What is an MSP?

It’s a term you may have heard whispered the dark corners of your server room—some mysterious service that can elevate your IT department out of the depths of daily tech chores, driving forward new tools and strategy, instead of just treading water. What could this phantom support be, you ask? It’s a certain type of company called a “Managed Service Provider,” and today we’re going to discuss exactly what’s being provided in this relationship.

Wikipedia defines an MSP as:

“Managed services are the practice of outsourcing day-to-day management responsibilities and functions as a strategic method for improving operations and cutting expenses. This can include outsourcing HR-activities, production support and lifecycle build/maintenance activities.”

More or less, we’re looking at a form of outsourced IT, or as some refer to it, “managed” or “co-managed” IT. Where these services were once delegated only to large businesses, the advent of cloud-computing has opened this option up to businesses of all sizes. In fact, MSPmentor found that 90% of MSP work in 2013 took place in the small business sector (less than 100 employees). So if you’re a small business, this might be for you!

Taking care of the basics

You might say these groups “take out the trash” for the IT department—“the trash,” being tasks like network monitoring, backing up data, maintaining servers, and managing devices. These tasks aren’t out of the IT’s realm by any means, but they form the time-consuming body of work that gives IT a reputation for being little more than a tech cleanup-crew.

Newmind Group’s managed services helped Grabowski Orthodontics, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in revamping their data backup process. The managed services team put in the legwork to transform their manual, high-maintenance backup system into a fully-automated process, duplicating their valuable information for storage on-site and off-site. Their office coordinator, Kellie Simmons, was thrilled that the MSP had not only streamlined a burdensome process, but also found time to restore client data which had been corrupted in their old system:

“Since Newmind had already encouraged our office to be proactive by putting a backup system in place, they were able to come in that day and restore [previously lost data]. We were able to continue with business as usual and return to a much happier doctor!”

What role should MSPs be playing?

These common tech chores is where the MSP advantage comes in—it’s the MSP’s job to care for these bottom-rung tasks, so that your business’ in-house can focus on strategic, value-driven tasks. And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t expect your MSP to mesh with your company culture, either. A strong MSP should be able to quickly recognize and its role within an organization and adapt to it, and when you’re seeking an MSP, you ought to consider what types of businesses they’re presently servicing.

Treystar, a real estate investment company in Portage, Michigan, has never employed an in-house IT staff. For years, they have relied on outsourcing to an MSP, but their provider seemed disconnected, only ever producing quick fixes, rather than rooting for long-term solutions. Deanna Rothe, Treystar’s financial controller (and ad-hoc IT director), resolved to seek a new source for support, and was relieved to find an MSP that plays a more participatory role in their support:

“There is someone in that seat now that gets it, wants it, and has the capacity to do it… Thanks to Newmind, we can concentrate on other parts of the ‘operating system.’ We don’t worry so much about the technology any longer knowing it’s in good hands. We are enjoying our partnership.”

Focusing on value

Businesses without MSP support: perhaps it’s time to consider harboring this partnership. If your IT department is swamped with menial tasks, or simply if you want to bring them closer in line with your organization’s greater values, having this extra set of hands could be just the help you need. For those working with MSP’s already? Consider how they’re working for you: to unlock the true value in your service provider, really evaluate how they approach the support process.

Read more about the strengths of choosing an MSP that is also your VAR—great things can happen!