Justifying an MSP

Justifying an MSP

By Gary Audin

There are questions for the business CIO when considering an MSP. Does the business have all the resources it needs? Is it having trouble finding them? Can it afford the IT salaries?

Did you know it takes 4.3 people to man a position 24/7? Even if the business could afford these 4.3 people, do they have the requisite skills to manage all the resources of the business’ IT organization and network?

Businesses are encountering the need for digital transformation. Digital transformation knows no business size. SMBs and enterprises are all trying to keep up and grow as fast as possible. Unfortunately, digital transformation growth also means staffing deficiencies, missing expertise, and budgetary growth.

Educating the Business about MSPs

The business needs to know a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is an outsourcing partner who acts on a proactive basis, providing management services. The MSP is responsible for the operations and functions as the manager, while improving operations and reducing expenses. An MSP is an alternative to organizations that perform break/fix or on-demand outsourcing. The MSP also has staff to deal with planning and operational issues beyond those that can be handled by the business.

The business owns or has direct responsibility for the systems and networks being managed. The MSP is the service provider that delivers the managed services. The business and the MSP are contractually bound with a service-level agreement that defines the performance and quality metrics of their relationship that need to be delivered by the MSP.

Business Do-It-Yourself or an MSP

A managed service provider offers a number of advantages over a business doing it for itself. An MSP is managing the resources of multiple businesses and, therefore, has the scale with a lower-cost point, meaning it can be cheaper to use an MSP then internal IT staff.

There is always the issue of the IT budget. The more money the business expends on IT staff, the less capital for infrastructure investments. With the MSP, the business can shift IT funds away from operating expenses, thereby delivering greater budget flexibility.

The MSP can offer increased efficiency. They usually operate with best practices, standardize what they do, perform analytics, and use automation wherever possible. These can be done by the business but, unless they are a really large business, they don’t have the staff, resources, or the budget.

Another value is that the MSP has access to skills that are not available to the business – or the skills may be available but the business can’t afford them.

The service-level agreements (SLA) from an MSP can be better and more enforceable than the SLAs that are can generated internally within the business. MSPs also have a way of measuring the SLAs and determining where deficiencies arise. It may even lower the risk when implementing new services. Finally, an MSP may improve the security, business continuity, and compliance management.

How the business should evaluate an MSP

As soon as the business considers outsourcing all or part of its IT functions and responsibilities, there are concerns about risk and trust. There are a number of points the business may use when considering and selecting an MSP. These are the possible considerations that may be evaluated by the business when evaluating an MSP:

  • The business should research the MSP to determine the skills and accreditations it has, along with its experience delivering services.
  • The MSP needs to have a proactive technology-based approach to delivering services. Break-fix mentality doesn’t work. Ask what types of automation are used by the MSP that help reduce human intervention (possible errors) and improve the quality of service and productivity.
  • There are plenty of standards in IT. Look for the MSP’s alignment with the best practices and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standards. “ITIL defines the organizational structure and skill requirements of an information technology organization and a set of standard operational management procedures and practices to allow the organization to manage an IT operation and associated infrastructure. The operational procedures and practices are supplier independent and apply to all aspects within the IT Infrastructure.”
  • Since a lot of this work is based on the expertise and knowledge of the MSP’s staff, learn about their knowledge management and certifications.
  • Determine the visibility provided for monitoring the MSP’s service delivery.
  • It is very likely the business has more than one vendor on its premises. Has this MSP managed those vendors and have the experience required? Does the MSP have strong relationships with those vendors?
  • The IT and network resources may cover a wide geographic area. Does the MSP have the services locally available where you have resident IT/network facilities?
  • Inspect the SLAs. They should not be goals. Look into what happens if the MSP does not meet those SLAs. Make sure they are enforceable and cover a wide range of performance metrics, not just simply reliability and availability.
  • Digital transformation means that the business is constantly looking at new technologies and new ways of doing business. Can the business develop a relationship with the MSP that allows it to add, delete, or modify the relationship as the business moves into expanding digital transformation?
  • Can the MSP act as a consultant, helping the business look at new methods of innovation? Is the MSP constantly looking forward to technological developments that can be added to the MSP arrangement?
  • As with any business, is the MSP financially stable? What is its present reputation in your industry? Is the MSP overextended in the services offered?

Any arrangement with an MSP should have a time limit. The business must consider what happens if the MSP does not deliver what it promises. How can the business migrate to another MSP or bring back the IT functions into its organization? Overall, the business needs a flexible, affordable, contractual arrangement with MSP.

For the latest information about the evolving and maturing MSP market, join MSP Expo 2022, delivering four days of education and networking specifically focused on the MSP community, including one full track dedicated to security.  MSP Expo 2022 takes place June 21-24, 2022 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and is collocated alongside the other #TECHSUPERSHOW events, including ITEXPO, Future of Work Expo, IoT Evolution Expo, The Blockchain Event, and more.

Edited by Erik Linask
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