MSP 101

Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) 101

Everything you need to know about partnering with a Managed IT Service Provider, all conveniently in one place.

What is an MSP?

A Managed Services Provider (MSP) is a third-party resource that can act as a strategic partner to your business, helping you manage your IT infrastructure.

An MSP can handle a wide range of IT tasks, from responding to your service desk queries, to managing hardware and software procurement, to installing, monitoring, securing, and backing up your systems.

The MSP tackles all the daily technical issues with your network and your infrastructure so that your employees can focus on your core business.

What Does an MSP Do?

A good MSP will start with an assessment of your systems, software, connectivity, and data handling practices. Working side by side with your internal leaders and IT staffers, your managed IT provider may create a strategic roadmap for IT services that can enhance your security, disaster response, platform speeds, and productivity.

This roadmap will lay out the services they’ll offer your company, and how they will be implemented. The software, services, and platforms they can offer you will vary based on your needs. Most MSP services, however, tend to fall into these categories:

  • Help desk services
  • Cloud integration
  • Patching and upgrading
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Monitoring and reporting
  • Cybersecurity
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery
  • IT business strategies
  • Device procurement and management
  • Software procurement and licensing

Once you agree on the IT services you wish to outsource, you will sign a Service Level Agreement that clearly outlines what responsibilities and roles the MSP will take on for your organization.

What Can You Expect from an MSP?

Partnering with an MSP means that your service calls will receive prompt attention from a trained professional. The best IT services will be proactive, minimizing interruptions and downtime from failing networks or hardware.

Your organization should expect:

  • Predictable billing, in a month-to-month contract
  • Senior-level strategic consulting
  • Cutting-edge technology and tools, and the kind of deep vendor relationships that allow for the efficient implementation and servicing of those tools
  • Knowledge of the data handling regulations that govern your industry
  • Well-trained service staff that can handle onsite service calls
  • On-call tech experts that can answer your end user’s questions

Types of MSP Agreements

An MSP brings IT expertise and technical skills to your door at a price and a scale your company can afford. But that’s where the similarities end. Truth is, MSPs come in all sizes and skill levels. What’s the best type of MSP for your business, and what kind of services do you need?

Let’s talk about the different types of service agreements you might find when working with a managed IT services provider.

Managed IT Services: Break/Fix Model

This is what many people think of as an entry level MSP agreement. Under this type of contract, an MSP might help you secure or install equipment or software. Then, you can buy a certain number of hours per month or quarter that will cover fixing things that break, like server problems, or network outages, or hardware issues.

Under this kind of arrangement, there’s important IT services that aren’t covered, namely, cybersecurity, monitoring, disaster recovery, backup and crucially, end-user service. If you have a break/fix agreement with an MSP, your company must have good internal resources for handling day-to-day computer problems for your staff, in addition to robust cybersecurity protections.

Break-fix pricing varies widely. The price for an onsite visit can range from $75-250 per hour, with most providers requiring at least a couple of hours at a minimum for a service call.

Managed IT Services: Fully Managed Model

When you work in a fully managed model, you get a more comprehensive approach from your MSP’s technicians, who can truly be your “IT staff that’s not on staff.” Under this arrangement, your MSP will perform many, and often all, of the services you’d expect an internal IT department to deliver.

They handle the strategic tech platform development a CIO would provide you. They manage your cybersecurity, much like a chief information security officer would do. They purchase your software and hardware on your behalf, install it, and manage your inventory, just like your internal IT department would do.

Best of all, these services can be delivered at scale. Fully managed IT services give you a predictable monthly budget and a predictable team that will be familiar with your network. Your managed services provider will conduct routine testing and assessments that will prevent network issues or mitigate them before they become bigger. Proactive network maintenance will spot small issues before they become serious problems.

A fully managed MSP contract will generally provide most, if not all of the following services:

  • Comprehensive assessment of your infrastructure, looking for updates or upgrades that are needed
  • Strategic roadmapping, providing comprehensive project planning for future projects and system upgrades
  • Service desk operation that processes IT service tickets with technicians who respond to all your reactive support requests
  • Management of your network, and network connectivity
  • Comprehensive cybersecurity services, from filtering tools to the monitoring that continuously scans for and responds to threats
  • Spyware/Ransomware removal
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Backup System Installation and Maintenance
  • Firewall updates, upgrades and monitoring
  • Cloud Service installations and migrations
  • Network connectivity, including WiFi and VOIP
  • Cybersecurity training for your staff
  • Managing multi-factor authentication programs
  • Development of policies around cybersecurity and device management for your staffers

Put simply, fully managed IT services can take away the administrative hassles that come from managing your technology platform, so your team can focus on running your business.

