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Cyber Security

What Is the Difference Between IT & MSP Companies?

 July 6, 2020

By  Tim Starnes

The world of IT can be a confusing one to navigate. Technical terms are thrown around left and right, making you feel like you’re trying to drive a car without a steering wheel. We here at Security First IT are here to help.

Small and medium-sized companies generally do not have the funds, time, or infrastructure to handle as many aspects of the IT space that should be handled. Some forward-thinking businesses bring on limited IT or hire techs, however, they rarely possess enough manpower, funds, or investment to cover the entire digital waterfront.

This gray area is where IT companies and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) come in. While these two distinct business types come in many forms, they provide a similar baseline of service.

What Do They Provide?

Here are a few key-to-know terms and their definitions:

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the lumped term for “staying safe online” – this can include personally staying safe, such as not opening links in unknown emails and not putting your social security number on Facebook, or your business staying safe, such as locking down online databases and ensuring all employees are using secure passwords.

Cloud Services

“The cloud” traditionally describes services such as online file sharing, file storage, and remote work access. For example, transitioning an office to the paperless “cloud” involves moving all work into word processing software which is automatically backed up on an external file storage account.

IT Support

IT support aids whenever networks become faulty, equipment breaks, services go down, or other equipment failures occur. Techs assigned to the case move into action to correct the issue, whether in person or remotely. For example, giving your IT department a call when you can’t receive or send out emails due to a misconfigured firewall setting.

Technology Assessment

During onboarding, an IT company or managed service provider (MSP) will conduct a technology assessment. This assessment will encompass your entire network, and spot inefficiencies or unnecessary expenditures. For example, it could be discovered that your business is being overcharged for file storage, as there is a cheaper alternative with a higher storage limit available.

What Is the Difference?

Part One:

IT Companies

Professional IT companies, such as Security First IT, provide technical support services for businesses.

Hiring on an IT company allows a business to effectively “outsource” IT operations by having access to an IT support staff without directly hiring staff. These savings make hiring an IT company a popular solution for small/medium businesses and startups that need IT support but cannot afford to hire IT staff or do not wish to make a large commitment.

  • Manage IT networks made up of computers, servers, system equipment, and security equipment.
  • Provide active IT support troubleshooting problems such as loss of internet connection, providing access to user accounts, solving email outages, and managing file storage issues.
  • Actively assisting with installing new equipment.
  • Assisting with cyberattack recovery.
  • Actively scanning for cybersecurity threats.

IT companies offer a variety of pricing models, completely dependent upon the contract made with the provider.

  • Per-device The IT company charges a fee per device on the business’ network.
  • Per-user The IT company charges a fee for each user registered on all devices.
  • All-inclusive A flat fee is applied, no matter what functions the IT company takes on for the client.

Why Signing With an IT Company is a Good Idea

  • Cost Savings

When an IT company is engaged, businesses save on multiple costs, such as the cost of maintaining an IT staff, updating hardware, and upkeep of specialty rooms such as server rooms.

  • Up-to-Date Technology

An IT company is responsible for updating its technology, making IT company services affordable for small and medium businesses that lack a large IT budget.

  • Qualified Expertise

Bringing an IT company onboard means negating the time and effort required to find and recruit qualified IT staff.

  • Consistent Back-Ups

If data backups are included in the IT company package, it becomes their responsibility to actively back up any files, saving staff time and effort, as well as dealing with expensive storage plans.

  • Freeing Up Staff Resources and Time

With an IT company, staff time is free for other projects, as time is no longer tied up with the minutia of daily IT processes, network management, and security auditing.

  • Active Compliance Auditing

Should your business operate in an environment that is highly regulated such as finance or insurance, an IT company can actively audit to ensure that your business is IT compliant.

  • Face-to-Face Interaction

Smaller IT companies can offer personalized service on a local level, meaning that it is entirely possible to get to know all techs and staff that will be involved with your business.

  • Some Break-Fix Model Flexibility

Should your business not have reached the tipping point of needing fully serviced IT, many IT companies offer a break-fix model, essentially the carry-a-broken-electronic-in service akin to Best Buy’s “Geek Squad.”

Why IT Companies Aren’t for Everyone

  • Lower Capacity

IT companies tend to be smaller in scale and cannot compete with the size of managed service providers (MSPs), making them more local-style operations than global managed service providers (MSPs).

  • Some Outsourced Services

A smaller IT company may not have enough staff, resources, equipment, or training to provide hands-on support for all client requests. In this case, the IT company may outsource some operational bits and pieces to outsourced services, at discounted prices. For example, your IT company may offer cloud storage options, but fulfill the storage through Microsoft OneDrive rather than hosting their independent file storing servers in-house.

Starting A Relationship with an It Company

All managerial control is not relinquished with an IT company. It is up to the client to decide which functionalities will be handled by the IT company. This means in-house tech staff can still be left to manage some projects, rather than the IT company.

The first aspect of onboarding an IT company will be an internal review of any networks, systems, or information necessary to properly handle your business.

Following the review, the IT company will act to repair, build out, or correct any inefficiencies found during the initial technological review.

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An IT Company’s Continuing Service

The IT company will do a few things, based on the agreed contract with them:

·         Regularly update applications and software within the network.

