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Grow Your Business Technology

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

image for RossHelen / Getty Images
RossHelen / Getty Images
  • Outsourcing IT tasks to managed service providers give companies the chance to focus on running the business instead of troubleshooting tech problems.
  • Managed service providers maintain networks and perform necessary updates to keep the system running smoothly. They also make recommendations to optimize the network.
  • Managed services are costly, but may save money for a business since serious tech issues are typically avoided.

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. Considering outsourcing your IT tasks? Here’s everything you should know about MSPs.

Managed services are available for small businesses who are looking into outsourcing options for their IT needs. Managed service providers offer support for your company’s tech at a monthly flat-fee. Managed service providers proactively monitor a business’s network, minimizes IT problems and troubleshoots any issues that come up on the network. With advancements in cloud computing, most of the IT work is available for outsourcing. The managed service provider remotely accesses networks and deploys solutions for any computing issues without being in-house.

Managed service providers present contracts to clients as a way to detail what services are included. Contracts also list start and end dates for services. Outsourcing solutions available through vendors could include mobile device management, software as a service, platform as a service, help desk and backup recovery. Most managed service providers promote all-inclusive packages with unlimited IT resources while hired, including day to day network management.

Businesses need managed service providers because they negate risks. Instead of outsourcing IT when a problem occurs, managed services allows consistent monitoring of a network. Also, all updating and maintenance tasks are handled by a managed service provider. This allows managers to focus on their businesses instead of worrying about the company’s IT. A prospective managed service provider should also evaluate current and future IT needs. The company advises on what type of products and services a company should implement over the next year.

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.

1. Change in model

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. 

2. Tech provided

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.

3. Expertise

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.

4. Business continuity

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]

1. Physical presence

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.

2. Cost

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.

3. Scope

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.

Conclusion

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.