by Scott Jack
Content Contributor, E-N Computers
7+ years experience in healthcare IT and tech support.
If you’re looking for someone to take care of IT for your business, your two main options are to hire an IT professional or sign a contract with an IT managed service provider. An IT MSP, or managed service provider, is a business that provides outsourced IT administration and support to businesses.
An IT managed service provider, or MSP, delivers outsourced IT administration and support to businesses either at an hourly rate or as a monthly subscription. The best MSPs will keep your systems up to date, prevent problems, and work with you to develop a technology strategy that makes your business stronger.
Table of Contents
- What does a managed IT service provider do?
- How much does a managed IT service provider cost?
- Hiring IT staff vs. hiring a managed IT service provider
- Problems with managed IT service providers
- Benefits of managed IT service providers
- How to choose a managed IT service provider
- Do you have a mature IT environment?
What does a managed IT service provider or IT MSP do?
Not all IT MSPs provide the same level of service. We like to categorize support into three levels:
- Break/Fix. A basic break/fix MSP is always putting out fires. They stop your immediate pain but don’t address the root cause. On the surface, break/fix managed services are the least expensive option, but the resulting downtime can cost you.
- Proactive. A proactive MSP will actively work to prevent problems from occurring. IT will run more smoothly than with a break/fix MSP. A proactive MSP will do regular on-site visits, provide remote monitoring and management of your systems, and have a basic backup and disaster recovery plan in place. While this is far better than break/fix, you’ll still be missing out on efficiency improvements that come with an IT strategy and roadmap.
- Strategic. Strategic MSPs take the stress and guesswork out of IT. On top of proactive support, we provide guidance regarding 1) how technology can be used to improve your processes, 2) what your technology budget should look like over time, and 3) how to comply with government regulations and industry standards.
Learn more in the article What Is Included in Managed IT Services?
You can inspect a potential IT managed service provider the same way a mechanic inspects a car. Download a copy of the 7-point MSP Inspection Checklist in PDF form now.
Don’t have time to fill out the checklist right now? Enter your email address (totally optional!) and we’ll send you a link so you can download it later or share it with your team.
How much do managed IT services cost?
There are a few different ways that managed IT service providers charge for their services. These include:
- Per user. You pay a monthly or annual rate for each user.
- Per device. You pay a monthly or annual rate for each device. The rate will depend on the type of device. Servers, desktops and laptops, tablets, smartphones, and network printers will be charged for at different rates.
- Tiered pricing. Services are offered in a few packages and price points. It’s common to use the Good-Better-Best approach in tiered pricing, which means that the most basic tier could be missing important features.
ENC uses a tiered per-user pricing model. Instead of the Good-Better-Best approach, our tiers are direct answers to customer needs. We have a managed IT plan for you if you are looking to:
- supplement your existing IT staff,
- completely outsource your IT department, or
- achieve CMMC compliance.
Many MSPs require a minimum contract length — usually 1, 3, or 5 years. Longer terms — 3 or 5 years — may include a discount or locked-in rate. From what we have seen, though, long contracts tend to favor the MSP, not you.
At ENC, we only offer recurring monthly plans. You can cancel your plan at any time with just 30 days’ notice. We want to earn your long-term partnership. Our plans are designed to set you up for success by including strategic planning and proactive support. But if you ever decide we’re no longer a good fit, we want you to have the flexibility to try something else.
Can I afford managed IT services?
Weigh out your budget, support expectations, and estimated costs of downtime and inefficiency. These factors will help you determine what you can afford. ENC’s prices are set to be affordable for the strategic level of service we provide.
Our IT MSP Pricing Calculator lets you estimate your monthly cost with us without having to jump on a sales call. Just select how many staff you have (10 to 100), whether you have a full-time employee dedicated to end-user support, and whether you need to comply with CMMC. If you like what you see, you can submit your quote to continue the conversation.
Hiring IT staff vs. hiring a managed IT service provider or IT MSP
The two main approaches to small business IT support are to either hire IT staff or to hire a managed IT service provider.
Hiring staff. The first IT position formally hired in many small businesses is a Systems Administrator. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this position has a median pay of $80,600. Sometimes businesses try to save money and hire a Computer Support Specialist, whose median salary is $57,910. As the business grows, they find they need both roles.
