What is a Managed Network Provider?

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With the introduction of SD WAN systems, developments in cloud computing – and increasing financial pressure on small businesses, it’s probably no surprise to discover more and more companies are outsourcing their IT requirements.

When IT’s outsourced, it usually becomes the responsibility of a Managed Network Provider – or MSP. Here, we’ll delve into what an MSP does – and some of the benefits you might expect to see if you also look at having an external partner support your IT systems…

What does an MSP do?

Depending on where you look online, you’re likely to find a host of different definitions relating to MSPs. Fortunately, there are steps further down the line that will ensure you get what you’re looking for from your chosen provider – so don’t get too hung up on what their website says just yet.

In essence, an MSP will provide on-going support and maintenance for your technology. There are some specialists that just handle high-end networking tasks, but generally, an MSP will be happy to handle everything from printer issues right through to multi-site network configuration tasks.

MSPs will usually proactively check on what’s happening with your systems – attempting to stay ahead of any potential problems. Ordinarily, an MSP will work remotely – although, depending on your location, they may come to your site if required.

In short, an MSP is a little like an IT team for hire – as long as you’re paying your monthly fee, your MSP will deliver their service level agreement – which, takes us neatly on to…

Service level agreements

The beauty of working with an MSP is that the service they deliver can be specifically adjusted to suit your needs.

Got a system that needs to be up 24/7? No problem. Want to prioritize certain traffic through your network? They’ll make it happen. Got a certain set of users whose requests need to be prioritized? Again, no problem.

Everything that a managed service provider is going to do for you should be mapped out in their SLA – or Service Level Agreement. It might be the case that your SLA is fairly standard, in which case you might fit into a standard package – but you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for changes, after all, it’s your business that’s going to be impacted if things aren’t exactly right.

The service level agreement is really just a formal way of mapping out your relationship with the MSP – the chances are you’ll develop a way of working that means it’s going to sit in a file gathering dust – but, it’s there if you ever need to reassess the relationship or put a little pressure on to make sure you’re being treated as you should be.

Sidestepping recruitment

Working with an MSP is far, far more efficient than trying to recreate the service they would provide with an in-house IT team.

It’s estimated that a beginning to end recruitment drive that ends in the employment of 2-3 people will cost your business somewhere between £10,000-£20,000 ($13,000-£26,000) – either in actual spend or allocated resources. Of course, there are benefits to having a team in-house, but in this fast-moving world where business agility is key? An MSP is likely to be far better suited to the market you’re looking to break into.

Removing employee logistics

Of course, it’s not just recruitment that represents a lot of work for a company who is taking on an in-house team – managing a team of people comes with its own unique set of challenges.

It’s easy to sound dispassionate about people when you talk about employee challenges – there’s no doubt that people are entitled to move to other roles, work around their family and private lives – as well as use sickness time and holiday or vacation days – it’s just that IT doesn’t stop for these things.

From a purely objective standpoint, there’s a lot to be said for a team of people who are never off, never call in sick – and never leave you to work for another company. When you remove the logistics of employees from the IT equation, business becomes significantly simpler – and you’re never left with an IT system without a team to support it.

No training requirements

If there’s a close second to the cost of recruiting an IT team – it’s the cost that’s involved with making sure their training and accreditations are up to date.

The thing is, to work on certain systems while maintaining manufacturer support and warranties, an engineer is required to have a particular level of training. Without it, they’re not only more likely to make an error – they’re also not privy to the most recent ways of working or changes in firmware etc.

As well as being relatively costly to enroll on and maintain, systems training often also includes a significant amount of time away from the office – time when your systems are likely to go without support.

An MSP makes training considerations far simpler. They’re trained – and you don’t have to worry about it. In fact, an MSP is likely to have at least one in-house expert in different significant areas of networking – for instance, holding Microsoft Technical Certification or Cisco Networking Technician certificates – and more.

Predictable outlay

If you’re the person with your hands on the purse strings for your business, you’re likely to realise the importance of cash flow – and with a managed service provider onside, unpredictable costs relating to IT are largely a thing of the past.

Of course, there are always going to be variables – generally referred to as ‘adds’, ‘moves’ or ‘changes’ – referring to the additional work involved with altering anything that’s part of your network – but anything that falls into the category of ‘maintenance’ is going to be covered.

When you have an MSP as part of your team, you’re going to be paying a flat monthly fee for the services they provide. What that fee is will depend on what your service level agreement looks like – but you can be absolutely certain that it’ll be a tiny fraction of the cost that you’d associate with an in-house team.

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