The business landscape is becoming more competitive and having the right operational strategy in place can help organizations differentiate themselves, improve margins and free up resources to invest in core priorities. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular are realizing that they can adopt a managed services approach to many mission-critical operational functions, including technology training, cybersecurity/compliance strategies, workflow and process improvements, policy development and implementation, and onboarding new technologies. MSPs investing in professional services practices will be uniquely positioned to provide SMB clients with affordable, high-quality alternatives to trying to carry out these functions with thin or non-existent in-house expertise. For smaller companies that may not have dedicated staff, these unique, value-added services can complement managed IT, security, SD-WAN and other MSP wares.
The Internet of Things
The rise of connected devices has been spinning up for years now – but IoT devices are finally crossing the chasm into the mainstream, with 10 billion of them expected to be deployed by the end of next year, according to Iota. A full 22 billion are expected to be in the field by 2025. Much of the business investment will come from “smart manufacturing” deployments, logistics/fulfillment and transportation – but everything from connected video displays to product sensors to smart lightbulbs and thermostats will find their way into a range of offices going forward.
All of this promises to revolutionize how businesses collect, manage and use data to inform strategic operational decisions. However, as with any emerging technology, there’s a substantial gap between the possibilities and practicality. Among other things, implementing an IoT ecosystem requires a solid cybersecurity strategy, an end-to-end device management stack, and options for managing bandwidth and connectivity – a tall order for many resource-constrained SMBs. Fortunately, the right MSP can help businesses bridge the gap by designing and deploying IoT solutions that add long-term value to their operations.
Digital transformation is continuing for organizations of all sizes as they look to harness the power of virtualization, DevOps and on-demand everything to accelerate their businesses and gain competitive advantage. To support these efforts, the rise of multi-cloud architecture will be the most significant trend in cloud for 2020.
Multi-cloud refers to the strategic decision to use multiple private and public cloud providers to meet different technical or business requirements. More specifically, applications and microservices can be built using component services from different cloud providers, depending on their specific requirements. There are multiple benefits of this approach, ranging from avoiding vendor lock-in and building redundancy, to segregating for security and exploiting best-of-breed solutions.
However, building these new platforms takes expertise in planning, migrating, optimizing and securing infrastructure across multiple cloud vendors – and multi-cloud being a new area, many businesses are at loss for where to turn to acquire it.
Automation can dramatically reduce workloads in IT and server environments. As standard processes become increasingly automated, look for complex and proprietary automations to become new sources of competitive advantage for MSPs. From onboarding to helpdesks to billing – and everything in between – opportunities for automation scripts to drive new efficiencies abound.
MSPs are perfect partners to help companies through all of the stages of this digital transformation journey. Managed planning services include evaluating infrastructure needs, assessing vulnerabilities and planning for disaster recovery and business continuity; migration involves selecting applications and services to implement in the cloud; optimization requires evaluating tradeoffs between performance, agility and efficiency, on the right combination of platforms; and, security requires protecting apps and data from breaches, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and the remediation of malware threats.
2020 promises to provide plenty of opportunities for managed services to play a crucial role in companies’ growth trajectories through professional services, IoT and multicloud rollouts. If you are looking for a good company to join forces with, contact us today.
About the Author
Lori Hannan is the Product Manager for the MSx Managed SD-WAN Service for TPx Communications, a leading provider of UCaaS, Managed IT services and Managed Connectivity services, with approximately 30,000 customers and 53,000 customer locations across the U.S. Hannan has more than five years’ experience in SD-WAN technology and networks. She recently launched a second managed SD-WAN solution for TPx, which has been a great success. Previous to her network career, she worked with a variety of voice solutions and also launched a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) cloud-based managed solution.
Did you know that 77% of SMBs expect to outsource at least half of their cybersecurity needs in five years – and 78% are planning to invest more in cybersecurity in the next 12 months? More and more companies are turning to managed service providers (MSPs) for their IT and communications services, because it is more effective and efficient than managing these mission-critical services in-house.
Working with an MSP frees up time for your IT staff to take on high-value, strategic projects. You won’t have to worry about not getting any help when there’s an IT problem outside of regular business hours, since many MSPs (TPx included) offer 24/7 support. Best of all, there’s no more headaches about how to hire – and keep – expensive IT staff. Outsourcing IT simply makes sense for SMBs.
But making the decision to hire an MSP is only part of the journey – now you have to figure out which MSP is right for you. Your MSP is there to support your people, your operations, and ultimately your business. If you make the wrong choice, it can have company-wide effects. While cost is certainly a factor in your decision-making, it should not be the main factor. Remember the old saying: you get what you pay for.
Take a minute to watch this brief overview of important factors to consider when selecting an MSP, then check out a written summary below.
