What is an MSP?

Woman wearing a headset working at a computer in her kitchen, presumably a managed service provider helping a client with an IT issue

Anyone involved with IT sees a lot of acronyms that can create significant confusion and MEGO (“my eyes glaze over”), not just about what a particular acronym stands for, but about how the acronym fits into the “bigger picture” of what IT does. The intention of this post is not only to spell out a few important IT acronyms (MSP, RMM, and PSA), but also to describe how these acronyms fit into the larger context of client IT support.

What is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

Companies typically outsource many of the services they need. Outsourcing allows companies to “rent” service providers rather than hire them in-house and full-time, thus reducing cost and headcount for companies. In addition, “renting” external service providers who focus only on a specific service allows client companies to take advantage of the external service provider's specific focus and expertise, while enabling the client company to concentrate on its core business.

The relationship between a client company and an outside service provider is typically defined by a contract called a service-level agreement (SLA) that defines how the service is delivered.

MSP Definition:

A managed service provider (or MSP) is an outside provider a client company brings in to manage a range of processes and functions, like a call center or IT helpdesk, typically for the purposes of improved operational efficiency and reduced costs. An MSP works under a service-level agreement that seeks to maintain and improve the services covered.

A managed service provider can perform multiple IT services depending on the contract/SLA. Gartner offers a more technical definition:

An MSP “delivers services, such as network, application, infrastructure and security [including cybersecurity features such as Zero Trust], via ongoing and regular support and active administration on customers’ premises, in their MSP’s data center (hosting), or in a third-party data center.”

Gartner also mentions that an MSP might partner with other vendors, called MSP software providers, to deliver certain aspects of the services covered by an SLA.

What is RMM and PSA?

RMM stands for “remote monitoring and management,” which is a software category that’s essential for managed service providers (MSPs) and IT teams. RMM software works to streamline (often via automation) routine tasks that keep remote IT systems and remote work teams operating smoothly. In order to carry out its duties, an MSP would typically deploy RMM software to perform routine maintenance and service tasks that might include:

  • Equipment and capacity monitoring. For example, intuitive background access would allow MSPs to keep machines updated and in working order, without impacting employee workflows or slowing agents down.
  • Alerts for unexpected hardware and software failures, so an MSP can proactively address potential issues before they become “real” problems.
  • Software patch management, which allows an MSP to deploy patches to one or more devices to keep their clients’ software up-to-date and protected against threats without interrupting end users.
  • Remote control features such as remote execution, which help MSPs save time, stay on track, and scale services by automating manual tasks and workflows across thousands of computers simultaneously with custom or pre-written scripts. These capabilities are critical for supporting remote work.
  • The capacity to simultaneously support multiple end-users, which can optimize agent time and eliminate the downtime associated with system reboots and software installations.
  • Multi-tenancy capabilities to simplify how MSPs organize, configure, and bill each of their accounts.

In addition to the RMM software, a managed service provider might also use remote support technology to perform on-demand troubleshooting and issue resolution. This software may include:

  • A helpdesk interface and automatic ticketing. For example, conversational ticketing eliminates the onerous and slow ticket commenting experience as agents and employees are updated within their messaging platform and can engage from the platform.
  • Multi-agent collaboration, allowing an agent to invite multiple other agents to collaborate on a live session.

MSPs also often use PSA or “professional services automation,” which focuses on team management and project management tasks. An effective PSA would likely include:

  • Time recording and resource management
  • Client account and contract information like customer agreements and SLAs
  • Invoicing/billing
  • Accounting integration with reporting and auditing functions

If you’re an MSP, GoTo Resolve offers all of the RMM and remote support features described above and more, and it integrates with your PSA so you can manage services smoothly and efficiently. Resolve helps your agents/employees and customers thrive, especially in today’s complex remote work environments. Check it out at www.goto.com/it-management/resolve/msp.

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