Your cable company, your phone company, your mobile company and your internet company are all proper service providers.
They provide predictable services at generally regulated rates.
They also operate closed tech environments.
By closed tech environments I mean that the company has built a service with a fixed set of pieces and parts.
This makes their environment for all intended purposes closed.
The benefit of this to you the consumer, is that this allows the service provider to provide you with a service level agreement.
Basically a service level agreement is a promise of how long it will take to get you back up and running should something break.
A service level agreement also means that the service your are buying has strict controls on how it is managed, maintained and regulated.
IT Managed Service Providers are different.
They work primarily with PCs and Macs.
From a technology perspective PCs and Macs are open systems.
You can install anything on them.
And as a result, the variables to manage and troubleshoot computers are many.
Expecting your IT Managed Service Provider to make your environment operate just like the phone company, cable company or cell provider is a recipe for failure.
But there’s a 2-way disconnect here.
And that’s because many IT Managed Service Providers think that they’re legitimate service providers.
They think in terms of service-level agreements.
They think in terms of closed strictly controlled environments.
Basically, they act like something they’re not.
A brief history lesson…
The term Managed Service Provider was a marketing term made up in the early 2000‘s to allow IT consultants to change their image from IT consultants to service providers.
Some people took it a little too far (as IT guys tend to do) and the whole thing warped into unrealistic expectations for both the IT provider and the client.
So here we are almost 20 years later and IT providers are still trying to be service providers.
The problem is that between the cloud, PCs/Macs and all sorts of connected devices the world is more open than ever.
Sure you can rein things in.
Sure you can lock things down.
Sure you can add controls to an IT environment to help make it more predictable.
But in the end, small business IT environments are all varying degrees of different.
And that difference is the gap.
It’s the gap between being a service provider like the cable company and being a small business IT consultant.
The majority of IT service companies in the US have less that 4 employees and help maintain disparate IT environments.
And that a service provider does not make.
So next time someone tells you they’re a service provider.
Ask them how they’re like the cable company.
Ask them how they like the phone company.
Ask them how they can call themselves a service provider when they don’t have a closed environment.
When they don’t have thousands of people on staff.
Or the level of process and integration that a real service provider has.
It’s important to understand what you’re buying.
When your buying a IT managed service.
Sure it’s managed.
But it not closed system.
And so expection’s need to be in line with the service being offered and purchased.