Skip to content

INSIGHTS

A few thoughts worth sharing

Inside the ProServ Process

What You Need to Know About a Managed IT Services Agreement

Anyone who has run a business has faced technology woes. This is true for IT specialists as well as niche small businesses that use minimal technology resources. Incorporating technology into your modern business is inevitable, and if you want your company to succeed, you need access to support experts when an IT issue arises. Thankfully, there’s an entire industry built around providing IT expertise to businesses that don’t have the know-how or resources to do it themselves. This tech-based industry provides management of your IT environment known as Managed IT services.

MANAGED IT SERVICES 101

Managed IT services are a reliable way for companies to use third-party arrangements to ensure they have adequate IT support and help. An agreement between a business and a Managed IT services provider to handle these responsibilities can come in countless shapes and sizes to accommodate the varying needs from company to company. Some companies need very simple, straightforward IT consultation and perhaps a little help with asset acquisition. Others need robust tech support on many levels.

Before getting into a Managed IT Services contract, it helps to learn some of the essential terms, and those are going to be defined right here:

  • MSP – This is an acronym for a Managed Services Provider. It refers to the provider you partner with when outsourcing IT services for your business. An MSP will be providing you with IT support, services, resources, and/or consultation through your agreement.
  • SLA – a Service Level Agreement is the standard contract used to define the relationship between a business and its MSP.
  • Cybersecurity – Cybersecurity is the term for measures taken to protect data and digital assets from malicious attacks.
  • Data Backup and Recovery – A common service employed by businesses, data backup and recovery ensures that your digital information is copied and preserved so that it is reliably protected. Backups can be used to replace information that is lost, stolen, or damaged. Recovery refers to the process by which your data is restored to a usable state in the event of a data disaster.
  • CloudThe “cloud” refers to remote IT assets and resources. In general, cloud services are those that can be accessed by any device, anywhere in the world, as long as it has an internet connection.

When a business and its MSP have a mutually beneficial arrangement, the IT services provided will help that company or SMB on many fronts. Partnering with a good MSP will lower total operational costs, reduce cybersecurity risks, provide valuable IT expertise, improve operational efficiency, ensure compliance, and generally make the lives of your employees easier while giving management peace of mind.

NECESSITIES OF YOUR AGREEMENT

Partnering with an MSP will be most beneficial and cost-effective when the SLA is adequately structured for your unique business requirements. For instance, a small, local bakery doesn’t need a dedicated server farm. Likewise, a medium-sized business with over one hundred employees might need more than a basic package to work correctly. The key to success is tailoring the SLA to your company and its needs.

Customizing an SLA works best when you have a strong idea of exactly what it is you need from the MSP. For many businesses, this clarity is not self-evident. A bit of learning is necessary, and reviewing a list of common services and points of agreement in SLAs can help to form that picture. Partnering with a local MSP that takes the time to review your workflows and IT requirements is a critical step in this process to ensure your SLA is right-sized for your business.

However, there are basic components of your SLA that you should consider. For starters, you need to identify and understand the services that are included in your contract. Most commonly, MSPs offer consulting, training, help desk support, asset management, account management, and strategic planning. Many additional services might be available from a particular provider, but you have to inquire with the MSP to learn everything they provide. That’s why a fact-finding conversation between you and a prospective MSP is essential. They can tell you exactly what they do, and you can determine if their services are a good fit for your business.

In addition to services, you will want to compare priorities, responsibilities, availability, performance, and guarantees. An MSP with great references and guarantees might not be best for your 24-hour business if they are only available Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Likewise, an MSP that makes big promises but doesn’t back them with written guarantees is suspect. The goal is to balance the services you value with certainty that they will be performed in the manner that your business requires.

GETTING STARTED WITH MANAGED IT

To begin your search for an MSP, you have to do your due diligence by vetting possible partners. First, you have to research and vet service providers that cover your area. Although monitoring, maintenance, and updates of your IT systems can often be done remotely, the importance of having a local partner to provide on-site service when necessary cannot be understated. You also need to know what services your business requires from them, which often takes a little learning. Adding to the workload, you need to compare different MSPs to find a good fit that is competitive in what they offer for the price they charge. It feels like a lot, but you can simplify your search when you think about three questions.

What do you want? What exactly will you need from your MSP? Do you simply need strategic consultation, someone to host your data, or the full IT package? Your answer to this question will help the MSP understand your business and how they can help you.

Where is your business headed? Anyone with IT experience can put together an IT management package that fits your business as it is right now. That’s relatively easy. The problem is that your business will change over time, and hopefully, it’s going to grow. You want your MSP to be able to keep up with and even anticipate your impending growth and change. An ability to scale solutions is what separates the good providers from the great ones.

What can you afford? Money is an important part of this equation. What you want and what you can afford do not always align. When you’re clear about your IT budget, your MSP can tailor a package around it that provides the services you need. Having a clear idea of this from the start can add a lot of value to the early conversations you’ll have when you are vetting your MSP.

If you’ve answered these questions and are reading to start your search, contact ProServ Business Systems today for a conversation about next steps. We’ll get to know your St Joseph business and explain how our Managed IT services can meet your needs while staying within your budget.

VIEW MORE ARTICLES

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Is Your SMB Following Best Practices?

Phishing is a cybercrime that impacts businesses of all sizes, including SMBs. Read our blog to learn more about it…

The Importance of Password Protection and Tips to Implement Today

Phishing is a cybercrime that impacts businesses of all sizes, including SMBs. Read our blog to learn more about it…

Phishing: What It Is, How to Avoid It, and What to Do If You Get 'Caught'

Phishing is a cybercrime that impacts businesses of all sizes, including SMBs. Read our blog to learn more about it…

Signs It’s Time to Find a New IT Company

Managing their own IT environment is an enormous feat for most SMBs. Read our blog to learn how IT services…