Pricing will vary depending on the size of your business, your data handling/regulatory burden, the services provided, and the number of locations/users in your system. This is an ideal setup for small and medium-sized businesses who need enterprise grade IT tools, at a scale that can suit their growing organizations. For the average SMB, costs could be between $1,500 a month to up to $15,000 a month.

Managed IT Services: Co-Managed Services

Your internal IT lead may not be willing to admit that your IT department is overworked and lacking the resources to keep up with the demands of the modern workplace. Unfortunately, many businesses find themselves unable to expand their internal IT departments for many reasons, with budgetary considerations topping the list. It’s costly to find the right IT personnel, pay them a competitive salary, include benefit packages, sick leave, vacation time, and the equipment they need to properly do their jobs.

A co-managed service contract is a solution that gives your IT department an extra boost. It allows your existing technicians to benefit from the expertise of an MSP while maintaining the benefits of having internal IT staff.

The biggest benefit of a co-managed service contract is its flexibility. You can simply buy into as many services as you need, and your MSP will operate as an extension of your existing IT department. You buy as much, or as little, as you need.

In general, co-managed services clients work with an MSP for one, or all, of these service types:

  • Combination break/fix services and hardware management—The MSP manages your budget and implementation for your server hardware, computers, and mobile devices. When your systems or network needs physical maintenance, they can handle that, too.
  • Strategic Development—Integris can augment your current team with vCIO and vCISO services, helping you build out your budget, create strategic technology development plans, and harden your cybersecurity posture. We’ll manage your data regulation compliance, train your staff for cybersecurity awareness, and ensure you stay qualified for cyber risk insurance.
  • Software licensing and management—Our deep relationship with our vendors ensures that you’ll enjoy some of the best, enterprise-grade software platforms available. From productivity software, to cybersecurity, to monitoring, and more, we can secure all the licenses you need and manage their daily performance. Your software will interact well with your current network and run the way it should.
  • Cybersecurity Services—Including disaster recovery and backup, monitoring, staff training and procurement and installation of firewalls and security software.

Now that you know what an MSP does, and how they work, how do you know which option is right for you?

Working with an MSP: Pros and Cons

A qualified, well-staffed MSP can be a tremendous resource for your company. But there are many ways your company can choose to engage one. Which one you choose will be a function of your budget, internal IT capabilities, growth trajectory, and current unaddressed

If you’re having a hard time deciding which service model best suits your organization, we’ve broken down the pros and cons into this handy chart.

Interested in working with Integris? Contact us for a free 10 minute consultation!

Comparing the Break/Fix, Fully Managed and Co-Managed MSP Models

The following chart represents the most common types of IT service contracts. At Integris, we do not offer the Break Fix model.

  Pros Cons Best for
Break Fix
  • Lowest cost
  • Use what you need
  • Lack of service desk
  • Doesn’t cover the services most organizations need
  • Monthly overages are common
  • Companies that already have significant internal IT staff
Fully Managed
  • Scales to your size
  • Pricing by User/Seat
  • Strategic IT Leadership provided
  • Proactive assessments
  • Enterprise grade tools
  • Vendor management
  • Inventory management
  • Allows organization to grow without expensive buildout of IT department
  • No overhead for internal IT hires
  • Stay ahead of needs with proactive assessments
  • No need to recruit for internal IT staff in competitive markets
  • Coordinating this when you already have a fully staffed IT department
  • Companies that want comprehensive management of their IT from the top down
  • Companies that have regulatory burdens around their data, and need a partner to help them
  • Companies who need to stay compliant with cyber risk insurers

 

Co-Managed
  • Mix and match the services you need
  • Get services you need like CISO services without having to hire an additional expensive engineer
  • Hire for large scale projects when there is a bulge of work
  • Get productivity tools and cybersecurity tools for MSP’s negotiated prices
  • Get senior level staff at a price you can afford
  • Coordination between what the internal IT department is doing, and what the MSP is doing requires top-notch management on both ends
  • MSP’s lack of visibility to your organization can lead to missed opportunities
  • Companies that already have a robust IT leadership
  • Companies that need who need to augment their services but either can’t afford or don’t have the volume necessary to hire staff to do this internally

 

 

How MSPs charge for their services

Hourly model

Most often seen on break/fix contracts, the clients usually pay for a set number of hours every month. The price for an onsite visit can range from $75-250 per hour, with most providers requiring at least a couple of hours at a minimum for a service call. Anything that exceeds pre-paid hours will be charged extra. This can be difficult to manage if unexpected needs occur, often resulting in monthly charges that fluctuate widely.

Fixed-fee managed services

In this type of arrangement, clients pay for a package of services. The one fee covers the delivery of all those services over the course of the month, and overages are not quite as common. However, if major projects need to be implemented that aren’t covered by the service contract, those will be priced out on an a la carte basis, generally.

