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How an IT Managed Services Provider Helps Newly Remote Organizations

Managed service providers: benefits for newly remote teams

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a valuable resource for meeting fluctuating IT infrastructure needs. According to data from Statista, the value of the IT managed services market is expected to grow to $356.24 billion by 2025.

In this article I’ll outline the benefits of an MSP vs in-house IT staff and how an MSP can help your organization transition to a remote workforce. 

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Hello! Today I will be showing you all of the solutions available in the CurrentWare Suite. Each solution can be purchased individually for the greatest flexibility or as a bundle for the best value. 

The CurrentWare suite can monitor and manage remote, on-premises, and hybrid users, making them ideal tools for managing the productivity and security of a remote workforce.

Alright, let’s get started.

With the CurrentWare web console you can manage policies, review dashboards, and run user activity reports from the convenience of a web browser. 

Your CurrentWare solutions are installed and managed by your company either on-premises or on a virtual machine hosted by a cloud service provider of your choice, giving you full control over your data.

CurrentWare is also a Citrix-ready partner, making Windows VDI deployments simple for your organization.

The CurrentWare Suite includes:

  • AccessPatrol: Device control software 
  • BrowseControl: Internet filtering software
  • BrowseReporter: Employee computer monitoring software 
  • And enPowerManager: Remote PC power manager

Each solution allows you to apply unique policies for each group of users or computers. These policies will be enforced even when the computers are disconnected from the network.

Let’s start with AccessPatrol

With AccessPatrol you can:

  • Use the USB activity dashboards to monitor how portable storage devices and other peripherals are being used in your organization
  • Restrict a variety of peripherals including USB storage devices, phones, and Bluetooth
  • Add approved peripherals to an Allowed List
  • Get device activity reports on-demand, at a set schedule, or when specific events occur
  • And Block file transfers to USB devices based on file name or extension

With BrowseControl you can:

  • Control internet access based on URLs and content categories
  • Schedule unique allow or block lists
  • Prevent users from launching specific applications
  • And block network ports

Let’s move on to BrowseReporter

With BrowseReporter you can:

  • Use the computer activity dashboards to track metrics such as productivity, web browsing, application usage, bandwidth consumption, and active vs idle time of your entire workforce, specific groups, or specific users
  • You can generate user activity reports on-demand, at a set schedule, or when specific events occur
  • Capture screenshots of your users’ desktops
  • And schedule activity tracking to stop monitoring your users at designated off-hours times such as breaks. 

Finally, with enPowerManager you can:

  • Generate reports on computer power states and logon-logoff times
  • Start up, shut down, restart, standby, and hibernate computers on a set schedule or on-demand
  • Configure advanced power policies for mobile computers
  • And provide your end-users with a warning message before their computers shut down

If you would like to try out CurrentWare for yourself you can instantly get a free trial at CurrentWare.com/Download or book a demo with our sales team at CurrentWare.com/Sales

This video is current as of version 7.0, which was released in February 2022. For the most up-to-date information on the latest features please visit our release notes at CurrentWare.com/support/release-notes/

Are you an IT Managed Services Provider? Join our MSP program today and enjoy advantageous pricing for CurrentWare’s employee monitoring, web filtering, USB control, and remote PC power management software solutions.

CurrentWare’s MSP partners improve their clients’ employee productivity, data security, and business intelligence with advanced awareness and control over how technology is used in their organization.

Table of Contents



What Do Managed Service Providers Do?

A woman browsing the internet

At their core, Managed Service Providers (MSP) are third-party providers of IT support for businesses. They typically take care of the sourcing, deployment, and management of routine IT infrastructure for their clients. 

Depending on the offerings of the specific MSP, their services can cover a variety of aspects of software, hardware, and infrastructure maintenance, including…

  • Deploying and maintaining IT infrastructure such as printers, servers, and endpoints
  • Data backup and recovery
  • Sourcing and supporting software to meet their customer’s needs
  • Security monitoring services (monitoring for indicators of compromise or vulnerabilities)
  • Patch management
  • Endpoint monitoring and management
  • User account provisioning, deprovisioning, and maintenance
  • Provide recommendations for infrastructure upgrades

While many of these functions are often the responsibility of in-house IT staff, an MSP is a valuable option for businesses with temporary fluctuations in IT needs and small businesses that do not require full-time IT staff.

