MANAGED IT SERVICES | 8.5 MIN READ
When chosen correctly, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can elevate your business to new heights. They can improve network security and functionality or help you expand your network or transition it to remote capabilities. However, it can be a costly investment, which is why you must do your due diligence when figuring out which one is the right fit. Keep reading to learn which features to prioritize in an MSP.
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Timely Customer Support
If your company is experiencing any network problem, whether it's a cyber attack or just some simple usability issues, your MSP should resolve them in a timely manner.
Some managed service providers have packages that include 24/7 support, which sounds great in theory, but if you're left waiting hours just to get a call or email back then there's much left to be desired. Ask follow-up questions to see if your managed service provider has fast response times for support both inside and outside of normal business hours.
Additionally, make sure to ask if remote support is available. While having a technician physically visit your company's building can be useful in certain situations, many IT issues can be solved remotely.
Remote support also minimizes network downtime by fixing issues without you having to wait for a technician to drive to your office. When evaluating the level of customer service that an MSP offers, ask them if they have a Network Operations Center (NOC).
NOC's go beyond simple help desk support to employ a team of IT professionals to assist your business by phone, email, or in person. NOC's sometimes use tiered segmentation to properly elevate issues, with a higher tier corresponding to a more urgent issue.
Tiered help centers ensure that crisis situations are dealt with efficiently and swiftly. Though Network Operations Centers can cost more, they can resolve issues faster, which increases company productivity and reduces network downtime.
If your MSP uses a help desk instead of a NOC, make sure that it isn't run by a third party or overseas, as this can lead to language barriers or a lower quality of service.
System Maintenance and Upgrades
While your hardware and software might be brand new when your MSP first installs them, eventually they will become outdated. Be wary of MSP's that aren't vigilant about updating your network infrastructure.
If you continue to use the same hardware and software for years without upgrades and updates, you risk the safety of your network. Additional versions of cyber security hardware and software are released to patch newly discovered bugs and network gaps, so continuing to run your network on older technology leaves room for a hacker to sneak in.
Ensure that your contract with your MSP allows for hardware upgrades as well as automatic software updates as they become available. This will ensure that you aren't getting nickel-and-dimed for the costs of upgrading and will take the burden of upgrading your network off of your employees, saving you time.
While MSP's are there to install new software and fix any network issues that you bring up, they should also be constantly monitoring and addressing any security gaps or threats.
Certain cyber security parameters like antivirus software can prevent threats from impacting your network, but vigilant monitoring ensures that threats are stopped if they happen to make it past the parameters you've installed.
Network monitoring keeps your MSP sharp by helping them identify threat trends. For instance, if your MSP constantly sees phishing attempts through your email platform, then they know to install advanced email filtering. This keeps your network as up-to-date as possible.
If your MSP only thinks to fix issues when you bring them up, that's a sign that they're not monitoring your network diligently enough.
Disaster Recovery Planning
If your business experiences any sort of network outage, whether it stems from a bad storm or a ransomware attack, every minute that your company is offline could be costing you money.
The costs of downtime quickly add up, which means that in the event of a network outage, your MSP should be able to quickly remediate the problem and bring you back online.
To be proactive instead of reactive, your MSP should work with you from the beginning to establish a disaster recovery plan that includes points such as the chain of command in the event of a cyber attack or network crash.
Additionally, on and off-site data backup is another major point that needs to be addressed in a contingency plan. If your data is not effectively and regularly backed up, then in the event of a network outage, you may have to restore your network to an older backup.
In this scenario, you may lose all the data that's been created since the last backup. Would your company be okay with losing all your files and information from the past few days? How about the last few weeks?
Data should be backed up as often as possible to minimize the amount of data that you lose during a severe network outage.
While a ransomware attack or network crash can cause minimal data loss if data is backed up, it also ensures that network downtime is kept to a minimal, which reduces any downtime costs.
Business Growth Planning
While your MSP is there to secure your network, they should also have the ability to help your company align your network with your future plans.
Is your business planning on expanding or moving locations? Even if you aren't, imagine the planning that goes into it. While you would probably consider factors such as the cost of a move or expansion, you might not consider how to plan for your network to grow or move with you.
When shopping for an MSP, see if they have the ability to strategize and implement a major business development like a move or office expansion.
For instance, if your company decides to expand to a new office, an MSP can work with you to plan for what network equipment you'll need, how much it'll cost, and what an implementation timeline will look like.
Remote working is becoming more and more common as businesses see the financial and cultural benefits. If your company plans on transitioning to a remote environment, your MSP should be able to configure all workstations to securely continue functioning.
How Much Do Managed IT Services Cost?
There are four basic types of Managed Service Provider (MSP) pricing. When conducting pricing research, you may have found that it’s hard to find one place that clearly gives you cost estimates for each model.
Keep reading for clearly defined ranges for each pricing model so you can get an idea of what an MSP might cost your company.
A LA CARTE PRICING
A la carte models are a lot like shopping at the grocery store − you only pay for what you need. These types of pricing models offer you the freedom to not be forced to pay for services you don’t want or need. While a la carte models don’t provide the range of services that all-inclusive models do, they can potentially come at a lower cost.
These types of models can work for larger companies who already have somewhat of an internal IT staff and just want some extra support.
Our first option isn’t technically managed IT services but is useful for companies with an internal IT staff that has the capabilities to monitor but not always fix big issues. Here, you can find your standard computer repair shops (the Geek Squads of the world).
With this model, if your equipment malfunctions, needs an update, or something else you aren’t sure how to do, you can take it to a company that does nothing but single jobs.
