Does Your Actual MSP Contract Coverage Match Your Perception of It?
Do you routinely or even occasionally find surprises when your monthly MSP bill arrives with more cost than you expected? Do you have problems accurately budgeting your IT support cost? If this is the case, you may have a skewed perception of your MSP contract coverage.
In this post, we highlight some common areas where a business or department directors sometimes do not fully understand their IT support cost exposure. We also point out how these factors affect your IT support quality and IT support cost and provide some suggestions of ways to more accurately predict and control your exposure to IT support cost overruns.
MSP Service Model
MSP’s provide a variety of different IT support services, including Functional and Technical. While these terms do not specifically define IT support service models, understanding the difference between Functional IT Support vs Technical IT Support can help you understand the level of service you need to complement the expertise existing within your IT staff.
The CIS website provides a description of different Managed IT Support Models, including fully outsourced and hybrids of in house staff and outsourced. You can customize your service to provide only the level of outsourcing you need.
MSP vs Break Fix is another worthwhile topic to consider when deciding how to resource your IT support service needs. This topic describes how you can evenly spread, and even reduce, your IT support cost.
In addition to the scope of coverage, your MSP contract should define response time and availability for the covered scope.
24/7 Coverage – If your system comes under cyberattack or critical components fail, you need timely attention and response to the problem. You also need a timely response for problems affecting critical operations within your business, which if left unattended, result in the IT system and/or operational downtime. If your business operates outside ‘normal’ business hours, you will need coverage for the entire operational time, up to 24/7 coverage.
Remote vs Onsite Coverage – Does your MSP contact include terms to ensure you receive onsite support when you need it? This aspect of IT support is necessary in some situations, for example, to fix problems while they are minor, and before a significant disruption occurs to your business workflow.
Contractual Response Time – Unless your MSP contract directly addresses maximum response time, a minor problem could result in significant cost in terms of lost production. When you negotiate contractual coverage, be sure to include performance terms for the response time that will provide your service provider with significant motivation to tend to your needs in a timely fashion.
Scope of Coverage
The prior sections addressed the structural components of an IT support contract. In this section, we highlight the topical scope of coverage. This categorized list can help you organize a detailed listing of the elements of service that are unique to your IT system and applications.
Application Support – Check the details of application coverage. Does your application support default to the software publisher? Do you pay an additional fee when your MSP provides application support? Most MSPs that provide application support will have limitations on the types of applications they are qualified to support as well. For example, if your company uses an ERP system, your MSP should have certified technicians with relevant experience that they make available on a routine basis and on an ad-hoc basis as needed to resolve the more challenging technical issues. While not every MSP will know every ERP system, your MSP should have the technical knowledge to support the ERP vendor support.
Peripheral Support – This includes all electronic equipment connected to your local network, such as printers, scanners, etc. If your MSP contract coverage does not include peripheral support, you should factor this additional IT support cost into your MSP contract evaluation and include the additional cost into your IT budget.
Network Monitoring – The scope of network monitoring services you need can vary greatly, depending on your IT staffing and experience level. Some common areas of support you can get with a high-quality MSP include managed network security solutions (discussed in more detail below), system updates and patches, server management, network performance monitoring and reporting, and employee activity monitoring.
Network Security Support – In addition to managed network security solutions monitoring, you should check that your MSP provides the level of strategic support you need so that your managed network security solutions support solutions work well with your specific system configurations and business operations.
Cloud Computing Support – A full-service MSP can provide a wide range of cloud computing management services, whether you employ off-premise, on-premise or a hybrid of on and off-premise cloud solutions. Learn whether your IT service providers cloud support merely manages your account with a 3rd party cloud provider, or if your IT support service provider can host your cloud solutions. Contractual relationships can vary widely, with a wide range of hybrid cloud solutions available.
Business and IT Strategic Support – The best IT managed service providers provide their customers with strategic support. When this is not included with your MSP contract, you risk having to hire executive-level support when facing difficult problems that require executive-level input. The best MSPs will offer executive-level strategic business and IT support service on demand. This situation ensures your consultant will be prepared to contribute without the delay associated with learning the finer points of your business. This service provides superior solutions, and enhances speed and reduces the cost of implementation.
Disaster Recovery – When disaster strikes, is your service provider prepared to resolve your problems and get you back online quickly? At what cost? A good disaster recovery plan begins with making a strategic assessment of your computing architecture and disaster recovery software. Proper planning can significantly reduce your cost exposure in the event of a data breach or other problem that takes your system offline.
How Can You Avoid Billing Surprises?
So far, we have summarized some of the major factors affecting your IT support cost structure. Awareness of these factors enables you to engage in meaningful discussion and negotiation with an MSP, to help you obtain cost-efficient IT MSP solutions. Below we suggest a few ways you can put this knowledge into action.
Review and Understand Terms of Existing Contract – Even if you are happy with your MSP, you should ensure you understand the value of the service you receive, not only cost but also how the service compares to their competition. We recommend you perform a comprehensive review of your contract so that you fully understand the cost structure, accounting for those factors discussed in this post.
Negotiate Better Terms – You can likely benefit from negotiating the terms of your MSP contract coverage if you find service offering gaps, or you see areas not covered in your fixed monthly fee, or if you are having problems accurately budgeting your company’s IT support cost.
What to Look for in MSP – If you decide you need a new MSP to provide services, be sure to address all of these issues when negotiating your coverage terms. Custom Information Services (CIS) offers a range of IT support services. CIS is available to provide a consultation to help you evaluate the efficiency of your business and IT systems and to help you find ways to increase the profitability of your business.