Several factors drive the cost and price ranges of managed IT services for small and mid-sized businesses.
Fees range between $100.00 to $250.00 per user per month. Factors that affect cost are headcount, the size and sophistication of your IT systems, and whether you outsource some or all of the technology management functions. Your average 50-person firm will pay around $5,000.00-$7,000.00 per month for fully managed IT services.
- Do you want a general idea of the pricing for managed IT services?
- Are you thinking about outsourcing your IT for the first time?
- Are you planning to replace your managed IT services provider or “MSP”?
- Do you need to augment your in-house team with some extra hands?
- Or are you doing some research to make sure your current fees are competitive?
I’ve been in thousands of conversations about IT support costs with small businesses and medium-sized companies since 2003. Two things ring true:
- The evaluation process is confusing and overwhelming. Most MSPs sound the same.
- Every MSP seems to have a sales agenda. I bet you’re tired of hearing sales reps say, “I promise it’s plug and play.” (Me too. It’s not true.)
Integris may be a managed IT provider, but our goal is to help you find the right fit, even if it’s with another IT support company.
We prefer to be a guide in your journey and let the spirit of helpfulness inspire any further engagement.
Are you ready to better understand the factors affecting managed IT services pricing? Let’s approach IT service fees with eyes wide open.
Getting exact IT support pricing depends on a host of factors:
- What is your headcount?
- Do you have full-time IT employees?
- Do you need fully managed IT services?
- Do you need co-managed IT services?
- What’s already in the cloud, and what’s onsite?
- Do you require a virtual chief information officer (vCIO services)?
- What is your geography?
- What is your industry?
- Will there be project work?
- How many devices will be managed?
- What kind of coverage do you require?
- How much data needs backing up?
- What is your operating maturity level?
- What type of pricing model makes the most sense for you?
- Do I have to sign a contract?
- What are the set-up costs?
Key factors that influence managed IT services pricing:
IT Services Cost Factor #1 – What is your headcount?
Do you have thirty employees or 300?
Or just getting started with a few colleagues?
I’m glad you’re breaking out the company directory. This number is important in determining your coverage needs because most IT firms base their monthly pricing on your headcount.
IT Services Cost Factor #2 – Do you have full-time IT employees?
Do you have any full-time IT employees or “FTEs”? If so, is their specialty line of business applications or infrastructure? Both disciplines are very different and seldom interchangeable.
Capterra has an online directory of more than 700 software categories. As you might imagine, there’s a Line of Business Application for every vertical:
- Real Estate
- And more
Application specialists manage software programs in-house. By department or functional roles within the organization. These subject matter experts contract with software developers or certified resellers: SAGE 50, Salesforce, HubSpot, Right Networks (Hosted QuickBooks), etc.
You will not be contracting with an MSP to do any of the following activities on your behalf:
- Run income statement reports within your ERP system
- Conduct eCommerce user training
- Set up Buyer Personas within your content marketing software
What is your in-house help desk specialist up to most of the time? Infrastructure duties. These include:
- Password resets
- Correcting everyday office equipment operating fails
- Project management
- Audiovisual set up
- Wi-Fi configuration
Whatever MSP you hire will be filling in gaps related to infrastructure. Understanding which IT skill set gaps you are trying to fill is essential.
IT Services Cost Factor #3 – Do you need fully managed IT services?
Fixed-Fee Managed IT Services include:
- User Help Desk
- Technical Support
- Cloud applications
- Mobile devices
- Web hosting
- Vendor technical assistance and more
IT Services Cost Factor #4 – Do you need co-managed IT services?
Fixed-Fee Co-Managed IT Services include:
- Technical Support
- Cloud applications
- Mobile devices
- Web hosting
- Vendor technical assistance and more
This hybrid plan creates a partnership between the MSP and the FTE at the client site. The MSP handles all the heavy lifting. And your FTE tackles lower-level, everyday, user support requests.
Why is this the best of both worlds? You get an IT generalist’s physical presence and “grab by the collar” convenience. Along with a full-service MSP “owning” mission-critical business tools.
From our experience, this FTE is almost always the liaison with the IT support company. And will engage the IT provider whenever they get overwhelmed.
IT Services Cost Factor #5 – What’s already in the cloud, and what’s onsite?
If cloud solutions constitute most of your infrastructure, you’re in luck. Remote IT management will be much easier and less expensive for your managed IT support services provider. This IT outsourcing scenario means more favorable pricing for you.
The cost of IT support goes up a bit for organizations with cloud and on-premise equipment. The provider will need to send engineers on-site, which runs up their expenses (and yours). The amount of travel will also be a factor.