In this sense, break-fix models take a more reactive stance to managing IT, as companies pay for external support only when something breaks as opposed to paying to proactively monitor IT systems.
Since this pricing model isn’t all-inclusive, it does not include any of the malware protection, email filtering, vendor management, and data back-up that a managed IT services provider would offer.
The break-fix option is a great cost saver if you only have a job or two per month, but this can quickly become expensive if you experience several periods of downtime within a 30-day period. Break-fix models run on hourly and flat rates.
Flat rates are often between $40-$350 for specific services like troubleshooting or device repair. Hourly rates can be between $99-$250 per hour, depending on the level of service required, but it's important to note that the time required to travel to the client's place of business may also be factored into the overall cost.
This provides companies with a relatively cheap option to include managed IT services in their infrastructure. This model is great for companies with a small internal IT staff who might not be equipped to fix large issues or would become overwhelmed with handling all aspects of their company’s IT infrastructure.
With this option, a third-party IT services company’s job is to remotely monitor either a few specified aspects or all of a client’s IT infrastructure. Companies pay third party IT services providers to use a Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software to monitor their system.
Based on the size of your budget or how well-equipped your internal IT team is, when the third-party company notifies you about issues, you can either fix it yourself internally or pay extra to have them fix it. Sometimes with this pricing model, the external IT company trains in-house IT staff on basic monitoring practices.
Monitoring-only models can range from $20-30 per device per month, but since this is an a la carte system, the price varies more depending on if you decide that you want to upgrade an aspect of your monitoring package, for instance upgrading 9-5 Monday-Friday monitoring to 24/7 monitoring.
The price could also increase if you decide to take more of a hands-off approach internally and pay more to let the third-party company monitor more aspects of your infrastructure. The issue with this model is that when you pay for a monitoring-only service, the costs of having to pay to fix any issues that the third-party IT provider finds adds up.
With a la carte models, figuring out which services you want and don’t want can quickly become a hassle. Conducting extra research on the types of services offered before building a package ensures that you won’t be roped into paying for services that might not work for your company’s needs.
Additionally, consider that since a la carte models don't typically install the full range of security parameters that are available, you could potentially be leaving security gaps in your network.
Think of all-inclusive models like an all-you-can-eat buffet. In a buffet, you pay a flat fee for a wide range of food, allowing you to sample a few different options or get heaping plates of food for the same price. All-inclusive pricing models work in a similar fashion. They offer a wide array of services packaged together for a flat fee per month. This allows you to fully leverage each service offered.
All-inclusive models offer the budgeting ease of paying a flat fee to monitor all aspects of your IT infrastructure without being nickel-and-dimed with additional costs down the road. Additionally, these models take the hassle of figuring out how to internally manage your IT by collectively managing everything for you.
These models are good for small to mid-sized companies with little to no internal IT staff who need a full range of security coverage.
This model allows companies room to grow in their technological capacity. Per user models give a company all the monitoring and maintenance services with zero hidden costs.
Per user models make both protecting your IT network and budgeting a breeze. Every monitoring and maintenance service is included, and this model makes budgeting easy because the only cost per month is a flat fee per user.
The issue with this model is that tech support is built into the package, so if your company doesn’t have a need to call tech support often, you might be over-spending on tech support. However, keep in mind that having few technical issues could result from the outside IT services company monitoring so well that there aren’t many issues.
A comprehensive, full-service per user model will run you $100-$200 per user, per month.
“Why is there such a price range for the per user option?”
Some third-party IT companies charge more when you choose to utilize your own network security platforms that are different from theirs. This is because they spend additional resources learning how to use your software and assume the risk of integrating unfamiliar software within their monitoring and support programs.
A Managed Service Provider may also be willing to remove services to make the price more reasonable for your budget. Be cautious, though — if you remove too many support functions from your IT package you risk losing the entire purpose of getting managed IT services in the first place, which is to effectively manage and protect your network.
There is one model, the per device model, that allows companies the flexibility to build either an a la carte or all-inclusive model, depending on that company’s needs.
From an a la carte perspective, this model can be beneficial for companies with some internal IT support who only wish to protect certain executives’ devices, for instance the CEO’s phone and laptop.
Additionally, for example, you might want an a la carte per device model so you can internally manage portions of your IT, but pay to have an outside company manage your servers or provide overall downtime prevention measures.
From an all-inclusive perspective, this model can work for companies with a smaller number of devices, but no internal IT support, which creates the need for a more all-inclusive package.
This model combines a few different prices to offer a packaged price per month, but still has separate costs for your network endpoints. Endpoints include servers, devices connected to your network such as work phones and desktops, and network equipment such as network switches.
You can make this model more a la carte by only paying to monitor certain devices and paying extra to fix issues. You can make this model more all-inclusive by monitoring all aspects of all devices.
The issue with this model is that if you have a lot of equipment, this model can quickly get expensive, because a single company phone or tablet counts as a piece of equipment in addition to all your computers, copiers, and desktop printers.
Additionally, companies that use this model can vary in how much they charge for certain devices. For instance, they could charge $5 per month for a work phone, $30 per month for a desktop, and $50+ for an executive’s computer.
For a more all-inclusive per device model, a pricing package could include the following: anywhere from $200-250 per month for server monitoring, $25-75 per piece of equipment per month for monitoring network equipment, and $5-100 per device per month. For a more a la carte model, these prices will be a little cheaper depending on how your service package is built.
As a Managed Service Provider, Standard Office Systems understands the ins and outs of the MSP industry. We strive to answer any questions one may have to make the research process as simple as possible.
Check out our blog to learn more about definitions to common industry topics, how managed services can benefit your company, factors to keep in mind when evaluating an MSP, and more!
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.