According to MSP Alliance – an International Association of Cloud and Managed Service Providers, the term managed service is defined as: “A Managed service is the proactive management of IT assets or objects by a third party known as MSP on behalf of a customer. The operative distinction that sets apart a MDP is the proactive delivery of their service, as compared to reactive services, which have been around for decades”. Applying this definition in the context of IT, a managed service provider (MSP) is a company that provides IT services that include web hosting, network operations center (NOC) based IT services, applications and equipment to organizations and customers.
In IT services industry, data center companies offer managed services and solutions to a variety of clients in different verticals. MSPs are becoming more generic with functions such as help-desk, cloud services and outsourcing which are quite common nowadays. MSP functions are specific to each type of industry. The most common types of IT solutions under managed services offered by data centers include storage, desktop, hosting applications, servers and security, including mobile device management. At the same time, it is important to note that not all managed service providers are technology based. MSPs can also include areas such as marketing or transportation among many others.
In this post, we explore some of the best practices followed in managed services under IT. MSP is a specialized company which offers IT services to its clients. MSPs provide support to clients in supporting them to choosing the services needed for their operations and then manage them. MSP keeps track of all programs that run in the background of a client company, monitor them and also provide upgrading wherever necessary. In fact managed services follow globally recognized standards of best practices followed in the IT industry. The best practices briefly summarized below can be applied to all types of organizations and are considered as fundamental to running a successful business. The best practices under managed services are:
- Ethics: MSPs have access to client’s sensitive information, corporate data, knowledge and assets. Therefore the level of trust must not be taken for granted and MSPs have the obligation to protect client information and behave in an ethical manner. MSPs adhering to a strong ethical foundation can easily find their business sustained in the long run.
- Impartiality: Impartiality is one characteristic that sets the MSP as unique from other IT service providers. The approach by MSPs here is to elevate the client’s interest above the business or commercial interests. This is done by evaluating the situation for client and suggesting a course of action that is in the best interests for client’s growth. Further since MSPs have multiple clients and hence conflict of interest must be avoided at all costs.
- Statutory regulations and laws: MSPs must be aware of the legal aspects and must be able to advice their clients on protecting their networks, data and information assets from loss. For example, today there are many laws that deal with data breaches for instance laws explain what a company can do during data breach. Good MSPs guide their clients effectively on appropriate legal recourse and support to assess the impact of their clients.
- Confidentiality and Security: MSPs have access to highly sensitive information provided by clients. Therefore MSPs have to maintain confidentiality and should not divulge information to others. At the same time clients must also develop trust with MSPs and divulge certain important information which will help the MSP to do their job more effectively for the client. MSPs ensure certain precautions to ensure client’s data is secure and security measures are in place.
- Processes and Tools: Some of the standard IT service delivery processes include ISO, Six Sigma, ITIL, CoBIT, etc. Some MSPs using their knowledge and experience also create their own processes and tools to demonstrate their uniqueness. MSPs by utilizing different tools deliver services to the client. Some common examples of tools include technology monitoring, financial, marketing/sales and so on. Managed service delivery process is one critical tool and a good practice used by all successful MSPs.
- Disclosure: Disclosure is one best practice or professional obligation by MSPs to their clients. Sometimes disclosure might explain that the MSP is unable to represent a client due to their commitment with another existing client. It is best to interview the nature of the organization prior to agreeing on services.
- Expertise: Clients approach MSPs with the assumption that they have good levels of IT and business knowledge. In some situations the MSP may not be able to perform a task due to various reasons. MSPs should adhere to maintaining standards and demonstrate proficiency required in a managed services professional.
- Protection: MSPs naturally tend to protect themselves because IT is a highly coveted area. MSPs tend to regulate their area of expertise and services. This is evidently IT industry is self-regulated by itself for several decades instead of being regulated by some governmental agency. MSPs should also proactively protect themselves by following the best practices from being concluded as harming the welfare of general public.
The above best practices while being followed will certainly result in managed services profession growing in the next several years. Managed services growth is also fueled by increased complexities in IT management and compliance. Businesses need MSPs and this need is largely fulfilled by professional MSPs with their constantly evolving best practices.