IT Services Cost Factor #6 – Virtual Chief Information Officer Engagement
How much guidance do you need from a Virtual Chief Information Officer or “vCIO”? Some mid-sized and small businesses are further along in their digital transformation. So they only need vCIO light. This variable could amount to a few hours a month and is standard with most fixed-fee agreements.
Other organizations may need a much deeper level of strategic engagement.
- Do you have demanding compliance requirements?
- Does your team need help completing cyber liability insurance policy renewal questionnaires?
- Are you growing?
- Are you opening new offices?
- Are you trying to clean up legacy infrastructure to prepare for an acquisition?
- Did you recently suffer a significant data loss or ransomware attack?
These scenarios always demand more time and attention. And potential extra costs deserve close review in the discovery process. For a deeper dive into examples, see IT Consulting Services.
MSPs love to promote vCIO services. Remember how I said most of us sound the same?
vCIO engagements differ from one IT services provider to the next. Some MSPs deploy commissioned salespeople and account managers with lower-level technical skills and seniority.
Some MSPs dispatch senior-level executives. This team is non-commissioned and has a variety of technical certifications. These factors have a direct bearing on what you should expect to pay.
IT Services Cost Factor #7 – Your Geography
- Are you a single-location small or mid-size business?
- Do you have several locations around your city, state, or the United States?
- Is each location traditional office space?
- Do you have shared workspace arrangements with WeWork, Regus, or Industrious?
- Do some employees work from home 100% of the time or do you employ a hybrid work-from-home/office strategy?
- Are you in major cities with modern Internet infrastructure? Or do you also have a partial footprint in more rural areas with less reliable access?
- Physical addresses are also crucial if your agreement calls for an onsite presence. Way-out places may be harder to accommodate the demand for instant dispatch.
IT Services Cost Factor #8 – Your Industry
Every industry has different requirements related to technology, regulation, and compliance. Good news: Basic technology infrastructure is very similar across various industries, if not the same. Most managed IT providers will be familiar with the following well-known usual suspects:
You can buy many of these brands on your own.
But there’s an easier way. Do you want to save time and money?
Each distributor stocks thousands of SKUs. And every last item is searchable within the MSP’s Professional Services Automation system. “PSA” solutions empower engineers and project managers to help you get:
- Better pricing
- Faster delivery
- Factory-approved warranties
- More predictable project completion timelines
- Larger volume orders at scale
PSA tools allow MSPs to leverage a repeatable process that is harder to execute on a one-off basis. Going through Amazon sellers, Newegg, TigerDirect, Office Depot, or Best Buy can be risky.
Every year we talk to businesses who thought they were getting a good deal. Until they received desktops installed with home/office versions of Windows, and these operating systems were incompatible with their network.
Don’t get on the wrong side of Microsoft.
Be sure to use the correct Microsoft licenses. Home office licenses are not approved for business use. The compliance plot point is not a trivial one. Microsoft fines run thousands of dollars per incident.
Consumer-grade hardware has other issues, too: limited warranties, typically one year versus three years or longer, and factory, preinstalled bloatware which can impact system performance.
IT providers will also administer and manage all hardware and software details:
- System Integration
- Specifying the right models and versions
- Moves, adds, and changes
- Contract renewal deadlines
- Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) for all warranty issues and returns
It’s common for IT service companies to bundle recurring services on a single bill. Examples include software licensing, equipment leasing, and service and maintenance agreement fees.
Pass-through expenses are different than management fees.
This service is super convenient. But make sure you can identify these pass-through expenses. They’re different from IT service management fees. These items don’t represent a revenue stream for your IT support provider unless they’re adding service fees. More often than not, these fall under the sunk cost classification.
Every IT service evaluation should bring these distinctions to light. Otherwise, your current charges or new proposed fees may appear inflated.
On the flip side, an IT company may submit a proposal that doesn’t include everything you need. Why? It makes their offer look less expensive. Then once you sign the agreement, they’ll circle back and mention you need to add 45 M365 licenses.
This is not always an underhanded move. Many IT companies assume you are already aware of the way it works. Here’s the skinny:
- Microsoft pricing is available all over the Internet
- Microsoft pricing is the same for everyone
- You can buy a single Microsoft 365 Business Standard subscription for $12.50 a month
- Or your MSP can buy the same license on your behalf for $12.50 a month, and they receive a commission of $.50
One look at Compare Microsoft 365 Business Plans is usually all it takes for most people to want someone else to figure it out.
IT Services Cost Factor #9 – Where are you in the technology lifecycle?
