Finding the right MSP: A smart guide for business owners

Finding the right MSP: A smart guide for business owners
As a business owner, you are keenly aware of how technology is an integral part of commerce these days. You’ve been told countless times that technology helps drive growth and innovation, increases your competitive advantage, and improves internal and external communication in your organization. In fact, you’re convinced that you need to take the plunge. So you ask yourself: how does one go about it? To run a tech-savvy business, you'll need a sizeable chunk of your budget allotted to the latest hardware and software as well as personnel who can manage and maintain them. For big organizations with deep pockets, getting additional manpower is not an issue. But if you’re a small- to mid-sized business (SMB) with limited capital, it may prove problematic. In New Jersey, the average annual salary of an IT generalist/specialist falls between $62,657 to around $77,048 per year. (The wide salary range is due to several factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years spent in the profession.) Happily, SMBs have an alternative to hiring their own in-house IT professionals — they can partner with a managed services provider (MSP) instead.
  1. What is a managed services provider?
  2. To MSP or not to MSP?
  3. Know when to consider partnering with an MSP
  4. Boost your business productivity
  5. The MSP advantage
  6. What you should keep in mind when looking for an MSP
  7. The qualities you need from an MSP

What is a managed services provider?

Managed Services Providers

Related article: Level up your business with a managed service provider

MSPs are companies that offer outsourced IT support services and proactive IT maintenance under a subscription model. They offer a wide range of IT services, but MSPs make sure they provide essential business IT services, including cybersecurity, network management and support, cloud computing and data backup, business continuity, and disaster recovery planning. Because MSPs are outsourced, you don’t have to worry about the expenses that come with an in-house staff, like monthly salaries and regular training. They also charge for their services via a monthly subscription instead of a per-project quotation, letting you plan your budget better. What’s more, thanks to cloud technology, remote IT support is possible. So whenever you have a problem with your IT, you don’t have to call your third-party contractor and wait for them to arrive before you receive help; an MSP’s response time is faster. To learn more about the advantages an MSP can offer to your business, check out how to level up your business with a managed services provide.

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To MSP or not to MSP?

Managed Services Providers

Related article: In-house IT vs. managed services: Advice for small businesses

To answer that question, you need to know how much attention your IT systems need in both the short and long term. Why? Because you may end up with your freshly hired technician bored at his desk with nothing to do. Conversely, your IT staff may be overwhelmed by the amount of setting up, configuring, and supporting new IT systems they have to do. Having an in-house staff has its advantages. They’re quick to respond, and they’re in the best position to know your specific business needs and, more importantly, your particular IT needs. But the in-house option also comes with challenges: they need regular training, and as your IT needs increase, you’ll need more manpower. That’s why it’s important for SMBs to take stock of their needs before deciding whether to hire in-house staff or to partner with an outsourced MSP. Can your business do with having an in-house IT staff? Or is a managed services provider more suited to your organization? Before you decide, here’s our advice to SMBs grappling with this question.

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Know when to consider partnering with an MSP

Managed Services Providers

Related article: 6 signs it’s time to consider managed IT services

Some SMB owners, especially those with 10 or fewer employees, may think, “Maybe I can get the best of both worlds. I can start with hiring one or two IT guys to handle our technology needs. And when my business is big enough, I’ll partner with an MSP.” It's a viable plan if your business has a limited budget. But as your business grows, you may start to earnestly consider partnering with an MSP. These are some signs you should watch out for:
  • If you don’t have an in-house IT guy yet, you end up relying on your most IT-savvy staff members to do double duties — what they were hired to do, plus IT services. As a result, their time and efforts are always divided. Or they stay in the office longer to accommodate their IT tasks on top of their daily duties.
  • If you hire one or two IT guys, they are fixing computers and solving day-to-day IT issues all the time, leaving no room for them to work on more worthwhile technical projects.
  • You have recurring IT problems, because either your non-IT staff do not have the skills to solve them, or your IT guys are undermanned and overwhelmed.
  • You find it difficult to budget your IT expenses, because an unplanned upgrade or a costly crash causes your plans to go awry.