1. Is the provider genuinely interested in your business?
Remember, you’re not just outsourcing some basic IT functions to a third party – you’re engaging an ally to become a part of your business team. As such, you should expect that provider to treat your mission-critical functions as if its own business processes were at stake – and that requires that the company has a firm grasp on what your challenges, goals, and problems are. If the representative doesn’t ask smart, relevant questions about your company’s strategic needs, it may be time to walk away.
2. Does the provider have experience in your industry, or with businesses of similar size?
It’s important that an MSP knows the lay of the land when it comes to the unique needs of a certain kind of company. A large enterprise in the financial services space will have radically different needs from a small retail business. These two polar opposites (and every model of company in-between) will also have very different reasons for engaging an MSP in the first place, with different kinds of risk profiles and different kinds of resources to integrate with.
3. Is the provider customer-centric?
Make sure to enquire about customer testimonials and references. It’s important to not just take a company’s word for its capabilities and successes. Unfortunately, there’s no Angie’s List for MSP options (yet), so you’ll have to do a bit of additional due diligence.
4. Does the provider have the resources to serve you effectively?
All other things being equal, your decision may boil down to the depth of staff that an MSP has at your disposal. Dedicated resources in terms of technical staff and customer service (and the ability to tap into personalized, enthusiastic representatives when needed) can make all the difference when it comes to making the most out of your MSP investment.
5. Are the provider’s technicians certified and experienced?
Make sure you find out all you can about the team that will be responsible for keeping your mission-critical infrastructure (and therefore your business) up and running. Remember, certifications only tell part of the story. Learn how many years of experience the team collectively has, whether they work in a dedicated operations center, and if the model is team-based or if a single individual will be at your disposal. Also, make sure to ask if the vendor provides their employees with opportunities to gain specialized skills and ongoing training.
6. Is the provider always available to help?
Round-the-clock, 24/7/365 support is essential to creating an effective relationship with any MSP. One of the key reasons to turn to an MSP in the first place is to gain peace of mind by tapping into expertise you may not have in-house. For peace of mind, there needs to be trust, which means you need to know that you can always reach someone for questions. That staff should always be around in case of an incident or trouble of any kind, be it big or trivial.
7. Does the provider’s pricing fit your needs?
While cost is rarely the best way to make technology decisions, it’s nonetheless a key parameter to consider within the light of these other areas. Does the MSP provide a good value for your trust and investment? Does the vendor provide a model (per seat, per pool, usage-based, fixed, or flexible) that fits your financial needs? These are important questions to answer when working up your final score card for the MSPs that you’re evaluating.
If you’re looking for a reliable managed service provider that checks off all the items on this list, consider TPx. Visit tpx.com to schedule a free consultation or contact your TPx representative to learn more.
Small businesses want to focus on running and growing their core businesses, and they realize how important having up-to-date IT services can be when it comes to doing just that. The problem is, many of these companies wrestle with a lack of resources – both financial and human – to put a top-tier support framework into place.
Managed IT Services: The Next Great Equalizer
Fortunately, turning to managed IT service providers for turnkey services like unified communications (UC), network management, security and business continuity gives small businesses access to the same IT benefits and differentiators as their larger competition.
Managed IT services can be flexible and innovative – and, because they’re delivered via the cloud, they’re always updated and never obsolete. The best managed services also come with a full-service, round-the-clock network operations center (NOC), staffed with experts that act as your very own IT group – without all of the hassle of seeking out and training talent.
And on the budget front, managed services are a cost-effective alternative to building your own IT footprint. Small businesses pay a monthly fee for service and support, giving them a predictable cost profile.
TPx Complete: An Industry-First, All-In-One IT Services Solution
At TPx, we’re committed to developing well-designed managed IT services to help transform and elevate your business. We recently debuted a modular, platform approach to this, dubbed TPx Complete. It’s an industry first: a comprehensive package of managed services that’s been specially designed to meet the voice, security, network quality and continuity needs of small businesses.
TPx Complete includes: UCx, our unified communications platform; managed SD-WAN; managed firewall; managed endpoints; virtual fax; 4G LTE failover for redundancy and resilience; and full-featured IP desk phones for every user.
Businesses can choose to take the entire TPx Complete bundle, or we can design the perfect package tailored to a small business customer’s specific needs from our overall managed service portfolio (MSx), using only the services a business chooses. In either case, the services are backed by our NOC, where our IT experts will monitor your critical systems 24/7/365 and respond immediately to any issues you may have, freeing you up to focus on your core business objectives.
Budgets Tamed: Affordability, Scalability and Predictability
We also take the guesswork out of establishing your IT support budget by offering packages as a single subscription service, with one monthly charge covering a wide range of tasks and no surprise fees.
