What is an IT Managed Service Provider?

What is an IT MSP?

Your IT Lowdown in 5 Minutes

What is an IT MSP?

Here’s a high-level overview about MSPs (Managed Service Providers). You’re a business owner and you struggle with specific problems in your industry. So, what can an MSP do about it?  In addition to offering regular IT support, MSPs assess and strategize with your executive team to see how things could be going better. That’s what we mean by two languages: business and technology. These become one language when done correctly.

For example, if you run a manufacturing firm, then you’re facing all kinds of issues, from supply chain or skilled labor shortages to onboarding new employees. At first glance, IT cannot help directly with these matters. However, the right IT managed service provider can help indirectly. Keep reading to learn how.

More specifically, MSPs are third-party companies that manage an SMB’s IT infrastructure and end-user systems—usually remotely.

  • They manage data storage systems that allow SMBs to retrieve and store information, including sensitive information, easily and securely.
  • MSPs help businesses improve their clients’ experience and achieve better efficiency.
  • By keeping up with cybersecurity regulations and trends, MSPs help SMBs manage risk in the face of threats from bad actors or natural disasters.
  • MSPs help businesses comply with industry-specific regulations (e.g., FINRA, HIPAA) for maintaining the confidentiality and security of sensitive information.
  • MSPs also keep software subscriptions up to date, help with onboarding and training employees, and manage special projects such as moving operations to the cloud or changing office locations.
  • Many businesses don’t realize that MSPs can function as a virtual CIO—offering strategic technology advice to help your business become more efficient. At Now IT Works, we bring over 20 years’ of expertise to your business.

Coordinating with an SMB’s executives and internal IT team (if there is one), MSPs monitor technology activity (without accessing actual data) 24/7 to look for unusual events. In response to a major problem—e.g., ransomware attack or natural disaster—an MSP can help the business recover data and get back on its feet quickly.

Increasing Need for MSPs

Both large enterprises and SMBs are increasingly turning to MSPs for help. Large businesses often find that their internal IT teams are overwhelmed by trying to manage routine maintenance tasks and cybersecurity in addition to more important innovations required by their business.

More urgently, SMBs often lack trained personnel to handle their technology infrastructure and risk management. In light of the growing shortage of trained IT specialists, SMBs find hiring IT staff increasingly challenging or impossible.

Recall our manufacturing firm example. When trying to hire skilled employees, an IT MSP can help smooth the onboarding process, which frees up time and resources and ultimately leads to better retention.  

That is why companies who used MSPs for more than half of their IT services increased from 25% in 2020 to 38% in 2021. That trend will likely continue for the next few years.

The Primary Focus of MSPs

Not long ago, IT support consisted mainly of keeping computers and printers connected and working. Then it involved maintaining an internal network of computer workstations, sometimes across different office locations. To keep everything secure, it was merely necessary to keep intruders from accessing the internal network. Support services would swoop in to fix whatever went wrong. Those days are over. A castle-and-moat approach no longer gets the job done.

Today’s digital environment is worldwide and in the cloud. Increasingly, software applications and data reside in the cloud, accessible by anyone anywhere. The new context requires proactive management beyond reactive response.

For example, IT support must now include continually updating software applications to incorporate new features and remain secure. To help businesses access and secure sensitive information, MSPs typically recommend storing data in the cloud automatically and in different locations. Risk management now requires a proactive response to prevent disruptions, rather than merely reacting to them.

Moreover, today’s competitive environment now demands the ability to scale up and to provide a better experience for clients no matter where they are. Localized software and data storage can quickly bump up against capacity and speed limitations. Migrating operations to the cloud can achieve flexibility to promote growth and speed.

MSPs help shift to automation whenever possible (see our Automation for Small Business) and to cloud-based operations (hear/see our interview with Chris Meacham about the cloud)—all while achieving more robust risk management.

Therefore, with the shifting requirements of cloud-based business technology, many SMBs find at it makes sense to outsource at least some of their IT operations to an MSP. Taking that step can propel your business to greater success (see our post, Outsource Your IT Support, for details).

Going Beyond Ordinary Support and Cybersecurity

Most businesses think of an MSP as outsourced IT support. Also, they probably realize that a good one will perform a cybersecurity risk analysis…and then make recommendations or help to put security measures in place.

But what about our manufacturing firm? They’ve been struggling with a lack of coordination between sales, process, and delivery of orders. We improved their operations by analyzing what caused the issue (What roles does your team perform? How do they perform them? What’s not going well?). From there, we positioned hardware on the shop floor in a more efficient location. Plus, we helped them discover features of their ERP that they had not used to best advantage.  

Not to mention, the difficulty they encountered when moving from low tech to high tech, required ongoing support, which our team provided.

Many small businesses suffer from these types of challenges. A pair of trained eyes can make a world of difference. For answers to your questions or to get started, contact us at Now IT Works today.