Do you have a business that is growing? You feel that the IT infrastructure is getting a little out of hand to say the least? You don’t know the best way to make sure data is backed up and restored if necessary? And you certainly don’t want your IT to be what is holding your business success back.

In this article we look at some common questions that you may ask when looking to outsource your IT management, starting with the most obvious question… What is a managed service provider?

What is a managed service provider?

A managed service provider (MSP) is an external company that offers comprehensive IT services and support to organisations. MSPs specialise in managing and overseeing a range of IT functions and systems on behalf of their clients. Partnering with a managed services provider is essential for small and medium sized businesses as it allows the client to focus on their business rather than the IT - no stressing about extended system downtimes or service interruptions.

Managed services from an MSP include network monitoring and data protection. Through proactive monitoring, and constant device maintenance, MSPs can easily detect and resolve problems. A good managed services provider has an overall view of your business. This allows the managed service provider to provide highly efficient technical support and enhanced service, and offer the best IT solutions for your business needs. Other examples of things MSPs would manage include support service fixes, ad-hoc support, remote management of IT systems, software subscriptions, cloud migrations, and voice and internet to name a few.

How do MSPs work?

When managed service providers are requested to fulfil the objectives or functions of an organisation, they are usually required to fill gaps in the organisations IT. Generally a client would need help with their IT due to either not having enough IT knowledge or enough time, and so need a hand managing their IT or implementing a one off IT project.

In general, communications between the MSP and the organisation begin by evaluating the current situation. During the analysis, there could be potential opportunities for improvement in the clients IT infrastructure or cyber security. Every organisation is different and will have different IT requirements, and so a 'one-size-fits-all' approach does not work. Therefore, MSPs offer many different managed services and solutions.

What services do managed IT service providers offer?

Here are the main services that an MSP provides:

  1. IT support and maintenance: A managed service provider offers ongoing IT support, troubleshooting, and maintenance services to ensure the smooth operation of your technology infrastructure. This includes tasks such as software installation and updates, system monitoring, and resolving technical issues.
  2. Proactive monitoring and management: MSPs use advanced tools and technologies to monitor your systems and networks continuously. They can identify potential problems and address them before they become major issues, thereby minimising downtime and disruptions.
  3. Network and infrastructure management: MSPs handle the management and maintenance of your network infrastructure, including servers, routers, switches, and firewalls. They can optimise network performance, ensure security measures are in place, and provide scalable solutions as your business grows.
  4. Data backup and recovery: MSPs implement robust data backup strategies to protect your critical business data. They regularly back up your files and applications, often using secure offsite or cloud-based storage. In the event of data loss or a disaster, MSPs can help restore your systems and recover your data.
  5. Security services: Its not just about helping out smaller companies with general IT issues anymore, cyber security is becoming more and more prolific and every business needs increased protection. Top managed service providers prioritise cyber security and employ various measures to protect your business from threats such as malware, ransomware, and data breaches. They offer fully managed security for organisations where they implement security protocols, monitor for suspicious activities, conduct vulnerability assessments, and offer proactive security solutions.
  6. IT consulting and strategy: MSPs often provide IT consulting services to both small businesses and large corporations, offering guidance on technology investments, infrastructure planning, and digital transformation initiatives. They can assess your current IT environment, identify areas for improvement, and develop a roadmap to align your technology with your business goals.

What are the benefits of using a managed IT services provider?

In short, partnering with a managed IT services provider offers numerous benefits, including cost savings, access to expertise, proactive maintenance, proactive support, enhanced security, scalability, focus on core competencies, and round-the-clock support. By leveraging their knowledge and resources, you can streamline your IT operations and achieve greater efficiency, ultimately contributing to your business's growth and success.

Here are some key advantages in a little more detail:

  1. Cost savings: Managed IT services from managed service providers can offer a cost-effective solution compared to hiring and maintaining an in-house IT team. You can avoid the expenses associated with recruiting, training, salaries, benefits, and infrastructure. With a managed services provider, you pay a predictable monthly fee for the services you need, helping you budget more effectively. This way you can save money and have IT professionals on hand.
  2. Expertise and experience: Managed IT service providers specialise in delivering IT solutions. They have a team of highly skilled professionals with diverse expertise and experience in various technologies and industries. By partnering with them, you gain access to a wealth of knowledge and best practices that can optimise your IT infrastructure and keep you ahead of the curve.
  3. Proactive maintenance and support: Managed service providers focus on proactive monitoring and maintenance to prevent potential IT issues before they occur. They employ advanced tools and technologies to monitor your systems, detect vulnerabilities, and apply necessary patches and updates. This proactive approach helps minimise downtime and ensures smooth operations.
  4. Enhanced security: Cyber security threats are a constant concern for businesses. Managed IT service providers implement robust security measures to protect your data, network, and systems. They stay updated with the latest security trends, employ advanced security solutions, and follow industry best practices to safeguard your business from cyber attacks and data breaches. Remote monitoring of end user systems, with the help of a SOC service, helps to spot and block potential cyber security breaches to further protect the clients business data.
  5. Scalability and flexibility: As your business grows, your IT requirements may change. Managed service providers offer scalable solutions that can easily accommodate your evolving needs. Whether you need to add new users, expand your infrastructure, or implement new technologies, they can quickly adapt and scale your IT environment accordingly.
  6. Focus on core competencies: By outsourcing your IT needs to a managed services provider, you free up valuable time and resources for your internal team to focus on core business activities. Instead of troubleshooting IT issues or handling routine maintenance tasks, your employees can concentrate on strategic initiatives and projects that drive your business forward.
  7. 24/7 Support: Many leading IT managed service providers offer round-the-clock support, both on-site and remote support, ensuring that you have assistance whenever you need it. Whether it's an urgent issue in the middle of the night or a weekend, you can rely on their dedicated support team to resolve problems promptly and minimise any potential disruptions.