So, how do MSPs offering fixed fee programs decide how much to charge a customer? MSPs follow the charging model their software vendors use, charging by device, or by user.

Per device

You are billed monthly per device (every PC, laptop, or server) regardless of how many people are using that device.

Per user

The opposite of per-device, this option bills for every user regardless of how many devices they use. This is the most common pricing model used by MSPs.

Will a good MSP require me to sign a one-year contract, or more?

No. Most MSPs work on a month-to-month basis. This is good for the MSP, because it allows them to adjust your service levels should your needs increase. It’s good for you, because it allows you to scale your operation as you grow. It also allows you to keep your options open, if you want to switch MSPs.

However, you will find that most companies have long-lasting relationships with their MSPs. Why? Because they serve as a true partner to your business. There’s also a significant lead time to get them fully integrated into your business and systems. Switching MSPs is certainly doable, but it is a process. So, when it comes to signing on with an MSP, it pays to choose wisely. You’ll get the most value out of the relationship if it is long term.

Can an MSP save my business money?

The answer to that question is yes, especially when compared with the cost of duplicating an MSPs services in house. Managed IT services are by nature outsourced, and scalable, giving it a price advantage in every respect.

Decreased downtime

With proactive monitoring, your MSP can address potential issues before they impact you. Productivity stays high, downtime stays low.

Predictable billing

It’s easier to save money and budget wisely when you know exactly what you will spend every month. Fixed-fee managed services provide this.

Decreased indirect costs

Your business can be held liable for regulatory violations and breaches. An MSP with cybersecurity and regulatory expertise can help.

Proactive planning

Your organization may not know where to start with technology initiatives. An MSP can guide your IT spend on important and necessary strategies.

Vendor relationships benefits

Good MSPs have deep relationships with major hardware and software vendors – with knowledge, competitive pricing, and resources.

Want to know more about our pricing?

Try our pricing calculator! It takes less than a minute to fill out.

How to evaluate a Managed IT Service Provider

20 questions to ask when evaluating an MSP

Choosing an MSP for your business is one of the most important decisions you can make. The MSP partner you choose will decide how fast your networks run, how well you prepare for disasters, and how quickly you recover from attacks and service outages. For many businesses, the right tech stack can be the difference between beating their competitors… and not.

So, it’s important to ask the right questions when you’re MSP shopping. Here’s our recommendation for the twenty questions you should ask when you’re evaluating an MSP:
 

  1. Will I get a qualified vCIO to manage my account?
  2. Do you have vCISO services available to help me manage my security strategy?
  3. When is your service desk available, and what kinds of training do they receive?
  4. Are well-trained service technicians available to come to my place of business for installations and service checks? How often?
  5. What do your assessments include?
  6. How long does it take for your team to complete a comprehensive assessment, and complete the onboarding process for a new client?
  7. What does your onboarding process include?
  8. Does your business do quarterly reviews of your client accounts, and make recommendations for remediations and strategic improvements?
  9. Can your staff help me qualify for or maintain my eligibility for cyber risk insurance?
  10. Can your company help me manage my regulatory burdens around data handling and management?
  11. Does this MSP offer multiple layers of antivirus, and a fully staffed, 24/7 security operations center?
  12. Can your company scan the dark web, and offer credential monitoring to detect stolen, personally identifiable information?
  13. Do you guarantee the timely deployment of updates and security patches?
  14. Can you offer my business cloud-based backup systems that will augment my existing systems, and provide a good disaster recovery response?
  15. Can your business supply us with the specific cloud-based productivity software my employees will need?
  16. Can you help us craft or update policy around “bring your own device,” password management, and more?
  17. Does your company provide cybersecurity training for my staff, either in person, or through an online training service? Do you track who has completed the training, and who hasn’t?
  18. If I need to add or reduce the services I’m buying from you, how quickly can you pivot and make those changes?
  19. Have you worked with clients in my market or industry vertical? Can you provide case studies?
  20. What is your rating on Clutch or other reputable online review services? How fast has your company grown over the last few years?

Why Integris?

What we mean when we promise a premium MSP experience

Put simply, we put people first. At Integris, we’re focused on you and your business. We work hard to provide you with a premium service experience, and the best platforms and tools on the market. However, there are some specific points of difference to consider:

No long-term agreements

In most cases, your contract is considered month to month, so adjustments can be easily made.

Gold standard product offerings

Our size gives us deeper relationships with our vendors. We are a Microsoft Gold partner and have similar levels of training with other vendors. This gives us an extraordinary level of expertise for the products we use.

Low turnover

Our team tends to stick around. Why? We pay and train well, and we have a supportive and transparent culture. There are many paths to career growth in our organization—something a smaller “mom and pop” MSP can’t offer.

