What is a managed service provider, or MSP?
The simplest short definition of MSP is that an MSP provides outsourced IT solutions.
The types of IT solutions that MSPs offer can vary widely. Not all MSPs offer the same list of solutions, and there are no specific solutions that you must provide in order to qualify as an MSP.
That said, some common IT solutions that MSPs address include:
The Many Names of MSP
MSPs have several different ways to describe themselves, including:
MSP - managed services providers
Managed IT providers
What Does an MSP Do?
An important part of what defines an MSP is that MSPs offer the solutions described above in the form of “managed services” (hence the term Managed Service Provider).
A managed service is a solution that is provided on an ongoing basis, with the MSP taking full responsibility for delivering whichever outcomes are guaranteed as part of the managed service.
For example, an MSP who delivers backup as a managed service would take full responsibility for planning and executing a business’s backup needs on an ongoing basis. Likewise, an MSP who offers Security-as-a-Service would fully manage and monitor a client’s cybersecurity needs.
The value of managed services is that they provide clients with completely hands-off, outsourced IT solutions. In most cases, all a client needs to do to consume a certain managed service is to sign a contract with an MSP who provides it. There is no need on the client’s part to purchase, set up, or manage hardware or software.
A second key benefit of the managed services that MSPs provide is that they are offered on an ongoing basis. In this respect, managed services are often compared to what is known as a break-fix model, where companies seek outsourced IT help only when something goes wrong. Under a managed service model, an MSP is always providing a service, rather than simply responding when something fails.
Why Do I Need an MSP?
The fast-growing MSP market caters first and foremost to the needs of small and medium businesses, or SMBs, which are typically defined as businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees. These types of companies are typically too small to be able to maintain internal IT departments in a cost-efficient way. Or, they may be large enough to employ one or two full-time IT staff, but lack the capacity to run a complete IT team that is large enough, and diverse enough in its skill sets, to support all of the company’s IT needs.
Instead of trying to meet IT needs in-house, SMBs can outsource to MSPs. MSPs can also provide value by offering guidance about IT management and growth plans to business owners who lack backgrounds in technology.
Although SMBs are the most common users of MSP services, there are situations where large enterprises work with MSPs, too. An MSP may be able to provide a certain type of expertise that an enterprise’s in-house IT team lacks, for instance, or they can help supplement a company’s internal IT resources at times when the company’s IT infrastructure or needs are growing too fast for its own employees to manage on their own.
The Industries MSPs Work With
MSPs operate across a wide array of industries, ranging from manufacturing and distribution to healthcare, education, and beyond. People sometimes assume that MSPs only provide support to companies within the IT industry, but that is not true. Today, virtually every company requires IT services, no matter which type of work it does, and MSPs help fill that need.
Benefits of Using Managed IT Services
By providing outsourced IT solutions via a managed services model, MSPs offer a range of benefits to companies of all types: