In a galaxy not so far away, businesses rely on outsourced IT services technology to stay ahead in the game, just like the Jedi relied on the Kaminoans to supply them with a clone army to fight the separatists. Sure, the Jedi could move things with the force, had awesome lightsabers, and were very smart, but they just didn’t have the numbers to save the galaxy.
Similarly, companies regularly must choose between relying on their own "Jedi Council" of IT experts and hiring Kaminoans in the form of a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Both options have their pros and cons, and choosing the right one can be as difficult as navigating through an asteroid field, but fear not, young padawan, for we are about to enlighten you.
Understanding Managed Service Providers (MSPs)
Managed Service Providers are companies that provide IT services to businesses on an outsourced basis. They offer a wide range of services to help businesses maintain or improve their IT infrastructure and operations. MSPs usually aren’t the original developers of the solutions that they are selling, but they will have their own team of IT experts that understand them enough to provide support.
What services do MSPs typically offer?
While some MSPs specialize in certain outsourced IT services, like cybersecurity, others will provide a wider array of services and solutions. They aren’t exactly limited to offering a certain software, service, or provider, which is why some Managed Service Providers can be a better match for your company than others. Here are some of the services that MSPs offer:
- Network monitoring and management: Some MSPs monitor and manage clients' networks to prevent potential problems and quickly resolve any issues that arise.
- Cybersecurity and data protection: MSPs that sell cybersecurity services employ various security measures and technologies to keep clients' networks and data secure and protected from cyber threats.
- Cloud computing and storage: MSPs specialized in cloud computing or storage provide services related to cloud-based solutions, be it data storage or management.
- Help desk and end-user support: Some MSPs offer help desk and end-user support to relieve them of the need of having to deal with customers.
- IT consulting and project management: Due to MSPs having first-hand knowledge of a multitude of services and solutions, they can offer businesses new solutions and ideas that can help them achieve their goals.
- Device Management: Some MSPs offer device management services, keeping track of a business’ endpoints to locate them should they get lost and speed up on-boarding and off-boarding processes.
How MSPs can benefit businesses
As you can see, Managed Service Providers benefit businesses in various ways. In a sense, they are there to solve problems and outsource IT services to fit the needs of the organizations that hire them. These are some of the benefits that MSPs provide to businesses.
- Cost-effective solution: MSPs offer cost-effective solutions, which is why they’re usually sought after by small businesses as it saves them the costs of investing in their own IT infrastructure.
- Access to a wider range of expertise: MSPs provide access to a team of IT experts who have experience and expertise in various areas of IT management.
- Minimizes downtime and improves business continuity: Due to MSPs providing IT management, they minimize downtime and improve business continuity.
- Scalability to meet changing business needs: MSPs must adapt to the size of the company in that they’re offering their services, which is why they’re used to scaling their services to meet the changing needs of businesses as they grow and expand.
Cons of Hiring Managed Service Providers
And now that you have seen the pros of getting outsourced IT services, it's time to also know the potential drawbacks of relying on them. You must know that the problems of hiring an MSP vary according to how much you are relying on them and the kinds of services that they are providing to you. Here are a few general disadvantages to consider:
- Giving up control of your IT infrastructure: When you outsource your IT needs to an MSP, they will have a say in how your IT infrastructure is handled.
- Dependence on the MSP: If you rely on an MSP for your IT needs, it can be challenging to find a new provider should you encounter difficulties dealing with your current one.
- Communication challenges: Working with an MSP can present communication challenges, this might happen due to a lack of understanding about how your business works, or simply because they are located at a very different timezone.
- Security risks: Allowing a third-party provider to access your IT infrastructure, means that you will be exposed to the same breaches and cybersecurity risks that they suffer.
Understanding a Dedicated Internal IT Team
An internal IT team is a group of professionals directly hired by a company to handle its IT infrastructure. They offer businesses more refined control over what is being done to their IT infrastructure and it also allows them to make personalized adjustments should they need them.
The responsibilities of an IT team vary depending on the size of the organization that employs them, but they usually are in charge of the following tasks:
- Help desk support
- Device Provisioning
- Data management
- IT Strategy
- Network, software, and hardware management
How an internal IT team can benefit businesses
There are a lot of benefits to having your internal team of IT professionals, as they will have first-hand experience with your IT needs and will have a better understanding of your business goals. Here are some ways they benefit the organizations that employ them:
- Control and familiarity over IT infrastructure: Internal teams know how their infrastructure works, and probably had a hand in creating it from scratch. Because of this, they can make more refined decisions to fill their needs and troubleshoot potential problems.
