Is Managed IT Support A Good Solution for Small & Medium Businesses?
When you own or work for a small or medium-sized business (SMB), you juggle a multitude of competing demands: delivery deadlines, employee turnover, customer satisfaction, cash flow, and more. As you do the cost-benefit analysis on the fly, it can be tempting to do everything yourself because it may seem faster, easier and cheaper.
You may think that partnering with an IT managed services provider (MSP) is only cost-effective for bigger businesses with a big budget.
As president of Kelser Corporation, an MSP that partners only with SMBs, I've see these partnerships offer cost-effective and efficient solutions to businesses just like yours.
I’ve been in the IT industry for more than 20 years. Based on my conversations with hundreds of people just like you, I fully understand that owners of SMBs and IT managers wear many hats. But, being a leader also requires you to think strategically and manage your resources wisely.
In today’s world, your company’s success hinges, in large part, on your IT infrastructure.
Whether it’s hardware, email, Wi-Fi, servers, cybersecurity, or compliance requirements, the changing landscape of IT requires a lot of time and expertise. Your business may not have the financial bandwidth to hire all the staff you need to keep everything working smoothly every day.
When your IT staff is overwhelmed, it leads not only to personal job dissatisfaction and burnout, but also potential staff turnover and customer complaints. Hiring new staff takes time (for interviews as well as onboarding) and costs money.
MSPs provide tangible and intangible benefits to businesses just like yours. In this article, I’ll explain the advantages of partnering with an MSP and provide some real-life examples of how SMBs specifically can benefit. And, since cost is always an issue, I’ll address that as well.
How Can An MSP Help Your Business?
Many SMBs have a limited IT staff on-site and/or have a person they call when something breaks (often referred to as a "break/fix" model). The business pays either a retainer fee and a service charge or pays for each service call. For many organizations, that is what they have always done and it has worked well for them.
But, with cybersecurity issues on the rise and new regulatory requirements, the IT landscape is becoming more complicated.
When you factor in the cost of lost work time, potential lost sales, frustration, and the troubleshooting time of various support providers, these costs can add up especially if you have an aging IT infrastructure.
Think about your car.
If you change the oil on schedule and a reliable, trustworthy mechanic performs recommended maintenance, your car will last longer and you may avoid a catastrophic repair that ties your car up for days and costs a fortune.
(An added benefit of regular maintenance is that your mechanic may notice that your brakes need to be replaced before they fail on the highway at 65 mph.)
In the same way, when a business hires an MSP, they reap the benefits of an ongoing relationship.
The MSP offers proactive support and has the staff to handle the everyday IT needs of the staff, while also helping the leadership team prepare for anticipated and unexpected needs based on business goals and growth opportunities as well as projected IT equipment lifecycle expectations.
In other words, an MSP can help IT become a competitive differentiator for your business by providing a standard set of services to improve efficiencies and an ongoing relationship to ensure that technology advances your business and goals.
What Advantages Does An MSP Partnership Offer?
So, let’s talk specifics.
MSPs provide a variety of services. I’ll talk specifically about Kelser’s services, but other MSPs may have similar offerings.
Some of these include:
- Unlimited service desk support
- Managed workstations with automated patching
- Managed anti-malware and anti-virus
- DNS-based protection
- Managed employee awareness training
- Mail support
- Managed spam filtering and protection
- Managed servers including disaster recovery
- Managed network
Many MSPs also offer strategic planning services, including a virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) and a Technical Alignment Manager (TAM). These experts keep tabs on your organizational goals and infrastructure, constantly looking for proactive ways that IT can best support your business strategy.
For example, because of our ongoing relationship with one of our partners, we were able to advise them ahead of time when they were looking to increase the number of their remote sites. We talked through the IT requirements, evaluated their server capacity, (which was barely handling their current throughput,) and let them know early in the planning phase that they'd need a new server.
We provided options that would work well and facilitate their growth, while also addressing scheduling and budgetary concerns to best meet their needs.
When you hire an MSP, your business benefits from an entire team of IT experts with years of experience in the field who stay up to date on current IT trends and cybersecurity threats.
In contrast, a small on-site or break/fix staff, barely has time to fix the issues of the day without much time or energy for emerging threats or strategic thinking.
Kelser and other reliable MSPs will meet with you early and often, to get familiar with your IT infrastructure, giving us a leg up on finding a solution when something goes haywire.
We proactively manage your infrastructure, often behind the scenes, to protect against threats before they even hit your firewall. We maintain and upgrade your software and provide priority support when you need it.
What Will An MSP Cost?
Most MSPs understand that small businesses have unique needs and budgetary constraints.
Some of the factors that affect our price include:
- number of users/devices
- number of servers
- current network and firewall
- current support model
The cost for Kelser's services usually falls in the range of $120-140 per user per month, based on the variables listed above and others.
When businesses look strictly at cost, an MSP may seem pricey. However, when you think about the cost of a minimal IT staff (including hidden costs like onboarding, benefits, and staff turnover,) and weigh the cost of an internal vs. external IT service provider as well the strategic advantages, working with an MSP quickly becomes a more effective use of money, time, and other resources.
Prior to onboarding with Kelser, clients often mention their concern with hidden costs or random fee increases at their current MSP. Your MSP should lay out all of the costs in the proposal so there are no surprises. At Kelser, for example, the monthly fee is the monthly fee. It doesn't change unless you add new locations, increase the number of employees or add more devices (like computers or access points).
When an MSP works with a company on a special project that may be outside of the regular MSP contract, they should provide all of the information up front, so there are no surprises.
How Can An MSP Save My Business Time?
Strategic IT management can make the difference between success and failure for any organization. Whether it’s managing service requests efficiently, making sure your backups are really backing up as scheduled, or planning for an upcoming software refresh, having dedicated IT resources that are appropriate for your business is key.
When you work with an MSP who takes the time to get to know your business, not just from an IT standpoint, but also in terms of your strategic goals, the partnership is highly efficient.
At Kelser, for example, we pride ourselves on learning about your business, your pain points, and your goals from our very first phone call. We follow that up with a site visit, gaining an intimate understanding of your IT infrastructure and forming the basis for our proposal of work.
Whenever possible, infrastructure issues should be addressed at the beginning of the working relationship to minimize the potential for downtime further on.
For example, when a client's server is nearing maximum capacity, it's important for the MSP to include a new server in a proposal to increase efficiency and enhance the remote user experience. But, if the client has recently invested a significant amount of money in their server, the MSP's proposed timeline should allow time to budget and accrue the funds to pay for the project rather to avoid an unplanned expense.
By working with customers, MSPs can minimize the business impact and allow them to get the maximum use of their current equipment.
This level of detail and understanding for your business means your MSP can respond quickly and efficiently to any technology need.
Whether you need to add a server, trade out a non-functioning device, or activate your business continuity, disaster recovery protocols because a hacker has penetrated your firewall, one phone call to your MSP should be all you need to get started.
MSPs bring a wealth of resources to bear on every IT solution, and arrive at a solution faster because we already know your business.
Ready To Find Out More About IT MSPs?
Now you have a basic understanding of how an effective MSP partnership could benefit your business and provide a cost-effective and strategic solution for your IT needs. You know how much you can expect to pay and the services and advantages that such a relationship will provide.
If you want to learn more about what MSPs do, check out this article: What Does A Managed Services Provider Do? There’s so much more to learn! Let us know how we can help.