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The goal of an MSP (Managed Service Provider) is to manage the hardware/software of a business and to provide technical services using a subscription model. This accomplishes a few things:

– It keeps IT costs consistent
– It provides a technical foundation for the MSP to provide services (The Stack)
– It provides predictable expenses for the customer
– It places the burden of maintaining things on the MSP. This is good for the customer
– The customer benefits from the MSPs diverse IT skills
– It allows the customer to keep the IT infrastructure up-to-date

The MSP takes on the burden of managing IT for the customer over being just an occasional fixer. The customer gains the benefit of a structured service model for IT Services delivery at a fraction of the cost of developing this for themselves. Needing an MSP is a function of the maturity of your business. At some point, owners and staff need to focus on the core deliverables of the business. You can’t do that when you are distracted with IT issues.

Quite simply: life experiences.

A small business takes on the characteristics of its owner, and that is what EmpowerIT reflects.
I (Lee Darke, CEO of EmpowerIT) have been in the IT industry since 1996. I spent 19 of those years working as a support tech and mostly as an IT Manager for an Ag software company with 3 global locations. When I started, the company used a 56K modem with software to share the connection to three staff members at a time. When I left to pursue my own business, the company had 3 locations (2 in NA and one in Australia) with its hardware in a datacenter.

During that time frame my team and I took the company from over 50 physical servers (SCO UNIX, Oracle, SQL server, Windows, VAX, Lotus Domino, MS Exchange, etc) to a clustered virtualized environment with Network Attached Storage and a fiber internet connection direct to the datacenter. Y2K, the dotcom bubble burst, I was around for it all. When I started in IT there was no facebook and windows95 was a cool new operating system. Why am I telling you this? Just to illustrate that, I have been around a bit and seen the industry evolve.

The biggest influence in my life are the 6 years I spent as a Personal Care Support Worker in a nursing home as I was going through school. What the Front Line Workers experienced during COVID-19 hits home quite hard. I have seen and done things that most of you will thankfully never experience.

Again, why am I sharing this with you? I am not looking for any praise for what I did in the past, that is disingenuous. What I want to show you is where I get my code of ethics. During those 6 years, I learned that people matter. It has stuck with me my entire life. It colours everything I do.
While a business is there to be profitable, and needs to be so, to be successful; we must never forget that it is the people that make it all happen. I strongly believe in empowering others. That is why I named my business EmpowerIT.

That is great! Having someone to help with your IT needs is exactly what you need. Now, is this person a full time Tech? Or are they, like in most small businesses, a staff person that happens to be doing tech stuff as well.
If the latter, then your business is missing out on the full potential of that individual, as they are unable to focus on the role they were hired to do. Having someone work two roles and performing neither well, due to split attention, is not benefiting the business at all. You are just treading water.

Have a full time IT hire? Great! Over the next few years, they will work to develop your internal IT to their skill set. It is only natural. Are you giving them a budget to work with? Likely not. Are you effectively managing them? Likely not. What will likely happen is that this Tech will be forced to cobble together a system based on intermittent funding, and have little formalized process or tools for documentation of the IT systems.

Once that is done, they will be looking around for projects to do, as they will want to keep their skills up. IT folks are all tinkerers at heart, we love technology.

Now imaging hiring an MSP to handle all the boring stuff. This frees up the Tech to really work on projects that deliver true value to the business. Plus, with an MSP at their back, they can go on vacation. The business gets a fully functioning, formalized IT department, rather than a Tech or two struggling to frame out the IT services delivery.

You have an MSP, you say! Great. I am not going to knock my peers. It is a tough gig. But just make sure that what you are getting is the real deal. Managed Services is not a “monitor only package” where you have to submit tickets and then wait for the response. The MSP is your partner and should be side by side with you as you grow your business. You should be meeting at least once or twice per year to review the business, and look at new technologies that are coming to the fore. Are you doing that?

Relax my friend! I sat exactly where you sit now, I know the gig. Your value is not in fixing the boring stuff and performing help-desk tasks or running a small team of IT staff. Your value is working with the owner to develop a technology road map for the business and then execute it aggressively.

Imagine, not being burdened with the day-to-day stuff of managing IT. This frees you up to take training and increase your value to your employer. Go on vacation with confidence and actually relax! Come back refreshed and ready to dig in with making the company a better and more agile business that is ready to scale.

Co-managed IT is the term, and we are here to help you, my friend!

