What is a Managed Service Provider

What is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

Category : | Posted : Sep 1, 2023

We’ve met with hundreds of organizations to explore their IT needs, and very few have come to us actively using the term “Managed Service Provider” (MSP) as a descriptor of what they’re looking for. This term needs to be better understood. Yet the IT service industry actively uses “MSP” to try to describe their offerings. We hope to clarify what to think when you hear our industry say “MSP.”

Once upon a time, the IT support industry was simple. You needed help with your technology, you paid for an expert’s time, and they fixed your issue. This was sometimes referred to as “Time and Materials” or “Break-Fix” in our industry lingo — you were buying tech time.

The complexity of IT and what it takes to provide good IT has grown exponentially since these early days. This was problematic for IT companies and their clients. The industry responded by changing the business model so SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) could buy an IT “Solution” to the growing complexity. Managed Services as a term and a model was born to capture this difference.

In the broadest use of the term, an MSP charges a fixed fee for a defined set of products and services, promising something predictable and proactive.

Beyond this basic definition, there is tremendous variability in what “Managed Services” represents. This variability is critical if you’re trying to understand what your organization needs and whether an MSP will deliver.

MSPs land on a spectrum. 

You’ll find MSPs who offer a basic package at one end of the MSP spectrum. Think “tech support,” foundational technology like antivirus software, and perhaps automated monitoring. It’s undoubtedly a valuable offering for SMBs — everyone needs IT firefighting and basic security measures. And the notion of having your tech “managed” can be pretty reassuring.

On the other end of the spectrum, an MSP provides a much more robust solution. For example, alongside the essentials, a more “advanced” MSP might offer a robust suite of security measures to protect against ever-evolving cyber threats. They might also incorporate several proactive and talented technicians in their service delivery. Some MSP offerings can be extensive.

With all this variation, a clear decision can be unclear to the average business professional. How to compare apples to apples?

Are all MSPs even fruit?

Of course, the costs across the spectrum will vary greatly. At one end, perhaps you’ll be offered an MSP solution at $500 per month; at the other, there is a $10,000 solution.

As you can see, hiring an MSP differs from renting a car to get you from the airport to your hotel. It’s more like looking for “transportation” and finding that some providers offer roller skates and others provide a private jet. Look further, and you’ll find everything in between.

What should an MSP do?

We believe an MSP should be your path “out of the IT business”. It should provide peace of mind, knowledge that your IT needs are in good hands and empower you to focus on what you do best. And, of course, it should offer a solid return on your IT investment.

We’ve built our services at Smart Dolphins around this philosophy. We have seen MSPs in our market generally lean towards the “basic” end of the spectrum, perhaps because it’s easier to sell and deliver.

Of course, most IT Providers presumably have happy clients, so we need a variety in offerings in the market. Some require a bike, some need a truck, and some need a helicopter.

What do YOU need from your MSP?

Our intention here is to acquaint you with the term MSP. However, we warn that “MSP” doesn’t simplify things for you.

What you need from an IT Provider will depend on many factors unique to your organization, and the devil is in the details. What kind of “transportation” does your business need – where are you going, how quickly, how safely, how much cargo space is needed, under what weather conditions, and what level of comfort do you need? “A whole lot more” and a long list of deliverables might be “overkill,” or it might be critical to your future success (or even survival).

Bicycle or Truck or Helicopter?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all MSP and you will need to do some work to figure out the best fit for your organization’s unique needs.

We hope we can help. We’re confident that we can help you navigate these complex waters, just like we’ve done with hundreds of other businesses. We’re here to help you, and we’re excited about the opportunity to do so.

Let’s meet and dive into what kind of MSP you need. 

If you prefer to do more research, we hope you’ll find our website helpful. We ultimately want to educate you and help you make informed decisions about your IT.

Good luck!

Smart Dolphins Team

Learn more about our MSP – Schedule a meeting online!

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