Managed Service Providers (MSPs) cover a diverse set of IT services. Backup, disaster recovery, IT management and support, security, CRM, ERP, IT, networking, financial services, HR services, payroll, accounting, etc.
But unless you’re one of the hyperscalers like Microsoft, Google, or Amazon, it’s a big mistake to try to be everything to everyone. In fact, even big boys avoid taking it all on. There are always a few areas they avoid or leave to partners.
But for regular MSPs, it’s important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, your core skill areas, and the areas to avoid.
MSP Case Study: Financial Services
Take the case of Equity Methods, a provider of valuation, financial reporting, and human resources consulting services related to equity compensation and other complex securities. The company has a niche skill set related to financial services. Its managed services focus on relative total shareholder return (rTSR) modeling, simulation and analysis. It has a highly specialized data center which is at the heart of its operations.
Its IT backbone is designed to meet the demands of its customers. It is configured to open and update large numbers of Microsoft Excel files, sometimes hundreds of MB in size. It uses data-centric programming languages to automate a number of tasks: importing compensation data based on shares of some of the largest companies in the world; performing monthly, quarterly and long-term forecasts for accounting for stock-based compensation; creating large sets of hypothetical data based on assumptions about the future; and run “what if” scenarios to aid in decision-making.
“Without cutting-edge technology, we couldn’t do what we do for our clients,” said Paul Leisey, CIO at Equity Methods. “Fast processors, disks, and the network backbone are all critical components to keep the business running smoothly.”
He gave an example of the type of data calculations and scripts the company performs for its customers. A recent dataset had 40 million rows and calculations needed to run for several hours. And over time, the company must regularly refresh its technical environment to be able to offer the latest in processing power, memory, networking and storage.
But Equity Methods doesn’t just invest in technology to keep up with IT trends. Its upgrades are always based on its ability to meet its own niche and unique demands. The most recent, for example, addressed a capacity shortage at the end of the quarter that caused delays: a handful of people started using large amounts of compute resources simultaneously and performance fell below acceptable limits. .
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Strengthen the strengths of your department
Equity Methods therefore regularly invests in its own infrastructure in order to offer its customers services with the best performance adapted to their workloads and to maintain a competitive advantage. It does not attempt to broadly cover the IT landscape. In fact, he largely avoids anything and everything not directly related to his financial services.
Yes, its data center is state-of-the-art, specific to the needs of its own customers. It provides redundant power and cooling, uses advanced processors suited to its environment. Unlike traditional multi-threaded processors that would be used by most vendors, Equity Methods workloads perform best with high single-threaded speed, supported by the latest NVMe SSDs, Mellanox 100Gbps networking gear, and a server. and storage infrastructure capable of operating hyperconverged virtual server and storage environments and virtual desktop clusters.
“Basic hardware is nowhere to be found, because the I/O in our environment is so important,” Leisey said. “Because most of our work takes place the last week of every month or at the end of a quarter or year, we care about maximum capacity, not average capacity.”
It wouldn’t work for Equity Methods to replace its internal systems with the public cloud. Its unusual performance requirements and high utilization rates would mean paying way too much for public cloud services. Thus, it builds and maintains a highly customized data center to deliver services to its customers, avoiding the potential issues of multi-tenancy, where multiple cloud customers could deprive users of the desired level of speed and responsiveness.
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Find the right kind of help
Equity meets certain financial needs of its clients. But it lacks many elements that one would find in a regular data center or might find in a typical MSP. It precisely defines the technologies and systems it operates internally and offloads the rest to another MSP known as adryTech.
“One of the benefits is their ability to choose the right products with the right features at the right price, easy to implement and maintain,” Leisey said.
He said this partnership is critical to success. Adrytech takes care of routine tasks such as configuration, monitoring, ticketing and requested changes. It finds the best deals for licensing Windows, VMware, Barracuda and other software/services. It offers general infrastructure support and takes most routine IT functions, tedious work, and troubleshooting away from fairness methods.
With security being such an issue for most companies, Equity Methods decided it didn’t want to divert internal resources to operating and managing its own security tools. Similarly, adryTech acknowledges that it is not a security specialist. Therefore, adryTech acts as an advisor to Equity Methods, recommending security and other services it should use from other vendors.
For email protection, content shielding and web application firewall (WAF) as a service, adryTech recommended Barracuda MSP. As a professional services firm, Equity Methods relies more on email than the average company.
“Ensuring that phishing and spear phishing attempts are stopped before they reach our inboxes is very important, especially as attackers become increasingly sophisticated,” said Leisey. “Our Barracuda products do what they say they do for a reasonable price.”
In addition to saving money, Leisey requires an MSP to act as a partner in technology selection and handle day-to-day IT details. AdryTech does the job perfectly. The relationship works well, with clearly defined responsibilities. The Equity Methods IT Manager is responsible for internal end-user support and everything on-site. The MSP is used for server and network configuration, operating system patches, virtualization management, and systems administration.
“Buying these products from a VAR/MSP like adryTech allows us to leverage their experience evaluating and managing other competing solutions, so we don’t use technologies that are not tried or difficult to manage,” Leisey said.
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Serving Regulated Industries
Why does adryTech not take over the entire IT infrastructure of Equity Methods?
Adam Rusak, Managing Director of adrytech, explained that the majority of his customers are in regulated industries and have unique business needs such as extremely fast systems for processing financial data, storing large amounts of data for long long periods and low latency between their office team and their servers. Thus, its infrastructure is established to meet the vast needs of the majority of its clientele. It would not be profitable for her to set up systems to serve equity methods. Most of his other customers wouldn’t need it.
“It’s usually more cost-effective for the customer to outsource network or other infrastructure needs to an MSP with internal resources rather than hire the talent internally,” Rusak said. “Many of our data center customers have strong software development skills but don’t employ infrastructure engineers.”
Having worked for other MSPs before creating his own, Rusak said the level of service provided can vary widely. Some only provide physical infrastructure support, such as racking and unracking servers, patching cables, and rotating tapes. Other vendors may take a configuration-centric approach to encompass monitoring, software updates, and configuration management. The cost between these services will be very different depending on the skills required.
Leisey has experience with several MSPs over the years and has noted great variability in what they offer, their responsiveness, and their attitude towards pricing.
“We needed an MSP who was willing to be a close associate and we found him,” Leisey said. “For the price of an IT generalist, we get the services of a security expert, an operating system administrator, a virtualization administrator, a network administrator, a work by project, ad hoc troubleshooting and daily monitoring of adryTech.”
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