What’s an MSP?

Managed IT services providers and why you need one for your business

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing the IT infrastructure for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs, also referred to as small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs)[1] but there is one type of IT support provider that has repeatedly proven itself as having the optimal approach: the MSP. In this article, we'll answer the following questions:

  • What is an MSP?
  • How are MSPs different from other IT support providers?
  • Why do you need an MSP?
  • What makes Fluid MSP the best?

What Is an MSP?

MSP stands for managed services provider, and most often specifically refers to a managed IT services provider.[2] Pricing models vary, but typically most MSPs charge either a fixed or variable monthly price for management of and support for their client’s IT infrastructure (servers, computers, mobile devices, peripheral devices, networks, backups, security, cloud services and platforms, software, and other technical infrastructure).

How Are MSPs Different from Other IT Support Providers?

As anyone who has performed a simple search for computer or IT support has undoubtedly found, the overall landscape of IT providers and disparate service models can be confusing to the uninitiated. Fortunately, we can break IT providers down into three simple categories:

  1. Break/Fix
  2. In-House
  3. MSP

Break/Fix providers offer a per-incident, project-based, and/or hourly rate for ad-hoc support.[3] The term derives from the fact that the break/fix IT provider typically isn’t called until something breaks, at which point they will fix it.

In-House refers to a business having its own IT department, which is typically staffed with a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or IT Director,[4] who may then have additional IT support technicians providing project support and help desk services internally to the company.[5]

MSPs offer monthly, all-inclusive IT support in the form of help desk services, projects (typically incurring an additional charge for installs, moves, adds, or changes—referred to as IMAC),[6]  proactive maintenance, and ongoing management of a client’s technical infrastructure.

Why Do You Need an MSP?

The three types of IT providers listed above comprise an overall spectrum. On the low end of the spectrum we have break/fix providers, on the high end we have in-house IT departments, and in the middle we have MSPs. Here’s why the MSP model offers the best of both worlds: price vs value, and peace of mind.

Price vs Value

While break/fix providers might seem to offer a low-cost approach to providing IT support, when measured annually, businesses will often pay just as much if not more for IT services from a break/fix provider than they would with an MSP. One reason for this is that it’s more cost-effective to prevent issues from arising rather than to wait until things break to address them. Additionally, it’s hard to put an exact price tag on lost employee productivity due to technology issues and outages. Simply put, downtime adds up.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, in-house IT departments certainly have their advantages, but they come with a high price tag and fixed costs. As of this writing, the average base salary of a CIO is $168,000 per year.[7] Add a few more IT staff (e.g., a System Administrator, Network Engineer, and/or help desk staff) to support the CIO and you’re easily in the $500,000 per year range at minimum.

MSPs fit in right at the sweet spot, delivering the expertise and capability (sometimes beyond) of an in-house IT department but at a variable cost that fits the needs of the small or medium-sized business they’re supporting.

Peace of Mind

Nobody likes unexpected issues. As mentioned above, one of the downsides of the break/fix model is that there is no ongoing maintenance of IT infrastructure. This is the equivalent of driving your car around and waiting until it runs out of gas to get fuel, or waiting until the engine breaks down to fix it—it’s always going to happen at a bad time, and it’s going to end up costing a lot of time and money to fix.

MSPs provide the ongoing maintenance needed to ensure the stability of your IT environment. Unlike waiting for things to break and paying a penalty in the form of time and money, ongoing maintenance allows costs to be anticipated and spread out over time, and in many cases can prevent issues from arising in the first place, saving both time and money.

What Makes Fluid MSP the Best?

MSPs are nothing new—they’ve been around for decades.[8] That said, due to the rapid pace at which technology changes, not all MSPs have been able to keep up. Fluid MSP offers a next-generation approach to the MSP model that meets the needs of today’s businesses. Here’s what sets us apart from the rest:

  • Industry-leading security practices balanced with usability
  • Professional services at the forefront
  • Project work included
  • Transparent and simplified pricing

Industry-leading Security Practices Balanced with Usability

Security, security, security. Operating a business today without a mature security posture is like driving without a seatbelt. Security threats and ransomware attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and prevalent in today’s world, and unfortunately many businesses are ill-prepared.[9] To make matters worse, a concerning number of today’s MSPs, who are trusted by their clients to secure their IT environments, lack many best practices and even common sense when it comes to security (I recently spoke with a client whose former MSP kept their admin passwords in a plain-text Excel spreadsheet, and would transmit that information completely unencrypted via email—yikes).

At Fluid MSP we employ industry-leading security practices, including automated phishing detection and prevention, at-rest encryption, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR),[10] endpoint protection, and multi-factor authentication (MFA / 2FA)[11] to name a few. Additionally, we’ve carefully vetted our partners and crafted the architecture of our security stance to ensure that the overall solution we provide is both incredibly secure and well balanced with ease-of-use.

Professional Services at the Forefront

A good MSP doesn’t just take care of technology—a good MSP continually looks for ways to improve their clients’ processes and increase their profitability through professional services.[12] Not many MSPs consider or offer this service, and even those that do will typically offer this as an add-on service with a corresponding price increase.

At Fluid MSP we offer professional services at the forefront of what we do. With combined decades of experience working with small and medium-sized businesses in all sectors, our core team is able to offer value extending far beyond IT, and to help transform our clients’ businesses in ways that increase their operational efficiency, driving increased productivity and profitability.

Project Work Included

As stated previously, most MSPs charge an additional hourly or project-based fee for any and all work performed that qualifies as an install, move, add, or change (IMAC). This creates an oppositional dynamic between their clients’ financial interests and the MSP’s technology initiatives. For example, the MSP advises its client that they need to implement an MFA solution to secure their infrastructure, but the client is resistant to this because they will incur a substantial cost for the project. In this scenario, the client is in a lose-lose position—either they take a hit to their pocketbook or they forego a critical security measure.

At Fluid MSP we solve this problem by simply including project work as part of our standard services. This way, there’s no barrier between our clients’ finances and our recommendations for technological and procedural improvements. If it needs to be done, we get it done—at no additional charge.

Transparent and Simplified Pricing

Pricing models in the MSP world vary significantly. Some MSPs nickel and dime their clients with additional charges and fees for every individual service they provide, creating an exhaustive à la carte menu that confuses more than it simplifies. Other MSPs obfuscate their pricing and simply charge a flat monthly rate that they increase when they see fit, banking on client workload decreasing while monthly price either stays the same or increases.

At Fluid MSP we’ve created a simplified pricing model that offers full transparency to our clients by breaking down IT into high-level categories that easily adapt to the exact needs of our clients’ businesses. This allows our services and pricing to shrink or grow alongside our clients’ businesses, and for our clients to know exactly how ordinary business movements will affect their IT budget.

So if you’re ready to bring your company into IT maturity and to see how Fluid MSP can not just stabilize your technology but to truly professionalize your IT environment to increase operational security and efficiency, give us a call.