One major growing trend in the world of business information technology is the transition of key areas of IT infrastructure to a managed services model. In this scenario, enterprise-level IT departments utilize a managed services provider (MSP) like Syntax managed services to take over certain duties.
In this type of arrangement, the MSP will either take over a certain area of the infrastructure full time or they will act as a part time resource. The term “managed service” covers a lot of ground in the IT world. Some of the more well-known areas covered in a typical MSP contract are as follows.
Disaster recovery: Many IT departments spend a lot of time managing backups. Checking the nightly backup status, fine-tuning the backup system and troubleshooting failed backup jobs are just a few of the many day-to-day D.R. tasks that take much of administrators’ time. Since these admins’ skills could be better used for less bothersome, more proactive duties, many companies choose to rely on a MSP to manage their disaster recovery operations.
Monitoring: Paying constant attention to servers and network hardware is a tall order, especially for administrators who are already overtaxed. IT departments can use an MSP to monitor performance, uptime, errors, capacity and more on a 24/7/365 basis. The MSP can resolve issues on their own or notify company staff, depending on the arrangement.
Implementation: One very popular use of an MSP is in an implementation role. Some IT departments may not have the expertise to roll out a new server-level application. Others just might not have the time to install and configure a new desktop app to every company computer. A MSP’s on-demand manpower can really come in handy in these situations.
Helpdesk: An in-demand, emerging MSP role is first-line helpdesk support. The MSP can furnish offsite staff to field helpdesk calls and email and handle tier-one troubleshooting tasks. This can free up helpdesk staff for more advanced troubleshooting, desktop builds and more responsive end-user support.
Specific services: IT departments who may be understaffed or may not need specific duties filled too often can rely on an MSP for specialized services. For example, a company may have a need for full-time database support but might not have the funds to hire a DBA. In another example, some businesses may have Linux servers, especially in a VMware environment. Since Linux rarely requires support, it doesn’t make sense to hire a full-time expert. In both of these cases, an MSP can be relied on to fill the gap efficiently and affordably.
What are the pros and cons of hiring an MSP?
Knowledge: Not every technology professional can know everything. Sometimes, it’s a matter of not having the budget or full-time demand for an experienced professional in a given area. In both situations, an MSP can be hired to fill these “knowledge blind spots” on an on-demand basis affordably.
IT staff burden: In too many cases, a company’s full-time IT staff finds itself bogged down with repetitive, mundane daily tasks. While important, these activities can take up far too much time that would be better spent performing more proactive duties like capacity planning, server patching and brainstorming projects that will add real value to the enterprise. AN MSP can take over the drab daily tasks in situations like this and make IT departments more efficient and forward-thinking.
Budget freedom: Many assume hiring MSPs to be an expensive proposition. The opposite is actually true. An MSP allows IT departments to pay only for what they need, freeing up vital funds for other projects and activities.
Perceived loss of control: IT professionals are a possessive lot. They are proud of the systems they manage and firmly believe they are their systems. It may be hard for this staff and also their managers to surrender control to a third party.
Reliability worries: Being a “control freak” is just human nature. There’s the old saw that says, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” This is especially true in the IT world. Just like the control issue, it will take a lot for some IT departments to feel comfortable enough with their systems’ uptime to hand them over.
Proper vetting: Not all MSPs are created equal. This is still a young industry and there are as many bad MSPs as there are good ones. The onus is on the IT department to properly asses the MSPs staff, security, reliability and background. Some may just not feel like this level of effort is worth it.
Are MSPs worth it to you?
That depends. IT managers need to take a hard look at their enterprises and decide for themselves. Hiring a MSP can be difficult at first, requiring a surrender of control and some work to find a great one. However, companies that find a reliable, qualified MSP will see an increase in efficiency and reliability, striking upon a valuable, rewarding relationship that will last a long time.