The direct services provided by the MSPs themselves will vary wildly depending on the specific company. For example, some MSPs may opt to outsource printer monitoring and maintenance to a Managed Print Solutions Provider.

For the rest of this article we will be using “MSP” as a catch-all term to describe similar third-party IT services providers, including…

  • Information Technology Service Providers (ITSP)
  • Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP)
  • Technology Services Providers (TSP)

The Benefits of a Managed Service Provider

Expert Software/Hardware Recommendations & Deployment

zoomed in shot of color-coded software code on a computer screen

Forming a partnership with a reputable MSP provides the expertise and resources needed to find solutions to business challenges. 

For example, if your organization is struggling to maintain accountability when employees work from home, an MSP can work with you to understand your pain point, find the best remote employee productivity monitoring tool for your needs, deploy it, and train your managers how to access the productivity data.

Between researching potential vendors, testing out demos, attending sales calls, shortlisting vendors, negotiating prices, etc. finding the best employee monitoring software can be incredibly time consuming.

With an MSP the software procurement process is much simpler. They have knowledgeable staff, an overview of your organization’s requirements, and the ability to take advantage of MSP-exclusive pricing. 

Training and Support

Man giving a presentation

In a traditional office environment the vast majority of the IT infrastructure is standardized, documented, and readily accessible. This is much less the case in a hybrid workforce where some employees are working from home.

  • The environment is far less standardized thanks to the introduction of personal devices and home networks being used for work purposes. 
  • Many employees will require 1:1 support to get their devices remotely connected to the organization’s network
  • Greater complexity introduces more opportunities for technical issues

During a shift to a hybrid or fully-remote environment an MSP is a valuable resource for providing newly remote employees with the training and support they need to get them up-and-running and minimize downtime. 

Flexible and Scalable IT Infrastructure

Cloud storage server

While the majority of businesses will benefit greatly from having in-house IT staff to support day-to-day operations, the IT needs of organizations can fluctuate rapidly. This is particularly true during special events such as transitioning to a remote or hybrid workforce. 

MSPs are excellent partners for addressing fluctuating business IT needs. Rather than hiring and onboarding short-term IT staff members an organization can have their existing in-house staff focus on their core competencies while outsourcing the added demand to their MSP partner. 

After-Hours Support

A man sits at his desk working on a computer. The shadowy figure of a colleague looms behind him.

Depending on the SLA provided by the MSP you may benefit as much as 24/7/365 support. While this level of service may not be necessary for most businesses, the ability to respond to IT emergencies in a timely manner can be crucial.

Even for SLAs that offer less coverage, having a dedicated team to deploy patches and updates outside of core office hours is crucial for minimizing downtime. 

In the case of supporting a remote workforce, many employees highly value having flexible work hours—According to a FlexJobs survey, after salary (76%) and work-life balance (73%), flexible work options (72%) is the most important thing people consider when evaluating a job.

For organizations with exclusively in-house IT staff the costs of having them available for and answering after-hours calls may be cost prohibitive. With a dedicated MSP their support coverage can be readily extended outside of standard business hours as a part of their SLA, allowing employees to work flexible hours without reduced IT support.

What to Look for in an MSP

A key thing to remember when sourcing an IT managed services provider is that there is no universal quality of care; just about anyone can claim to be an MSP. Choosing the right services provider for your business will follow much the same process as choosing any other vendor.

Familiarity With Your Industry

CurrentWare Customer First Choice Health

While intimate familiarity with your business’ industry isn’t a requirement for basic IT services, it is incredibly important for businesses that are outsourcing their regulatory compliance needs

If your organization is responsible for the protection of sensitive information under HIPAA, ISO 27001, NIST, etc you will benefit greatly from an MSP that understands the unique compliance requirements of your organization.

Other factors to consider:

  • Have they worked with organizations of a similar size?
  • How interested are they in learning about your organization’s unique needs?
  • Do they have current/past clients with a similar makeup that would give them a good reference? 
  • Even better, do they have someone that can attest to how they handled a bad experience?
  • How content are their current and past employees?

Don’t just take the first MSPs that markets themselves as being familiar with your industry, either—you need to interview them and get testimonials from others in your industry to ensure they’re legitimate.

