Are Your “Managed Services” Truly Managed?
For many organizations, one of the common challenges when it comes to IT is how much can be managed in-house. Your IT team has priorities, but as your business grows, it’s likely that your IT needs will evolve along with it. Allowing a managed services provider to shoulder some of that responsibility grants you the freedom to focus on what your business does best while letting the experts nurture your office’s everchanging demands.
A Managed Services Provider (MSP) is a third-party IT service provider that manages systems and services for an organization. An outsourced Help Desk is the most common type of MSP, but managed services come in many flavors and forms, providing niche support across almost all industries.
Within the information technology industry, managed services may include help desk support, endpoint/server/storage management, network monitoring, security, and cloud services. Outside of IT, managed services may also involve audiovisual services providers, supply chain and logistics management, marketing, media, and transportation services
The Break/Fix Model
Most providers offer a “break/fix” service model—when something breaks, the customer calls their provider, and the provider fixes the issue. Though this fee structure is simple, the cost for the customer and the revenue for the vendor can be quite unpredictable.
Some providers may offer proactive break/fix plans. These plans have the same structure except the customer pays a reoccurring monthly fee rather than accruing one-time charges. Because work is billed hourly, this structure can cause clients and providers to be short-sighted to ongoing problems, ultimately incentivizing short-term, quick fixes opposed to cost-effective, lasting solutions.
Since the MSP market took off in the mid-2000s, many service providers have been quick to add the word “managed” in front of any service they offer. So how can teams and companies know who is offering a true managed service? If you find yourself in the same situation, here’s what to look for.
Two Key Elements of A Managed Services Provider
An MSP aims to provide a stable, predictable service by adding proactive management and services meant to eliminate or significantly reduce the number of unexpected issues that might occur. For example, frequent application updates should result in less bugs, routine hardware scans for problems will have a lower chance of equipment failing during production hours, and patched systems should be less vulnerable to security intrusions.
Is everything running well and you haven’t needed to call your MSP in a while? Congratulations! Your MSP is probably doing their job right and everything is running the way it should be – nothing to break-fix here.
Service Level Agreements
Besides being proactive, every successful MSP will offer and adhere to Service Level Agreements, or SLAs, that ensure the service meets expectations. SLAs clearly state the performance metrics and responsibilities of the vendor as agreed upon in the service agreement. SLAs need to be qualitative –they need to be measurable to ensure that expectations are clear between the customer and the service provider.
If your business has critical systems that operate 24/7, does your current service provider include a 24/7 SLA to help you when you need it? Will your business thrive with a 95% system uptime? In other words, can your systems go down once every 20 days?
It is critical for your business that the MSP’s SLAs fit your business needs. If you find yourself with inconsistent or unclear SLAs, it might be time to re-evaluate your service provider.
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