At its most basic definition, managed services is the practice of outsourcing IT support, where the service provider performs pre-defined services related to the IT infrastructure and networks in a business. These services are typically provided on a subscription basis.

Managed services are under the large umbrella of IT services in general. This umbrella also includes IT technicians like the Geek Squad or other ‘computer guys’ who fix your computer at an hourly rate when it breaks. In the industry, we refer to this type of work as “break-fix” or time and materials. There is also the software vendor-supplied IT services. Your Microsoft Office may come with “helpdesk” support, for example, but typically this type of support is limited to troubleshooting their specific application - not your entire computer network. Lastly, there are the internal IT services where your company hires an employee to take care of broken computers and network maintenance alike.  

All of these types of IT services are important and valid, of course. It’s important to have someone you can go to when you drop your laptop, or when you can’t figure out how to sort data in Excel. However, at the rate businesses are growing in the United States and beyond, so too is the demand for managed IT services. According to Markets and Markets, “the growing IT infrastructure of enterprises and growing number of compliances are the driving factors for managed services. Moreover, increase in the adoption rate of cloud deployment among small and medium-sized business have led to the adoption of managed services”.

Unfortunately for those small and mid-sized businesses, the IT services market is not yet regulated. Industries like electricians, plumbers, doctors, accountants, and lawyers are all heavily regulated to protect the consumer from receiving substandard work or getting ripped off. However, the computer industry does not have many of those same laws to protect the consumer. Basically, anyone who can turn on a PC can open a computer repair shop or a managed services company.

That is why we decided to write this article. We want you to be able to make an educated decision when it comes to the care and maintenance of your IT network.

Once you’ve researched your options when it comes to your business’ IT support, there are really only two viable options - managed IT services or internal IT support. Break-Fix is not proactive, and it’s not predictable. Software vendor support cannot help you outside of that specific software. However, both managed services and an internal IT guy potentially have the capability, expertise, and resources to provide you with a network that runs seamlessly in the background.

Of course, there are differences, and depending on your business model, may help you choose between the two.  

Firstly, an internal IT person is your employee. They work for you, which means they’re at your beck and call. This can mean they’re very busy (which is both good and bad - what happens when they can’t fit all their tasks into one week?). They’re certainly expensive and require constant training (the IT industry is always changing, new issues and solutions appear every day), but can be a better fit for a large company than managed services. Companies with more than 250 employees, for example, will typically have an IT department to handle the many nuances of IT services.

Conversely, managed IT services are essentially an outsourced IT department. So, for about the same price (or less) than paying the salary of an internal IT person, you get an entire team of individuals. Again, depending on your business model, this may not be the best choice for you. An internal IT person may be able to respond immediately (if they aren’t dealing with someone else) whereas a managed service provider may triage a less important issue of yours to deal with a more pressing matter from another client. An internal IT person works for you and only you. A managed service provider likely has many clients. Because an MSP has multiple clients, they can usually afford to provide their clients with enterprise-grade infrastructure and tier IV databases to ensure a more stable network and the ultimate in secure backups. Small to mid-sized businesses do not have the income for these services on their own.

To us, the biggest difference between an internal IT person and an MSP is the experience provided to you and your business. Internal IT works for you. MSPs work with you. They can guarantee they’ve got more experience than an internal IT guy simply because they’ve got more staff. They train their service team until they’re certified and recertified.  They’ve got more partnerships with vendors, meaning they can provide higher quality hardware and software. They have worked with small to mid-sized businesses, likely ones in your own industry, several times before. They know and understand the intricacies of modern networks in relation to the small business model.

In short, they’re professionals at creating a partnership with you, and your team, so that everyone is on the same level. This all-inclusive partnership is not something your internal IT person can provide. They (and you) simply do not have the time or resources to create that kind of experience.

Unfortunately, not all MSPs are created equal. Just because they have the capability to provide top-notch support, doesn’t mean they will. Some MSPs still charge at break-fix prices. Some offer ‘block-time’ which you may or may not use fully. Some are impossible to reach or are slow to respond. Some of them dedicate a single technician to you instead of allowing other members of the team to learn about your network in case that technician goes on vacation. Some won’t communicate with you to prepare for situations like a power outage or a ransomware attack.

It’s not just poor choices on their part - it’s irresponsible. An MSP should absolutely not benefit off your poorly monitored and maintained network. Really, the best MSP is the one you rarely have to call - and one that calls you to warn you of upcoming issues they’re already solving in the background for you.

So, you’ve done at least this much research, and I’m willing to bet you’re smart enough to do even more before making the choice for your business’ IT services. There’s plenty more information on our blog, but there are tons of other resources out there for you to find, too. Don’t settle for a poor IT support service. Your company needs and deserves the best.