What Is a Managed Services Provider? – A Seattle Business Owners’ Guide (Part 1)

Welcome to Part 1 of our in-depth Seattle Business Owners’ Guide to IT Security! Our first topic will cover the basics of what a managed services provider is and how they help secure your business’s technology – but this is only the beginning.

Over the course of this 10-part guide, you’ll get the helping hand you need so you can confidently navigate every aspect of IT security here in our fast-paced, tech-centric city. Best of all? Each new installment in the guide will be the perfect length to enjoy while sipping from a mug of your perfect roast.

So, without further ado… Do you have your fresh cup of coffee poured, with cream and sugar added? Are you ready to learn all about IT security? It’s time to talk about managed services providers.

What Is a Managed Services Provider?

Start with the quick, easy definition:

A managed services provider (MSP) is an outsourced IT support company that watches over your technology 24/7, making sure it’s up to date, secure, and running when you need it.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. (Isn’t there always?)

All MSPs provide a few services in common:

  • Monitor your systems and network around the clock, so they can quickly identify a cyberattack or other pressing technology issue
  • Apply security patches and software updates in a timely fashion, ensuring that your systems are protected against the majority of attacks
  • Report on IT activity over a specified timeframe, which can help you identify your business’s IT needs and usage patterns

This is pretty basic coverage here, which is why most MSPs differentiate themselves by providing additional services, such as the ones seen in the next section.

What Do MSPs Do?

Let’s make this simple by breaking down MSP services by price. As a Seattle business owner, you’ll see quite a bit of variation in costs and included services, but as long as you stick within the metro area, you’ll be comparing apples to apples in most cases.

  • The cheapest MSPs provide very basic, standardized IT services to national clients. We like to refer to these MSPs as “big-box” MSPs because they compete on price, they have a very narrow selection, and their customer service is usually a bummer. You can trust these MSPs to monitor your systems, often with automated monitoring systems, and to provide limited IT support at an added cost.

In fact, a lot of things come with an added cost for big-box MSPs. Impersonal remote support and after-hours support kind of make sense to charge for, but the common big-box practice of requiring clients to make pricy upfront equipment purchases, just because it makes the MSP’s job easier – well, that seems weird to us.

  • Mid-priced MSPs provide a more balanced mix of services than their bargain-basement, big-box competitors. As in all services, costs are higher for the MSPs with greater tech experience and more inclusive packages.

In this range, you’ll want to ensure your MSP does on-site repair and optimization, but you should also be able to mix and match optional packaged services, such as:

The above is only a small sampling of available services, so it’s a good idea to choose an MSP willing to tailor-fit their services to your exact requirements. Personalized packages can lower your costs because you won’t have to pay for services you don’t need.

  • The highest-priced MSPs typically develop their own, highly specialized solutions for the world’s largest enterprises. These solutions include things like developing in-house cyberthreat intelligence services or performing M&A cybersecurity risk assessments, but since you’re just now learning what an MSP is, it’s highly unlikely your business needs these tools. Let’s move on.

How to Find the Perfect Managed Services Provider for Your Seattle Business

Finished your coffee? Feel ready to tackle the task of finding the right MSP for your company?

Start your search when you request a personalized quote from Interplay. Since 2001, Interplay has been providing IT services to Seattle business owners like you, and that makes us one of the longest-standing managed services providers in the area.

Over our nearly 20 years in business, we’ve won awards, developed critical partnerships with some of today’s leading tech vendors, and built up a wide range of expertise in some very specialized software solutions. Because of this experience, we’re an especially good fit for non-profits, healthcare providers, engineering and design firms, and financial services companies.


Learn more about Interplay’s hands-on IT services and make sure to keep a lookout for the next helpful resource in our in-depth, 10-part Seattle Business Owners’ Guide to IT Security.

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