The Top 10 Fears Businesses Have With MSPs

Get a business relationship right and impressive synergies can result. Get it wrong and everyone can suffer. Thus, it should come as no surprise businesses share several common fears when it comes to working with a managed service provider (MSP), the outsource technology consultants that frequently fulfill everything from desktop support and server administration to network and application services for other organizations. 

 These information technology (IT) services are so core and critical to a company’s daily operations that outsourcing them leads to natural anxiety and concern. By addressing these issues directly with an MSP–whether an organization is exploring working with a new provider or seeking to bolster an existing relationship–businesses can form healthier, more productive partnerships. 

Internal Resistance

One of the first concerns businesses must often address is internal opposition to working with an outsource technology services partner. Users, already accustomed to working with in-house IT staff, may resist having to establish and maintain new service relationships with an MSP’s employees. And in-house technology professionals will naturally worry how their jobs will be impacted. Whereas many internal IT workers may fear losing their jobs when a business outsources technology services to an MSP, often outsourcing the management and administration of fundamental technology responsibilities frees in-house technical staff to work on proprietary or organization-specific functions they previously couldn’t devote proper time to due to having to cover rudimentary tasks sometimes outside their area of expertise or focus. While a Forbes article examining organizational change notes resistance is sometimes healthy within a company and can help build stronger teams when managed properly, it’s also necessary to acknowledge those risks and challenges and intentionally address them. 

Loss Of Control 

Businesses naturally fear losing control of their own systems and networks when outsourcing service and support to an outside contractor. MSPs are no different and add an additional consideration. Companies also often fear becoming dependent upon only a few select vendors with whom its MSP has its own relationships. While MSPs develop partnerships with a limited number of vendors, businesses with such concerns can address these worries upfront and directly with an MSP to ensure the business continues to retain administrative access to its own systems and networks, if so desired, and receives input into selecting which hardware manufacturers, network equipment providers and other vendors are used to service and power its operations. 

Limited Industry-Specific Knowledge 

MSPs, of course, support a number of clients working within a variety of industries. While some technology consultancies may specialize in servicing specific markets–such as banking or manufacturing–others support clients working across a range of disciplines. Certainly there are always specific nuances associated with administering dental software and other considerations for supporting manufacturing applications. Yet, most industry-specific technologies prove dependent upon properly configured fundamentals, including underlying networks and Windows environments that must be protected and secured in the same ways as other platforms, regardless of industry. Cybercriminals long ago quit discriminating and relentlessly target victims regardless of the size or nature of their business, so organizations can rest assured fundamentals remain the same across numerous industries. Any other specific concerns, including market-specific compliance requirements, should be addressed directly with any technology services provider with which a business works, just as the company likely does when exploring workers’ compensation insurance, health care benefits or other critical operations elements. 

Poor Service Quality 

Another fear businesses commonly share when it comes to working with an MSP is poor service quality. This concern is understandably present whenever working with a service provider, but the stakes and potential disruption are much greater when the IT systems that power an organization’s operations are involved. What happens if a business commits to a multi-year contract only to find service response is slow or inadequate, unplanned outages occur with unsettling frequency, data loss results or compliance risks arise? Those are circumstances all businesses seek to avoid. Organizations working with MSPs can lessen the corresponding anxiety by remembering MSPs typically commit to specific service and downtime thresholds as documented within a Service Level Agreement (SLA), essentially a contractual framework that exists to set mutual expectations and provide businesses with an out, should the relationship prove dissatisfactory. Such empirical measures can provide an escape if service expectations don’t meet the promised standards.

Communication Challenges 

Communication, always a key element in any relationship, is particularly important when a business entrusts IT responsibilities to an outside firm. If an MSP’s account representatives communicate poorly, fail to follow up providing promised information, mismanage projects or neglect to properly explain maintenance processes, support procedures or project status, trouble will arise. The same issues can occur, however, whether the technology team responsible for administering and maintaining apps, networks and systems is in-house or a contractor. Only by adopting best practices and holding representatives accountable can businesses effectively eliminate communication trouble. While some firms find it more difficult to hold internal employees’ feet to the fire, conducting difficult conversations with consultants might prove easier. Firms should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both models before working with an MSP, but forming an MSP relationship doesn’t necessarily eliminate communication challenges. Instead, forming such a relationship transfers these issues to an outside provider. A HelpCloud article published on LinkedIn notes “effective communication remains one of the most common challenges faced by organizations engaging with MSPs” and reminds businesses of the importance of defining and documenting SLAs, requiring proper reporting, scheduling dedicated feedback meetings and implementing proactive communication plans, among other solutions. 

