Managed IT environment is the key to success for successful companies. The reasons are obvious. It is easier to excel at what you do when you have the support of experts behind you. Furthermore, you spare your company from having to commission and manage its own IT infrastructure (and the risk that comes with it).
Managed service providers (MSPs) now handle IT operations for thousands of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Well-managed IT environments also enable organizations to focus on their core competencies by 1) reducing IT costs by 25% to 45%; and 2) improving operational efficiency by 45% to 65%. Small and medium-sized businesses are expected to generate 60% of the MSP industry’s revenue by 2027, totaling US$3111.32 billion.
As regulations tighten and cybercrime poses ever-rising risks, many companies are opting for managed IT environments to protect themselves. Moreover, data indicate that proactively managed IT environments not only enable a culture of business enablement and innovation, but also reinforce mechanisms that ensure such a culture remains safe.
What does a managed IT environment mean?
An MSP (Managed Service Provider) is a third party that configures, protects, and administers a customer’s managed IT environment, including hardware, software, data, services, and networks. The goal of MSPs in creating such systems is to keep every part of the IT infrastructure fully functional, secure, and efficient. It achieves this by centralizing control of the entire environment, including security protocols, user access, and policy management.
The managed IT environment can be on-premises, fully hosted in the cloud, or hybridized, integrating elements of both, including some or all of the following:
- Services related to internet connectivity, telecommunications, and mobility
- Back-up and recovery of data, information security services
- Networks, routers, switches, and cables: local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN).
- Business applications, computing platforms, operating systems, and computing platforms
- Computing devices, printers, conferencing equipment, VOIP phones, tablets, and mobile phones
- Technical support and monitoring of the network
- Consulting/virtual CIO in auditing, compliance, and analytics
- Procedures, processes, and protocols that govern the use of the above resources
Managed IT environments take advantage of market opportunities and risks in real time by identifying and acquiring IT resources with the aid of industry-certified experts, utilizing them optimally, and scaling them as needed. Clients should expect a team of experts from various domains to deliver a minimum level of performance as defined by service level agreements (SLAs).
Standard frameworks and standards are followed in a managed IT environment, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT). In addition, managed services are strategic in nature, allowing you to access reliable insights and recommendations on-demand to improve your business.
Who provides these environments?
Managed Service Providers (MSP) work on building, securing, and administering managed IT environments. A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a third party company that proactively manages outsourced technology systems to help its clients reduce costs, improve service quality, protect networks, or scale their operations while cutting costs.
Because MSPs provide demanding services, they must maintain extensive and sophisticated IT infrastructures, employing technical specialists and domain experts. Generally, MSPs provide 24/7/365 monitoring and support for clients who depend on their servers, networks, or software systems.
Providers of managed services are adept at what they do and can help —
- Identify your organization’s desired outcomes when determining your IT requirements.
- Identify specific customer needs and build cost-effective packages for them.
- Protect your organization from data loss, downtime, natural disasters, cybercrime, and other IT security risks by implementing security controls, data protection measures, and disaster recovery systems.
- Compliance and regulatory standards should be aligned with your organization’s practices.
- The deployment and management of enterprise solutions, applications, and platforms.
- Provide proactive recommendations for overcoming upcoming disruptions or exploiting emerging market opportunities for your company.
- Consistently and reliably provide technical support.
An MSP is fundamentally responsible for allowing your company to focus on its core business while no longer having to worry about the IT systems that support it. You can avoid all the risks and costs associated with building and maintaining your own IT infrastructure when you work with a managed service provider. The MSP will be responsible for monitoring and optimizing your IT infrastructure once it has been built in order to ensure it is always reliable and efficient. Managed service providers also develop a technology roadmap for your business on a regular basis or on a periodic basis.
The benefits of a managed IT environment
An IT environment managed by a company can benefit them in terms of operational, financial, and strategic aspects. A few of these benefits are:
- The core business focus is more significant. In turn, this often results in a higher level of customer satisfaction and a higher quality of service.
- Efficiency in operations and processes has been improved. Improve your team’s productivity by using tools, equipment, and software that work well and don’t crash frequently.
