outage. You buy the number of hours that you need, and the MSP will guarantee you a specific response time based on your contract. Usually, most MSPs have a 24-hour response time, but you can work with your MSP to have a faster turnaround time on critical issues that bring down your business.
For instance, you might have a website where you make all of your sales. A 24-hour turnaround time is too much for such a critical resource, so you can pay a fee and have your MSP support critical issues with only a 30-minute response time. A good MSP will have your systems up and running soon after receiving the phone call, but different issues require a different amount of estimated resolution time.
MSPs Offer Increased Access to Technical Skills
Finding an IT person to support your local network isn't always easy. The internet has a wide range of skill set requirements based mainly on your platform and the applications that you support. It's difficult and much more costly to find the right skills in one person. With each skill that you require, the potential candidate's salary increases. Add experience to the skills that you need and you could be paying a six-figure salary to your IT support. In most cases, you need multiple people for numerous skill requirements.
An MSP usually has a core set of on-site support personnel, but they also have a network of other MSPs and support staff that they can outsource to. For instance, suppose you mainly support Linux-based applications, but you have that rare client that asks for development of a .NET API. Your MSP might not have someone immediately available, but they can find someone for the short time that you need a Windows developer and server administrator.
Since your IT support is outsourced, you also have the reduced cost of training and local resources for staff. The MSP works remotely unless you have it set up in your contract that they must work locally. These contracts are also available, but they usually come at a high price. Enterprise corporations often take on contracts with MSP staff when they need critical on-site support.
Proactive Solutions Instead of Reactive
When you rely heavily on technology, reactive actions mean that you lose money based on mistakes. Being reactive is always a mistake in IT because you don't prepare for the worst.
One way to stay proactive is to create a disaster recovery plan and have your MSP monitor your service. The MSP might have tools that help determine when your systems crashes before you do, which limits the amount of downtime. A disaster recovery plan lays out step-by-step solutions in case of a critical failure. When a failure happens, people tend to panic and forget protocol. The disaster recovery plan stops this from happening and helps people read a script on what to do to bring services back up.
Your MSP will help you come up with a plan, but they also closely monitor software and hardware to detect when a crash is imminent. For instance, when a drive is about to fail, usually there are specific signs that a technician can see. They can replace the drive before it becomes a problem. You may still have some downtime during maintenance, but at least it's planned downtime and isn't a sudden outage during busy business hours.
General maintenance is always needed for any infrastructure. When you build your business, you probably have dedicated servers or a hosting contract that gives you more control of your hardware. You have more options with these contracts, but it also puts more of the maintenance and daily monitoring in your hands. An MSP can manage regular updates, scan the system for any malware, review hardware performance, review any application errors, and provide you with all-around daily maintenance without you needing to lift a finger.
Better Cyber Security
Cyber security isn't an easy thing to manage. Even professional IT people don't fully understand a hacker's mind, and you need one to fully protect your digital assets. Staffing a full-time cybersecurity expert is expensive, and you should expect to pay someone at least $100,000 per year if you hire an on-site professional. These costs can be balanced by using an MSP.
An MSP usually has a cyber security expert on-hand, and they can help review and analyze your system. They make suggestions based on their findings, and then you choose which ones you want to implement. You can come up with a year-long plan to slowly roll out cyber security measures starting with the systems most at risk from attacks.
A cyber security expert can also ensure that all systems are upgraded with the latest patches including routers, switches, VoIP systems and servers. Old, outdated systems are ripe for breaches, and you need someone to keep up with the latest in firmware and software upgrades.
How To Determine Pricing?
One benefit of an MSP is that you can order services a la carte or bundle them with a specific amount of hours for support. Your MSP will give you options. Some of them only charge you for hours used, but most MSPs prefer using a hybrid system where you get certain services at a set monthly price and then any additional services or hours are billed accordingly.
It takes time to build a relationship with an MSP, but once you use their services you will feel the advantages. You no longer need hours of your time to support your systems, and you can rest assured that your website and applications run smoothly.