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You May Not Be a Good Fit for a Managed Service Provider (MSP)

MSP service agent

It’s important to understand Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and what they do, the services they provide and the value they can bring to some organizations. So, that said, let’s consider the concept of MSPs.

What is a Managed Service Provider?

A Managed Service Provider, or MSP, is a third-party organization that remotely manages a company’s IT infrastructure. MSPs are typically used by businesses that don’t have an in-house IT department, or by those wanting to supplement their existing IT team.

That’s the clinical description of an MSP, however, let’s dig a bit deeper into why they exist in the first place. To start, most MSPs grew from what is colloquially know in the industry as “break/fix” support technicians.  Break/fix goes back to the early 90’s and simply refers to what the technician would do when a business called the technician. When a computer was “broken” the business called Joe’s Computers; the technician, Joe, would come to the business and “fix” it.

Pretty simple and straightforward. And for the most part, during the 90s and early 2000s, this was the de facto support model available to businesses that needed support.  Most businesses had a hand full of computers and a server.  The businesses would need to schedule a time for the tech to come out to service the equipment. If the business relied on the failed equipment, they would be out of luck until the tech arrived. 

Now, once the tech got to the business, the tech would have to spend time diagnosing the issue, testing the problem, determine whether another vendor would be needed (software or hardware) and then see if a fix worked. If the fix did not work, the process would need to be repeated until the issue was resolved.

History of Tech Support

“IT Consultant” tech type of support predates the internet as we know it. We take for granted how easily we can just Google anything and get some sort of answer (now we can use ChatGPT for even more refined solutions). However, back in the 90s and early 2000s software came on floppy disks, CDs and then DVDs. There were no instant downloads of software, if there was a software update needed, you had to get a hardcopy. In addition, the tech had to be onsite to do the support. Remote access was not fully baked and couldn’t reliably be used for supporting computers where the tech was in a suburb and the computer that needed assistance was in a city.

Fast forward to the mid 2010s.  Computers had now become ubiquitous in the workplace and just about every business was using computing to run some part of their operations. The internet had become more accessible and useful due to many online applications that took advantage of the new high speeds for accessing the internet.

Fast forward to the mid 2010s.  Computers had now become ubiquitous in the workplace and just about every business was using computing to run some part of their operations. The internet had become more accessible and useful due to many online applications that took advantage of the new high speeds for accessing the internet.

By the early 2010’s remote access software had become more refined, allowing people to securely connect to a work PC from a home PC (Team Viewer and GoToMyPC are examples). This technology, which had been around since 2005, allowed technicians to remotely access a client’s computer to troubleshoot problems. Software applications were developed to use custom coding to automate certain processes, like software updates. This was when Managed Services matured and became the predominant business model of choice in the IT services space.

Now, MSPs can offer numerous benefits, from providing expertise in complex IT issues to proactively addressing potential IT concerns before they escalate. They also help businesses save costs by providing IT services for a flat fee, providing predictability in budgeting.

The Traits of an Ideal MSP Client

The following two traits are shared by most ideal MSP clients. While this does not mean to suggest that your business isn’t a candidate for an MSP if it does not have all these characteristics, it is a good indicator of the type of business that stands to benefit the most from MSP services.


If your company relies heavily on technology and requires round-the-clock IT support, you might find an MSP beneficial. They can provide constant monitoring of your IT systems, ensuring any potential issues are identified and addressed promptly. The constant monitoring is one of the key differences between an MSP and Break Fix. Monitoring is a proactive system that uses thresholds for KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to determine if a computer will need service soon.

Companies that appreciate a proactive approach to IT management are also good MSP clients. These companies value the preventative maintenance that MSPs provide, helping them avoid significant downtime and potential losses.

Signs That You May Not Be a Good Fit for an MSP


The ideal MSP client is also comfortable delegating control of their IT systems. This trust in MSPs’ expertise is key to building a successful partnership.

When we have an initial meeting with a potential client, we like to reiterate that, while we are a vendor, we need to be viewed as an extension of your business’s operations team. The point of this is to reframe how the MSP should be viewed by a business. 

By hiring an MSP, you are hiring an IT team for your business and it’s their responsibility to ensure your business can function and be efficient. This, in essence, is delegating the technical responsibility and management of your IT, to a team that completely understands that side of the business.

On the opposite side are the traits of a business that may not work well with an MSP. Again, this isn’t saying that if your business identifies with one or two of these traits, you can’t work with an MSP. It is, however, an indication of where you may find some friction.


If you like to keep a close eye on all aspects of your business, including IT, then an MSP may not be the best fit. MSPs operate best when given autonomy and trust to manage IT systems as they see fit.

Limited IT Budget

While MSPs offer cost-effectiveness over time, there is an initial cost involved. If your business has a tight IT budget, you might find these costs challenging to meet. In addition to the initial costs to onboard a business to the MSP, there will be times when there are Capex costs that need to be addressed in order for the business to function efficiently.

A reputable MSP is not out to fleece its clients. Sure, there may be some MSPs that are fly-by-night operations, but for the most part MSPs provide professional services, like accounting and law firms and they value long term relationships. Fleecing a client is not a path to a long-term partnership.

That said, an MSP might tell you things that you may not like to hear, like “you need to spend xxx money to make this work the way you want it to” or “it’s time to replace your firewall, it’s become an issue to your business’ security”.  If your first reaction is, “these guys just want to bill me for more unnecessary things we don’t need”, take a deep breath for a minute and consider why you hired them.

I was a CIO (Chief Information Officer) for a decade, and I know from experience that when internal IT says “we need to spend xxx on this important IT thing” to management, it tends to illicit a similar reaction. Just remember, for many businesses the cost for IT tends to be undervalued, while expectations for what it can do tend to be overvalued. Occasionally, the IT team will tell you things you don’t’ like to hear. I’m here to say, don’t kill the messenger.

Minimal Technology Dependency

Businesses that don’t rely heavily on technology may not require the comprehensive services of an MSP. If your business can function effectively with occasional IT support, an MSP may not be necessary.

If you only want someone you can occasionally call with a technical question, an MSP may not be a good fit.

If your business has redundancies built in so that can withstand minor technical outages or glitches, an MSP may not be necessary.


Trust is crucial in an MSP-client relationship. If you’re uncomfortable with external parties managing your IT infrastructure, you might struggle with the concept of an MSP. If you are struggling with this concept, ask yourself if you are using an outsourced attorney or CPA. You have to trust each one in order for your business to run properly.

The decision to engage an MSP should be based on careful consideration of your business’s needs, budget, and comfort level with delegating control of your IT systems.

The Potential Downside of Not Engaging with an MSP

Without an MSP, you could be missing out on access to IT expertise, proactive support, and cost savings over time. However, if your business doesn’t align with the characteristics of a typical MSP client, these benefits may be outweighed by potential downsides.

Not every business is a good fit for an MSP. By assessing your IT needs, budget, and willingness to delegate, you can make an informed decision about whether an MSP is the right choice for you.

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