- Monitored constantly. In order to prevent major problems from arising, minor issues are detected and addressed in a timely manner. Downtime is reduced to a minimum as a result.
- Consistency and quality of service are guaranteed. When it comes to quality and reliability, most MSPs offer quality and reliability guarantees through service level agreements. Several MSPs offer 24/7 technical support to help support such a guarantee.
- One point of contact. An MSP can provide you with all the IT services you need. With the right technology solutions, you can grow your business, diversify your product line, develop customized applications, automate processes, manage vendors, and even augment your staff. Furthermore, MSPs can solve a variety of technology challenges and provide actionable advice.
- Expenditures are minimal. A managed service provider (MSP) is able to provide premium networks, tools, and resources at lower costs to its clients. The reason for this is that MSPs generally own and maintain premium resources and offer their use to customers as a managed service. This allows them to take advantage of resources without having to purchase them directly. The advantages of using an MSP include faster and more efficient implementation, as well as a lower financial burden. Leading-edge technologies can easily be deployed by even small companies without a large budget or in-house expertise.
- Margin improvements. Your business will be more profitable if you are able to improve your process/operational efficiency.
- A predictable billing process. Customers can manage their budgets more easily with the transparent and simple billing schemes of most MSPs (fixed as a monthly or annual fee).
- Improved IT security. It is standard practice for MSPs to adhere to strict security and data protection standards, and to act with vigilance when it comes to cyber threats. They know the horror stories and best practices for preventing human or technological threats to your network, systems, and data. Putting anti-malware controls in place, ensuring data backups, preparing for disaster recovery, and mitigating risk should be prioritized by them.
- Advantageous position. They strive to achieve long-term success for their clients by serving as strategic partners. MSPs fulfill this role by designing and building technology solutions that help companies become more competitive, more efficient, and more nimble when responding to opportunities, risks, and disruptions. Your organisation can also benefit from MSPs by establishing institutional knowledge and continuity. When it comes to business planning, compliance reviews, and needs assessments, they provide valuable advice. If you want to future-proof your business, they are your most valuable asset.
Disadvantages of a Managed IT Environment
Managed IT environments can be undermined by a number of factors. Inaccurate needs assessments are caused by unclear business goals. MSPs may also be able to mislead customers if their SLAs are incomplete or lack transparency. Operational difficulties could also result from partnering with multiple MSPs that don’t offer interoperable solutions. A recent ransomware breach further highlighted supply-chain risks arising from vulnerabilities in third-party solutions used by an MSP.
In the following list, we list those risks that are identifiable and established, as well as those the client can perceive:
- Confidential information is leaked. Cybersecurity is a specialty of MSPs. The downside of partnering with one is that you may have to share trade secrets and other sensitive information with the MSP. The good news is that most MSPs put data protection at the top of their priority list. They will work with you to reduce the risk of a breach, whether internal or external. Make sure you partner with industry-recognized MSPs to reduce your exposure even further.
- An incorrect, insufficient, or excessive MSP solution. The needs and goals of potential clients might naturally cause an MSP to worry whether the solutions they propose are suited to their needs and goals. Depending on the MSP, it might be possible for them to prescribe an off-the-shelf solution without sufficient understanding of your business and leave the outcome to trial and error. Clear your objectives, expectations, and all the information the MSP needs to create an effective, cost-efficient solution for your company in order to avoid this hypothetical situation.
- Service that is underwhelming. In many organizations, managed service providers are viewed as a panacea for all their technology needs. Many companies may be underwhelmed once all the facts are laid out on the table. A company’s entire IT infrastructure can still be offloaded to a managed service provider, but there are still many issues that need to be addressed.
- Only virtual support is provided. There are a lot of times that MSPs manage client systems remotely, so it is worth checking out the local directory to find out. Many global MSPs have regional offices where they can send human techs and consultants to their respective branches when a customer requests their presence on site. Even better, check out the MSPs that cater to the local market, which are on the rise. Partnering with these providers is your preferred option if you need a real presence on the ground.
