IT Managed Service Providers

Get the IT support you need for your business. Here’s everything you should know about managed services providers!

Introduction to Managed IT Service Providers

If you ever needed someone to manage your business’s IT network, but couldn’t hire an on-site team, a managed service provider (MSP) could be just what you’re looking for. A managed service provider can do the heavy lifting of managing your business’s IT network, so you don’t have to worry about hiring a full-time team.

So what does a managed services provider do that you can’t do yourself? We’re answering that question and more.

Man wearing headphones while working at a managed service provider

What Are Managed Service Providers?

The Definition of an MSP

A managed service provider (MSP) is a company that facilitates the remote management of a business’s technology and network. A managed service provider will remotely manage a business’s network so the business owner doesn’t need to hire a full-time team of their own. The team at a managed service provider is still full-time, the only difference is that they work for the MSP company, not the business.

If a business owner hired a full-time team, they’d be responsible for both paying their employees and paying for new equipment if anything ever needed replacing or became obsolete. A managed service provider eliminates those costs. You might also see an MSP company referred to as an “IT service provider” or “network management service provider.”

An MSP can manage a business’s general data was well as the core network. They’ll proactively manage your network for you, though some MSP companies may differ in their exact offerings. They may also differ in their pricing structure—you may need to pay a retainer or a fixed monthly subscription, in some cases.

When it comes to picking an MSP company for your business, knowing how they work is the first step in the research process.

How Does a Managed Service Provider Work?

A managed service provider will work with your business to provide the support you need for your network. When you work with a MSP, you’re contracting a remote team instead of an on-site, full-time support team. Some MSP companies may offer on-site support when needed, especially if there’s an emergency.

When you pick a managed service provider, you might sign a service-level agreement (SLA), which will outline exactly what services and support you’ll receive. Pricing can vary between MSP companies, especially if you want 24/7, specialized support. This can include tiered pricing or a flat monthly fee. Some MSP companies can also install IT networks and infrastructure, so it’s important to choose a managed service provider that can give you what you need.

If you have multiple business locations, a managed service provider can monitor your network even if it’s spread out over more than one building. This is especially convenient if you have a particularly widespread network and need it to be closely monitored. If you ever have to add on more workstations or devices to your network, you may need to revisit the SLA with your services provider.

Once you start working with a managed service provider, the remote team will take over on day-to-day monitoring and maintenance for your network, sometimes including jobs like antivirus protection. They’ll proactively monitor for threats if you need security services for your IT network. Depending on your service agreement, you may be able to contact your service provider after hours and on weekends if an emergency should occur.

Installing and Deploying a Network

black router switch with cablesSome managed service providers can install cabling and deploy networks at your business in addition to proactively managing them. If you need your managed service provider to install anything at your business, such as a Wi-Fi network, they may first need to visit your business to do a site survey and determine the best way to install the network. Once they’ve completed a site survey, they may need to run cabling through your business to properly set up your network. This might be a more involved process, depending on the layout of your business location and what you need.

The advantage of having an IT services provider install and then manage your network is consistency. Having the same team monitor the network they installed is helpful because they’ll already know the technical specifications of the infrastructure. At Data Line, for example, we can run site surveys, deploy a network and then monitor it to ensure it runs at peak efficiency for your business.

Monitoring Your Network

When a managed service provider takes over to monitor your network, they can use a combination of live agents and software. Some remote monitoring software can alert an agent if there’s ever an issue with the network itself. Both the software and the MSP work to make sure your network is running smoothly.

IT service providers use remote monitoring and managing (RMM) software for networks and servers. RMM software enables the MSP company to easily manage your network and closely monitor it without sitting next to a server. If something goes wrong, or if a server on the network isn’t operating as it should, the RMM software notifies a system administrator. This software can also make it much easier to apply important updates, like security patches. It can even automate routine processes like finding more disk space for a server.

Automation removes some of the chances for human error and can improve response times if a problem ever arises with your network or system. It makes it much easier for the MSP provider to pinpoint the exact issue and fix it. No matter where you’re located, an MSP provider should be able to remotely manage your network, systems and applications. You’ll have faster response times to issues and potentially less downtime.