Cost Confusion 

Businesses that engage MSPs typically do so for several reasons, including access to wider-ranging technical expertise, improved technology operations and predictable costs. Unnecessary or unwanted but mandatory services, unexpected expenses, confusing invoices and billing discrepancies can all jeopardize an organization’s relationship with its MSP. An inability to control costs and repeated surprises can rapidly lead to a breakdown between a company and its technology provider, so it’s important businesses understand how the technology services billing works, what services and products are included within a contract and which are not and surface frank and direct questions upfront when exploring an MSP relationship. Any subsequent confusion or questions that arise once service begins should be addressed quickly and directly to help ensure the business relationship remains strong and productive versus frustrating and combative. 

Cybersecurity Concerns 

Whether working with an outsource technology services provider or not, businesses must take precautions to protect against cyberattacks and data breaches. When entrusting IT service and support to an outside firm, concerns regarding cyberdefenses, threat monitoring and incident response are naturally heightened concerns for businesses. To ensure cybersecurity fundamentals are proactively and properly addressed, and for added assurance an organization’s specific cybersecurity needs will receive proper attention, diligence and response, businesses should press an MSP on the details of the specific technologies and strategies the MSP uses to secure clients and protect customers’ systems and networks. Firms should also ensure the MSP they use maintains incident response plans that meet their unique needs, while also confirming the MSP employs the necessary corresponding cybersecurity technicians and staff needed to fulfill such commitments. Organizations seeking to dig deeper can review detailed guidance the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provide MSPs and their customers. 

Inability To Scale 

Many organizations fear working with an MSP due to concerns the MSP might prove unable to scale as the organization (as a customer) grows and the client’s operations and technology needs subsequently evolve. Because MSPs typically service and support numerous clients across different industries, they usually and necessarily employ various technicians and engineers covering a vast range of knowledge and experience who can be pulled in to assist whenever their skills are needed. When working with limited in-house staff, it’s often difficult for a business to scale its own IT department as its operations change and evolve. For this reason, MSPs are often better positioned to support a client’s growth and changing needs than the client company itself. But it’s best to always address this question early in the relationship with an MSP. Whenever such concerns arise, an organization should discuss an MSP’s scalability and capacity to support a growing firm–including the opening of offices and facilities in new states or countries–to avoid difficulties later and ensure the MSP is well positioned to accommodate changing needs. 

Cultural Conflicts 

Perhaps one of the more subtle but troublesome issues that can arise in a business’ relationship with its MSP is a cultural mismatch. If the two entities don’t agree on fundamental communications, the best approach for monitoring systems and performing scheduled support or the expediency or manner with which either partner responds, trouble will arise. The importance of sharing the same cultural values should be obvious, especially as such mismatches arising with any vendor can quickly cause the relationship to become strained, leading to unfulfilled expectations, service response dissatisfaction and overall disgruntlement that prove difficult to correct and resolve. One way to determine whether corresponding personalities mesh well is by meeting, discussing typical challenges and responses and seeing how well mindsets align. Whenever fundamental disagreements exist as to how the relationship is best managed, service is most effectively structured or technicians and engineers interact with the business’ users, an organization’s fear is justified and should serve as a warning sign that another provider may prove a better fit. 

Compliance Worries 

Regardless of the industry in which it works, a business should confirm its MSP understands all the applicable data retention, cybersecurity, reporting and other applicable technology practices and requirements that govern the business’ operations. Proactive businesses should work to ensure their MSPs don’t fail to meet important legal, regulatory or compliance standards because the MSP either wasn’t aware those requirements existed or didn’t understand them. In practice, however, MSPs are typically accustomed to working with organizations–such as banks, financial organizations, manufacturers, health care concerns and other entities–that are routinely governed by specific industry regulations and government requirements. Whether maintaining SOC2 compliance, fulfilling SEC standards regarding data retention and data security or fulfilling HIPAA requirements, among other compliance needs, MSPs usually already possess broad experience gained supporting and servicing other clients. Businesses shouldn’t assume that’s the case, however, and should instead thoroughly review their specific compliance concerns with any prospective MSP to minimize the likelihood an important requirement is overlooked. 

How Best To Manage MSP Fears 

Worries and anxieties frequently arise whenever a company outsources its technology services. That’s normal. These ten topics are among the most commonly occurring concerns due, in part, to their universal nature, potential to disrupt a constructive relationship necessary to maintain cost-effective and productive IT operations and ability to sour any partnership. 

One effective approach to addressing and minimizing these naturally occurring fears and concerns is to conduct frank and direct conversations upfront and whenever issues or questions arise. While no service provider is perfect, a willingness to sit down, discuss mismatches in expectations and make appropriate corresponding adjustments are particularly important components in a technology service provider’s toolbox and suggest a willingness to partner long term for best results. The absence of such characteristics, or any corresponding rigidity, may indicate a need to select an MSP that proves a better fit culturally and operationally.