We talk a great deal about managed service providers, but what exactly is an MSP? With all the activity and diversity in the current market, it has become a difficult term to define. One expert defines a managed service provider as a third-party entity that regularly manages IT resources for clients from a remote location. These entities provide a myriad of services, but generally specialize in four categories:
1. Network and telecommunications. In this category, monitoring and support is generally provided for corporate WANs and VPNs. On the telecommunications side, providers often manage, configure, and secure traditional, wireless, and IP-based communications systems.
2. IT infrastructure. In this category, IT infrastructure generally entails hardware components such as servers, storage mediums, and more recently, mobile devices. These components may require change management, power management, or their very own backup and disaster recovery strategy.
3. Applications. In this category, MSPs handle the hosting, management, and ongoing maintenance of various software systems. As for the apps, they may consist of anything from CRM programs to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP ) platforms that bundle numerous IT systems in a single package.
4. Security. In this category, you generally have an offering that can stand on its own and also spill into some of the aforementioned areas. For instance, an MSP that manages a client’s ERP system will probably be responsible for keeping it secure as well. Another vendor may simply provide end-to-end security for the client’s entire IT infrastructure.
A Market Defined by Evolution
The array of services offered is just one factor that attributes to the confusion around MSPs. Technology itself is another. While most firms have many of the same weapons in their toolkit (RMM, PSA, etc.), some are abandoning traditional methods for trendier technology like the cloud. SaaS and other cloud formats streamline the delivery of IT resources, simplify management, and provide services at a scale that meets usage needs and client budgets. By integrating the cloud into their portfolio, MSPs can enhance the value of existing services with a flexible, in-demand technology.
Mobile devices have also influenced what it means to be an MSP, thanks in large part to the rise of the BYOD movement. Allowing employees to use their own gadgets on the job offers a host of benefits, increased productivity, better employee retention, and significant cost savings among them. On the other side of the BYOD coin is a gang of challenges that no company can afford to ignore. The ability to manage these devices in a way that maximizes accessibility, efficiency, and security has become a highly sought after skill. For service providers, it has made mobile device management a lucrative service to add to the portfolio.
Standing Out as MSPs
Knowing how to define your managed services isn’t merely a matter of averting an identity crisis. It’s about taking full advantage of a dynamic market and maximizing your unique selling proposition. Armed with the following pointers, your role in the IT space will be crystal clear to all who encounter your marketing message.
Keep it Simple
Some companies strive to be a sort of all-in-one solution for managed services. They want to host websites, manage applications, then house the client’s network equipment in their cramped up data center. Your offering will be much easier to define and manage when it’s built around a single product or service – even if that entails supporting multiple processes. Instead of trying to do it all, focus on doing one thing exceptionally well and become the go-to authority for the hottest offering in your niche.
Get With the Payment Program
The managed services vertical is fueled by recurring revenue. This model encourages long-term growth by nature while providing a window big enough to comfortably increase margins and profits over time. A big part of keeping the revenue flowing is simply knowing how customers prefer or expect to pay. With cloud computing, for example, clients expect to pay on a per usage basis. In many cases, your payment system must be flexible enough to accommodate traditional monthly payments, in addition to some of the emerging payment options.
Cozy up with Partners
An MSP is only as technically able as its partnerships. You can’t keep those massive and diverse challenges tamed without your own hardware, software, and a convenient path to the cloud. Luckily for IT service providers, the tech companies are starting to realize the benefits of these partnerships. Anturis recently launched a partner program that allows partner companies to offer its core IT solution to clients in a standalone or value-added reseller (VAR) format.
Good partners are hard to come by. IT service providers can stay in solid shape by not only strengthening relationships with existing partners, but looking for new ones based on market changes. Technology moves so fast that it can easily outgrow the capabilities of your current vendors.
Convey Solutions and Benefits
Call your product whatever you want. Just know that MSPs deal in solutions. Customers who sniff around this field have a specific problem. They need someone checking to make sure their high-volume server stays up and running. Or maybe they need someone to manage their server farm and physically keep it pumping. MSPs must identify their solutions and then convey them to customers in the form of benefits. So if you see dollars in the BDR segment, customers need to envision how your backup software is going to address the problems and concerns they have about business continuity.
The MSP industry is loaded with promise, and reportedly growing to the tune of more than 10 percent annually. As a result, service providers are storming from every corner of the IT room to join the party. Telecommunications guys. Hosting providers. System integrators. VARs. They’re all slapping the managed services label on their portfolios. Anyone can claim it. The ones that learn to adopt the technology, speak the lingo, and appeal to the people who need these crucial services will benefit from the fruits this rapidly evolving space is projected to deliver.
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