- Expensive. First impressions can be true. Nevertheless, if you compare the cost of setting up your own IT infrastructure and hiring permanent IT experts to manage it to what you would pay for an MSP contract, almost any would seem like a bargain. MSPs charge more to handle more responsibility, of course. It is therefore imperative that you conduct an audit of your current IT resources versus your business goals in order to rationalize spending.
Risks that are known
- It is a long-term contract.
An MSP may be unable to take immediate action when the customer’s relationship with them turns sour. This is because their relationship with them has lasted longer than a year. As it is, switching MSPs can be a challenge, especially when there are loose ends to iron out on top of provisions that penalize parties who terminate early. In order to prevent future problems, make sure you thoroughly screen potential MSP partners at the outset.
- Supply chain exposure. Cyber criminals can exploit software vulnerabilities at any point of the supply chain to target vendor-customer ecosystems and forge a network breach as seen in the Kaseya ransomware attack.
Malicious gangs inject malicious code into software updates and patches at large enterprises and managed service providers, as well. Although this doesn’t mean you should ease ties with your vendors or MSPs, it does mean running your business in a silo within your company. A third-party solution or software developed by another company is vulnerable to cyberattacks. Therefore, malicious hackers can target your company regardless of whether or not you have an MSP. Working with an MSP still delivers a positive net result, since MSPs excel at cyber security.
What can you do if you’re in a toxic relationship?
MSP relationships can sometimes get wrong, just as with any other kind of relationship. When this happens, honesty and an open-minded approach are the right ways to resolve the issue. Business is not immune to problematic episodes. There’s a possibility that the top team of specialists assigned to your company has been recruited away by a company with deep pockets, and they’re still onboarding their first hires; or another possibility is that their data center hosting your applications has been affected by a natural disaster.
Standing by your business partner during a difficult time is a way to build stronger partnerships through social capital. Maintaining balance requires setting and following a timeframe. Eventually, your business will suffer as a result of prolonging subscriptions to poor services.
It’s always a smart idea to talk with your MSP if anything seems to be worrying on your end. But it should be less serious than what’s happening on their end, and they should have plenty of time to explain. Evaluate whether their remedial efforts have paid off after a while. Switch to a better MSP if your services aren’t meeting your expectations.
Your MSP might be taking advantage of you in the following ways.
How do you switch providers?
An IT system audit should be followed by the creation of a carefully curated list of solution providers. If you’re looking for a reliable MSP partner who knows what you’re working through and is willing to ensure a painless and secure transition, you have to ensure that they understand your situation.
Prior to your wedding, you must have a formal contract between your incumbent MSP and your new MSP.
During your company’s migration to a new managed service provider, here are some tips for off-boarding and on-boarding:
- Start strong. Your selected MSP partner should understand your expectations and fulfill them. Based on your prior MSP experience and evolving business goals, you should set realistic expectations.
- Iron out ownership issues. How does your company obtain ownership rights to software, hardware, and other IT resources? Are all the vendors you use in your current IT environment managed by your old MSP? Is there a direct relationship (i.e., billing) between you and some of these vendors? Have you approved access to these assets? Verify ownership of the following resources and make a detailed resource list:
- The licensing of software
- Hosting and Cloud Subscriptions
- Hardware (switches, access points, hosted servers, onsite desktop computers, notebook computers, mobile devices, etc.)
- Offshore and Remote Assets
- Make sure your finances are in order. Make a detailed list of all paid subscriptions and services. Has your software provider provided you with direct billing? Are your old MSP’s licensing arrangements with vendors the ones that manage your entire technology stack and bill you for it?
- Keep your IT asset list up-to-date, and don’t forget to renew your licenses and service contracts before they expire.
- Determine the end dates for billed services, including those for your old MSP and any third parties that are relevant.
- It must be determined when your old provider will send you the final billing statement. Before your old MSP’s final cut-off date, migrate your IT systems to your new provider to the greatest extent possible. Note, however, that your current MSP and the upcoming one might still run (and bill) a few of your vital services simultaneously and in parallel. It might lead to some form of downtime for your company if you don’t provision for complex integrations in IT systems.