SOC 2 Type 2 Compliant

SOC 2 is an audit report that tests measures of security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and/or privacy. In 2022, you should expect nothing less from the companies you work with.

vCISO offering

Our vCISO offering handles your cybersecurity strategy, manages your compliance, monitors threats, maintains documentation, and ensures you’re staying up to speed on the latest and greatest cybersecurity tools to safeguard your business.

Highly qualified staff

Our engineers, technicians and vCIOs are among the best trained in the industry.

 

See our staff certifications

Our engineers hold the following certifications:

• Certified Information Systems Security Profession (CISSP)
• Certified HIPAA System Administrator (CHSA)
• Certified SonicWall System Administrator (CSSA)
• SonicWall Network Security Administrator (SNSA)
• VMWare Sales Professional (VSP)
• VMWare Technical Solutions Professional (VTSP)
• Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA)
• Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
• Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert – Server Infrastructure (MCSE)
• Certified RSA Authentication and Security Management Engineer
• CompTIA Linux+ Certified
• CompTIA Security+ Certified
• CompTIA Network+ Certified
• Apple Certified Associate (ACA)

Our locations:

Atlanta

Northside Tower
6065 Roswell Road, Suite 140
Atlanta, GA 30328
404.551.5492

Austin

1804 Rutherford Ln
Austin, TX 78754
512.472.6000

Baltimore

11400 Cronridge Drive, Suite A
Owings Mills, MD 21117
443.589.1150

Boulder

5777 Central Avenue, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301
303.447.8398

Buffalo

5191 Genesee Street
Bowmansville, NY 14026
716.748.6180

Cranbury

1 Corporate Drive, Suite #H
Cranbury Township, NJ 08512
609.395.6900

Dallas–Fort Worth

2350 Airport Freeway, Suite 300
Bedford, TX 76022
817.575.6230

Denver

2941 West 19th Avenue
Denver, CO 80204
303.217.3000

Duluth

306 West Michigan Street, Suite 200
Duluth, MN 55802
218.729.0920

East Texas

921 Shiloh Road, Suite B100
Tyler TX 75703
903.581.0922

Hibbing

1524 East 37th Street
Hibbing, MN 55746
218.263.3624

Marquette

1280 Odovero Drive
Marquette, MI 49855
906.228.6799

New York City

276 Fifth Ave Ste 704
New York, NY 10001
609.395.6900

Philadelphia

701 E Cathedral Rd PMB 461
Philadelphia, PA 19128
609.395.6900

Rochester

656 Kreag Road
Pittsford, NY 14534
585.546.4120

San Antonio

4315 North Westberry Drive
San Antonio, TX 78228
512.472.6000

Twin Cities

235 East 6th Street, Suite 300
Saint Paul, MN 55101
651.203.9300

Washington, DC

712 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
443.589.1150

Wichita

410 N Saint Francis Avenue
Wichita, KS 67202
316.773.0920

Atlanta

Northside Tower
6065 Roswell Road, Suite 140
Atlanta, GA 30328
404.551.5492

Austin

1804 Rutherford Ln
Austin, TX 78754
512.472.6000

Baltimore

11400 Cronridge Drive, Suite A
Owings Mills, MD 21117
443.589.1150

Boulder

5777 Central Avenue, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301
303.447.8398

Buffalo

5191 Genesee Street
Bowmansville, NY 14026
716.748.6180

Cranbury

1 Corporate Drive, Suite #H
Cranbury Township, NJ 08512
609.395.6900

Dallas–Fort Worth

2350 Airport Freeway, Suite 300
Bedford, TX 76022
817.575.6230

Denver

2941 West 19th Avenue
Denver, CO 80204
303.217.3000

Duluth

306 West Michigan Street, Suite 200
Duluth, MN 55802
218.729.0920

East Texas

921 Shiloh Road, Suite B100
Tyler TX 75703
903.581.0922

Hibbing

1524 East 37th Street
Hibbing, MN 55746
218.263.3624

Marquette

1280 Odovero Drive
Marquette, MI 49855
906.228.6799

New York City

276 Fifth Ave Ste 704
New York, NY 10001
609.395.6900

Philadelphia

701 E Cathedral Rd PMB 461
Philadelphia, PA 19128
609.395.6900

Rochester

656 Kreag Road
Pittsford, NY 14534
585.546.4120

San Antonio

4315 North Westberry Drive
San Antonio, TX 78228
512.472.6000

Twin Cities

235 East 6th Street, Suite 300
Saint Paul, MN 55101
651.203.9300

Washington, DC

712 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
443.589.1150

Wichita

410 N Saint Francis Avenue
Wichita, KS 67202
316.773.0920

Start the conversation with a free 10-minute consultation.

Our consultation is a true conversation. You can learn more about our process and we’ll learn about what you are looking for in an IT provider. If it’s a fit, we’ll set up a strategy session with your key stakeholders.