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Should Your Business use a Managed Service Provider?

Written by Nauman Rehmat

IT raises some interesting questions for small and medium-size businesses. It’s often a crucial part of your company – but it’s also often one of the largest operating costs you’ll face.

Those operation costs tend to be significantly increased when you bring staff on board to maintain your IT equipment and systems. Of course, keeping the lights on in this manner is entirely necessary – but does it have to be done by an in-house team?

Every business is different – so there’s no prescriptive right or wrong answer to that question – instead, we’ve posted a series of questions for you to help you decide whether or not you’d see some benefit from using a managed service provider (MSP).

Is IT an integral part of your company?

Not all companies rely on IT – but if you do, it’s vital that you’ve got people onside who you trust to keep things operating as they should. When you employ the services of an MSP, you’ll draw up a contract that outlines exactly what you expect from them.

That contract is generally laid out as a ‘service level agreement’ – or SLA. Your specific SLA should outline what your requirements are – so if IT forms the foundation of the services you deliver, making sure it’s looked after in a way that works for you is vital.

Is IT handled proactively – or reactively?

It’s easy to accept the status quo when you’re dealing with IT – but if that current way of working involves waiting for issues to arise before they’re dealt with, then you could be causing yourself unnecessary downtime and cost.

A well-managed service provider will be able to monitor what’s happening with your network at all times – even when your in-house IT team would normally be asleep. They’ll be able to look at what your network is doing – as well as when it’s over-utilized.

World class MSPs will be able to drill down to an application level – looking at specific applications and the impact they’re having on a minute by minute basis – which is why the best support will be able to raise up to 95% of IT issues proactively. If you’d rather know about solutions instead of problems, finding a good MSP might be a good step.

What happens when your team is off?

There’s a host of reasons your IT team might not be in the office:

  • Sickness
  • Holidays
  • Leave
  • Resignation

…and many more. The trouble is, your IT requirements don’t rest. In fact, IT professionals suggest that 80% of their time is spent simply ‘keeping the lights on’ – that’s to say, just making sure your network runs as it should.

So what do you do when your team isn’t in? Do you then outsource for cover? Or do you employ additional people to make sure you’ve always got a backup? Both of these options add to an already large wage bill for the team in question.

If you want to make sure your IT is looked after 24/7/365 – talking to an MSP is a really smart step. Even if they face their own staffing issues, that won’t be felt by you – instead, you’ll have an on-going cover of your IT needs, based on the service level agreement that’s in place.

What are your recruitment experiences like?

Recruiting costs a lot of money. It might not appear to be the case – but by the time you’ve factored in the time your decision makers have spent away from their desks – as well as any upfront financial costs, that figure will quickly add up.

Using an MSP gives you immediate access to a full team of people who’ve got the skills you need – and, if by some chance they don’t – then maintaining your search until you find one that does – it won’t take long!

Do you have the experience you need in your team?

It’s easy to consider all IT professionals as coming with the same level of experience – but in reality, this just isn’t the case.

When you take someone on as part of your in-house team, their day-to-day working knowledge is limited to what they’re working on – and whatever experience they’ve brought with them.

While this is acceptable if your business will sit ‘as-is’ for a long period of time, it’s not ideal if you’d like someone who can fully anticipate and account for the issues that can arise when you’re scaling up, scaling down, moving offices, integrating new systems – and so forth. If you have to expand your team’s abilities by bringing additional staff or consultants in for particular projects, you’ll see an often significant rise in staffing costs for that month.

When you bring a managed service provider onboard, rather than handling IT in-house, you’re opening your doors to a team of people who’ve got a tremendous breadth of knowledge that can cover a world of business possibilities. On a daily basis, an MSP staff member is likely to be handling the same number of issues and systems that an in-house team member may not even encounter in a year.

What do training costs look like?

IT training costs are likely to outweigh any other staff development costs in your company – often significantly. In fact, IT training tends to sit just behind equipment costs and wage bills when you break down expenditure down.

Part of the problem is the pace at which IT moves. If you want to keep your people (and therefore your systems) up to speed, then you need to have a constant eye on training and accreditations.

When you work with an MSP, you can simply forget about these logistical challenges. As part of the fundamentals that will make up your service level agreement, an MSP will make sure that their team is trained in up-to-the-minute systems developments. The other point worth considering is the consistency of cover despite this training – when you send an in-house team away for their latest Microsoft course, you’ll have to find cover – but an MSP will always be at the end of the phone, even if their team is training.

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