Let’s face it: everyone’s looking to save money where he or she can. It’s just common sense, isn’t it? The same applies to businesses. In fact, it burrows to the point of running a business—making money. And making money depends on keeping costs down.
As a Managed IT Services Provider, we charge our customers based on an agreed upon amount on a monthly basis, generally speaking. But those costs do, in time, increase. A reasonable question from our customers is “Why?” or “We haven’t changed our prices in 10 years, why do you?”
There are a few reasons, and some may not be terribly visible all the time to customers. One simple reason is inflation. The nature of our economy is that inflation will drive up prices simply because, year-to-year, the dollar falls in value. Mild inflation is considered a by-product of a good economy but, while an interesting topic to explore, economic theory isn’t the reason for this blog. We’ll leave our inflation point at that it’s generally known that inflation occurs and our services (and most services) will likely become slightly more expensive as time passes. (As a quick aside: if your objection to price increases is that your business hasn’t changed pricing in a decade, you should know that you’ve devalued your services by about 15% via inflation.)
Inflation aside, there still is good reason that costs can be increasing. For example, the nature of IT is that it is always changing. This applies to most aspects of IT, in fact: complexity of systems, cybersecurity, connectivity issues, and a thousand other items. A common area where we see cost creep is in areas of security.
As we’ve all heard on repeat, today’s cybercriminal is continually improving his or her tools and finding new ways to attack our IT infrastructure. As a result, white hats (a.k.a. the good guys) develop tools to stop them. Whether this is a smaller add-on product or a larger solution that replaces an existing product, it almost always has a dollar sign attached. This isn’t a bad thing, at the end of the day; after all, we want the good guys to be well paid so they may attract experts to their (and, in turn, our) cause!
This, however, increases an MSP’s operating cost and, in turn, the end user’s cost. We understand–You don’t want cost increases. We don’t want cost increases either! However, there are certain times when that additional cost adds significant value or necessary protection. We deliberate internally and decide on what the we feel is the best course for us and for our customers. A product or tool that passes muster will often fall in to three general categories.
1) Critical: These are items that we decide are of the utmost importance and we would be failing as a trusted partner to allow any customers to go without. Items in this category will become part of our standards, or “stack”. We will communicate to our customers the cost and the benefits; however, these items are required and should a customer decline the addition, we would discontinue our partnership. While this is unfortunate, declining a critical item most likely creates vulnerabilities for that particular company, us as service providers, and our other customers. An example of this could be deployment of anti-malware or anti-virus software. However, this can also extend to outdated operating systems, changes in Microsoft licensing, or many other examples.
2) Recommended: These items are not critical to the point that we would part ways with a customer that chose not to use them, but, for example, may require a liability waiver provided to us by the end-user acknowledging the risk. One recent instance of this was during the roll-out of a dark-web monitoring service. We feel strongly about this service, and for many was a nominal additional fee, but for others the product wasn’t as great a fit. While we indeed value this service and still would love to see remaining customers enroll, it does not meet such a critical level that it becomes part of our required stack. This class of recommended services or hardware starts with a discussion with customers and then a decision on their end whether or not they will choose to utilize the solution.
3) Productivity or Specific-Use: Generally, items in this category are less security-focused or simply may only apply to certain industries. These may be software upgrades, integrations, or new software altogether that increase employee productivity or ease-of-use. The transition from locally installed Microsoft Office to Office 365 (and perhaps from Office 365 to Microsoft 365) might be a good example of this. While in many cases it results in more expense than running, for example, the Office 2010 a business has had for several years, the move to cloud-based applications can increase the effectiveness of employees and can more than pay for itself in productivity gains.
At the end of the day, the customer is never wrong to ask why they are seeing an increase in their invoice from an MSP. And, frankly, it is incumbent upon the MSP to have a good reason! But with that said, your MSP should be your trusted advisor and navigator in the seas of tech change. At Certified CIO, we strive to not only be happy to discuss the why and how of any increased charges, but indeed to effectively communicate the reasons before a customer feels the need to ask. To be blunt, it’s our job!
Not sure your MSP is doing everything it can to keep you as protected and productive as possible? We’d love to help you find places where you could improve your IT for SMB. Click here to contact us or give us a call at (443)283-0666!