IT is a tricky area for small businesses, it’s often the backbone that keeps your company functioning – but it’s also a tremendous expense – and one that needs to be looked after by a person or team with a large skill set.
This large skill set and depth of experience is another significant drain on your budget – but one that can reduced significantly by using a Managed Service Provider (MSP) – an external company whose IT skill and expertise you access on an ‘as required’ basis.
The question is; would an MSP be right for you? We’ve posed a series of questions that’ll help you decide…
Does IT form mission critical part of your business?
If you simply cannot live without your IT systems, you’ll probably sleep more soundly knowing that MSPs usually deliver a ‘service level agreement’ (SLA) alongside their commitment to working with you.
This is essentially a set of guarantees that reflect what they’ll do for you. No two SLAs are the same, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need – after all, it could be the difference between you delivering your service – or otherwise.
Does your business require agile scalability?
The word ‘agility’ is increasingly used in business circles – and really reflects the fact that you need to be quick on your feet if you want to stand the best chances of winning or maintaining business in a competitive marketplace.
However, for many in-house IT teams, agility and tech don’t go together – owing to the fact that additions and changes to networks take a lot of time, experience and effort. For a good MSP, this is no issue – as it’s what they do all-day every-day. As such, an MSP is likely be capable of making changes to your systems much more promptly than an in-house team.
How difficult is it recruiting the best people?
Have you ever put a value on your recruitment process? If you do, it’s likely to be a large number, including decision makers time, upfront financial cost, on-going recruitment costs – and much more.
With an MSP, you immediately have access to people who’ve got the right skillset – and if they don’t, simply look for another MSP instead. A good managed service provider will make sure they can deliver what you need – relying on very little (if anything at all) from you. If recruiting IT specialists isn’t your thing – an MSP will save you a lot of headaches.
Do you have wide reaching best practice in house?
For in-house IT teams, finding the time to establish best-practice processes usually comes second to actually getting the job done with tight resources and limited time.
For an MSP this isn’t an issue – as their job revolves around already established best practices and a constant honing of those to make sure the very best service is being delivered to clients. If your current IT set-up feels like a constant game of hit-and-miss, then an MSP might be able to inject a new level of experience and professionalism.
Are fixed IT support costs helpful?
To match a good SLA, each MSP will have a pricing structure – and it’s usually very much a ‘you only pay for what you need’ kind of set up. This is extremely helpful in budgeting and projecting costs when you’re a small business, as financial surprises can cause serious problems.
If you’ve previously found that your IT costs are variable – whether that’s because of moving staffing needs or assistance above-and-beyond what you can do yourselves, then fixing your financials going forward with an MSP might be helpful.
Can you afford to keep in-house staff up to date with training?
As any CFO will tell you, the on-going costs of keeping an IT team can be eye-wateringly large when compared to other departments in your business.
A large part of the issue relates to training – it’s expensive, and it needs to be constantly kept track of and updated if you want to make sure you IT systems keep you at the forefront of what you’re trying to deliver.
When you employ the services of an MSP, you’ve got access to a team whose company takes full responsibility for keeping them abreast of the latest accreditations, training, professional requirements and industry knowledge. Sure, you could do it in house – but the cost is likely to be large – and that’s before you arranged cover when your team needs to go on a week-long certification course…
Do you ever find yourself missing your IT team?
There are lots of reasons you could find yourself without your IT team, including:
- Maternity/paternity leave
- Compassionate leave
- Disciplinary issues
…and many more. If you simply cannot function without your IT systems, you’re leaving things to an incredible reckless chance if you operate for any period of time without the backup you’ll need if things go wrong.
A good MSP won’t leave! Any even if their team need to take leave, or they’re unwell – or even if they leave the company entirely, there’s someone else who can step into their place and continue to deliver your SLA without any interruptions.
What’s right for you?
If the answer to any of these questions has been a ‘yes’ – then it’s well worth looking into using an MSP in a little more detail. You should understand that no two MSPs deliver exactly the same level of service – so putting some effort into finding the best MSP for you will pay dividends in the long run.
A little research on any search engine will help to you to find the best MSP around. When you’ve figured out exactly what you want from a managed provider and you found a good one that you thinking to consider, you should also look to talk to some of the people they already work with – just in the same way you would seek references if you were bringing a new employee onboard. When you’ve found someone who ticks all your requirements and will fit neatly with your way of working, you’re likely to have found the most stress-relieving partnership you could hope for when you’re a decision maker for a business!