NEWS: Global Mentoring Solutions is now part of the Sherweb family. Click here to read more about the acquisition.

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up and the end of 2011 quickly approaching, it’s a good time to reflect on all we’ve covered in the MSP Helpdesk blogs. First of all, I’d like to thank you all for following our posts and contributing to the discussion. Strong readership makes the hours of research and writing well worth the effort, inspiring us to dig deeper to discover and share how MSP businesses can improve their chances for success.

Our audience makes the writing fun and often initiates the next topic with their insightful and humorous comments. That not only keeps the discussion rolling around critical topics in the channel, but helps us stay in front of the emerging trends and subject matter. That assistance and support has been a key factor in our continued success and we thank you again for taking part in the conversation these past seven months!

So what have we learned? Feedback has been strong concerning the need for 24/7 support, particularly managed services outsourcing support after normal business hours and on weekends. With this off hour need steadily growing, the internal debate with each of our Partners leans towards: “can our MSP team cost-effectively deliver true 24/7 support to our clients?”

Whether staring a business from scratch or expanding your company’s current service level, offering round-the-clock helpdesk and NOC support is a daunting prospect, requiring the right quantity of properly trained employees and a system to make it all work. So, what’s the best way to accomplish that?

Evaluating the Needs of an Emerging MSP

To be successful in SMB sales, MSPs need to provide first line support. Customer satisfaction depends on a business client’s uptime and how quickly their technical issues are resolved and alerts responded. These components represent a real challenge for an emerging IT provider with few employees to help provide round-the-clock support.  When there’s an issue with the infrastructure of one of your clients, you need answers and emergency escalation procedures dealt with FAST. That’s why a hosted helpdesk is not just a differentiator, but a necessity for MSPs of any size.

Many SMB clients have the same technology needs as the enterprise organizations today, which is why offering flexible support is so crucial—to you and them. Their employees work around the clock and throughout the world, so when major issues come up, a traditional 9-5 helpdesk just won’t do. When a sales rep for a small business client can’t power up his laptop and make a vital presentation to a prospective buyer in Taiwan, it could cost them a major deal (and your business). It doesn’t matter if the problem occurs at 2:00AM in New York; he needs someone to walk him through it right away. Of course, the emergency contact at the SMB’s MSP could be available, but this takes time – and the market expects instant help as the status quo.

New Demands Calls for Specialized Solutions

Today’s small businesses are becoming reliant on mobility solutions, which give their employees fast and convenient access to files, client data, and communications from virtually anywhere, further exemplifying the need for instant IT helpdesk support. Neither location nor time of day limits the use of these devices, so wouldn’t and shouldn’t their MSP offer the support to be just as flexible?

Round-the-clock mobility service is a key differentiator, allowing even the smallest provider to battle for new clients against much larger competitors.

Pick a Starting Point. Find a Solution that Fits Today while Scalable for Tomorrow

Before expanding services, MSPs should thoroughly review their current clients’ needs and then determine what should (and can) be added to their portfolio. Consider what services should be outsourced as well, especially if the company isn’t capable of providing them at a high level without a major investment.

Whether the organization is a one-man shop or employs fifty people, the process is still the same; start by listing current offerings, market capabilities, customer requests and requirements – get granular and focus on specific components that you need help with such as overnight or weekend NOC alert management, helpdesk support between 6 pm and 9:30 pm and so forth.

While this may seem like a fundamental review for some MSPs, covering the basics is an important step when looking at 24/7 support. Whether you handle it internally or outsource to a quality provider, doing your homework and developing an effective plan will help ensure a proper fit between requirements and the chosen solution.