What Managed Services Do Small Businesses Need?
What Are Managed Services?
Managed services are the IT operations, functions, and processes that an organization chooses to outsource to a third-party external managed services provider (MSP).
The organization signs a contract with the MSP known as the service level agreement (SLA) that outlines the MSP’s roles and responsibilities when monitoring and managing your IT services.
According to IT trade association CompTIA, 64 percent of companies are now using MSPs for at least one of their IT functions. Businesses partner with MSPs for a variety of reasons, from bolstering their security to saving money on in-house IT personnel.
This latter point is especially important for small and medium businesses, who often lack the budget and expertise to adequately keep track of their IT environment. SMBs are already overloaded with the day-to-day requirements of running a business, and they don’t have the time to wait for this knowledge to develop organically within the organization. Indeed, the “IT person” working at many SMBs often wears multiple hats when the company can’t afford to hire a dedicated in-house staff.
MSPs fill in the gaps and ease the pain points that these organizations feel. By taking responsibilities such as training, data backups, and tech support off their plate, MSPs allow companies to focus on what they do best: improving their daily operations and keeping their end users happy.
Selecting the right MSP for your situation can be worth its weight in gold. Not only will you be freeing up time and money for your core business functions, you’ll be investing in a long-term strategic partner for your organization.
Who Uses IT Managed Services?
There’s no standard profile of what the typical MSP customer looks like. Even massive firms with large, highly competent IT departments may partner with an MSP in order to gain access to skill sets that they can’t or don’t want to develop in-house. However, many MSPs specialize in working with small and medium-sized businesses, from tiny startups all the way up to mature companies with hundreds of employees.
While you can’t easily predict which businesses will become MSP clients, there’s often a precipitating event that causes them to understand the problems with their existing IT setup. Data breaches, network outages, and natural disasters can all be the tipping point that forces your hand and makes you realize just how dire your situation has become.
If you’re wondering whether you could benefit from partnering with an MSP, ask yourself these questions:
- Do we have the ability to keep devices up to date and patched to avoid potential security risks?
- Have we done due diligence to test our network for potential internal and external vulnerabilities?
- If we were to have a breach, do we have the capability to find “patient zero” and remediate on our own?
- If a lightning strike fried our hardware tomorrow, do we have a plan to get back up and running? Even if we have a plan, have we actually tested it to make sure that it’s viable?
Without a well-defined plan for recovering from a breach or disaster, your business is teetering dangerously on the edge. How much downtime is acceptable and how could it impact your business, customers, and reputation? 60 percent of small businesses shut their doors within 6 months of suffering a data breach. MSPs can help you develop plans and tactics for resiliency so that even in the worst case, your company won’t become another statistic.
How Do IT Managed Service Providers Help Small Businesses?
As mentioned above, MSPs are capable of fulfilling multiple roles for their customers. For example, a growing small business with a few hundred employees may need an internal IT help desk that can assist users with simple issues such as connecting to printers and resetting their passwords. Depending on their team members’ expertise, the right MSP can do all this and more.
Other MSP offerings are more complex and more important to the organization’s survival. For example, three-quarters of companies reported that they were the target of a phishing attack in 2017. Phishing attacks can appear very much like the real organization that they attempt to imitate, but there are often important clues that help you detect them.
MSPs with strong cybersecurity knowledge can help educate their clients about risks such as phishing emails through seminars and online training videos. They can also run simulated campaigns that imitate real phishing attacks, so that you can see how many users actually clicked on a false link or opened a dangerous attachment.
When working with a more comprehensive MSP, customers often have access to a service delivery manager, who acts as their primary point of contact throughout the MSP relationship and has a clear understanding of the client environment. This person is responsible for addressing the customer’s concerns: from the time of signing the agreement, throughout the implementation process, and all the way to giving quarterly business reviews. The service delivery manager’s job is to ensure that customers are satisfied with the MSP’s services and to plan a short-term strategy for each client in the next 3 to 12 months.
The takeaway here is that there’s no such thing as a “stock offering” from an MSP. Not only are there many different kinds of MSPs, each one tailors its services to the situation, needs, and budget of the individual customer.
Managed services aren’t about convincing you to buy the latest shiny tech widgets. The right MSP will be a long-term strategic partner that you can trust to have your best interests at heart.
For more information about finding the right MSP to align with your business goals and requirements, check out our free quiz Are IT Managed Services Right For Your Organization?