What should I look for in a managed service provider?

When selecting a managed IT service provider (MSP), it's important to consider the following factors:

  1. Expertise and services: Assess the MSP's expertise and the range of services they offer. Determine if their skill set aligns with your specific business needs. Look for certifications, industry partnerships, and experience in managing similar environments or industries.
  2. Service level agreements (SLAs): Review the MSP's SLAs to understand the level of support and response times they guarantee. Ensure that their SLAs align with your business requirements and that they provide proactive monitoring, regular maintenance, and timely issue resolution.
  3. Scalability and flexibility: Consider your business's growth plans and ascertain if the MSP can accommodate your evolving needs. Ensure they can scale their services and infrastructure to match your business strategy and requirements without causing disruptions.
  4. Security measures: Cyber security is crucial in today's digital landscape. Evaluate the security practices, including data protection, encryption, firewalls, intrusion detection systems network monitoring, and employee training offered by the managed service provider. Inquire about their incident response and disaster recovery plans to ensure your data remains secure and recoverable in case of an emergency.
  5. Reliability and uptime: Check the MSP's track record for system availability and uptime. Look for guarantees regarding network reliability, data backup, and redundancy measures they have in place to minimise downtime and ensure continuous business operations.
  6. Proactive monitoring and maintenance: Inquire about the MSP's monitoring tools and processes. They should actively monitor your systems, networks, and applications to identify and address issues before they impact your business. They should be able to do this across multiple devices simultaneously. Understand their approach to regular maintenance, updates, and patch management.
  7. Communication and support: Assess the MSP's communication channels and support options. Determine how accessible they are for support requests, whether they provide a dedicated point of contact, and the availability of 24/7 support. Clear communication and prompt support are vital for timely issue resolution.
  8. Client references and reviews: Request client references or case studies to gain insights into the MSP's reputation and customer satisfaction. Read reviews and testimonials to understand the experiences of other businesses who have worked with the MSP.
  9. Compliance and regulations: If your business operates in a regulated industry, ensure that the MSP understands and complies with the relevant regulations, such as data privacy laws or industry-specific compliance requirements (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR).
  10. Cost structure: Evaluate the MSP's pricing structure and ensure it aligns with your budget. Understand the services included in the pricing, any additional costs for specific services, and whether they offer customisable packages to meet your specific needs.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when selecting a Managed IT Service Provider that best fits your business requirements and goals.

Can Managed IT Services Help With Compliance?

Yes, managed IT services can be a significant asset when it comes to compliance. Here's how:

  1. Knowledge and expertise: Managed IT service providers (MSPs) usually have knowledge and expertise about different compliance regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, SOX, etc., which many businesses must follow. They can help align IT processes with these regulations and provide advice on how to maintain compliance.
  2. Policy development: Managed service providers can assist in developing and implementing IT policies and procedures that are in compliance with relevant standards and regulations. This can include security policies, data handling procedures, disaster recovery plans, etc.
  3. Security: Compliance often requires a certain level of data security. MSPs can provide services like network security, intrusion detection, encryption, and other cyber security measures to help businesses meet these requirements.
  4. Auditing and reporting: Many compliance regulations require regular audits and reports. An IT partner can handle these tasks, providing necessary documentation and evidence needed for compliance reviews.
  5. Training: Managed services can help train your staff on compliance rules and guidelines, reducing the risk of inadvertent violations. The training includes creating an understanding of various cyber threats like phishing, ransomware, malware, and social engineering tactics. Through the training, employees learn about safe online practices, ways to secure their digital information, and steps to take if a serious cyber security threat is detected.
  6. Data management: MSPs can ensure that your data is stored, handled, and destroyed in a manner that is compliant with all applicable regulations.
  7. Updates and continuous compliance: Compliance requirements often change and need to be updated. MSPs can stay on top of these changes and implement them as required, ensuring continuous compliance.
  8. Disaster recovery and business continuity: Many regulations require businesses to have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan. MSPs can help design, implement, and test these plans.

Remember, however, that the specific services offered can vary between different IT providers. Therefore, it's important to discuss your specific compliance needs with potential providers to ensure they can provide the necessary support.

There’s More!…

There are many, many more questions we could answer for you, however we already answer many of your questions and concerns in our ‘IT Services Buyers Guide’. The guide includes questions you should ask any potential MSP that you may be looking to engage the services of.

If you are looking for someone to manage your businesses IT services, please get in touch. Click here to book a 15 minute discovery call to see if we are the right fit for your business.

July 06, 2023 — Paul Stanyer