Hello and welcome to Propel Technology’s blog! This section of our site will be devoted to exploring trends in the business technology landscape, offering our take on existing and new ideas in tech and business, and (hopefully) answering some of your questions about commercial and consumer technologies. We want this to be a conversation, so please feel free to email us at [email protected] with questions, comments, or topics that you’d like to see discussed on this page – we’ll do our best to address them all!
To start, let’s get to know each other a little better. I’m James, and I’m a partner at Propel Technology – a Managed Service Provider based in Westminster, Colorado. I’ve been in the IT world for over 10 years now, starting as the go-to “computer guy” for friends, family, and small businesses in my community to pay the bills during high school and college. About 6 years ago, I dove headfirst into my IT career as a consultant in the Metro Detroit market. Since then, I’ve worked with companies of all shapes and sizes to get a handle on their IT infrastructure and strategy – from tasks as simple as fixing pesky printers (no, it’s not just you – everyone hates printers, and I’m pretty sure printers hate us, too) to projects like designing and building corporate networks from scratch. I’ve seen poorly-administered networks bring organizations to a grinding, infuriating halt; on the other hand, I’ve seen and been a part of IT environments that have increased efficiency, untethered workers from their offices, and made doing business – on either side of a transaction – an easy and enjoyable experience. My partners and I started Propel to help others realize that latter scenario, whether they’re just starting out or are looking to evolve their current tech strategy to get there. We hope you’ll come along for the ride!
I want to kick off our blog by answering what’s often the first question I get when I talk about our business: “Managed Service who? What do you guys do, exactly?” (The second question is usually, “can you fix my printer?”, in response to which I’ll generally sigh and nod dejectedly.) Fundamentally, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a company that remotely supports and advises on other business’ IT systems, from general infrastructure to end-user devices. MSPs generally offer their services on a subscription basis, charging a monthly rate that’s usually based on either number of devices or number of users. MSPs tend to focus on proactive administration and process automation to keep costs low and service value high. While many MSPs utilize similar tactics and tools, they are not – or rather, shouldn’t be – rigid adherents to any singular IT strategy. Business IT is not a one-size-fits-all box; every organization is unique, and so are their technology requirements. A good MSP will communicate consistently with its clients’ administrative and management staff to develop a deep understanding of their business processes and goals. Maintaining close relationships like these allow a MSP’s consultants to design and implement IT strategies that are tailored to each client’s specific needs. In short, an MSP is your remote IT department – its staff should act and feel like a member of your internal business team.
OK, now that we’re pretty much on the same page concerning what an MSP is and what they do for their clients, we can get into why this business model has seen such huge growth over the last 10 years or so, and why it’s predicted to continue growing at an annual rate of over 10% for at least the next 5 years. So: “Why me, why MSP?” The foremost advantage to outsourcing an IT department is the cost savings. Good IT personnel is difficult to find and expensive to retain. Add in the extra costs of employing in-house staff - such as benefits, PTO, equipment and office space, etc. – and you’re looking at a very significant investment. Many smaller companies simply can’t afford to hire qualified in-house IT staff, so they either “wing it”, ask a “techy” friend or family member for help, or simply ignore IT as a part of their production line. Oftentimes, these approaches end up costing more money and resulting in more headaches than hiring a professional from the start (putting out a fire is usually a lot more difficult than preventing it from starting in the first place).
Now, let’s say that you, as a business owner / manager, got lucky – maybe you’re technically-minded enough to keep the lights on and the drives humming, or you found a great IT person within your budget to manage your infrastructure full-time – that’s great! But, what happens when you or your IT person gets sick, or you want to go on vacation? Who steps in to fill in the gap? Have you kept adequate documentation to guide them when a unique problem presents itself? Do they know that Jeff in Accounting takes his laptop home on Wednesdays to use QuickBooks but always seems to have trouble with his VPN to the office? Have they ever tried to fix a printer? This is where the second big advantage to using an MSP presents itself: having a full team of IT staff at your disposal whenever you need them. When one technician at your MSP is out sick or on vacation, another steps in to take her place. If the MSP is worth its salt, your IT environment, personnel requirements, and previous issues that you’ve faced have all been well-documented and are easily accessible to every tech on your account. Not only are you not coughing up money for PTO or a stand-in IT person, you don’t have to deal with any transitionary hiccups or training a temporary worker on your processes and procedures, either. With a good MSP, you’ve always got a team of qualified technicians standing by to help.
The third most compelling reason to outsource your IT to an MSP is related to the second and, in my opinion, is perhaps the most valuable: diversity of experience. As I mentioned earlier, business IT is not a standardized, plug-and-play operation. Every organization’s challenges and goals are unique, and each one’s IT strategy must be designed with those challenges and goals in mind to be effective. Since MSPs generally aren’t industry-specific in their scope, their technical staff is exposed to many different types of organizations and the special challenges faced by each of them. Additionally, many MSP techs join an MSP after years as internal IT people in one industry, bringing with them extensive knowledge about that industry’s technology needs and concerns. A good MSP will hire technicians with diverse backgrounds to build a team with complementary skillsets, allowing its staff to constantly learn and grow from each other. The specialties of each individual technician combined with the wide range of issues coming in from an MSP’s clients results in a team of techs that are both specialized and well-rounded – a virtuous circle of competence that builds on itself and benefits MSP clients hugely.
Alright, I hope that clears a few things up! If you still have any questions about what an MSP is and what we do, please shoot me an email at [email protected], or give me a call at (720) 310-7620 – I’d be happy to expand on anything I’ve written about here. If there’s something you’d like me to cover next – where’s ‘the cloud’?; why do I have to wait 30 minutes for Windows Updates to run when I turn my laptop on?; why do printers hate us and will they eventually rise up to take over humanity as the dominant life form on Earth? – let me know about that, too!
Stay Geeky, Folks