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If you see any of the preceding signs, as well as the others listed in this article, then it’s time to consider getting an MSP.

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Boost your business productivity

If you partner with the right MSP, your business productivity improves. Here’s how:
  • Your MSP will proactively monitor your system 24/7/365 to prevent downtime.
  • For unexpected technology glitches, your MSP has a 24/7 help desk. So if you encounter a tech problem, there is a team of experts ready to assist you at all hours.
  • Your MSP can provide various cloud-based backup and business continuity solutions, which will keep your data safe, reduce downtime, and further improve your productivity.
  • You get to work with experienced IT experts. Not only will they solve your IT problems, but they can also act as consultants to make sure your IT solutions align with your business strategy.
MSPs offer other services that benefit businesses in various fields. Learn more about these indispensable services that can boost your business.

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The MSP advantage

Managed Services Providers

Related article: Outsourcing IT services makes more sense for SMBs in New Jersey

Improved productivity is just one of the many advantages an MSP brings to businesses, even to SMBs. This is especially pertinent in New Jersey, where 99% of all businesses are classified as small. In a crowded field, you’ll want to have a competitive edge. And with the right MSP, your small business stands a chance to go toe to toe with your bigger competitors. Engaging with the right MSP means maximizing your IT solutions and reaping the following benefits:
  • You save on labor and training costs that come with hiring your own in-house IT department.
  • You get a full roster of IT professionals who have the necessary experience and qualifications.
  • Your MSP proactively monitors, manages, and protects your system 24/7.
  • You can focus your efforts in growing your business; leave the technology to your MSP.
  • You can grow your business with ease; MSPs can easily scale up or down as your needs change.
Learn more about how SMBs in New Jersey benefit from outsourcing their IT services with MSPs.

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What you should keep in mind when looking for an MSP

Managed Services Providers

Related article: Top 5 tips to help you get the most out of an MSP

The latest estimates put the number of truly profitable MSPs in North America as fewer than 20,000 — that’s still a lot of options for you. You need to choose wisely, because you want the best possible return on your investment. Here are some tips to make sure you achieve your goal:
  • Don’t make price your number one priority. Cheaper isn’t always better. Bargain MSPs will likely treat your IT as a commodity rather than something valuable and integral to your business’s success.
  • Evaluate their track record. Look for testimonials and case studies from their clients. More importantly, favor those that are interested in understanding your business.
  • Focus on MSPs that have experience and expertise in your line of business, especially in highly regulated industries like healthcare, legal, or finance.
  • Make sure you understand the fine print in your service level agreement (SLA), the most important document between you and your MSP. The SLA details the level of service you can expect from your provider, so it’s imperative that both parties’ obligations are clearly stated.
  • Go local. While MSPs are capable of remote support, it’s recommended that you partner with one that’s within your area. A local MSP has advantages over a larger MSP handling national, even global, clients.
Want to learn the advantages of working with a local MSP? Here are further details on how to get the most out of your managed services provider.

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The qualities you need from an MSP

Managed Services Providers

Related article: Qualities you should look for in a managed IT services provider

Since the integrity of your IT systems is crucial to boosting your productivity, your MSP's number one duty is to take care of your IT infrastructure. At first glance, it seems that most MSPs offer basically the same set of services. But no two MSPs are alike. Look into the quality of services they provide, and make sure they'll be able to answer the needs of your business. An MSP should be on call at all hours of the day to monitor and manage your network; no one can predict when a malfunction or an attack happens. Speaking of cyberattacks, an MSP should be able to protect your network with comprehensive cybersecurity measures. They should provide robust business continuity solutions, and their technical consultants should be experts on a range of IT skills, because your IT requirements don’t remain static. And given all the services they provide, their subscription-based monthly fee should be cost-efficient. No matter what industry you’re in, you need an MSP that covers your business needs. Get an in-depth look at the must-have qualities that you need in your MSP. Selecting an MSP is not easy. That’s why if your business is in or around the areas of Hanover, Morristown, and Madison, it will do you well to seriously consider partnering with Online Computers. You can consult with our experts so that we can create a plan that’s tailored to your needs. Get in touch with us today.

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