Truthfully? It is not beneficial to your business. Yes, I understand that budget is a consideration. The issue is that you view IT services and IT staff like they are a mechanic or repair service. That is the farthest from the truth, and you need to understand this critical point.
IT services are more akin to insurance, but even better. You pay for house insurance, right? The analogy for IT services is that we are insurance and maintenance combined. We keep the house maintained and looking nice, and if it ever burns down or gets hit by a tornado. Presto! You have the exact same house ready to go in as little as a few minutes.

I know that sounds a bit trite, but it illustrates the point. If all you do is fix the house as it degrades, then you are stuck with a slowly deteriorating house, and since you are not fixing things until they break, you are missing the leaking plumbing issue that has not shown its hand.

You can wait until the water damage occurs and get the insurance to fix it, but now you have the disruption that goes with it. Finally, the only person that benefits are the contractors that do the work as they get paid regardless, and the bigger the job the more they make.
If you pay for property maintenance and insurance combined you get a house that is always in great shape, as the IT company wants to make sure they don’t have to pay out large sums to fix everything, if they let it degrade.

Not an exact analogy, but hopefully you see my point. We all like and need a nice house that is maintained and clean. Why would your business be any different?

We do hate subscription fees too! The reality is that this is the model that most software and IT companies use now. MSPs spend thousands of dollars on tools to deliver quality IT services. Couple that with the investment in time to manage and maintain these tools, and you have a significant investment in time and money. If your core deliverables are not IT, why would you spend the time and money to purchase and maintain these tools? It just does not make sense.

To deliver a quality IT service, MSPs must bear a monthly cost for services from their vendors. While project work can be billed on a time and material basis, regular IT maintenance does not fit that model. This is why MSPS charge a subscription fee. The day of owning software outright is gone, and in fact makes little sense these days. Most of the services (both home and business) we all use, outside of IT, are all monthly as well. It is just a fact of life and a cost of doing business.

The answer is: it depends.

MSPs use varying models to calculate the risk and cost of delivering IT services. In a general sense you should expect to see costs range from $100 to $500 per seat per month for a lower end cost of software and service to a higher end of blended hardware costs.
Covering the basis of all the models is beyond the scope of this answer, but it is safe to say that when you encounter pricing below $100 per seat, you should be asking why. What are you not getting? What is the MSP shaving off to get to that price?

Business is tough and some MSP owners are not in touch with what it costs to deliver IT services and be profitable. Be wary of low-cost IT services, as they are likely not a good service or the MSP is cutting corners.

We belong to ASCII, an MSP owners group, and have constant peer contact and review of pricing. That said, it is not about the price. What matters is the value that is delivered to your business. To illustrate, you can spend 10 000 per year on a high-end back up service. If you have a ransomware incident, that 10 000 just saved you 100’s of thousands of dollars and allowed your business to stay in operation with little or no disruption. Conversely, you can pay 1000 per year (or one time) for a high-end unmanaged backup that may or may not recover the data you need and will definitely not do it in a few hours or less. You saved 9000, but the cost to the business is 10x that or more. In addition, you had disruption and the cost of lost opportunity.

If your only motivation is to pay the lowest price, then expect the lowest value and results.

MSP services are an insurance to your business. You pay for the following, correct? House/property insurance, health insurance, car insurance, life insurance etc. If you needed a blood dialysis machine, would you buy the parts off Amazon and DIY it? Then only have a Medical Device Technician come in and fix the machine when it breaks. Plus, would you only buy parts that were needed when they failed? It sounds silly, but that is how a lot of owners run their IT.

IT directly impacts the health of your business and is a critical factor in your effectiveness, competitiveness and success as a company.
You can always try and do without something, but are the negative outcome, due to a lack of quality IT services, really worth it?

Absolutely. In fact, with the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and businesses, I would say it is even more of a threat. If you don’t have a quality solution in place to protect your data, odds are if you get infected now with no ability to recover, you are going out of business.

We live in a SaaS (software as a service) world. The average company has at least 10 different apps they are using. Data resides in different places under different situations. When you have your data spread out like this, you are relying on the SaaS vendors to ensure delivery of your data. If you check the service agreements of most SaaS companies, they emphasize that they are not responsible for your data.

Ask yourself this: How can I effectively manage, backup and control my data if it is spread out in different locations across the internet? It makes sense to use a platform that keeps your data under one roof and allows you to control it with ease. Microsoft 365 offers this platform. You can use other platforms in tandem with Microsoft 365, but now you are administering multiple apps to get the same effect. In addition, not all SaaS platforms are equal. If you are using a consumer grade version when you should be using the business grade version, your results can be less than you need.

