If you’re running a business, you’re almost certainly using IT across virtually all parts of your company. From email and customer relationship management tools – to industry specific software and financial software; there’s a digital underpinning to almost everything we do.
So who looks after your IT? Do you have a dedicated team in-house? Do you rely on non-IT staff to keep IT running? Or are you one of the increasing numbers of companies who outsource their IT to a third-party company – or ‘managed service provider’?
Here, we’ll look at whether using a managed service provider (MSP) is a good idea – and what it might bring to your business.
How important is IT?
Before you make a decision around whether or not an MSP would be right for your company, it’s worth considering how important IT is to you. It’s not a trick question – just a chance to take a step back and assess what IT means to your business.
For many companies, IT can make or break your day. Without your email or online access, you may not be able to function – and if that means you’re turning away sales enquiries, unable to support your customers, or simply unable to deliver your service – it’s absolutely vital that IT is afforded the most support possible.
For small businesses, IT downtime (any time when you’re not able to access the applications that allow you to work) can cost in excess of £10,000 per hour. That might seem a lot – but when you factoring in wasted staffing hours, missed opportunities and potential customer loss – it’s easy to see why that figure only increases when you’re thinking about larger companies.
You simply cannot function without your IT, having a managed service provider onside is a very smart move. Not only will they do a good job of keeping you running – they’ll guarantee that’s going to be the case. A robust ‘service level agreement’ (SLA) will outline quite how hard they’ll work to keep you moving in the right direction at all times – and since you both sign on the dotting line when you agree to working together, they’ll do whatever’s needed to make sure you’re able to trade.
Is having an in-house team right for you?
Of course, most of what a good MSP can provide could, in theory, be delivered by a well-equipped and experienced in-house IT team – but that presents a series of challenges. The first of those challenges is finding and recruiting the staff. Recruitment is likely to cost thousands – and the costs could spiral if you find you’ve taken on the wrong person or people.
When you do find the right team, you’ve got to make sure they’re trained and accredited in a way that allows them to look after your company to standard you require – and that doesn’t come cheap, in fact, maintaining accreditations across a team is likely to add thousands again.
Of course, recruitment isn’t the only factor to consider when you’ve got a business to run – there’s that ‘uptime’ consideration again – quite simply, IT doesn’t sleep – but your staff do. In fact, not only do they sleep – but they take holidays, they’re need time off if they’re unwell, they can resign – and so on. While there’s no doubting their right to do these things – you’ve got to remember that your IT must keep functioning if you want your business to stay afloat – and this is where using an MSP can be invaluable.
What does an MSP bring?
A good MSP can single-handedly remove all the stress that you’ll experience as a business owner or decision maker who’s trying to keep a handle on their IT infrastructure. Generally speaking, an MSP will meet with you and give you a chance to decide whether you’re a good fit together. You’ll have a chance to discuss what you’d require from a service level agreement – and any particulars that make your business and your IT unique.
The staffing issues we’ve just discussed are immediately alleviated; an MSP won’t resign, won’t need vacation cover – and won’t call in sick – and even if their staff do, they’ll still make sure your service level agreement is being met. While MSP staff require sleep like the rest of us, it’s not unusual for a staff team to use specialist software and monitoring tools to make sure your IT network health is maintained around the clock.
Experienced best practice
An MSP’s unique way of working with clients offers another kind of benefit over and above the service you can expect from an in-house team – and it relates to the sheer volume of clients they’re likely to be working with.
When you build an in-house team, you’re pulling together a series of experiences – but that wide range of experience grinds to a halt when they begin working on your projects and nothing else. An in-house team can become very familiar with your systems – but when there’s ‘outside of the box’ thinking needed, limited working knowledge can hold in-house teams back.
MSPs, on the other hand, are likely to encounter more in a single week or month than most in-house teams will in a year. Handling network issues, software upgrades, cyberattacks, design considerations and much more is to be expected frequently – and it leads to a team who have an incredible depth of knowledge. This depth of knowledge will almost certainly work to your advantage too – since it’s all accessible to you with just a single phone call.
Ultimately, running a business boils down to money – and when IT is concerned, expenditure can be an enormous unknown. Whether you’re looking at unexpected hardware costs, consultancy fees if your in-house team come up short – or a host of other things that could see your budget severely depleted, taking an MSP onboard will be protection against the unknown.
A wide depth of knowledge allows a good MSP to consider your network or predict and issues – and they’ll never come up short on knowledge. If packaging all your IT costs up and having them presented as one regular monthly cost sounds appealing – now might be a good time to start researching an MSP that can deliver what you’re looking for.