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Managed Service Providers: Are they right for you?

You may or may not have heard of Managed Service Providers, or MSPs, but even if you haven't heard of them, if you are a small business they can be revolutionary to how you handle your technology. MSPs exist to help you handle your technology so that you can focus on your small business without worrying about learning all the technology yourself or spending money on a full time IT specialist.

We all know that technology is a crucial part of business today, you simply cannot compete without email, social media, websites, and software in today's competitive market. The downside to all this technology is that it can be a huge time and money sink. Trying to find, purchase, and learn all the software you need can be excruciatingly tedious and sometimes expensive. Lets face it, unless your in the IT business, you probably aren't an expert in technology.

You need to handle your technology somehow, but what's the best option? According to the average salary of a single system administrator is $82,690 per year, which can be a crushing amount for many small businesses, and that's not including benefits, taxes, and other expenses with payroll. This is where an MSP comes in handy. While there is no set amount, it generally costs less to use an MSP than to hire a full time, or even a part time system admin.

So how much does it cost to use an MSP? Well, that depends on quite a few factors. Different MSPs are going to charge differently but you could be looking at $50-$200 per month on a user/device basis, plus hourly costs. Another model may be a "value added subscription" service where the MSP manages software purchased through them for a markup that includes support if something goes wrong which can avoid hourly rates. The trick is to do your research and see what your local MSPs charge and how they charge for services so you can get a big picture idea of the total costs for your particular business.

So what exactly do MSPs do? Well generally they partner with a CSP, or cloud service provider, to provide you with various software tools, such as Microsoft Office, anti-virus, and cloud solutions. When buying through an MSP they generally will also provide technical support and administration of the software. Think of it like having an IT guy for rent. Instead of paying his total salary, benefits, taxes etc. you rent him from a service that includes the software and technician. It's similar to buying vs renting property. If you buy property you own it but are also fully responsible for all costs, repairs, etc. whereas renting many costs and repairs fall on the owner while you utilize the property for an agreed fee.

The following snippet from Business News Daily does an excellent job of explaining why you may need an MSP:

"Businesses need managed service providers because they negate risks. Instead of outsourcing IT when a problem occurs, managed services allow consistent network monitoring. Also, a managed service provider handles all updating and maintenance tasks. This allows managers to focus on their businesses instead of worrying about the company’s IT functionality.

A prospective managed service provider should also evaluate current and future IT needs. The MSP advises on what products and services a business should implement over the next year."

As with anything, there are also downsides to utilizing MSPs. For instance you don't have an employee on-site ready and waiting if something goes wrong, and depending on your MSPs work load, support may be delayed. You also have to make sure you are using a reputable MSP to ensure that the support and service you get is worth the price they charge you. Another possible downside is that an MSP may not meet all of your technology needs. If you have specialized software that is niche to your business you may be hard pressed to find an MSP that is willing and able to support it.

Ultimately, it will come down to you, the business owner, to weigh the pros and cons of utilizing an MSP vs hiring an IT professional vs doing it all yourself. Each option has pros and cons and your business will have unique needs that need to be considered when making a decision. If you need any advice, please reach out to All American Cyber for a free consultation to assist you in finding the right path for your business.

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