What is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

I joined The Network Support Company shortly after graduating from high school in 1996. I was only 18, but having grown up with computers, I’d already developed some skills in this area. Fortunately for me, knowing ones way around a computer was a skill that was coming into demand. At the time, TNSC was a new business with a mission to provide IT services to its clients. I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the business at the time, but I loved working with the technology and the clients. I thought it to be gratifying to solve someone’s technical issue. It’s important to note that, for many small and mid-sized businesses in the late ‘90s, computers served mostly to automate some processes; because the machines were often unreliable and frustrating, the nuts & bolts of a business’s day-to-day operations weren’t completely reliant on them.

Fast forward about 10 years – the landscape changed with the meteoric rise of the Internet and connectivity. The business impact for a computer failure had multiplied exponentially. Computers were no longer just a convenience, they were vital to virtually every process and task. Computers held all of the data employees needed to service their customers, so when the technology didn’t work, work would grind to a crawl, if not a halt. Further complicating matters, employees were no longer trained how to do their jobs without relying on computers! The result: when a network was down, waiting until the next day or when a technician was in the area was simply not an option. The business’s bottom line was impacted, in most cases, immediately.

Companies recognized their dependence on technology and often tapped a tech-savvy person from their staff to serve as technician when things went sour. Just as often, as the technology and associated needs (i.e. cybersecurity) got more complicated, that approach didn’t work for the long haul. So, if they didn’t already have a relationship with an IT provider, they established one. As the criticality of their computer systems continued to grow, IT service companies were faced with finding ways to be both more pro-active and more responsive, but less costly. So highly proactive services, assisted by automation platforms that both monitor and help maintain systems, were developed. IT providers that offer these highly proactive services are called Managed Service Providers (MSP). Businesses who use managed services experience systems that perform better, are more secure, and fail less often.

Over the last several years, the MSP industry has grown to meet the demand for a wide range of mission-critical technology solutions. Among the most popular are:

  • Infrastructure and consulting services
  • Telecom services
  • IT Governance and oversight
  • Business Intelligence and Application Development
  • Vulnerability Management and Intrusion Prevention
  • Automation and monitoring of key maintenance and performance metrics
  • VCIO Services (Virtual Chief Information Office)
  • Cloud services, application hosting, backup and disaster recovery…etc.

This growth in complexity is what creates the divide between the old “Break/Fix” companies and the modern-day operationally mature MSP. Both deal hands-on with technology in a similar way, but MSPs understand the importance to collect, analyze, filter and regurgitate an abundance of data in order to scale efficiently. This means a highly organized and disciplined approach to operations is a requirement to be a great MSP. Anyone can go out and purchase a platform to ‘manage’ computers. If you partner with a reputable MSP, you get the benefit of not just their technical expertise, but also their operational excellence to provide the stability you require. The deliverable to the client is simple: The client should experience Fewer Problems, Faster Recovery.

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