Why use a MSP?
There are several different types of I.T. Services providers. Ultimately there are some key questions you need to ask yourself in order to properly find what model suits your business.
What is the service provider’s motivation for keeping your business running smoothly?
What is the service provider’s invested interest into providing your company service?
What resources does your service provider have to fix complex issues in your environment?
What is the availability of your service provider if you have an issue?
How much experience does your service provide have?
Is your service provider knowledgeable about the technology in your environment?
Is your service provider able to keep up with the current trends in technology?
Is your service provider pro-active or reactive with your environment?
What is the true cost of using your service provider?
What type of relationship do you have with your service provider?
Below I outline the several different types of service you can get for your organization. I used a grading scale where I subtract the "Cons" from the "Pros" to rate them. This is why you will see a positive or negative number next to the the model name. Please keep in mind this is based on my 20+ years of experience of participating in these various service models.
Self-Managed I.T. (-3)
Pros: Invested Interest, Motivation, Availability, Cost, Relationship
Cons: Availability, Cost, Experience, Knowledgeable, Resources, Trends, Reactive, Relationship
You are a business owner, and at times you have had to be the Jack of all trades. Running a business is difficult, time consuming, and stressful. As a business owner you understand that you provide a product or service that sets you apart from your competition. You didn’t get there overnight and along the way you have become an expert in your field. Because of this you have also learned your limitations. You know you wouldn’t have a doctor fix the breaks on your car, or an auto mechanic perform open heart surgery. Due to time restraints, you commonly have to react to issues as they come up and find time to resolve them. When it comes to I.T. you may believe that you are saving money by doing it on your own, but how much time and money are you losing by not having an expert?
Friend of a friend (FOF) (-6)
Pros: Cost, Invested Interest, Motivation, Relationship
Cons: Availability, Cost, Experience, Knowledgeable, Time, Resources, Trends, Relationship, Reactive
With the FOF you may get lucky and find a person that has some I.T. experience, and if you are very lucky your FOF is currently working in I.T. industry. Excluding the relationship complications of using this person there are other factors that should be considered about why this may not be a good match for your business. First would be their availability to assist you if you run into complicated issues. The second would their access to top rated resources at a cost effective rate. Because of their availability and other priorities this is a reactive environment, and it may take time for your FOF to address issues. Also, depending on their "day to day" job would also determine which trends they may be up to date with like current viruses, or critical security patches. Ultimately the FOF’s number one priority will be to the job that takes care of his family and pays their bills.
Hired I.T. Employee (+3)
Pros: Availability, Invested Interest, Motivation, Knowledgeable, Pro-active, Relationship
Cons: Cost, Resources, Trends
Hiring a qualified I.T. person is very challenging. You can hire someone that can take care of your every need, but their salary would match their level of experience. You also could hire someone who is entry level at a lower cost, but will struggle if faced with issues they had not encountered before. The bigger problem would be distinguishing their level of experience before you hire them. Once hired the person will be locked into your environment, and will not be exposed to other changes in the technology world.
This is an issue because technology changes, and eventually so will your environment. Typically a static I.T. person will become complacent and only has access to resources that your company is able to provide. Depending on their expertise and tools your can afford this can be a very pro-active environment.
Pros: Experience, Knowledgeable, Availability, Trends
Cons: Cost, Motivation, Invested Interest, Resources, Reactive, Relationship
Although the Consultant may be very qualified and will be able to react to your issues very promptly, there are some serious issues with this relationship type. The first is a conflict of interest in order to keep your business running properly. I am not saying that we should question their integrity, but the only way that they make money is when you are having issues. The second issue is that typically they charge by the hour. If you find yourself with a computer that gets infected with a serious virus, sometimes it becomes more cost effective to just replace the computer. The problem is determining the stopping point of where you are paying the consultant to remove your virus, or adjusting the cost of replacing / reloading the computer. Third, this would be considered a reactive service model, and they are waiting for you to call them about your issues instead of calling you about things you are not aware of.
Traditional I.T. Support Company (+1)
Pros: Availability, Experience, Knowledgeable, Trends, Resources
Cons: Cost, Motivation, Invested Interest, Reactive, Relationship
For your Traditional I.T. Company, just read the I.T. Consultant section and just factor in that there is more than one of them. They may also have a contract based agreement. Depending on the contract and services provided this can be a pro-active model, but for most it is reactive.
Managed Service Provider (+8)
Pros: Availability, Experience, Knowledgeable, Trends, Resources, Motivation, Invested Interest, Pro-Active, Cost, Relationship
With a Managed Service Provider It is in their best interest to keep things running smoothly, and to keep you happy. The MSP would offer multiple packages that would include unlimited support, proactive monitoring services, anti-virus, enterprise level web filtering, and end user security awareness training. You are provided a yearly cost up front that allows you to budget your I.T. service costs. The MSP works for a proactive environment that introduces some levels of automation that keep your systems optimized, and up to date with critical and security updates with patch management. Resources used by the MSP will provide you asset, and warranty information for future budgeting of server, workstation, and networking device replacement. The MSP isn’t tied to an issue based on the amount of time they spend on correcting the problem. It is beneficial for them to correct it as quickly as possible, but preventing or detecting issue before they become a problem is the ultimate goal.
This is a pretty simple arrangement. You sign a yearly contract for a flat rate. If the amount of time to support your environment exceeds the amount of the contract, then the MSP takes a loss of potential revenue based on if you were not on a contract and billing a hourly rate.
So the MSP wants everything running smoothly all the time. Less problems equal a more profitable arrangement.