This may sound strange, but most companies that call themselves Managed Service Providers really aren't.
As I talk to technicians and prospects, I realize that most I.T. businesses use some of the tools of Managed Services but do not deliver Managed Services. The piece that's missing is the "Managed" component.
If you Google "Define Managed Service" you'll be amazed at how wrong the definitions are. Almost all of them simply define a service that is better described as "Outsourced IT." They say things like "A managed IT service is an information technology (IT) task provided by a third-party contractor."
I define Managed Services as technical support delivered under a service agreement that provides specified rates and guarantees the consultant a specific minimum income. Under Managed Services, the I.T. provider takes responsibility for the client's network and provides regular preventive maintenance of the client's systems.
The Tools of Managed Service
However they're packaged, there are certain tools you need to provide Managed Services. These are the modern tools of service delivery, which is why modern tech support is confused with true Managed Services. The core tools of Managed Services are:
1. Patch Management
2. Remote Access
4. Some level of Automated Response
In addition, most MSPs also use a PSA (professional services automation) tool such as Autotask or ConnectWise. A PSA provides a Ticketing System, which is absolutely essential to running your business efficiently. Ideally, it also provides a way to manage Service Agreements and keep track of technicians' labor.
But a PSA is not necessarily a Managed Service tool. It is a tool that pretty much any service business should have. You can use a PSA to manage a break/fix business just as well as a Managed Service business.
Managing and Maintenance
Beyond the tools is the most important part of delivering Managed Services. All of those tools could be used to provide basic monitoring and break/fix work. The thing that I see "Managed Service Providers" failing at is the true Maintenance of their clients' systems.
When I ask people whether they do a regular monthly maintenance, most (90%) say no. My Sample Monthly Maintenance Checklist is a very popular post. But even those who download it do not implement most of it. And when I drill down and ask about the single most important thing you should be doing for your clients - backups - I find that most companies are NOT testing client backups on a monthly basis.
In the big picture, one of the core components of Managed Service is that you take responsibility for the client's computer systems. That means that they literally turn it over to you and stop worrying about it. That means YOU are responsible when something goes wrong. That means you better be doing everything they assume you're doing.
If a system crashes and the Outsourced I.T. company that does break/fix is called in, they have no responsibility for the state of the backup or the health of the server. They are not, after all, managing the clients' systems.
If a system crashes and the Managed Service Provider is monitoring the network, that MSP has total responsibility for the state of the backup and the health of the server. They're supposed to be monitoring everything, patching everything, and making sure the backup is working. If you have a Managed Service Agreement and can't restore the system because you didn't do the maintenance and management you've been paid for, the client can hold you totally responsible - up to and including suing your for failing to provide the service you are contracted to provide.
No tools can make you a Managed Service Provider. Tools can make you far more efficient at providing monitoring, patching, remote support, and service delivery. But to be a real Managed Service Provider, you need to provide regular scheduled maintenance of every client system.
That's a policy and a regular schedule activity. No tool is going to make you do that. That's something you need to provide as part of your service.