However, as your business grows it will become increasingly challenging to properly manage your network with just one or two full-time employees. Often, they’re not able to give appropriate attention to strategic planning and important projects that lay the groundwork for future growth and stability. Expanding your IT department will involve developing strong, well-documented processes and hiring more specialized workers with higher salaries.
Hiring an MSP. In contrast, an established managed service provider maintains an entire team of specialized IT professionals and distributes the cost across many clients. We have proven processes that we continue to refine as technologies and client needs change. With ENC, you get a full turn-key IT department at a fraction of the cost of hiring enough full-time IT staff.
This means that you still have access to help desk support, properly managed Windows updates and security patches, a secure network, and regular on-site visits. You have access to a fractional Chief Technology Officer, someone who can advise you on how to best use technology to improve business processes and outcomes.
Hiring both. You don’t have to choose between IT staff or a managed IT service provider. You can use both. We call this co-managed IT. With this setup, your MSP acts like a full behind-the-scenes IT department while someone on-site full-time provides day-to-day support.
Learn more in our article Should I Build or Buy an IT Department?
Problems with managed IT service providers
There are a few problems with MSPs that make them a poor fit for some businesses. The top three problems people have with MSPs are:
Less control. To provide consistent and high-quality service to dozens of clients, a managed IT service provider implements standards and processes that you will have limited input on. Your contract will also outline a service level agreement (SLA) that describes how issues are prioritized and escalated.
Slower response times. You may be used to dropping by your IT person’s office for immediate assistance. An MSP will not have someone on-site, so you will have to rely on remote support and scheduled site visits. While issues that do not affect many people or do not greatly affect operations may take longer to be resolved, those with high impact or urgency will always be given priority. “Impact” refers to the number of people affected and “urgency” refers to an issue’s effect on business operations. An MSP can also provide 24-7 assistance, which would not be realistic to expect from one or two full-time employees.
Higher costs. Compared to not having any IT or only having break-fix services from an MSP, our monthly cost on paper is higher. Customers who aren’t convinced the cost is worth it usually choose to hire IT staff or work with a break-fix MSP instead. However, when you have an idea of the cost of downtime and inefficiency, it’s easier to see the value of a proactive, strategic MSP.
Learn more in the article Disadvantages of Outsourcing IT Support.
Benefits of managed IT service providers
What are some of the benefits of partnering with an MSP?
Lower costs. An MSP is less expensive than hiring a fully functional in-house IT department. It can also help you lower costs related to suboptimal processes, lost productivity, and downtime.
Current technology. We maintain hardware and software inventories so that we know whether computers still have manufacturer warranty and support and we plan for replacement on a regular schedule. We also make sure your software stays up to date.
Security. We follow best practices for securing computers and networks, remotely monitor your systems for abnormal activity, and install security patches in a timely manner. ENC also has expertise in achieving regulatory and industry compliance across healthcare, education, manufacturing, and defense contracts.
Learn more in our article Benefits of Managed IT Services.
How to choose a managed IT service provider
There are a few things you should look for when choosing an MSP. We like to call this the “MSP Multipoint Inspection”. Here is the checklist (along with how ENC stacks up).
Learn more in our article Seven Steps to Choosing a Managed IT Service Provider.
|Inspection Point||E-N Computers Fully Managed IT|
|Helpdesk response time||Acknowledged in 12 minutes, then prioritized and assigned. Emergencies followed up within 30 minutes|
|On-site support||Monthly, quarterly or annual add-on|
|Backup and disaster recovery||On-site and off-site backups of your last 30 days of working files, with partial restore tests|
|Third-party vendor partnerships||Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, and more|
|Industry expertise||Regulated industries like manufacturing, defense, and education|
|Consulting, strategy, budget||Quarterly strategy meetings included|
|Pricing model||Monthly, comprehensive, AND no-contract (See our Pricing Calculator)|
Do you have a mature IT environment?
If you are wondering whether an MSP is right for you, it could be because your IT systems aren’t meeting the needs of your organization. A mature IT environment is made up of partnerships, strategy, systems, and settings. Find out how you stack up with our free IT Maturity Evaluation. At the end, you’ll get some action steps you can take, as well as the opportunity to schedule a free 15-minute strategy call.
Is your business ready to weather changes, including employee turnover? Find out by taking our IT maturity assessment.
You’ll get personalized action items that you can use to make improvements right away. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to book a FREE IT strategy session to get even more insights into your IT needs.