- Establish support protocols. You should consider how you want technical support delivered by your new provider when setting your expectations. During your time with your ex-MSP, which processes, systems, and practices worked for you? Which did not? When it comes to incidents and issues, how would you like the newly appointed MSP to handle them?
- Maintain continuity of operations. A new managed service provider may be able to assist you in coordinating the migration with your old one. The MSPs speak the same language, so they can (should) assist you with the migration of your systems efficiently and with little difficulty, interruption, or downtime.
What are the best ways to choose a provider?
Choosing a trustworthy MSP right from the start is the smartest way to avoid problematic relationships. You can do that by following these tips:
It is important to keep in mind that not all managed service providers are equal in their competence or capability to handle your unique situation. Generally, you should look for MSPs with relationships with companies that are similar to your own organization in size, market, and line of business. You should also consider MSPs with strong local presences (in the event that you require onsite technical support).
There are shorthand metrics for measuring MSP competence in the industry.
Review sites with a good reputation should be checked out. Getting feedback from the prospective MSP’s clients would be helpful. You might be able to reach out to some of those clients if you know some of them. In the case that the reviewers were professionals, you can engage them via forums or comment sections to address your concerns.
- Contact each prospective MSP you have shortlisted and get to know them.
What should you look for in an MSP?
Make your selection based on the following credentials in the resume/company profile of MSPs:
- Outstanding track record (industry awards, impressive portfolio of recognizable clients, etc.)
- Third-party accreditations and industry certifications
- Customer feedback is very positive
- Having a high NPS (Net Promoter Score)
As many people as possible should be familiar with the following attributes:
- Being committed
- Quick response and resolution
- Strong cyber security practices
- Proactive service/strategic insight
Do you know how to manage your IT provider?
You shouldn’t ignore what comes next after offloading your technology infrastructure to an MSP. MSPs are two-way streets, and you should treat them as such. It’s true that they are responsible for the management of your IT systems. It is still your responsibility to manage how you want them to do that.
Regular monthly meetings with your MSP will help you achieve the right business outcomes. Do everything you can to get them on-site.
Discuss ways to keep your customers (theirs and yours) happy and satisfied to get a high Net Promoter Score (NPS) for both your company and the MSP. Establish deadlines for solving critical issues (under 30 minutes) and non-urgent concerns (under three days). It is important to ask for trends and emerging solutions periodically in order to improve the competitiveness or business margins of your organization.
Adding value to an MSP relationship is easy if you follow these three steps.
Can you dip a toe in the water before jumping in?
Before fully committing to a long-term partnership, some managed service providers encourage customers to try a small service or engagement first.
MSPs and customers alike should consider this reasonable. Developing a successful relationship requires a firm belief that partnership will result in impressive results over the long term. In order to convince both parties, the right strategy is to do a small project that is relatively simple and quick to run, but still significant to the customer.
Taking part in project types such as Level 1 Help Desks, security audits, application development, or IT road mapping will give both parties a preview of the relationship.
A better option would be to choose MSPs that provide a full-service guarantee as well as a no-obligation trial period. In order to assess whether the services of an MSP are effective and if they meet your expectations, you can evaluate them over a trial period. The process also helps prevent prospective customers from feeling trapped in a situation where they’re unhappy with the service they receive.
MSPs who are good won’t require heavy penalties for early termination in order to lock you into a long-term service agreement. Excellent service in a luxurious hotel will make you want to stay longer.
Managed IT environments are becoming more popular among companies. There is no fad behind the trends of these companies, according to the data. The motivation to win is instinctual and driven by a desire to win. Smart businesses must rethink their playbook and remove risk as a result of shifting economic realities, remote work’s normalization, threats from cyber security, and fierce competition.
You can improve your team’s performance by putting it in a managed IT environment. A managed IT environment empowers companies to reduce risks, cut costs, and improve service quality while utilizing reliable tools, efficient processes, and protected networks.
Reference: Also read this article from Wikipedia