- Better understanding of the business: These teams have a better understanding of the business goals and what it needs to achieve them, allowing for customized solutions and better overall performance
- Communication and coordination: Internal IT professionals usually work closely with other departments and respond quickly to issues, making communication about objectives and the needs of the company faster and easier.
- Reduced security risks: Having an internal IT team can reduce exposure to cybersecurity risks. These teams can control who can access their systems and data and when, and also understand what cybersecurity measures they need.
Cons of having a dedicated internal IT Team
While having your internal team of IT professionals is almost always a good thing, they have their own set of disadvantages. Let’s go back to our Star Wars metaphor for a second, the Republic had very few Jedi, training one was a long and arduous process, and they usually were very busy dealing with their responsibilities to handle other tasks. These things happen to internal teams too, which is why some businesses resort to outsourced IT services.
Here are some key disadvantages:
- Higher costs: Businesses need to pay the salaries, benefits, training, and equipment of each IT professional, which can be a lot for small and medium-sized businesses.
- Limited expertise: Even if an IT team knows its IT infrastructure very well, it might not know much about other technologies that aren’t already implemented.
- Staffing challenges: Finding and keeping qualified IT staff can be a challenge for businesses. If an internal IT team is understaffed, it can lead to long response times and reduced productivity, which can be frustrating for everyone involved.
- Limited scalability: Businesses that rely on an internal IT team need to scale their staff should they grow or change, which implies spending resources on training new staff, or worse, overworking their current professionals.
- Lack of external perspective: Internal IT teams might be too busy with their responsibilities to keep up with the latest industry trends and practices. They can also have difficulties in having an objective or alternative view of their companies due to how close they are to them.
Making the Right Decision
Deciding whether to hire a managed service provider or have an internal IT team is a big deal for any company, big or small. Staying with an internal team means relying on a small team of knowledgeable but very busy professionals and having to deal with scalability issues should the company grow while hiring an MSP means having access to scalable services, but allowing a third party access to its IT infrastructure.
How to weigh the pros and cons to determine the best option for your business
Let’s have a look at the key aspects that businesses have to consider before deciding to rely on their own internal IT team or hiring a Managed Service Provider:
- Business needs: It's essential to identify the specific IT needs of your business or organization, including its goals, budget, and human resources. Smaller businesses with limited resources and smaller budgets may get more from an MSP, while businesses with more resources might get more from having an internal IT team.
- Expertise: The expertise needed to run the IT infrastructure of a company is another factor to consider. While your IT team might know enough to run your existing system, they might not have enough knowledge of solutions that it will require in the future.
- Control and flexibility: A business that values control and flexibility over its IT infrastructure may prefer an internal IT team. In contrast, businesses that prefer to outsource their IT needs, do not have enough IT professionals and focus on core operations, may benefit more from an MSP.
- Security: Security is critical for any business, and the level of security required will vary depending on the industry and the business's specific needs. An internal IT team may provide more customized security measures, while an MSP may provide more advanced security solutions.
- Budget: The cost of IT services can vary widely between an internal IT team and an MSP. It's important to weigh the costs against the benefits of each option and choose the solution that best fits the business's budget and overall needs.
Hybrid model: The third path
Now, there's a third option that has the best of both worlds: Having both an internal IT team and a managed service provider. By working together, they can complement each other's strengths and weaknesses, providing a well-rounded approach to IT management.
An internal IT team can provide a better understanding of the business, more control over IT infrastructure, and a familiar face for employees, and even MSPs, to turn to when they need help. An MSP can offer specialized expertise, cost-effective solutions, and scalability to meet the growing needs of the business, and can train internal IT members to work and troubleshoot the solutions that they are selling.
Here are five key benefits of having an internal IT team and an MSP working together:
- Expertise: An internal IT team can provide a deep understanding of the business's specific needs, while an MSP can offer specialized knowledge and expertise in areas that they may be lacking.
- Enhanced scalability: By working together, an internal IT team and an MSP can offer the best of both worlds. The internal IT team can handle day-to-day operations, while the MSP can provide additional support and resources as the business grows.
- Cost-effective solutions: An MSP can provide cost-effective solutions for certain services, such as cloud computing or cybersecurity, while an internal IT team can manage daily tasks.
- Reduced downtime: With both an internal IT team and an MSP working together, quickly respond to issues. This way, they can leverage the expertise and resources of both teams to resolve problems more efficiently.
Having an internal IT team doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t hire a Managed Service Provider to handle some other IT operations. Having both means that you will have enough hands on your deck to identify what your IT infrastructure needs, quickly troubleshoot any problems that arise, and know which solutions it can implement to reduce downtime.
Remember, the Jedi knew that they alone couldn’t save the galaxy: They relied on an MSP to support their war efforts.