Every piece of technology in your organization will expire at some point. This fact of life is a natural and predictable part of The Technology Lifecycle. The trick is to stay ahead of its fail date.
Some IT service providers will agree to manage your environment “as is.” But they may charge you extra if your environment is nearing its end. Aging, distressed IT systems need extra attention and frequent intervention.
Certain pieces may be at risk of completely failing. This possibility is expensive to handle and almost impossible to predict. And rarely does the outcome leave either party feeling like they’re in a win/win partnership.
It’s critical to understand what pieces need immediate replacement. And which components can wait. It would help if you also weighed the potential legal liabilities for you and the provider. Some IT companies won’t take clients unless they agree in advance to make critical upgrades.
IT Services Cost Factor #10 – You can’t ignore potential costs related to project work.
Many MSPs bill projects on a time and materials basis. The pricing will be similar if you compare IT service providers in the same service class.
Hourly rates for project work vary from $75.00 to $200.00 per hour. Some IT companies will charge a lower hourly rate and not make a time commitment on completion. So the clock is running. Other tech support providers charge a higher rate and agree to a fixed fee for the project. This situation means a 4-hour workstation build at $75.00 per hour is the exact cost of a two-hour workstation build at $150.00 per hour – $300.00.
Most small and medium-sized businesses would prefer the time savings of the 2-hour scenario. Most people would also like their rate capped at $300.00 if the build takes longer. The $75.00 per hour rate will be an actual liability if the project takes five to six hours. Many do.
Skill plays a role in the hourly rate as well. Higher-level engineers command a higher rate than lower-level engineers. Want your projects completed quickly? A more experienced engineer is your best bet. The cost trade-off is worth it.
Differences pop up when you compare mid-market IT providers with mom-and-pop IT providers. The former may use a network of well-known distributors. The latter may get products from other vendors. And they could be after-market, consumer-grade, non-standard, or refurbished.
IT Services Cost Factor #12 – Number of Devices and Size of Your Digital Estate
Getting an exact quantity is very important. What assets is the IT MSP managing for you?
- Mobile devices
- Backup appliances
- Wireless access points
- Phone systems
- Power backup appliances
- Security cameras
Does each employee have several devices, or is it a one-to-one relationship?
Does your network include home computers that need coverage and protection?
It’s essential to get an accurate inventory of every endpoint in your digital estate.
IT Services Cost Factor #13 – Coverage Model
Do you need 24/7 unlimited remote and onsite support?
Automated tools are now commonplace in the IT service management world. Around-the-clock monitoring, managing, supporting, and securing is a must-have with today’s elevated cyber risk. These IT services are essential table stakes that businesses have come to expect.
Some IT providers will take it a step further (pun intended) and put boots on the ground, even in the middle of the night.
This hands-on approach is quite different than the following scenario:
- Your primary file server crashes at 2 AM.
- [email protected] receives an automated alert.
- This event opens a service ticket.
- The MSP starts working on the problem the following business day.
Unlimited remote service is a different animal. It’s 2 AM, and something in your office network or data center crashes. An engineer from your IT service provider is touching the ailing equipment within the hour.
White glove, onsite service will always be more expensive.
The same is true if you need onsite IT resources or staff augmentation for specific projects. Does your organization have several hundred employees? Certain user groups may need more guidance and manual intervention than others. Large sales teams at pharmaceutical companies. Or older volunteers at a nonprofit.
This requirement can be expensive unless the IT provider sends a very green employee onsite. Will a beginner cut it with your team? If not, a more experienced IT professional will be more expensive. It’s unavoidable. They’re more expensive for your MSP to hire—$90K a year, to be exact.
IT Services Cost Factor #14 – Backup Volume
- Do you have 1TB of data or 500TB?
- Would you like the data backed up onsite every fifteen minutes?
- Does the data also need to be replicated offsite to a cloud and verified nightly?
- Do you want the ability to run everything in the cloud if you experience a major disaster?
- Need extra-added redundancy?
- Want your data backed up and stored across several different geographical areas?
Your backup needs can be basic or complex. Or somewhere in the middle. Each scenario has different costs.
IT Services Cost Factor #15 – Operating Maturity Level
Service Leadership, Inc. (now part of ConnectWise) is an MSP consulting firm known for its research on Operating Maturity Level or “OML.”
OML refers to specific stages of your business journey:
You advance from the first stage to the fifth stage by leveraging technology and outsourcing everything that is not a core competency. There is a heavy emphasis on strategy, standards, and best practices. Efficiency, scale, and repeatable processes are also important.
