The world of Managed Service Providers (MSP) is a specialized one, and there are terms just for this industry.
We’ll walk through a few key terms specific to MSPs, as well as technologies MSPs should be familiar with. Play along at home and see how well you do!
Different Styles of Solution Providers
The terms that refer to IT providers in the channel can be a bit confusing, as they are sometimes misused, and there are a lot of gray areas and overlap.
Systems Integrator (SI): SIs specialize in taking disparate computing, network, storage and software components and tuning them into an integrated system that serves a specific purpose.
Solutions Provider: This is a general term for those that add value and includes SIs, VARs, MSPs and others.
MSP: In recent years, pundits have debated the term Managed Service Provider. However, the name has staying power because it defines a kind of channel partner focused on selling services that take the IT management and administrative burden away from the client’s internal staff. Here is how Gartner defines MSP. “A managed service provider (MSP) delivers network, application, system and e-management services across a network to multiple enterprises, using a ‘pay as you go’ pricing model. A ’pure play’ MSP focuses on management services as its core offering. In addition, the MSP market includes offerings from other providers — including application service providers (ASPs), Web hosting companies and network service providers (NSPs) — that supplement their traditional offerings with management services.”
Value Added Reseller (VAR): This is the most general term, and some consider MSPs to be a form of VAR. In general, VARs tend to focus more on hardware, upon which they’ll add vertical market or services.
Other MSP Terms You Probably Already Know
Break/Fix: A model long used by MSPs, here you are compensated largely on fixing systems when they break – often on site. These days MSPs have been moving away from that model to one that is more advisory and focused on recurring revenues from services.
Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery: The world of backup and recovery is full of different technologies and approaches including business continuity and disaster recovery. Both are takes on backup and recovery. With disaster recovery, the backup is off-site so it can be recovered – even in the event of a physical disaster. With business continuity, the off-site backup is always available and recent so that you can switch over to the backup to keep business going in the event of trouble.
Converged Infrastructure: Converged infrastructure leverages server, network and even storage virtualization to create flexible, configurable compressed infrastructure that supports all major facets of computing
Hybrid Cloud: This is an architecture that integrates on-premises computing with the cloud. In some cases, the cloud is put into action when on-premises servers are overloaded, and the computing ‘bursts’ over to the cloud.
Hybrid Cloud Backup: With hybrid cloud backup, the primary backup is on-premises, which provides fast access and the knowledge that the data is physically there. There is another backup tier in the cloud, often replacing unreliable, slow and hard to manage tape backup.
IT Automation: This is the MSP secret sauce. By automating client tasks that were done manually, such as patches, system remediation and the like, an MSP can be highly efficient and can cost effectively manage remote infrastructure and devices.
ITIL: MSP have been adopting Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) as a way of bringing disciple to IT service delivery and planning, and to make sure the services tightly match the actual needs of the client’s business. The ITIL framework also helps MSPs nimbly adapt to changes in the client’s business.
Managed Print Services: Managed Print Services (MPS), not to be confused with MSP, are services that replace the need for the client to support their own printers and handle document management. The provider helps craft a document/printing infrastructure, then keeps the infrastructure working and tracks and manages how the document systems are used.
Mobility Management Services (MMS): MMS allows IT or MSPs to acquire and manage the lifecycle of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.
Mobile Device Management (MDM): MDM is more focused on managing and securing an organization’s mobile devices, including BYOD. Security policies can be set and enforced, company data protected, and the devices wiped of confidential data if lost or stolen.
On Target Earnings (OTE): Sales people are often best driven by having goals. In the MSP world, this means being compensated on On Target Earnings.
Per PC Allowance: In an MSP business plan, this refers to how many hours a week you expect one of your support consultants, engineers or managers to spend on each machine. The more you automate, the better this ratio gets.
Private and White Label: These terms are often used interchangeably. In the case of an MSP, OEM or reseller, the partner can take a product from a vendor a label it as their own.
Preventive Monitoring: Monitoring designed to spot issues, and fix them before they become serious issues.
PSA vs. Business Management Automation: Professional Services Automation (PSA) software helps MSPs manage their business, manage resources and projects, and can include trouble ticket functions, CRM, finance and more. Business Management has grown out of the PSA market by integrating with your Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) and other IT automation tools to provide a fuller business management solution for MSPs. In addition, a business automation system is designed to automatically track and manage all inventory, people, contracts, billing , etc. that are tied to projects. The best PSAs are those built specifically for MSPs, especially in regard to project management.
RMM: Remote Monitoring and Management is the main technology that allows MSPs to manage and track their client’s gear. On-site visits required for repair, maintenance and monitoring can be greatly reduced – even, in some cases, for apparently ‘dead’ compute assets.
Trusted Advisor: Forward thinking MSPs are quickly recasting themselves as trusted advisors to clients, helping plot strategies that offer customers competitive advantage.
User-based vs. Device-Based Billing: In the early days of MSPs, it was natural to charge per device. Now users often have several devices connected to the work network, so some MSPs are switching to user-based billing.
VDI vs. DaaS: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a way of serving up virtual desktops usually using on-premises servers which contain the software which is accessed by devices acting as thin clients. This is a refinement on the way virtual desktops have been served for over two decades. Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), on the other hand, serves up virtual desktops from the cloud. Making this distinction grayer is the fact that cloud-based VDI exists, but essentially mimics what DaaS services do.
So, how’d you do? What terms would you add to this list?
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