Do SMBs Need a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

edited August 2023 in Business

A managed service provider (MSP) refers to a third party that manages a business and end-user systems as well as its IT services. MSPs can be involved in network and infrastructure management, as well as monitoring. It can be used by businesses and organizations regardless of their size. In a way, they can be thought of as IT outsourcing to, and IT support services from, a third party.

Why are MSPs useful for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs)?

Information technology is becoming increasingly complex, and in-house IT teams can get overwhelmed from time to time if they constantly are faced with tasks beyond their expertise. Data breaches and cyber security attacks are often severe, business-damaging events that cannot be easily fixed without adequate knowledge. SMBs may also struggle with the costs of hiring a long line of IT workers who each have a different area of expertise.

As such, MSPs may be a wise investment for SMBs. It is crucial, however, to first consider the pros and cons of MSPs more generally and to decide the extent to which MSPs may be helpful for individual SMBs.

The pros and cons of MSP 

Here are some points to evaluate with regard to the role of managed IT services for small businesses:

Pro #1: MSPs have up-to-date knowledge and expertise on softwares and infrastructures

The realm of IT is broad, and it is not possible for an in-house IT specialist to know everything. MSPs usually come with personnel who have a wide range of expertise, and they are constantly ready to tackle tricky matters such as sophisticated cyber attacks. That is, they may be able to take care of matters that an in-house specialist cannot single-handedly do.

Pro #2: MSPs usually are more aware of industry-specific compliance rules

Educated up-to-date, MSPs often know about compliance standards on the back of their hands, often to a local level. This insight can help businesses avoid heavy fines that may be imposed if they were non-compliant unintentionally.

Con #1: Costs for MSPs may fluctuate from month to month

While some MSPs do sometimes charge monthly rates, ultimately, costs can differ from month to month depending on the service being used. Between an SMB and an MSP, a service-level agreement (SLA) is usually put in place so that the business can expect a concrete outcome from the MSP service. Costs can fluctuate, and it is therefore important for an SMB to have a secure budget in place before an MSP is considered.

Con #2: MSPs, especially the larger ones, often have to handle a huge set of clients and may occasionally neglect certain businesses

MSP entails outsourcing of IT services, and there is always the possibility that assistance isn’t readily available. While MSP specialists might attempt to check a business’ site as much as they can, the availability is still different from an in-house specialist, who is paid to focus only on the business’ IT matters. Also mention-worthy is that if a company’s IT systems were set up by another party, the new MSP would also need time to learn about them.

Con#3: Break-fix approaches

As MSPs usually have multiple clients to tend to, break-fix approaches may become a problem. Break-fix approaches refer to how an MSP interferes only in situations where an issue is urgent and warrants attention. In most other cases, a client would be expected to manage the IT system themselves. The extent to which a company can withstand a break-fix approach would vary according to size, manpower, and the IT expertise available. Many SMBs, however, cannot really afford break-fix approaches, as such scenarios may create major gaps in SMB business operations. 

MSP vs. IT specialist employees: what’s the difference? 

Businesses may ask an instinctive question: why invest in MSP when one can hire IT specialists to tackle the same tasks? The most substantial benefit of an MSP is that it offers more resources than a small in-house team is able to. For one thing, in-house teams do require time off and vacation days, which may cause progress to fall behind. IT talent itself is not particularly easy to find, and on-site IT teams may not always have complete, updated expertise of all types of IT infrastructures and technologies. Hiring an on-site team also implies costs of human resources (pay, time and expenses needed for training, benefits), which may be

A hybrid approach? Having both MSPs and in-house IT teams

Things are seldom black-or-white in business, so it is also possible to have both an MSP and an in-house IT team working together. This may make IT operations easier at times: the in-house specialist can take care of most of a company's IT needs, reaching out to MSPs only when special expertise or an extra hand is needed. The feasibility of this approach would depend on the ability of the personnel and other things like costs.

Stronger hardware and better software – might it shape the need for MSP?

MSPs are often involved with security issues, and matters of security can be considered before a company purchases its work devices. Business secure laptops such as the Acer TravelMate Series are designed to have stronger security (both hardware and software-wise).. This, in turn, can help minimize the risk of going through certain types of IT issues, which then may play a part in deciding the extent to which MSPs are needed. 

Esme Lee is a science writer and editor in the UK, carrying a passion for tech copywriting. She has a background in educational neuroscience and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.


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