For most small businesses, M365 is practically one-stop shopping that delivers high value in services, with centralized administration.
Note: Office 365 (O365) was recently rebranded to Microsoft 365 (M365)

In general, automation is taking a repeatable process and using a tool/machine to repeat that process. Think car manufacturing robots or a macro in Word. Business automation is essentially the same thing, tailored to business processes. Got a document review process? You can use Power Automate to create a work flow that takes most of the manual steps and kicks them off automatically.

Using the M365 platform, you can create a work flow framework around your easily repeatable business processes. There are a number of benefits to doing this:

– Keep employee head count down
– Improve the efficiency of employees
– Remove the boring grunt work from your employees
– Gain efficiency in your business
– Improve service delivery
– This can lead to reduced costs
– Allows you to take advantage of more opportunity
– Etc.

So yes, you should care about business automation. The business and the staff stand to benefit, and businesses that want to scale and be competitive will take advantage of the opportunity that business automation provides.

Short answer: No.

The cloud is just somebody else’s computers in a different location. If you took your on-site server and placed it in a datacenter, you have what is essentially a private cloud. Public cloud are the services like Amazon, Azure and Google Compute that provide you with an easily creatable and accessible network in those datacenters. M365 and Gmail run on public cloud.

Whether public or private cloud, you need to make sure you have a backup process. The service agreements of most SaaS and cloud vendors state that they are NOT responsible for your data and do not provide an out of box backup process. You need to purchase other layers of protection from the vendor or provide your own.

This is an easy one! The 9/11 attack in 2001 saw major businesses lose their data assets and go out of business. COVID-19 also shows us that you need to prepare for a loss of access to your work site. In addition, you need a plan around what you will do when disaster strikes.

A business owner, I know, lost his life in a motorcycle accident. If this was you, how would your business go on? For most owners, they don’t have all the plans in place. I know of multiple instances where the death or incapacitation of the owner ended the business, or placed the business in an uncertain state while staff worked to determine what the outcome would be.

A pandemic response plan is now a necessity. Still, what happens if your VP loses their lives? You can’t quickly and easily replace any staff that has spent years in your business. As business owners, we have a responsibility to our staff and customers to make sure that services can continue to be delivered in the event of the unthinkable.

What are your plans? Do you have any in place? If not, now is the time.

The price ranges from $7.70/month for Business Basic to $28.20 for Business Premium. It used to be called Office 365, but is now renamed to Microsoft 365.

Price above is in Canadian dollars on a 1-year commitment. Pay month to month only, and the cost increases by 20% or more.
Now, you can certainly buy this yourself direct from Microsoft, but you likely will not be able to properly manage or configure all the settings. While it looks simple on the web, think of an iceberg; what you see as the M365 apps and functionality is only the tip. Most of it is out of sight – which are the administrative consoles for the back end.

Again, if your core deliverables are not IT, then why do you want non-IT staff trying to configure and manage something that is not their core skill set?

This is exactly where an MSP comes into play. You need someone that can manage and configure this stuff.

In short, it is the mindset of ensuring that your business can function during a crisis. This includes your chosen methods of cybersecurity, data protection, business continuity planning, disaster response action plan etc.

COVID-19 has shown all of us that we are living on a fine line at all times. The better prepared we are and the quicker we can respond to unanticipated events, the more chance we have as businesses to survive and keep serving our customers. Again, this is where having the right technologies backed up by an MSP can really make the difference.

A lot of businesses had to learn to telecommute and run business meeting remotely in a matter of days. Those that had MSPs were able to adjust and make the change easier. There is so much more to working remotely than just picking an application and using it. We all have heard of “Zoom Booming” and the increase of scams and phishing around COVID-19. If IT is not your core deliverable, how can you be sure your staff are working in the safest manner possible?

You don’t walk down dark alleys with $100 bills hanging out of your pockets! The internet is a dark alley, make sure your data is not hanging out of your pockets. Someone wants it! Business Self Defense is about reducing the risks and having a response in place when it is needed. Do you have a black belt? If not, what are your plans?

I am still not convinced I need an MSP!
If you feel that you are effectively managing the IT of your business along with all the security, data protection, and disaster planning, and your staff are not frustrated or slowed down etc. And you feel that your business can handle a setback with ease, like recover from ransomware in a matter of hours, then you are correct. You don’t need an MSP.
If the above is not the case, then I would encourage you to consider taking more interest in having a quality IT service delivered to your business.