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Grow Your Business Technology

Pros and Cons of an IT Managed Service Provider for a Small Business

managed IT services
Credit: wavebreakmedia | Shutterstock

Your employees cannot work if your technology is not working. Many small businesses still hire a dedicated IT employee, but that's not always the best answer. Managed service providers (MSPs) are an increasingly popular option for small businesses.

MSPs differ from other methods of tech upkeep because they are designed to support many facets of IT and centralize IT for a small business. For instance, an MSP can handle your company's networking, help desk queries, server upkeep, project management and desktop support, to name a few. MSPs support many clients – many more than a computer store or independent professional would have. That means more resources at their disposal and a deeper knowledge base to draw from.

However, there are factors a small business should consider before subscribing to an MSP. For instance, does it fit into your budget? Do you need someone onsite who can fix problems like printer jams? If you don't have a service like this, are you sure your technology is secure? Read on for the pros and cons of outsourcing your IT needs.

If an MSP operates effectively, it should prevent technical issues from occurring. It does this by constantly monitoring aspects of IT such as hardware, applications, security and internet to notify you when there is an issue or abnormality. Ultimately, what you are paying for is someone to keep your business from having issues rather than to fix them. 

With certain plans, the MSP company provides all the technology for your business, such as workstations, servers and software. All you do is use them and pay for them. While expensive, this means no capital expenditures for the tech, allowing your business to focus its capital in other areas, which is always beneficial.

If a business is using one "computer guy" for all things IT, chances are this person does not have expertise in all areas. They may be good at troubleshooting Microsoft Word, but what happens when your router stops functioning? MSPs, on the other hand, usually have skilled personnel dedicated to each function of IT. This usually means they are better equipped all around.

As a business owner, do you ponder how you would go about restoring all your systems and data in the event of a disaster? If not, you should. This is an area where an MSP can help you tremendously. A good MSP can create an efficient disaster recovery plan that will help you sleep at night, knowing that if disaster does strike, your business can endure it. [Related: Disaster Recovery Tips for Small Businesses]

A huge downside to signing up with an MSP is that many of these companies are not local to your business. When an issue like a printer malfunction comes up, you may need to get involved yourself to resolve it, as MSPs manage your technology remotely. With that said, if you choose a local MSP (at least within your state), it may offer onsite support. However, you will usually have to pay extra for a physical visit to the office.

Make no mistake, having a reputable MSP is expensive. You will likely pay upfront fees and at least a few hundred dollars a month, depending on the size of your business and your technical needs. Remember to factor in what an MSP will save you in other areas, though – for instance, if it provides technology that you will never have to purchase yourself.

The scope of work that an MSP provides almost never covers every single area of technology. An MSP will typically provide you with a list of applications it supports (Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, etc.). When you call about an issue with third-party software that's not on its supported list or in the contract, you are likely out of luck.

Each small business owner must weigh all the factors in paying for an MSP. If you find your business frequently has to lean on IT support, or that you are spending too much time trying to fix technical issues yourself, an MSP may be a good idea.

Dan Franciscus

Dan Franciscus is a PowerShell and Chocolatey NuGet evangelist, as well as a freelance writer.