IT Support: Is a Managed Service Provider for You?

Q&A with Kevin Hart, CEO of Managed Systems
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When you think about IT support in your business, do you mainly think of emergencies and fixing things when they break, help-desk style? Or do you think of it as a proactive way to keep things running smoothly and increase productivity?
There’s a wide range of IT support options out there for SMBs – from your local tech who charges by the hour, to your hardware vendor, to flat-fee managed service providers. We talked with Kevin Hart, CEO of Managed Systems, about what exactly a managed service provider (MSP) is, how do decide if you want/need one, and how you can best evaluate and choose the right one for your business.
Those businesses that are not using a MSP – what solution are they using? What do you call it?
Most businesses handle IT in a reactive way – they use IT support when incidences arise. Usually, businesses handle their IT needs in one of two ways. 1) Employing an internal IT person or staff, or 2) engaging with an external IT consultant when needs arise. Both of these solutions tend to be more reactive in nature, as opposed to the constant proactive monitoring and maintenance of IT systems that MSPs offer.
What are the differences between working with an MSP on a monthly fee basis and working with a traditional tech solution provider?
The greatest difference between the pricing models of an MSP versus a traditional tech provider is cost control. A traditional tech provider bills based on time and materials, so you never know what the associated costs will be depending on the issue at hand. With most MSPs, the business gets one inclusive bill – no surprises, no matter what.

Are all MSPs the same? You pay a monthly fee and they manage your network and computers – right? If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all?
All MSPs are not the same. In fact, quality of service is the determining factor for MSPs. In most cases, the pricing model is the same, but the service fulfillment varies dramatically between providers. When a MSP is selected, the business should see immediate results in terms of cost control, simplified IT infrastructure and an overall increase in productivity levels, company-wide.
Can you comment on how one should decide between working with a local MSP vs. a larger national brand – say Dell, for example?
Dell is a hardware provider, whereas a MSP is a service – they essentially take over the maintenance and management of a business’s entire IT infrastructure. The decision to move to a MSP service depends on the level of IT that a business requires, i.e., number of employees, systems, etc.
When thinking of national brand, I also think of Circuit City’s Fire Dog, Best Buy’s Geek Squad and maybe others. Are these also viable options?
These national brands are viable options for reactive IT services and support. These support chains only provide urgent support, not proactive monitoring and management and strategic guidance. For businesses to prevent incidents and costly downtime, they are not a viable alternative.
Businesses are increasingly realizing that proper IT maintenance and management can help grow their business, reduce costs and improve productivity. For these businesses, the answer is clear – they need a solution that allows ongoing support and guidance, ensuring that their systems support the business objectives.
Any other comments?
Here are the three key tangible benefits that using a managed services provider provides:

  • Increased Worker and Executive Productivity: By outsourcing IT, business owners and employees are freed to focus on the core aspects of their business that is most important to them: Their customers and prospects.
  • Gaining Control Over Their IT Spend: With growth or downsizing, SMB managers can have a predictable monthly expenditure to handle every aspect of their technology, from e-mail and secure remote access to Blackberry management and 24/7 support.
  • Simplifying Their Working Environment: Automated IT upgrades coupled with the right security solutions ensure that the entire IT infrastructure is optimized for performance, producing dramatically increased uptime.

Kevin also gave us 5 tips for evaluating and choosing a managed services provider:

  1. Look at service levels – disaster recovery and business continuity are not interchangeable, look at which service level is required for your business
  2. Evaluate the provider’s backup and restore procedures – determine the timeframe you need for automatic backup and system restore functions
  3. Assess the provider’s standards for proactive monitoring and management continuum – machines get sick before they die. By proactive monitoring and management, your IT partner can predict issues before they arise and affect the business.
  4. Review your support needs – look at your business requirements to determine whether you need only business hour support or 24/7
  5. Ensure the provider you choose has experience working with companies like you – choose a provider that thinks strategically about the business goals and objectives to ensure success

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