The end game is to reach higher levels of performance and profitability. Your OML will influence the kind of IT provider you can afford to partner with and vice versa.
A business with Beginning OML will not be a match for an MSP who is Scaling or Optimizing.
The Beginning organization is not likely to be an advocate of technology standards. The Scaling or Optimizing provider would not agree to support an IT environment like this for a fixed fee. Too unpredictable. It would be a reactive, frustrating, money-losing proposition for both parties.
While an Innovating business could get a good deal from a Beginning MSP, I can’t imagine a newbie would be able to keep up.
Learn More: Low Versus High Operational Maturity
IT Services Cost Factor #16 – The Type of MSP Pricing Model Employed
Both Service Leadership and TruMethods use All In Seat Price or “AISP.” This term is a quick and easy way to quantify the fees charged by best-in-class MSPs. You may have heard of these companies because they get rated by organizations like the Inc. 5000, MSP 501, and MSP 500.
Each organization sponsors annual award programs and ranks the top businesses and MSPs globally. These are performance-based contests where participants must submit notary-verified financial data.
Why does this matter? The MSP industry has a heavy concentration of private companies. And the presence of impartial, third-party evaluation standards provides much-needed transparency.
It also nurtures a competitive spirit, drives innovation, and benefits businesses that work with MSPs.
The AISP model recommends a range of $100.00-$250.00 per month/per person for Fully Managed IT Services. So an organization with 20 people might pay $2,000 to $5,000 per month.
An organization with forty people and Co-Managed IT might pay the same amount. Not because they’re better negotiators. Part of their service is internal or in-sourced. Part of their service is outsourced.
Service Leadership also mentions “Anything For A Buck” IT companies. AFAB for short. These companies represent an astounding 43% percent of the market.
Yes, AFABs have lower AISP options than their higher OML counterparts. But be careful. Many are operating at gross margins below 3% or break even.
Make sure you conduct extensive due diligence before committing to an IT services partner. Do they have O&E or cyber liability insurance? Are they SOC 2 Type II compliant?
You have a business to run with assets at risk. And you want to make sure your IT MSP is going to be in business as long as you need them to be.
IT Services Cost Factor #17 – Do I have to sign a contract?
Standard contract terms are 12, 24, and 36 months. More experienced operators will present you with a Managed Services Agreement with clear language and protections for both parties.
The more accomplished and confident may offer you a no-questions-asked 60-day out clause. This arrangement is a solid move for MSPs who pick the right clients and have the wisdom and compassion to part ways with bad fits.
IT Services Cost Factor #18 – What are the onboarding or set-up costs?
Some providers charge onboarding fees and some do not. Set-up costs are relevant if the MSP requires you to upgrade outdated systems as a condition of service.
It’s essential to understand what is involved with comprehensive onboarding:
- The process takes sixty to 120 hours and spans sixty to ninety days.
- It includes an executive kick-off meeting with several site visits and interviews.
- Some providers issue 100-point punch lists to guarantee no stones are left unturned.
- Engineers and project managers ($75,000.00 to $125,000.00 a year resources) handle everything. Coordinate the transition with your existing vendors. Document all IT systems and users. Create new hire/exit checklists. Deploy management tools. Migrate data and mailboxes. Conduct security assessments. Implement MFA.
- Many MSPs conduct user orientation to introduce the service and demonstrate the best way to request IT support.
Project management of overlapping IT services is critical. Don’t abruptly pull the plug on your existing provider when you decide to make a change.
Hot cuts are almost always a bad idea. A four-week overlap is best. This approach allows for a smooth transition. It also gives your current provider an incentive to cooperate with a competitor. And you avoid surprises.
IT service providers who do comprehensive onboarding may still waive the charges. But they will probably lock you in for a longer term. Truth bomb: IT providers lose money when their employees work for free. And a 36-month term (or longer) may be the only way they make up for the loss.
Onboarding costs usually correlate to your monthly rate. So, if your monthly rates are $2,000.00, $4,000.00, or $6,000.00, your onboarding charges should be in this general neighborhood.
Your IT Support Cost Assessment Journey
The size and scope of your IT systems and headcount are the most significant cost drivers. As a general rule, your expense increases when the number of moving parts increases.
The value of your assets, as well as your risk tolerance, are also crucial considerations. Do you have special compliance requirements? Are you concerned with privacy and safeguarding intellectual property?
Every business is unique. A management consulting firm with ten principals will have drastically different needs than a ten-person periodontist practice.
Are you interested in learning more about factors that affect managed IT services fees? Along with exact costs?
The Integris team has decades of experience helping businesses figure this out. And we look forward to guiding you.