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  • Writer's pictureMatt Behrens

Managed IT Support for your Organization

Updated: Jan 28

What is Managed IT Support?


At its core, Managed Support is a way for organizations to outsource their technology support needs to a company that is dedicated to that task. Often it is provided via a predictable fee for a pre-described set of tasks or services. Pretty boring description, right? We'll dig more into the fun stuff shortly.


Here are the topics we'll be covering:



We don't want to confuse Managed Support with Outsourced Support, because you can still enjoy some benefits of outsourced support without being on a Managed plan. Outsourcing your IT support can be Managed Support, but it can also be provided on a more ad-hoc basis, or it can be done to bolster your existing in-house team.


 

The Basics of Managed IT Support


The Benefits of Managed Support

When considering ad-hoc (we call it Casual Support here at Northrock) vs Managed Support, the Managed track can yield some benefits such as:


  • Higher ROI on your technology budget

  • Improved efficiency of operations

  • Informed recommendations and advice that reflect knowledge of your needs

  • Less downtime and fewer issues

  • Faster resolution to outages (they can still happen in spite of best efforts!)

  • Improved team satisfaction, knowing they're well supported

  • Enhanced security of your organization

  • Scalability as you grow


Typical services included with Managed Support

Most solutions will include:


  • Helpdesk and technical support

  • Network monitoring and management

  • Patching and proactive maintenance

  • Security solutions

  • Data Backup and Recovery

  • Cloud Solutions

  • Technology strategy consulting

  • Asset management

  • Performance reporting



 

Managed Support Pricing

How do Managed Support Providers (MSPs) come up with pricing? Well, that is highly dependent on many factors, including their maturity and size.


Most true MSPs will offer some variation of "all the day-to-day IT support requests are covered for a flat fee". So coming up with a price for so-called All You can Eat, buffet-style support requires careful planning and understanding of the costs.


We could write a never-ending-story on all the different permutations, so what we've included below are some common strategies that we've seen. We're not claiming to describe them all!


Pricing Options

Some MSPs will offer different tiers for different levels of service (ie Good, Better, Best). Others define a single offering with optional add-ons.


Tiered Plans Approach

With tiered plans, you'll often find the middle tier(s) as the best value and providers will price their options to guide you there. Of course, those who are budget sensitive can still choose the basic option and those who feel they will be better served with the highest priced plan can get an enhanced service.


The primary differentiator between the plans will typically come down to:

  • The scope of included services

  • Response times


The scope of services could vary widely, from the scope of included items, security services, helpdesk availability (24/7 or M-F), backup software, onsite support, etc. The list is nearly endless.


Response times is self explanatory, and different plans may reflect different response times, or simply whether the response time is guaranteed or best effort.


Single Plan Approach

MSPs offering a single plan often have a more homogenous client base (ie of a particular size or vertical) and are able to provide an inclusive set of services that will appeal to most. Then they will offer add-ons, such as 24/7 support, enhanced security packages, backup services, etc. for clients that have need for them.


Standard vs Custom Pricing

Some MSPs have standard pricing, whether it's on a per-user, per-device basis (some charge based on a combination of those). This pricing is the same between organizations and is quite predictable.


Other providers will apply custom pricing per client. They will likely have some formula that takes into account some or all of:

  • Number of users, devices, locations

  • Complexity of the environment

  • Compliance/regulatory requirements of client

  • Technical literacy of end users

  • Team turnover


Value Pricing

One approach MSPs take to determining pricing is to simply apply a markup to their costs and that becomes their profit. There will likely be some built-in buffer for the wildly unpredictable nature of delivering IT Support.


Another approach that some take is pricing based not just on costs, but also the return on investment a client will see by partnering with the MSP. If the provider can demonstrate that their offer will provide strategic advantages through cost-savings (in other areas), improved results, or other net gains, they will price their offer based on a


Typically, mature and operationally refined MSPs will be value pricing because they have the experience (and hopefully results) to deliver. When pricing on value, it allows the MSP to be more innovative on reducing their own costs while improving the client's operations.


This approach, when not abused, can be a win-win for both the MSP and the client. Over time though, the MSP needs to continue to deliver and be able to demonstrate that value, or the client will be tempted to explore lower cost options.

 

Choosing the Right Managed Support Provider

Changing providers, or even starting off with a new provider requires such a heavy investment (not necessarily monetary, but time and energy), you want to ensure you make the right decision and not have to go through the process again. Here are some considerations when selecting a new MSP.


Offering

Do they provide what your organization needs (not all organizations require all of these, and paying for them when you don't need them is actually a waste):

  • 24/7 support

  • Demonstrated (or guaranteed) service response times

  • Onsite support

  • Local or outsourced helpdesk

  • Do they implement/adhere to security frameworks aligned with your organization's needs

  • Hardware/software sales

  • Do they meet compliance requirements from professional or regulatory organizations


Expertise
  • Do they have proven experience supporting the technologies you use or plan to use

  • Does their team have adequate training and certifications

  • How much experience does the average team member have


Documented Success
  • Do they have case studies that apply to situations your organization may face?