The Types of Managed Service Providers

If you need different kinds of managed services for your business, you’re in luck. There are many different types of MSP companies and their offerings can vary. Specialized managed service providers exist for industries like law, finance, healthcare and even government agencies. Depending on what kind of business you have, you may need a specialized MSP company to manage your network.

One key difference to note is that the rise of the cloud has changed how some managed service providers work. A cloud network service provider will have all of the servers, hardware and potentially their data center all in one location. This can be a good option if you don’t want to worry about replacing obsolete hardware.

The market for managed IT services is huge and only expected to grow in the coming years, especially with the rise of the cloud. So when it comes to selecting an MSP company, you want to make sure they can manage everything from start to finish, including data recovery and backups.

The Different Types of MSP Providers

Network Infrastructure

This pertains to the management of your business’s entire network. This can also include setting up local area networks (LAN) or wireless application protocols (WAPs).

Software as a Service (SaaS)

In this case, the MSP provides a business with a software platform. This usually has a monthly subscription attached to it.

Cloud Infrastructure

For cloud-computing MSPs, the company manages the storage, infrastructure, network and more. This is one of the more technical offerings for an MSP company.

Communication Services

In addition to data, an MSP can manage a business’s voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calling, messaging and video.

IT Support

A managed service provider can give you comprehensive technical support whenever you need it for your business’s network or infrastructure.

Security as a Service

Besides just supporting your network, an MSP company can help protect it with remote security services.

If you have multiple needs for your business’s IT network, a managed service provider can work with you to come up with a personalized plan. If your business handles sensitive information on a daily basis, you’ll also want to take that into account when choosing an IT managed services provider to make sure they can take the right security precautions. At times, your managed services provider can also help with data recovery should you ever lose information and don’t want to risk using free data recovery software.

Working with a managed service provider that can manage more than just your network can also be important if you want to grow your business to multiple locations or bring in new technologies to your business.

Learn About the 3 Essential Benefits of Using an MSP

Download the free guide and learn three benefits to using an MSP for your IT network!

The Advantages of Using a Managed Service Provider

An MSP company can help you lower costs at your business while managing everything for you, proactively monitoring your network and maintaining your business’s IT infrastructure. You get the support of a full-time team without having to actually hire one on-site.

Small businesses with small IT networks might be able to get by with one specialist working on them, but growing businesses need something more robust. However, when technology changes so quickly, upgrading infrastructures at even a medium-sized business can be costly. That’s why opting to work with a managed service provider can be a smart investment.

Cost Effectiveness

When you work with a managed services provider, you’re contracting a third party to handle your day-to-day IT needs. While similar to outsourcing (but not quite the same as it), oftentimes working with an MSP company is the best option for growing companies that find their needs are rapidly evolving and changing.

MSP companies are an alternative to the “break/fix” or on-demand service where you’re only billed for repairs made or work done. Managed service providers try to anticipate your needs and maintain your network to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Combined with the flat-fee structure, this can boost your business’s bottom line with savings.

The other factor that makes MSP companies cost-effective is their pricing structure. Because you’ve contracted a third party, you know exactly what your costs are month to month. You also don’t have to worry about replacing equipment if all of your data is in the cloud and remotely managed.

Visibility

Besides just managing your network, an MSP can also take over reporting and performance testing. You won’t be caught off-guard by sudden drops in network performance if you have a team that’s watching it like a hawk.

two women sitting in front of a desktop computer in an officeWhen an MSP takes over managing your network, they can monitor it in relation to certain benchmarks. Should the network’s performance ever drop, the MSP knows right away there could be a problem. Many MSPs use software that can also self-diagnose and repair certain issues before they become full-blown problems that cause downtime or a poor network connection. Having that kind of coverage for your network can give you peace of mind and potentially a more optimized network.

If you opt to work with a cloud service provider, they may house all of their servers in one centralized location, so you won’t even have to worry about replacing old or obsolete equipment. You still don’t have to worry about the cost of hiring a full-time team, but you can also mitigate the costs of hardware and equipment — all great news for a growing business!

Scalability

If your business is growing quickly, any vendor you work with needs to be able to keep up with that growth. While accidents can happen and your network may run into an issue, working with the right MSP can prevent that downtime from turning into a disaster that slows productivity.

