What Is an MSP and Why Does My Business Need One?
Whatever the size of your business, you rely on the right technology to keep you in the game. Having the right network solutions, products, and security processes is critical to your success, not to mention the staff to manage it all. So how do you stay current in such a rapidly changing space? It might be time to consider using a managed service provider, or MSP.
What is an MSP?
Managed service providers are high-level consultants that help you create a technology plan for your business—and then keep it running smoothly. Even if you already have IT staff, an MSP can add value to your organization by allowing the team to offload time-consuming tasks and focus on more appropriate functions. MSPs can even provide expert-level resources for temporary projects if you don’t need their services long term.
In other words, the best MSPs basically handle anything above the desktop: UCaaS (unified communications, like phones, contact center, and conferencing), WiFi, switching, routing, and security policy, for example. They also handle carrier connections and relationships, like Cox, AT&T, or CenturyLink, and cloud applications like Oracle, company databases, storage, data centers, Office365, and so on. Plus, they provide 24/7 monitoring and troubleshooting so you can go about your business without disruption.
Can your IT department do that?
If all you have to manage in your office is a few desktops, a printer, and a coffee maker, your two-person IT staff can likely handle it. But things can get complex quickly these days, especially as your business grows.
So how do you know when it’s time to use an MSP? Take a look at the following issues businesses face when it comes to IT, and take stock.
Cost and availability of staff. Is your staff available when you need them or are they overtaxed? In other words, does your business require more (and better) technical support than you can afford? Your current situation may not lend itself to the 24/7 monitoring many businesses need these days.
Products and providers. How do you choose your internet provider? What about network equipment, like firewalls and routers? While it’s important to use your budget wisely, low-end equipment can end up costing you more in the long run. On the other hand, the most expensive equipment is ineffective without the proper expertise.
And what about the other IT services your business needs: VOIP Phones, Office 365, Wi-Fi, cabling, desktop support, security, compliance, mobile phones, data center, network design and deployment, contact center, cloud and on-premises solutions, and so on? Are your IT people getting the right services at the best prices—and managing them all properly, too?
Security and compliance. Security and compliance are serious concerns; is your IT staff up to speed on current laws? Who manages license renewal on the products you are using? Do you have a solid network auditing procedure? If not, you’re leaving yourself wide open to breaches, non-compliance fines, and other major consequences.
Outages and other problems. You know the damage an internet outage can do to your business, even if it’s short-lived. How does your staff handle those and other network disruptions? Do you know about issues before they happen, or is there always a scramble to fix things after the fact?
If you feel like your business is falling short in any of these areas, consider using a managed service provider to pick up the slack now—and tailor a solution for your future needs, too.
An MSP can find the best ISP for your needs.
Finding an internet service provider (ISP) is easy, but finding an ISP that meets your business needs and adds the most competitive value is time-consuming. Start researching the many services and bundling options and you’ll eventually find yourself considering services you don’t even need. Add to all that the bias from each provider toward their own products, and it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed. If you’ve ever had to deal with a long-winded sales pitch only to come away with a three-year contract you’re uncertain about, you know what we mean.
With an MSP, you can skip all that legwork, because they’ve already done it. MSPs know the carriers; they have a solid understanding of what each one does best and where they fall short. An MSP analyzes all available options to determine which services are most appropriate for your business. Then they’ll customize the details to your specific needs so you can make the best decision for your business.
Your MSP will support your order and install.
Finding the right providers and products is just the beginning. Once you’re comfortable with your network plan, the MSP will order the services and setup as well as act as a liaison during the install. They’ll work with you and your team as well as each service provider. That means when issues arise, the MSP is there to facilitate a resolution. You can read more about this process here.
An MSP is there when things go wrong.
It used to be that when something went wrong—blue screen of death, slow internet speeds, unresponsive Wi-fi, and so on—you would call an IT company to come out and fix it. These are typical break-fix scenarios.
These days, service interruptions are much too costly to wait for a fix. Businesses need a 24/7 resource in place to solve issues proactively, and that’s where an MSP can help. An MSP puts alerts in place to identify adverse network behaviors and escalate as needed. If the MSP is managing dual circuits—used in environments where redundancy is required—the MSP can configure your network in a way that uses each circuit deliberately, including auto-failover if one circuit goes down. That means you won’t even know about the issue until after it’s been resolved, and the service outage won’t impact your business.
Your network is the backbone of your business. Partnering with an MSP can help you save time and money on its design, deployment, and management, so you can keep your company up and running.