Certifications & Experience

cybersecurity expert on a laptop ion front of servers

While certifications are not always the be-all-end-all of a qualified MSP, they do help the services provider demonstrate to potential clients that they are serious about keeping their staff well educated. 

On the other hand, earning a certification does not guarantee that the certified person has been maintaining their knowledge. For smaller MSPs the costs for certification may also be cost prohibitive.

That said, there are certain certifications and experiences that are highly desirable depending on your organization’s needs.

  • Are they certified with vendor-specific technology that’s relevant to your organization (Microsoft, Cisco, etc.)?
  • Do they have partnerships with Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, etc?
  • What hardware and software are they most experienced with?

Availability & Responsiveness

While not every MSP will offer 24/7/365 support, you need to ensure that your prospective MSP will be available during the hours that matter. If after-hours support is critical ensure that the MSP is transparent about their after-hours pricing option so you can prioritize spending accordingly.

Ideally your prospective service provider will offer support beyond standard office hours; this allows them to perform network maintenance and upgrades at a time that will have minimal impact on your business. 

Responsiveness is also important; while the best MSPs will work proactively to prevent issues rather than strictly working on a break/fix model, disaster can strike at any time. If a critical server goes down you need the peace-of-mind that they can be reached in a timely manner.

Staff in a Nearby Location

Ground view of a tall building

Even with a remote workforce your organization may rely heavily on on-premises hardware. To keep that hardware adequately supported you will benefit greatly from an MSP that has reputable technicians that can be on-site in a timely manner. 

While the majority of IT support can be provided remotely, an MSP without staff in your organization’s area will have to contract out an additional third-party technician to visit the premises. Depending on the availability of the technicians this could cause a delay in service during a critical malfunction.

Internal Security Practices

security compliance audits - 7 tips to meet compliance from CurrentWare

If you will be trusting an MSP with remote access to your network you cannot afford to overlook their own security practices. Have them detail their incident response plans, internal auditing practices, and other security practices to ensure they align with the needs of your organization.

For example, if a security incident within the service provider’s internal network results in losing your organization’s data, who is responsible? What remediation strategies do they have in place?

Managed Service Providers vs In-House IT Staff

ProsCons
Managed Service ProvidersEasier to find 24/7/365 availabilityLimited on-site availability
Legally binding SLAs to ensure quality of serviceLow barrier to entry, hard to vet reputable MSPs
Can work with in-house IT staff to assist with fluctuating needs or special requirements such as printer managementLess personally invested in your company than an employee
Reduces IT staffing requirementsSupport is often limited to a specific technology stack
Potential for greater expertise in relevant areas
ProsCons
In-House IT StaffDeep internal knowledge of day-to-day operations, the company culture, and how the systems are usedGreater ongoing costs for salaries, benefits, training, etc
Immediate and reliable on-site/local supportPotential to build knowledge silos
Able to address day-to-day maintenance with greater consistencyPotentially greater costs for after-hours emergencies and on-call rotation

When considering the value of an MSP, the key factor to consider is the value of having a third-party IT managed service versus hiring dedicated IT staff. 

On one hand, it’s difficult for an MSP to replace the trust and relationships that onsite IT have with their end users. On the other hand the diverse knowledge pool and scalability provided by an MSP make them a valuable resource.

Many organizations opt to use a hybrid approach where they hire and retain in-house IT support staff while using MSPs to help plan for future infrastructure, cover vacation/sick days, or address temporary fluctuations in need.

For organizations with 200+ users a hybrid approach provides optimal value by combining the benefits of on-site assistance, redundancy, and after-hours support while retaining in-house talent that is aligned with their company’s mission and deeply ingrained in the day-to-day operations.

When transitioning your workforce from in-office to partly or fully remote your existing IT staff can coordinate with an MSP for assistance with provisioning, end-user helpdesk support, and other activities that can quickly overwhelm a small IT team faced with a sudden increase in demand.

Conclusion

Transitioning a traditionally in-office team to a remote workforce requires significant planning and resources to ensure that they are secure, supported, and productive. Both Managed Services Providers and in-house IT pros are valuable resources for addressing the needs of your organization during the transition.

Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland is the Digital Marketing Manager for CurrentWare, a global provider of user activity monitoring, web filtering, and device control software. Dale’s diverse multimedia background allows him the opportunity to produce a variety of content for CurrentWare including blogs, infographics, videos, eBooks, and social media shareables.