A reliable managed service provider will have the ability to monitor your network as it grows. If you open up a second business location, for example, a managed services provider should be able to monitor and manage your IT infrastructure at both locations. Some managed service providers can even help you install the network so you have consistency in your service.

When you partner with a managed services provider, you’ll be able to expand your technological horizons more easily than if you were going it alone. If you want to add more tools or if you hire more people, your network needs to be able to support your needs. Instead of having to worry about bandwidth or space, a managed services provider can help you find the best solution to keep your network connections secure and lightning fast for all of your employees.

Flexibility

Given that managed service provider teams work remotely, you can get support for your business if you ever have an emergency. If you need it, you can also have a team work on-site to help with more complicated problems.

A remote managed services provider can also manage more than just data. They can handle communications across your network as well, along with payroll and Human Resources in some cases. The versatility and flexibility of remote management and IT service providers make them ideal for businesses that can’t employ a full-time support team.

Responsiveness

man sitting at a desk working on a managed service provider project for a clientA managed services provider can proactively monitor your network for you, keeping an eye out for potential security threats or issues, like needing more memory. Having an external team monitor your network and servers is more reliable, as they can keep working if a server does go down. They can also automate certain processes like backing up data. This kind of proactivity makes MSP teams responsive, and you can still get the tech support you need in a pinch.

If your servers go down, you want them back up as soon as possible. Downtime can be costly, after all. While other companies might charge for services rendered in case of an emergency, some MSP companies may charge you a flat fee for this kind of 24/7 “concierge” service, or offer it as a feature in tiered pricing packages. This kind of fast response time is crucial if you want to keep productivity up, so always being able to get a hold of someone to fix a problem could potentially save you from hours of missed revenue opportunities.

Security

When you start working with a managed service provider team, you may wonder how they’ll keep your network and all of your data safe. “Wi-Fi hijacking,” for example, can occur when hackers are able to access your network and could use it to extract data from the websites you visit or infect your computer with a virus.

An IT service provider can protect your network with a firewall or even a VPN (virtual private network). To more proactively protect your network, the team can also use antivirus software to make sure no devices on the network are infected. The team can also update software and apply patches to make sure there are no vulnerabilities in your network that hackers can exploit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Not all MSP companies are created equal. Before you sign up with any managed service provider, it’s important you know they can give you with the support you need. Being armed with the knowledge of not just what you need but how much support you need can play a role in choosing the right managed service provider.

What is the difference between managed services and outsourcing?

Managed services are a more holistic solution than outsourcing. Outsourcing companies don’t manage the services they provide.

What are managed services in the telecom industry?

In the telecom industry, managed services and remote management help streamline operations for your IT network.

What kind of managed service providers are out there?

There are many different kinds of MSP companies out there. Some may specialize in cloud computing, while others handle communications or both.

Are MSP teams completely remote?

They can be, but it can depend on the MSP company you work with.

What kind of pricing do managed service providers offer?

Pricing can depend on the MSP you work with. They might have a tiered structure, “all-in-one” pricing or a monthly subscription.

Do I have to sign a contract for managed services?

You may need to sign a service level agreement (SLA) to establish the services the MSP company will provide you.

Can MSP teams work on-site?

If you need on-site support, an MSP company can work with you to get the help you need.

Do managed service providers work with multiple business locations?

They can, since they can remotely manage your network. If you work with a cloud network services provider, it may be a matter of simply adding onto your SLA.

What kind of security do MSP companies provide?

MSP companies actively monitor networks for threats or vulnerabilities on your network. They can also monitor bandwidth use to protect your business’s network and the devices on it.

What to Know About Managed Service Providers

When you sign up with a managed service provider company, you’re not just signing up for a new piece of software. You’re contracting a third-party team to manage your IT infrastructure and network. Working with an MSP can reduce costs and boost productivity, but you may have specific questions about exactly what a managed service provider does on your network.

You’re entrusting your business’s data to someone else, so knowing everything you can about MSP companies and how they operate is important for deciding if managed service providers are a good fit for you and your business. When it comes time to choose an MSP, being prepared and armed with specific questions as it pertains to your business or industry is always best.

What Kind of Businesses Use Managed Service Providers?

