Onboarding managed service providers (MSPs) can be a complex process. This guide aims to help you understand the concept of MSPs and simplify the onboarding process. We define managed service providers, their roles and types, and explore other crucial considerations.
Managed service providers (MSPs) are companies that assume responsibility for providing IT services to other businesses. MSPs allow organizations to outsource some or all of their IT operations to an expert team so they can focus on their core business activities.
Typical services provided by an MSP include help desk support, network monitoring, data backup and disaster recovery, security management, and hardware maintenance. However, offerings vary by provider. Many MSPs start by offering basic monitoring and management of core infrastructure like servers, networks, and end user devices. From there, they layer on additional services to fully outsource a client’s IT environment.
MSPs deliver services remotely from their own data centers and network operations centers (NOCs). The MSP assumes responsibility for the hardware and software services provided and delivers services to customers on a subscription basis. This “as-a-service” model allows businesses to pay a predictable monthly fee for IT services rather than investing capital in technology infrastructure and staff.
Most MSPs use remote monitoring and management (RMM) software to maintain and troubleshoot IT issues across their client base. RMM tools allow technicians to perform tasks like server patching, endpoint protection, and backup jobs for all customers from a central dashboard. MSPs can troubleshoot problems quickly using comprehensive reporting and automation capabilities.
MSPs act as an outsourced IT department for small and medium-sized businesses. Engaging an MSP transfers the burden of managing IT to outsourced experts, allowing internal tech staff to focus on strategic projects. The business benefits from enterprise-grade IT infrastructure and support without having to hire in-house IT professionals.
MSPs enable larger companies to offload routine IT functions to optimize internal resources. Businesses can leverage MSPs for specific technologies like cloud, mobility, or security while maintaining in-house IT staff for other critical systems.
MSPs have differing areas of specialty, but generally focus on managing common technologies like:
- Help desk services and end user device management
- Server, storage, and network infrastructure monitoring
- Backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity solutions
- Cloud hosting, migration services, and ongoing management
- Cybersecurity services like firewall management and endpoint detection and response
- Business applications, software licensing, and patch management
Larger MSPs can provide a full set of services to take over management of the client’s entire technology environment. Smaller providers may specialize in certain areas like hosted VoIP, desktop management, or backup services. Industry vertical specialization is also common, with providers tailored to legal, healthcare, financial services, or other markets.
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Choosing the right managed service provider (MSP) is crucial for any organization looking to outsource IT operations. When evaluating MSPs, consider the following:
- Industry experience: Look for an MSP with experience in your industry. They will better understand your business needs and technical requirements.
- Services offered: The MSP should provide all of the services you need, like network monitoring, helpdesk support, backup and recovery, and so on. Review their service catalogs.
- Technical expertise: Examine their technical capabilities across servers, networks, security, cloud, and more. Check the certifications held by their technicians.
- Client references: Ask for references from current clients in your industry. Contact them to learn about their experience with the MSP.
- Security measures: Review their security practices for things like endpoint protection, network security, and access controls. Ask about the security certifications they hold.
- Support model: Find their support model (onsite, remote, helpdesk) and guaranteed response times based on priority levels.
- Reporting: Make sure they provide detailed reporting on IT performance, issues, and project status.
- Pricing model: Compare pricing models like per user, block hours, and bundled services. Get an itemized breakdown of their costs.
- SLA commitments: Review service-level agreements (SLAs) to make sure adequate uptime, response times, and staffing levels are guaranteed.
- Scalability: Assess their ability to scale services during growth periods and as your needs change over time.
- Cultural fit: Gauge soft skills like communication styles, values, and work ethic. There should be good rapport with management.
Consider both large national providers and local/regional MSPs. Larger providers offer wider capabilities, while local providers offer more personalized service.
When onboarding an MSP, clearly define the scope of services required. Being specific upfront prevents a mismatch.
- Document key details like covered locations/sites, number of users, types of hardware supported, and network bandwidth needs. Provide inventory details.
- Specify required services like server monitoring, patch management, backup and recovery, and firewall management. Rank them by importance.
- Outline special projects like new software implementations, office moves, and hardware refreshes.
- Clarify roles & responsibilities between your team and the MSP for each service. Who handles tasks like procurement, change approval, and monitoring?
- Set expectations for response times based on issue severity. Define emergency procedures for critical outages.
- Require the MSP to document their processes for standard operating procedures, change control, and problem management. Ask to review them.
- Set guidelines for procuring hardware/software, like requiring three vendor quotes for large purchases or adhering to specific standards.
- Outline requirements for reports like performance metrics, asset inventory, change log, and project status. Agree on frequency and format.
- Specify communication protocols for meetings, status updates, and notifications. Exchange contact lists and escalation procedures.
- Document compliance needs for security, regulations, data protection, and audits related to your industry.
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