·         Maintain background and activity and keep watch over the security of the network.

·         In the event of an equipment failure or cyberattack, quickly restore service and files.

Part Two:

Managed Service Providers

As application service providers (ASPs) in the 1990’s began appearing, the groundwork for managed service providers (MSPs) was lain. Application service providers provided internet-connected application services, such as connecting to customer relationship software (Think options like Salesforce) or rendering artwork via cloud computing. As internet usage within business increased steadily within the “.com boom”, managed service providers (MSPs) began to appear.

Managed service providers are IT companies on steroids. They provide technical support, but additional layers of services as well. Managed service providers (MSPs) execute the responsibilities of the day-to-day management of a variety of activities including:

  • Storage of information in data centers.
  • Ongoing payroll service.
  • Outsourced human resources.
  • Providing workforce management.
  • Support of client websites.
  • Handling of e-commerce traffic.
  • Building out business IT networks.
  • Monitoring of servers, firewalls, routers, and directories for abnormal traffic.
  • Contract and vendor management.
  • Compliance monitoring.
  • Procurement and sourcing.
  • Automatic updating and patching of software.
  • Live 24-hour technical support.
  • Consistent online backup services.
  • Network performance monitoring.

Managed service providers (MSPs) offer a variety of pricing models, completely dependent upon the contract made with the provider.

  • Per-device The managed service provider (MSP) charges a fee per device on the business’ network.
  • Per-user The managed service provider (MSP) charges a fee for each user registered on all devices.
  • All-inclusive A flat fee is applied, no matter what functions the managed service provider (MSP) takes on for the client.

Contracts with managed service providers (MSPs) are often called service-level agreements (SLAs), however, they truly do not differ from a general contract, outside of outlining specific clauses governing baseline performance.

Why MSPs Aren’t for Everyone

  • Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction

Many companies will not like the lack of face-to-face communication with their managed service provider (MSP). Many managed service providers (MSPs) use a combination of remote monitoring and automated software to manage client accounts, meaning that direct interaction with a live tech is rare, except in the case of a meltdown-level immediate issue.

  • No Break-Fix Model

Many managed service providers (MSPs) do not allow clients to operate on the “break-fix” model, meaning that a managed service provider (MSP) will often not allow clients to bring them in on a need-be basis.

Why Signing With an MSP is a Good Idea

  • Cost Savings

When a managed service provider (MSP) is engaged, businesses save on multiple costs, such as the cost of maintaining an IT staff, updating hardware, and upkeep of specialty rooms such as server rooms.

  • Up-to-Date Technology

A managed service provider (MSP) is responsible for updating its technology, making managed service provider (MSP) service affordable for small and medium businesses that lack a large IT budget.

  • Qualified Expertise

Bringing a managed service provider (MSP) onboard means negating the time and effort required to find and recruit qualified IT staff.

  • Consistent Back-Ups

If data backups are included in the managed service provider (MSP) package, it becomes their responsibility to actively back up any files, saving staff time and effort, as well as dealing with expensive storage plans.

  • Freeing Up Staff Resources and Time

With managed service providers (MSPs), staff time is free for other projects, as time is no longer tied up with the minutia of daily IT processes, payroll, workforce management or auditing for compliance.

  • Active Compliance Auditing

Should your business operate in an environment that is highly regulated such as finance or insurance, managed service providers (MSPs) actively audit to ensure that your business is IT compliant.

Some managed service providers include:

  • Amazon Web Service (AWS)
  • Google Cloud
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Rack Space

Other Types of Managed Services

  • Managed Security Service Providers

Managed security service providers offer network monitoring and cybersecurity as a comprehensive package, taking the stress of security out of your IT department’s hands. Should a cyberattack occur, a managed security service provider will be responsible for the response, as well as reporting the incident to the proper authorities.

  • Managed Print Services

Tired of battling with printers? Managed print service providers allow businesses to outsource their printing needs, meaning no specially trained staff, complicated equipment, expensive contracts, or frustrating printer breakdowns.

  • Managed Data Storage

Managed data storage services offer clients backup and cloud storage services beyond the traditional backup, such as encrypting files. This solution is often cheaper than maintaining onsite backups or the price of restoring a network after an incident.

Starting A Relationship with a Managed Service Provider (MSP)

All managerial control is not relinquished with a managed service provider. It is up to the client to decide which functionalities will be handled by the MSP. This means in-house tech staff can still be left to manage some projects, rather than the MSP team.

The first aspect of onboarding a managed service provider (MSP) will be an internal review by the managed service provider (MSP) to outline a new network design and spot any inefficiencies or unnecessary expenses.

Once all aspects of the network and processes have been analyzed, the MSP sets to work designing the new system, and after approval, will set up the network as described.

A Managed Service Provider’s (MSP’s) Continuing Service

·         Regularly update applications and software within the network.

·         Maintain background and activity and keep watch over the security of the network.

·         In the event of an equipment failure or cyberattack, quickly restore service and files.

There are advantages and disadvantages to bringing on both an IT company and managed service providers. It is essential to know the key differences of these two business types to make the correct, informed decision for your business – making the wrong choice can cost in many ways.

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