Information technology (IT) is the use of computers, networking, storage, and other devices, infrastructure, and processes to process, retrieve, store, create, secure and exchange types of electronic data. Managed IT or IT support services includes:
- Maintenance and monitoring of computers & servers
- Network infrastructure (hardware, software, networking)
- Phone systems (VoIP- voice over internet protocol)
- Cloud services (data management, data back-up)
- Disaster recovery
- Basic cyber security
Outsourcing these IT issues to a company is referred to as managed IT or IT support services. The business that provides these services is called a managed service provider (MSP). Some businesses choose to hire internal IT employees and partner with a managed IT company that supports their IT team. This is often referred to as co-managed IT. Other businesses choose to outsource all their IT needs to an MSP.
Some of the key reasons business owners hire MSPs
The bottom line: IT issues are too complex, take too much of their time, and are too costly.
Business leaders just want someone else with IT knowledge and experience to take care of it, so they can have more time to focus on the aspects of their business they know best and grow.
Frequently Asked Questions about Managed IT Services
MSPs typically offer a flat-rate monthly fee to manage your IT. This fee depends on several factors such as how many end-users (employees who use computer technology), how many computers and servers, your company’s cyber security needs, how many office locations, and even industry specific needs.
Prices can vary greatly from one MSP to the next. This can make shopping for IT services challenging because not all MSPs advertise their pricing with clear explanations of what you’re getting for that price.
Based on industry research, a small business with 10 employees might pay $1300-$2300 per month for quality managed IT depending upon the complexity of their IT needs. A business with 50 employees might pay between $5500 – $8500. Most MSPs have a one-time onboarding fee for new clients. Some MSPs may require a technology discovery fee to cover the time it takes their experts to explore your network infrastructure and create a proposal.
Most managed IT companies offer a base user price. For example, the prices might start at $100 per user per month. They provide specific services for that fee. Depending on your IT needs, they may add other services or tools which may change the overall monthly price.
If you have IT employees, but they need the support and expertise of an IT company, then co-managed services may be a good option for your business. A co-managed plan supplements and supports the services provided by your internal IT team. It creates a partnership between your business and the MSP with shared responsibility. This may be the solution if your team lacks expertise in a certain area, your team is small, or there’s project work that your team can’t handle.
This seems like an easy question to answer right? When you hire in-house IT employees, you have an IT department that “belongs” to your business. They’re a part of your team. This can be a great thing. However, the ownership and responsibility for your IT rests solely on your shoulders. Ownership means someone in your organization must manage these employees and a growing IT department. This is a hidden expense of time and money.
Effectively managing and overseeing the quality of your IT department requires knowledge, research, and time learning IT. You must track their response and resolution times and make sure they have the skills and tools they need to do their jobs. You have to speak their language in order to evaluate their performance. Do you know what to track? How do you know that the “experts” you hired are doing what is necessary to manage your office IT well?
Ultimately you must ask yourself: Do I have someone on my team who is knowledgeable enough about IT to manage these employees and hold them accountable? If you do, then this may just be the right option for you. If not, are you willing to hire someone who is qualified?
If you’re weighing your options, you may want to read this article: Hiring internal IT employees vs. hiring an IT company.
When you ask for quotes from different IT companies, it might be tempting to think the lowest bid you receive among a couple of MSPs is the best option, but that’s not always the case. Not all MSPs are created equally. One of the biggest problems business leaders face when it comes to IT is being told the work is being done when it’s not. This is how some MSPs with significantly lower bids can stay in business. They aren’t giving the man-hours or using the tools they promise to use which means they can charge less and still make money while their clients are none the wiser. It begs the question: How do you know if the work is being done if you don’t have the expertise to check up on it? When comparing MSPs, start with experience and expertise, and look for the following:
- Accountability: Find an MSP that documents their work, gives access to those documents, and meets with you to explain and prove they’re accountable. Then hold yourself or someone in your organization accountable to reviewing those documents and staying engaged.
- Reputability: Find an MSP that has a good reputable and is trustworthy. This comes back to the culture of the organization. Talk to their clients.
- Security: A cyber breach could cripple or destroy your business. Don’t settle. Find an MSP that offers advanced security measures. If they offer managed security services and cyber security incident response services that’s even better.
Remember the adage “you get what you pay for.” If the deal looks too good, then it’s likely not good at all. Everything depends on technology these days. A low-end managed IT quote that looks tempting now could be a nightmare later if you must pay another company to assess and fix your network infrastructure. Do your research.
MSPs typically provide network, application, databases, device, and other general IT support that include some basic level of security services. Beyond deploying some of the popular cyber security software and tools (i.e., anti-malware, remote monitoring, and firewall), most MSPs don’t have significant cyber security expertise and experience. A trustworthy MSP will admit if this is not their wheelhouse and may be able to point you to someone who can.
With the increase in persistent and advanced IT security threats, there appeared managed security service providers (MSSPs) whose focus is cyber security and offering a “manned” security operation center (SOC) that watches your network 24/7 and alerts you to security threats. As you can imagine, MSSPs can be very expensive. Not every business can afford an MSSP, but many businesses do need more advanced security measures than your average MSP provides. The jump to using an MSSP isn’t always feasible for an SMB.
To fill that gap, some MSPs have security divisions that provide managed security services. These services provide an extra layer of protection with vulnerability scanning, security alerts, reviews and recommendations, c-level consulting with a virtual Chief Information Security Officer, compliance support, and in some cases, access to a security incident response team when the network has been hacked. Managed security is viable option for the business that can’t afford an MSSP and isn’t looking to pay for the services of a 24/7 security operations center (SOC).
Whether you’ve used an MSP before or you’re considering managed IT for the first time, take time to do your homework. Here are few more resources to help with the process:
Hiring internal IT employees vs. hiring an IT company
Business Owners IT Services Buyer’s Guide