What is an MSP?

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What is an MSP?

The different services, structures, pricing models, and benefits offered by MSPs.

No matter your industry, IT problems can make or break your workday. For business owners, tech issues often pose a more problematic threat, impacting employee- and customer-facing operations throughout their teams. Hoping for an IT miracle can seem like the only solution, especially for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with minimal in-house support. Thankfully, there's a specific partnership that's financially accessible and highly beneficial in many aspects besides technology.

For businesses needing some degree of IT support, a managed service provider (MSP) offers a cost-effective solution to boost their productivity and efficiency. As with any other company, MSPs come in varying skill levels, sizes, and specialties, offering unique benefits to businesses across many industries. Learn what an MSP does, how it can be structured, and why partnering with one can benefit your company.

What does an MSP do?

TechTarget defines an MSP as a third-party company that manages a client's IT infrastructure and end-user systems through on-site and remote support. In essence, your MSP acts as an external IT department and manages anything related to technology for you. An MSP usually begins by assessing every element of your company's IT. Outside of identifying immediate and long-term improvement opportunities, your MSP evaluates the best way to support your day-to-day tech needs.  

Some of an MSP's offerings may include:

Person with an iPad

How does a partnership with an MSP work?

Similarly to partnerships with third-party vendors, MSPs depend on contractual agreements to outline service and communication expectations. Most MSPs establish clear guidelines for what companies can expect from their partnership through service level agreements (SLAs). Businesses throughout the IT industry depend on SLAs to ensure they establish detailed expectations for both parties and a precise means of measuring and reporting their performance.

According to TechTarget, these are some key components that may be outlined in an SLA:

  • Overview of the involved parties
  • Descriptions of all services offered
  • Timelines for client service deliveries
  • Relevant exclusions to service areas
  • Methods of performance assessments
  • MSP resolutions for unmet obligations
  • Protections for intellectual property
  • Procedures for performance reviews
  • Conditions for ending the partnership
IT worker training new hire

Are there different types of MSPs?

Because there's such a wide range of services offered by MSPs that specialize in varying industries, businesses can select from multiple levels of IT support. Where some MSPs may be large enough to service extensive client portfolios across the world, others often focus on a specific location at the regional or state level. Additionally, MSPs often set themselves apart by specializing in offerings for specific industries like healthcare, local government, legal services, and anything in between. According to CIO Online, there are four main service structures for MSPs.

1. Full-service

As the name implies, a full-service MSP takes a top-to-bottom approach to your company's IT. These MSPs address every aspect of your business IT infrastructure and are backed by teams with differing areas and levels of expertise. If your business needs support across a broad spectrum of IT specialties, a full-service MSP can meet your needs.

2. Specialized

If an MSP offers a considerable depth of expertise in one or two IT areas, it'd be considered a specialized provider. If your business has a solid infrastructure but needs help with a specific issue like cybersecurity or compliance, a specialized MSP with experience in that issue can help you equalize your company's IT performance by offering support for those concerns.

3. Co-managed

While a full-service MSP handles all things IT, a co-managed MSP collaborates with a company's in-house team to provide supplemental support. Co-managed MSPs offer the opportunity to access relevant IT expertise while bypassing the need to search for, hire, and onboard new personnel that have the desired specialties.

4. Hybrid

MSPs that offer traditional managed IT with additional services and project-based work fall into the hybrid category. If your company needs consulting services, software development, or other related assistance in addition to IT support, a hybrid MSP can provide the help you need in multiple areas.

How do MSPs handle pricing?

MSPs are identical to other third-party vendors in that they have a wide range of pricing models. While it's difficult to determine exactly how much it costs, working with an MSP is almost always less expensive than establishing an in-house IT team with matching capabilities and expertise. To illustrate the varying pricing structures of MSPs as outlined by CompTIA, here are some real-world comparisons that make the differences more clear.

A great way to understand the main difference between MSPs and your typical break/fix IT solutions is by looking at the comparison of iTunes songs and Spotify. Break/fix IT providers operate like the iTunes store, where you pay for services and assistance as issues and projects arise. Managed IT providers function like Spotify, with each client paying a monthly subscription price to access a comprehensive collection of services and expertise. While both models accomplish a similar goal, MSPs generally provide a more cost-effective IT resource that addresses multiple areas of technology.

From there, MSPs offer four common pricing models to businesses. Per-user and per-device pricing are the two most typical options that best fit smaller companies with fewer end-users. Tiered pricing models offer various levels of coverage at different pricing levels, offering flexible coverage for businesses that prioritize scalability. Ad hoc pricing is the fourth and least common option, often offered by hybrid MSPs that execute special projects that may or may not relate to IT.

Woman working on client hardware

What benefits can an MSP offer?

Forming a client-vendor relationship should be done while prioritizing potential benefits for your business, and collaborating with an MSP for your IT needs is no different. Outside of the obvious benefit of suffering fewer tech headaches, here are four advantages you can expect from your partnership with a managed IT provider.

1. Minimized downtime

Dealing with a stalled computer or frozen program can seem like a fleeting issue, but the cost of IT downtime quickly snowballs into a significant loss of revenue for any business. With an MSP, downtime can switch from a consistent concern to an infrequent inconvenience. Your managed IT provider will cover your company's bases, from ensuring your programs have the latest updates to checking your hardware's lifecycles, to ultimately minimize outages caused by various tech problems.

2. Reduced IT expenses

If you've decided that your business needs a dedicated IT resource, the next steps in hiring an IT professional are to consider your budget constraints and process requirements. Combined with the costs of your entire infrastructure, hiring a full team of qualified IT personnel is a substantial expense. An MSP can give your company a cost-efficiency boost in more aspects than IT. Outside of bypassing personnel costs, partnering with an MSP equips your business with the ability to leverage savings related to cyber insurance, licensing expenses, and more.

3. Increased efficiency

Your company's IT plays an integral role in your overall efficiency, and the cost of lost productivity due to tech issues is often more detrimental than you think. Any impact on your organization's ability to support customers and employees can negatively affect your reputation and success. By adding an MSP to your support team, your business can take advantage of features that boost your team's ability to do its job. An MSP frees your employees from troubleshooting IT issues and reinforces the efficacy of your customer-facing services.

4. Reinforced cybersecurity

Cyberattacks are an ever-present threat to your business, and the cost of an IT security failure can be so severe that you're forced to close for good. While not all cyberattacks can be prevented, an MSP can help you prepare for the worst and ensure you have an actionable plan to protect your business, employee, and customer data. Your MSP will have a full understanding of common cyberattack trends and implement a strategy that can prepare your business through employee training, data recovery methods, and proactive protections.

Client shaking hands with MPS provider

Why should I work with Bit-Wizards?

Choosing a vendor to assist your business should be done with careful consideration, and partnering with an MSP is a decision that needs especially thorough deliberation. With the prevalent stereotype of unhelpful or unhappy IT support, finding the partnership that fits your IT needs and expectations can seem like an impossible task. Thankfully, making a partnership with a magical MSP is entirely possible through Managed IT Services (MITS) from Bit-Wizards.

Our full-service approach to managed IT adds the much-needed human touch that's incredibly rare in the MSP realm and surpasses industry standards. Our MITS Wizards take our company culture's family-oriented approach and extend it to every client and community member. We pride ourselves in connecting our partners to IT support from real-life people who dread "tech speak" and robo-callers as much as you do. Through expert guidance and care-driven support, a partnership with Bit-Wizards will exceed your expectations and set new standards for IT support.

Ready to treat your business to magical managed IT? Get in touch.

Author

Natalie Ewing, Content Writer
Natalie C. Ewing

Content Writer