Contact your TPx representative to see how you can give your small business the crucial differentiator of top-tier IT services, either with TPx Complete or our MSx portfolio. We’re here to give you the support you need for your critical IT systems without the cost and hassle of doing it all in-house. Elevate your business today!
About the Author
Stacey Kendall is the Product Marketing Manager for TPx’s suite of Communications & Collaboration services. With over 20 years of experience in marketing communications for highly technical and regulated industries, she presents complex topics in a straightforward manner for current and prospective customers. Stacey holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a specialization in Information Technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She resides in the greater Boston area.
Would you like to reduce cost and complexity? Consider working with a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Organizations of all sizes are adopting managed services as part of a strategic plan to organize, streamline and safeguard their businesses.
MSPs offer multiple benefits. In a world where security threats are everyday considerations, Managed IT provides the peace of mind that comes from the assurance that applications and systems are always up-to-date and protected. Operational overhead and the need for in-house IT expertise both move back from the front of the desk, and businesses enjoy an expanded technical expert pool that helps them focus on their core competencies instead of having to focus on complicated supporting technology. However, with all those benefits comes a challenge – transitioning from handling IT in-house to a MSP means you’ll need to make some significant institutional changes.
To help you get the most out of the relationship, here are four tips for effectively working with MSPs.
1. Set Your Expectations
It’s important to be upfront and clear about what the managed relationship entails – and to make sure that everyone understands those expectations. Ask (and answer) questions like:
- What should you expect from an onboarding experience?
- Who has responsibility for the initial setup of hardware? If new installations are required, whose responsibility is it?
- How will the escalation process work for events?
- What responsibility does the MSP have for applications running in the cloud?
- Is there a shared responsibility model for access to (and the security of) sensitive data?
- Is the MSP expected to fine-tune your footprint and dynamically change configurations to meet business needs, or to become the middle-man with vendors?
An important best practice is to establish the scope of the relationship in a statement of work, which should also clearly define terms like “healthy running state,” “best practices,” and “in the cloud,” among others. Being up front from the beginning about who’s responsible for what, and how communications will be carried out going forward, is a great foundation for a successful relationship.
2. Be Transparent
To effectively support your IT environment, a MSP needs to have a full understanding of your current infrastructure. A clear understanding of how your business functions and visibility into the full topography you have in place allows the MSP to help you optimize the investments you’ve made. The MSP can also identify areas for improvement across on-premises and cloud infrastructures, connectivity providers and vendors for WAN and LAN, third-party applications performance, mobile user access, and so on.
When the MSP understands what’s running in your IT environment, it can provide ongoing services like patching and monitoring, or help harden configurations from a security and performance perspective.
All too often, businesses don’t provide a full picture of their architecture, so an audit or other inventory exercise may be necessary. Allowing the MSP full access to systems in the beginning can help you avoid many headaches down the road.
3. Ask, Ask, Ask
As the businessperson making the decision to turn over portions of your infrastructure to a third party, you should never hesitate to ask questions – or answer them, for that matter. An open, ongoing dialog is a critical piece to making the MSP relationship work.
When selecting an MSP, it’s important to keep this in mind. An MSP should be responsive and aware of your specific business needs – not just place questions into a queue to be answered with boilerplate responses.
4. Let the System Work
In the event of a major issue such as a weather event, power outage, cyberattack or other disruption, keep calm and know that the MSP’s job is to help fix the issue as quickly as possible.
If there is a connectivity or functionality issue, the MSP will identify it through their systems and work to resolve it. All activities should be executed under an SLA with frequent, scheduled reporting. An MSP is there to give you peace of mind, after all.
Ready to Work with an MSP?
TPx offers comprehensive managed service suites, all delivered with round-the-clock support staff to provide tailored, top-tier customer service. These include managed SD-WAN, managed firewalls, managed LAN, managed Office 365, managed endpoints, managed disaster recovery, managed high-speed Internet access and more. In all cases, our IT experts, including those in our two state-of-the-art Security Operations Centers, will monitor your critical systems 24/7/365 and respond immediately to any issues you may have, freeing you up to focus on your core business objectives. One monthly charge covers a wide range of tasks that go to the heart of today’s modern business environments.
Request a free consultation to see how MSx Managed IT Services from TPx can help you support your critical IT systems without the cost and hassle of doing it all in-house.
About the Author
As TPx’s Director of MSx Product Management, Ross Spero leads a nationwide team of product management and marketing professionals focused on creating market-leading managed IT and security solutions. He brings deep experience serving businesses in multiple industries to this role. Ross is a graduate of the University of Oregon and is completing his Executive MBA at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.