What’s the difference between managed services and projects?


May 25, 2017

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Managed IT services can be defined as the practice of proactively outsourcing IT management responsibilities, functions, and coming up with a strategic method for improving operations and cutting expenses. This broad definition can lead people to believe that once they sign on for managed services, all things IT-related are covered in the monthly subscription. They likely won’t know any different until their MSP tells them otherwise, which may occur at the 11th hour – for instance, finding out that an office move is considered a separate project cost just a week before moving day. To avoid such misconceptions, we at MyITpros want to offer some insight into where the scope of managed services ends.

A trio of exceptions

MyItpros defines managed services as an inclusive plan for all ongoing technological support. There are three main areas not covered by this definition:

  • Hardware: Hardware is things like computers, switches and servers. While we offer functional support for computers, switches, servers and other hardware that already exists within your organization, purchasing new hardware as a replacement or a new investment is not covered.
  • Software: Although we can work with a third-party software vendor to troubleshoot issues with applications like QuickBooks or Microsoft Office, the purchase of such software is not included in the monthly subscription.
  • Projects: Additions, moves, changes and anything else that goes beyond maintaining the status quo of the existing network could be considered a project. For example, let’s say a client needs to switch email platforms from Microsoft Exchange to Gmail. That process requires a considerable time commitment, so we would consider it a project.

Still wondering how to define the difference between managed services and projects? This example should help you out. If a technology that is part of your network today stops working tomorrow, the MSP is on the hook to make sure it’s operational, secure and backed up using a combination of maintenance and support. Conversely, if you decide to set up a wireless network that did not exist when you signed the MSP’s contract, the installation of said network would be considered a project. Once the network is up and running, its ongoing maintenance and support is included in the support contract.

Another way to gauge whether a particular undertaking is covered under the managed services umbrella or viewed as a separate project involves looking at the time and effort required to execute it. Let’s look at a new printer as an example. Ordering and adding the printer to your network seems simple, but what if it comes with a scanner that needs a separate profile to be created for each of your 50 employees? If your MSP has to program all 50 employees into the scanner then go to every work station and connect each desktop to the device one by one, the associated labor means this task could qualify as a project.  

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Navigating the gray area

Over the course of running your business, you’ll likely run into some trouble defining an issue as a managed service or a project. For instance, new user setup might be considered a gray area. It could be argued that because this user and their technology didn’t previously exist in the network, the setup process counts as a project. However, good MSPs are not out to nickel-and-dime their clients. At MyITpros, we include new user setup in both of our plans with the expectation that this will be an occasional need. However, if you’re adding 10 users at a time, the planning, effort and hours required start to increase. Generally speaking, we include one user setup per month in a standard service plan, then take it from there based on the number of new users and how complicated the setup is expected to be.

At MyITPros, our guiding principle is to always communicate with clients before we bill them. That way, they aren’t hit with any unexpected project charges, and they understand why a task was considered a project as opposed to a managed service. We are also careful to make budget recommendations that encourage our clients to leave room for potential projects not covered by their regular managed services plan. Discuss project work and scope when signing a contract with an MSP to ensure open communication moving forward!

MyITpros has been a leading managed services provider in the Austin area for over 20 years! Please contact us to see how we can help your  business, or visit our service pages for more information on what we do!

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