Why Outsource to a Managed IT Provider
Many organizations employ the services of a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP). One reason for this may be due to the high cost of employing an IT Professional in-house. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a Network Administrator in 2018 was $82,050 (not including costs of healthcare, paid time off, and other benefits). Given that the job market has continued to be at all-time lows, companies are focusing on leveraging their capital and other resources to focus on hiring talent that contributes to their core business. Shifting funds from strategic roles to support roles may hinder a company’s ability to compete, which may be a reason why companies are moving to and continue to outsource IT functions.
Not All Managed IT Providers are the Same
Although many companies are subscribing to Managed IT Services, not all Managed IT Service Providers are the same. IT plays a crucial role for all companies – it is the vehicle for knowledge and communication. Therefore, companies should be careful when evaluating Managed IT Service Providers and have a clear understanding of their service delivery model. Many believe that just because they have a vendor in place, that all systems are configured to best practices, cyber security is buttoned up, and that they receive all the value they would need from an IT perspective. However, the old adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know” rings true in terms of differentiation and value in the IT Service Provider marketplace.
Managed IT Services Has Evolved
So, just what should you expect from a Managed Services Provider in 2020? Managed IT Services Providers have evolved their solutions with sophisticated back end tools that can provide customers data visualization for ticket metrics, as well as knowledge bases, asset inventory reports, automated patching and compliance reports, and a host of other value-added services. Companies evaluating Managed IT Services should ask potential partners about the tools they use on the back-end, their standard operating procedures for patching systems, and ask for example compliance reports, asset inventory reports, and get a client dashboard overview. Aside from the value gained from new processes and tools, the real value comes from the people that work at the Managed Services Provider.
The Real Value Comes from Talent
Cyber Security Talent
Over the past several years, there have been major advances in technology and shifts in trends. The most pervasive shift that has taken place in the IT industry is the need for enhanced cyber security. The change in technology and people that support cyber security efforts have also shifted from not only proactive patching by a systems administrator, but to looking at cyber security holistically. Managed IT Services Providers have evolved and are now employing Cyber Security Engineers who are Certified Ethical Hackers (CEH). These people not only perform vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, but also remediate security gaps and can be strategic security consultants in guiding a company to protect its digital assets. When evaluating Managed Services Providers in 2020, companies should evaluate the strength of their potential partners. Does the Managed Services Provider have a security program as a core focus of their business? Do they employ security staff that have passed industry accreditations such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)? These questions should be included in evaluation criteria for a Managed Services Provider.
Another major shift in trends and technology is cloud adoption. Managed Services Providers are not only expected to manage on premise infrastructure from yester-year, but are now expected to manage deployments in Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure and Office 365, and Google’s Cloud Platform (GCP). Usually, a managed services provider will have the capacity to focus on one of these, but not all three. As the company considers its long-term IT strategy in relation to cloud technology, it should also consider their strategic IT partner’s cloud strategy. Managed Services Providers who have a mature cloud practice have employees who are certified architects on one of these three platforms, and a company evaluating a new Managed IT Services Provider should ask potential partners where they align.
One of the greatest assets a Managed Services Provider can bring to the table is the role known as a Solutions Architect. These are people who have achieved mastery in Information Technology and provide expert consultancy and guidance. Managed Services Providers bring these people in to understand business goals and technical requirements in order to help clients with their most pressing initiatives and challenges. The meetings with these people are the extra value-added service offered by Managed Services Providers and should come at no additional cost. Their advice, however, can make all the difference in the world in terms of helping a client with their technology goals.
Evaluation Criteria for Managed Service Providers
Many organizations will start to or continue to employ a Managed IT Services Provider in 2020. Evaluation criteria for a Managed IT Services Provider will vary by industry, organizational size, technology complexity, and people on staff to manage technology. Evaluation criteria should include due diligence in understanding the back-end systems that support the Managed Services Provider, as well as a good understanding of the types of talent and roles within they employ as it relates to business objectives and goals of the evaluating organization.