Posted by Amanda at Varay on Feb 18, 2021 10:00:00 AM

What are Managed IT Services? 

Pam is having a terrible morning. She arrived to find her office in chaos. A power outage the previous night caused the network servers to go down, preventing the office staff at her small business from connecting to their network server. They can’t access shared office files, log on to the internet, or even access their local printer. This has resulted in a morning full of downtime, lost productivity, and angry customers. Pam will have to call an IT Tech… again. 

For Pam, this is just the latest episode in a never-ending series of IT mishaps, and we’re betting you can relate! Every time technical trouble comes knocking, you lose time and money, and your employees are probably frustrated with being delayed by another IT problem. Pam is tired of having to make decisions about IT that she doesn’t feel qualified to make and never knowing how much the next mishap will cost. 

Unfortunately, most businesses associate IT with the same word that Pam does: stress

How does a Managed IT service provider simplify my IT?

Pam’s not the first or the last business owner to be pulling her hair out when it comes to IT. And if you’re reading this post, you’ve probably heard that a Managed IT service provider (MSP) could be the answer to your technical difficulties, but how do you know it’s really the right fit? 

 

three light bulbs in a row with tangled chords. The 4th light bulb has a straight/untangled cord and is lit.

Well, we can’t say whether or not an MSP is right for you, but to give you a better understanding of the value an MSP brings to the table, let’s unpack the question, “What are managed IT services?”

In a nutshell, managed IT services cover three key areas of operational efficiency:

  • Consulting: Strategizing ways to improve efficiency from purchasing the right equipment to implementing them in your business. 
  • 24/7 IT Support:  Monitoring and support to address potential issues and quick response to IT headaches.
  • Partnership: Partnership with the community and national distributors to give your business an edge with the most up-to-date software and products, special pricing, and options for your company.

Simply put, managed IT services are designed to take the stress out of situations like the one poor Pam was forced to handle on her own. Instead of wondering what problems are awaiting you at work, an MSP monitors and supports your business around the clock to catch and address possible issues. From cybersecurity to systems implementation and work-from-home solutions, and MSP holistically manages your IT support. And when there is a problem (because surely there will be), your MSP is here available to help. 

Will an MSP replace my in-house IT team member? Young man with a blue shirt against a pink background who is comically worried.

Maybe you already have an in-house IT technician that you love working with. Will a managed IT services provider replace them? The short answer is: it doesn’t have to! An MSP is designed to support your whole company, including Jeff in IT.  While an MSP can be your sole IT support if you’re looking for that, we here at Varay would much prefer to partner with your in-house IT experts.  

A partnership between your MSP and in-house IT technician maximizes your company's efficiency, because your technician can provide us with unique insights about your business, while we can give them access to our expertise, experience, and broad range of skills.

But things are okay. Why do I need to change my IT? 

If you are asking “What are managed IT services?” chances are good that your primary experience has been calling a tech when something isn’t working. This “break it, fix it” model differs fundamentally from value an MSP gives your business. Let’s look at the main differences between these two approaches:

Break/fix IT vs. managed IT services

  •  Reactive vs. Proactive

In a break-fix IT model, a technician is called in when there is already a problem. This leaves a business to operate in crisis mode while waiting for the issue to be resolved.

A managed IT service provider proactively monitors and maintains your IT infrastructure, addressing issues before they become a crisis.

  •  Uninformed vs. Informed

When an IT technician is called in to solve a problem at your business, it falls to you to decide which course of action to take. If you don’t have a background in IT, you might not feel qualified to make this decision, which puts you in a difficult position.

An MSP carries the burden of knowing what action should be taken. They use their expertise to head off problems before they happen instead of asking you to make decisions outside of your expertise.

  • Unpredictable vs. Predictable

Just like Pam's scenario earlier, break-fix IT services leave you wondering, “How much is it going to cost me this time?” It’s challenging to budget for the unknown, which makes it tempting for businesses to choose a temporary, short-term patch-up in response to an unexpected expense instead of a long-term solution.

A managed IT service provider works with you to develop a budget-conscious, comprehensive plan with set fees. Changes can be implemented over a gradual timeline that takes your budget into account.

And when you partner with Varay and a problem does arise, our help desk is available for a quick, effective solution. No more waiting and wondering when a technician will be available!

Is it really worth the effort to find and hire an MSP?

Let’s address the elephant in the room. We recognize that answering this question as a managed IT service provider in El Paso and San Antonio ourselves may come off as a tad biased. And that’s valid! However, we recognize that an MSP isn’t the right fit for every business. We want your business to be empowered to thrive through a strong IT infrastructure in the best way possible, so here are a few examples of when an MSP is worth the effort. 

Several team member’s hands and arms stacked on each other to show comradery.

Many business owners are hesitant to “take the plunge” and partner with an MSP. Their only experience with IT support has been either a break-fix approach, DIY, or assigning the task to a tech-savvy employee who has other job responsibilities. In these cases, IT seems like a necessary evil rather than a support for achieving our business objectives, and a budget-conscious business owner may look at the cost of an MSP and wonder whether it’s really worth the expense and effort of trying something different.

While it can be costly, a managed IT service can be a powerful engine to fuel business growth, increase efficiency, and free yourself and your employees from constantly having to deal with IT issues. An MSP can help you enact changes in a gradual manner to minimize disruptions, and save a business the expense of costly downtime, frustration with outdated systems, and time spent DIY-ing IT issues when you have other work you need to accomplish.