  • Do they have testimonials from organizations with similar requirements

  • Can you reach out to existing clients to get an idea of what it's like working with them?


Alignment
  • Do they service clients of similar size and/or industries

  • Do their strengths and priorities align with yours

  • Is their culture a fit for yours


While this is not the first thing people tend to evaluate, it should be on the list. A provider who will be working closely with your team and in your environment will have so much more trust if they are a good fit beyond just their technical abilities. This trust can drastically improve their effectiveness, especially if you need them to help implement changes.


Contract Length and Flexibility

Historically, contracts of 1 to 3 years have been the norm for Managed Service Providers services. Recently though more and more providers are offering flexible month-to-month solutions. There are pros and cons to both models, but it is good to make sure you are comfortable with what you are signing up for.


Price

Often the first and only factor considered by organizations new to Managed Support is the cost of the solution. But as you can see from above, there are so many factors to consider.


Managed Support offerings are constantly in flux as tools and trends are always changing, so rather than just selecting the lowest priced option (or a middle-of-the-road offering), we feel it is helpful to evaluate the options first, and then look to see if you will get value out


 

Implementing Managed Support

Okay, so you've chosen your MSP, signed the contracts and are excited for the possibilities of what's next!


Onboarding process

Most MSPs have some form of a standardized onboarding process, though there are significant differences from one to the next for how thorough and comprehensive they can be.


Common steps for most include:

  • Assessment of current state and discovery

  • Transition from current provider (internal or other MSP)

  • Roll out of tools and systems

  • Documentation of configurations and processes

  • Employee training

  • Recommendations based on discovery


Standardization

Your MSP likely supports many organizations with varying needs and setups. Being able to standardize as many of the processes as possible allows them to focus more on the delivery of support, rather than wading through the complexities of how things are done at each different organization.


Some areas of standardization you might see your MSP configure are:

  • When and how you contact the MSP for support

  • Security best-practices

  • Data backup and recovery planning

  • Network hardware and configuration

  • Workstation/server vendors

  • Microsoft 365 security and configuration



Customization

The counterweight to standardization is of course customization! For many organizations it's their "special sauce" that gives them an edge on their competition that is essential to maintain. So while MSPs want to standardize on a lot of the common processes, good ones will work with your organization to support the processes that make your offering unique


Review Cycles

Critical to a good relationship, as well as maintaining operational alignment and balance, are reviews that your organization will have with a high-level technical consultant at the MSP. These reviews will often focus on:


  • Performance metrics of the MSP

  • Evaluating status of network and any

  • Any recurring or ongoing issues that should be addressed

  • Standardizing and optimizing existing processes

  • Previewing technology budget for upcoming year, including hardware refreshes

  • High level planning and exploring opportunities for technology to improve the organization


Depending on an organization's size and the state of the relationship, these can be conducted anywhere from annually to as frequently as monthly, or even weekly in special circumstances.


Generally small organizations (<15 staff) will meet semi-annually, or even annually. For the rest, quarterly reviews are adequate for most relationships.


 

Evaluating Managed Support Performance

Once you've settled into the groove of Managed Support, you may be wondering how you can be sure you're still getting good value. When is it time to consider other options?


The cost (both time and money) to change MSPs is significant, and because the industry and offerings are so varied, it's not easy to compare providers.


Some questions you can ask that will help you get started are:

  • Are they still delivering on their promises from the sales cycle?

  • Are we still seeing value from our ongoing relationship?

  • Are they maintaining transparency with us for any service issues?

  • Have there been any significant changes in service levels or response times?

  • Are you still conducting regular reviews or at least have regular interactions with your account manager?

  • Do they seem to be keeping up with changes in technology?

  • Are they continuing to evolve their offering to us

  • If they offer surveys and feedback, have there been any changes to the results recently?

  • Are the number of "incident" (there's something wrong) tickets increasing without any explanation?

  • Are they able to continue to support us at the desired levels based on our growth trajectory?


 

Managed Support Trends

We will update this section from time to time with new trends that we see that are of consequence. If we have the time we may also put up an article about it, or at least link to other sources as available.


Emerging Technologies
  • Of course the big one these days is the increased availability of A.I. tools and frameworks that is evolving faster than many can keep up

  • The explosion of apps and increased flexibility of those apps are allowing organizations to digitize their operations and allowing MSPs to be more active in this part of the organization's business processes



Industry Compliance
  • Security Frameworks that guide organizations to stronger security postures through best-practice recommendations

  • Email security and deliverability are of a heightened focus as major providers such as Google and Microsoft are rejecting more and more mail that comes from organizations without proper controls in place to identify legitimate email sources

  • As claims for cyber-related losses pile up, Cyber Insurance is drastically increasing and underwriters are requiring more and more stringent security protocols in even the simplest organizations



Frequently Asked Questions

Why do IT companies seem to only offer "Managed" options?

Is Managed Support cheaper?


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