IT MSP

An IT MSP provides services, as well as helping to provide advice on what services to get. (Such advising may be a key reason why these provided services are described by the word “managed”.)

Frequently, people may serve in a “help desk”-type role, responding to needs. Another common role is to perform projects, such as adding new equipment and/or software. To accomplish either (or both) of these roles, such companies will often use employees who serve as technicians. (See: IT jobs).

Services

One of the tricks to making money is convincing someone to pay money. To do that, useful-sounding services need to be provided.

Responsive - Help Desk
  • Troubleshooting
  • Handling expansions (new staff, new hardware) and/or other feature requests
    • These are often called “migrations”, as data may be copied/moved to new equipment or imported into new software systems. The specific term may vary: people may use a term such as hardware migration, software migration, user migration, or data migration.
      • Try to understand key aspects of the end users' experiences, like what desktop icons are used. When switching to new computers, make sure the new computer can easily use the same external hardware as the old computer, such as making sure key shortcuts (e.g., “bookmarks” within web browsers) exist. If an older computer had an easy way to use a printer, make sure the new computer does too. Security settings may also need to get copied.
Protection/Security
Backup/Disaster Recoverty/Business Continuity

When an MSP business takes on a new customer, identify what data people work with. For instance:

  1. check out the computer systems to try to find information
  2. then, ask about those findings, to see if there are other details that haven't been identified yet
  • What file shares do they have?
  • What is the current backup system? (Check: how well it is working?)
  • Is there an SQL server that is running? What is it storing?
  • What software programs does the business use for key roles?
    • What LOB programs does the business use? (LOB stands for “line of business”, and refers to programs that may be specialized for a specific industry.)
    • Financial software
    • Workflow management. (e.g., “enterprise resource planning” / “professional services automation” (“PSA”) (Wikipedia on PSA) / ticketing systems)
  • What key services are provided by the computers or other equipment?
    • Namely, one that comes to mind is remote access. Examples of how this could be implemented include:
      • Do they have a VPN endpoint with another site?
      • Do they have a VPN endpoint that accepts connections from other locations?
      • Do they have websites that provide remote access sessions? For instance, at least some versions of Microsoft Windows have supported “Remote Web Workplace” which was a nice interface for end users to be able to create an RDC/RDP session.
      • How about websites that provide a “web version” of some key programs, or a program which uses a simpler website as a user interface? (If an internal web server is running, find out why.)
  • Key services: E-Mail, websites
  • Checking DNS records, perhaps especially the publicly-accessible DNS records, may also be revealing about how the company may remotely use computers
  • How does the company keep track of finances? What software is used, and where does it store the data?

After searching for answers, and checking those answers with key staff members to see if those people know of additional answers that weren't detected by an incoming IT service provider, make sure to come up with some good plans:

  • All important data should be easily replaceable. Typically, there are these two types of important data:
    • Data that is part of a program. If there are redundant copies of the computers that run that program, or at least redundant installed copies of the program, or at least some solid plans on how to get that program re-installed, then that can be okay. (What solution may be acceptable can vary based on how much an organization can tolerate downtime and how much money they are willing to spend to reduce potential downtime.)
    • The other key type of data is data which is unique to the business, customer lists, records of sales, information regarding upcoming opportunities, information about upcoming (service and/or product) offers, and other documents.

Make sure that any key programs can be re-installed quickly.

All data that is unique to the organization, and is therefore not easily replaceable using methods other than having data backed up, must have multiple copies. (This is really quite essential.) Furthermore, copies should exist on multiple pieces of equipment which are located at multiple different physical sites.

Anti-Malware
Anti-Spam
Communications

Besides just getting basic connectivity functional (e.g., IPv6/Ethernet or IPv6/Wi-Fi), there is remote access (e.g., VPNs)

Hardware Independence
Failover/Redundancy
...
Maintenance
Patches

For many pieces of software, updates are made available frequently (several times a year, or more often). This is common for operating systems (especially Microsoft Windows) and network programs (especially web browsers).

Other programs may require updates for regulatory compliance. This may be particularly common for many pieces of software that are designed with a focus of tracking/handling finances.

Technologies

Remote Access

Users can communicate to networks from multiple locations.

IT staff can interact with devices that are in multiple locations. Providing an easy capability for this may involve installing software onto devices that will be easily supported. For instance, the computers used by end users may run software that works as part of a “remote monitoring and management” (“RMM”) solution, and then a server may run software that serves as another part of that solution.