When it comes to IT support, quick fixes ultimately lead to more frustration. Many people wait to prioritize IT support until there is a catastrophe like data loss, cyberattacks, or a server outage. However, an MSP’s value is measured by how well they prevent problems, which ultimately leads to increased customer and employee satisfaction.

In order to make sure we don’t come across as totally biased, don’t just take our word for it! Instead, take it from Paige Fox, Managing Director of Fox Auto Group of El Paso. After years of making do with outdated equipment, frustration, and ultimately a costly internet outage, her company saw the worth of managed IT. After a skillful and cost-mindful onboarding, Varay brought Fox Auto Group’s systems up to date and took proactive measures to protect against future incidents. Paige Fox reports that with Varay as her managed IT service provider, her business is more efficient, her employees are more satisfied, and her customers are more satisfied. 

How do I find the right MSP? 

By this point, hopefully it’s clear when and how an MSP can be a valuable asset for supporting you and your business. So if you’ve decided to take the plunge, what should you look for when choosing a managed IT service provider to find the right fit?

Here are the qualities your MSP needs to have:

Before you sign the contract, here are the key qualities we believe every MSP needs to have before becoming your managed IT service provider: 

  • Proactive Approach: If your MSP is only maintaining your basic IT needs without anticipating how they will evolve or how to protect you from cyberattacks, they’re only managing reactively. That’s not enough.
  • Streamlined Vendor Network: If your MSP requires you to manage multiple vendors to handle all your IT services, you’re working too hard.
  • Proven Effectiveness: If your MSP doesn’t have any examples of their success, it will be extremely difficult to tell if they can actually handle your IT support. Ask for case studies or references from satisfied clients that can act as a referral of an MSP’s services.

Am I paying the right price? 

We’ll be honest: Managed IT services can be expensive. A quality MSP is definitely an investment for your business. So how do you know if you are paying the right price? 

Consider and research these questions:

  • What are other comparable businesses paying for IT management?
  • What level of support do you actually need? Ask Varay (or whichever company you are considering) for insight into your business’ needs, and don’t pay for what you don’t need.
  • What are you currently paying for IT and what would you be willing to pay to reduce stress and streamline your service?

Am I getting the right services? 

Every business is different. Here at Varay, we have standard services that are included across the board for all our El Paso and San Antonio clients, but the truth is, your managed IT services should be fairly customizable in order to fit your company’s unique needs. The key in finding the right services packages is to open a direct dialogue with your MSP about your business needs.

How do I find MSPs in my industry?

While searching online for MSPs in your area, there’s nothing wrong with asking an MSP if they have experience in your industry (or related industries). However, it’s important to keep in mind that “no” does not necessarily mean that your MSP is inexperienced or isn’t the right fit. When you find an MSP that’s compatible with your values and services, they may still be right for you even if they have little to no experience in your industry. Businessman shaking hands with another business man during a meeting with several team members.

Ultimately, we recommend asking questions that help you determine if your MSP has compatible values, communicates effectively, and actively makes recommendations to make your IT infrastructure stronger. 

How do I know I’m paying the right price for an MSP?

When it comes to evaluating price points for MSPs, we recommend that you start off by gathering three to four quotes from companies you’re interested in. Make sure you gather quotes for similar service packages, (i.e. comparing apples to apples), to see if one proposal is abnormally lower than the rest. 

If so, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re grabbing a great deal! While some MSPs may have partnerships with tech companies that enable them to offer special pricing or discounts, the overall costs of each MSP’s services should be fairly comparable, so an outlier low price could be a warning signal that vital services are missing which could cost you extra down the road.

How do I evaluate a proposal from an MSP?

So, now that you’ve decided that your business needs an MSP, and you’re looking for the partnership that’s going to be the best fit with your business. Now it’s time to answer the question, “How do I evaluate a bid for managed IT services?”

Proposal Evaluation Template:

If you’re trying to find a managed IT service provider, you need someone you can trust and connect with on a personal level. This can be challenging when you don’t really know them or their values. To make this process easier for you, here’s a bid evaluation template we (as an MSP) built so that you can ask the right questions and find out which MSP best matches your business:

  • What is your goal when managing a client’s IT services?
  • Do you think our IT infrastructure needs improvements? If so, how long do you anticipate it taking to upgrade or enhance it? 
  • How often (i.e. once a year, twice a year) do you re-evaluate your clients’ IT needs? Do you have a system in place to constantly monitor them and make recommendations when changes are needed?
  • Do you have experience providing managed IT services in my industry? 
  • How do you avoid network downtime, outages, etc.? 
  • If we have an IT problem, how does my team reach you? Who on my team has access to your support? How long does it take to get IT issues resolved? 
  • What cybersecurity measures do you recommend for clients to avoid attacks? 
  • Do you have any case studies or satisfied clients I can talk to for a referral of your services? 

At this point, you may have decided that an MSP isn’t for you, and that’s okay! However, an MSP might be what your business has been looking for. If you’re looking for IT services in El Paso or IT companies in San Antonio, or if you just have more questions about managed IT services, please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a free consultation. We at Varay Managed IT would love to help your company find the right fit and experience the confidence, efficiency, and stress-free satisfaction that managed IT services can give.

Topics: business, IT budget, business insights, disaster recovery & business continuity