Think you know what a Managed Services Provider (MSP) is and what they do? It may surprise you to learn that many people have different definitions of an MSP, and that’s because not all MSPs are created equally.
For example, you may expect an MSP to perform setup, installation and configuration of your equipment, whereas the MSP expects initial setup to have been completed already. You may also expect an MSP to adjust settings frequently to improve performance, while the MSP may only document a “current running state” and maintain it. Additionally, you may expect an MSP to repair and replace equipment, while the MSP may only perform this service if the equipment is under warranty.
To ensure that you and your provider are on the same page, all items should be listed within a strict service level agreement (SLA). This is a legally binding contract between you and your MSP that’s designed to ensure a minimum level of service is maintained, and establish a mutual understanding of which responsibilities lie with the provider, and which are controlled by the customer (read more about SLAs here).
Defining an Managed Services Provider
The best way to describe an MSP is a partner who takes on the responsibility of managing your IT infrastructure. You essentially give your MSP the keys to your servers and other network equipment, and they keep the environment current and running smoothly.
To accomplish this, an MSP uses a variety of tools that automate daily maintenance tasks. They also remotely review system logs, automated alerts for equipment failures, and the thresholds that can cause stress on your systems. The MSP you select should also be security focused, monitoring and applying patches as necessary to ensure there are no holes or vulnerabilities that could enable hackers, or other unauthorized users, to access your network.
Why Do I Need an Managed Services Provider?
You may think to yourself, “I have IT personnel, why would I need an MSP?” Even if your IT personnel keep themselves current on their certifications, using an MSP offers the redundancy that you may not have otherwise had, ensuring that your data is always available when you need it. If someone from your IT department goes on vacation or falls ill, will you feel comfortable knowing that the IT ship is unmanned? Given that your IT personnel must work with your MSP, standards in documentation should be established immediately. This provides a contingency plan, in case an IT resource is no longer available.
With an MSP focused on maintaining your infrastructure, your IT personnel can take on more of a business role. They know your users and your business, allowing them to focus on your needs to make sure they are being met by the technology supporting them.
7 Questions to Ask a Managed Services Provider
If you are looking for an MSP, here are seven questions to ask (and validate that the answers are detailed on your SLA).
1. How will you review my systems for errors and stresses?
2. How will you ensure my business remains operational in the event of a failure or disaster?
3. What level of expertise does your team provide its customers?
4. How can I refocus my existing IT personnel while you take over management of my infrastructure?
5. What tactics do you employ to ensure the security of your environment?
6. Do you provide offsite and onsite services?
7. How will documentation of your systems be shared?
The right MSP can provide all the tools and services you need to keep your infrastructure in order. Think of them as an extension of your IT department, or for smaller organizations, you can consider using them as the IT Department, providing you with the expertise and resilience that your company is looking for. Looking to speak with an expert about the benefits of Managed IT Services? Contact DSM today, or learn more about our Managed IT Services here.