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Is an MSP Right for Your Enterprise?

Resellers evolved into value-added resellers (VARs), and now we have managed service provider (MSP). On the surface, MSPs appear to be a good idea. But what size organization is a candidate for an MSP, and who benefits the most? More importantly, how do you evaluate an MSP for your organization?
To discuss MSPs and more, I recently talked with Dave Sobel, host of “Killing IT” and “Business of IT” podcasts at the recent Channel Partners conference.
The Definition of an MSP
We started the conversation with the definition of an MSP. Sobel defined MSPs as "a company that will handle your IT operational needs for you," which results in an enterprise not having to hire an in-house team for the task(s). He went on to say that "they take on anything that an internal IT department might be responsible for, [including] help desk requests, computer management and maintenance, and security."
Just as the UCC market has changed, so too have MSPs. Initially, they started with basic IT functions, but now they can provide fully comprehensive IT services like budgeting and business planning, Sobel said.
In the below transcript, Sobel and I went on to discuss who can benefit the most from MSPs and how an enterprise goes about selecting one.
Do smaller IT organizations need an MSP? What can MSPs provide?
MSPs are perfect for smaller organizations, as they supplement what those internal organizations may not be able to do. They are great with the helpdesk, especially for problems beyond the expertise of the organization.
An MSP can perform backend work. When a customer needs specialized engineering talent, it’s better and cheaper to access an MSP expert rather than hiring a separate consultant. The MSP already knows the customer’s infrastructure and IT environment.
There are many boring maintenance tasks that divert the attention and focus of the customer’s IT staff from performing important projects. MSPs complement the needs of most organizations, allowing internal IT staff to pursue valuable projects, such as digital transformation.
Larger IT organizations already have staff to support their operations. What can the MSP offer to these organizations?
MSPs offer the ability to scale up and down and augment a larger IT organization. MSPs can bring specialized talent to the organization or can augment the IT staff performing tedious tasks, and apply best practices and automation.
What are the criteria for evaluating an MSP?
An MSP should be evaluated on their ability to deliver the technical services, their customer service, and their business alignment with your organization. Some MSPs focus on specific industries. The better the MSP knows your industry, the more likely they will bring talent and experience that better supports your organization. Price should factor once these factors have been evaluated.
An MSP may serve a local, regional, national, or an international customer. The remote access tools used by the MSP effectively allow remote IT management. So, the MSP need not be locally resident.
Is selecting an MSP a competitive procurement?
It certainly can be. An MSP can work to customize their services to your requirements. Past experience, existing customer base, staffing talent, certifications, and cost should all be evaluated.
What if I don’t like the MSP support? How easy is it to change to another MSP?
This will depend on your business requirements. It can range from simple to complex. Companies that address “how to end the relationship” from the start can ensure this process is smoother, if it is ever required.
A subject that we didn’t cover was security. It’s difficult to locate, hire, and retain security experts for IT Cyber Security Experts Becoming Endangered Species. The Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) has emerged to fill this gap. An MSSP can provide the talent and expertise to prevent security problems. But what about an attack? The enterprise will probably not have enough staff, talent, and experience to rapidly respond to an attack. Working with an MSSP, who has the resources and can deploy them rapidly, makes this type of support valuable.