Often, small businesses don’t have the IT infrastructure in place that would require a managed service provider or a team of IT specialists. But if your business is growing, along with your IT needs, then an MSP provider may be a good fit for you. If you don’t have the technical know-how to handle your IT network yourself, an MSP can help.

The best networks are scalable, so it almost goes without saying your managed service provider needs to be able to keep up with any new technology you add. Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that plan on expanding and growing, or are already feeling growing pains, will want the support and reliability of a dedicated managed service provider.

group of business people sitting in a meeting in a conference roomWhile there are different kinds of MSP companies, that doesn’t mean MSPs are only for corporations with a lot of employees. Businesses across a variety of industries can use managed services, from financial services to law and even logistics. A managed service provider will have the knowledge and experience to work with your business and take care of any considerations you might need.

Convenience and reliability are two big perks of working with a managed service provider. Working with an MSP means you can get back to focusing on the core activities of your business instead of maintaining the network yourself.

The Cost of Using an MSP Company

The managed services market is vast, and different providers have different pricing structures to set themselves apart. This variety of options can give business owners flexibility for their needs. Depending on the size of your network and the amount of people using it, you might want to consider using managed service provider companies as long-term investment and strategy.

Here are a few different types of pricing you might encounter while looking for a managed services provider:

  • Per device: In this particular pricing structure, the business is charged for each device that the provider manages.
  • Per user: For per-user pricing, the service provider charges you for every user that’s on your network.
  • Tiered: A tiered pricing structure has different features and service options included at varying degrees and prices. At the lowest tier, for instance, you may only be able to submit a support ticket. Whereas, at the highest tier, you could receive 24/7 support over the phone, chat or email.
  • Flat fee: Sometimes called “all-inclusive” pricing, this particular structure charges one flat fee for the MSP company’s services.

Pricing can be a deciding factor for which managed service provider you ultimately choose to work with. If you have a large business with many devices and users, you’ll probably need more support. Per-device or per-user pricing may not be the most economical option for you. If you want 24/7 or “on call” support with on-site help when needed, you may want to look into all-inclusive pricing that includes high levels of support. You can always revisit your needs if you find that you need more support than your contract provides for.

What’s the Difference Between Managed Services and Outsourcing?

Managed services and outsourcing are two different things, though the terms are used interchangeably at times. Outsourcing is often synonymous with offshoring or near-shoring and reduces costs by finding more inexpensive goods or services. The key difference between outsourcing and managed services is in the managing of the service itself.

When you outsource something like accounting, you’re contracting a third party for the service itself. You’ve picked a specific service to outsource to a third party. You wouldn’t expect your outsourced accountant to also act as your HR manager if you haven’t contracted them for that service as well. When it comes to outsourcing, you’re only contracted for the one service, so it’s a great option for non-IT related tasks like data entry. But when it comes to more technical IT support, managed service providers can be a better fit.

When you work with a managed service provider, you’re taking a more holistic approach. Instead of just one particular service, you’re contracting with the third party to manage multiple services at the same time. Your managed service provider is almost like a consultant because they provide support and troubleshooting for your network if something happens. Managed service providers often work on many different pieces of technology — not just one area.

What Does a MSP Company Manage on My Network?

group of professionals in a meetingSMBs turn to managed services providers to help boost productivity so they can keep working efficiently. If you don’t have a full-time IT team, you could be risking serious downtime if something ever happened to your servers and network.

One of the main things managed service providers do is mitigate the risks of downtime as much as possible with their proactive monitoring and management. Besides the networks themselves, the MSP company can monitor hardware and devices that use the network and the bandwidth use. Monitoring these two components can help prevent malware or computer viruses from attacking your business’s network.

Managing all these different aspects of your IT infrastructure doesn’t just secure your network, it also prevents the possibility of prolonged downtime. Reactively fixing parts of your network can be costly and that can really add up. Being prepared and using a managed services provider can better protect your business and minimize the risk of interruptions, increasing your overall productivity.

Conclusion

Managed service providers are a smart way to remotely manage your business’s entire IT framework and your network. Whether you’re currently experiencing growing pains or if you envision your business growing quickly, an MSP company can step in to give you the expertise and support you need.

At Data Line, we understand you don’t always have time to monitor your network in between your core business activities. Our remote management team will monitor your network so it’s running at peak efficiency, and you don’t have to hire a full-time IT team.

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