With most industries actively embracing digitalisation, the need for having IT staff is more prevalent than ever before. Still, not everyone has the required means or knowledge to set up and manage their IT infrastructure in-house, or enough time to research the best options for their specific needs to keep up with innovation.
The hospitality industry is no exception. Many don’t realise the reliance on technology within the hospitality industry, but with booking and ordering systems, restaurant wi-fi and networks and cloud storage for venues with limited space (just to name a few) it’s more important than ever to stay on top of it.
Plus, hospitality means people. And with the GDPR regulations and the emphasis of increasing data protection from customers, you need to protect your business and technology.
Unfortunately, IT support often doesn’t follow suit here, with security threats and potential problems becoming more prevalent issues within the industry. While established players often have a dedicated in-house IT staff to manage all their needs, not all have the means to do so, and some don’t have the technical expertise to deal with this challenging industry. This is where managed service providers come in.
What Is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?
A managed service provider (MSP) is a company that specialises in the management of IT infrastructure and systems for their customers. This management can either be remote or done at the customer’s office. Most often, it is offered as a continuous service for a set monthly fee.
It is different from traditional IT support because it not only covers reactive maintenance, i.e. maintenance when something goes wrong, but also proactive services and system monitoring, as well as cybersecurity, IT consulting, and upgrades. It is a flexible service that adjusts to the needs of each client instead of offering a one-size-fits-all solution.
For example, if a hotel already has good booking solution that can easily handle peak times during holiday season, they will not need infrastructure maintenance, but they might require additional services with their staffing software. A good MSP will adjust to meet these needs.
What Does a Managed Service Provider Do?
Managed Service Providers cover a broad range of IT support – from infrastructure maintenance to incorporating automation, handling security and compliance matters, or migrating to a new platform. The range of services differs between industries – and even in the same industry – and depends heavily on the needs of each client. An MSP will always provide a fully customisable solution and can do the following:
- Automate routine tasks
- Provide maintenance for your entire technological stack
- Monitor IT infrastructure to ensure all systems perform optimally
- Develop technological strategies to address current issues
- Do preventative maintenance to detect loss of efficiency and catch issues early on
- Implement new technological solutions that scale with your business
- Future-proof IT systems by upgrading legacy software
- Apply system and software upgrades and patches to ensure system and data safety
- Deliver responsive support so that any major IT crisis is resolved quickly
- Handle data storage and disaster recovery
A managed service provider helps you focus on your business while taking care of your IT systems. They are more than just IT professionals – they align with your goals and ensure your IT capabilities don’t hold you down on your journey to reach them.
Why You Should Work with an MSP
Employing a managed service provider helps businesses stay on top of the latest technologies and security requirements. MSPs help by identifying flaws in IT systems, operations, or infrastructure and working out the best solutions to improve overall business efficiency in a cost-effective way.
For example, a restaurant needs to sell more seats, not always have the latest fancy equipment, so an MSP will help identify the best option within budgets to suit the individual needs of the client.
They allow businesses to quickly implement new technological solutions and adapt to rapidly changing business environments (particularly when there is a change in legislation.)
They work with their clients to achieve the ultimate goal: ensure the best guest experiences and cultivate guest loyalty.
Here’s some of the ways they do this:
- You Get Access to Fully Customisable Solutions – MSPs offer cloud-based infrastructure solutions meaning if you open (or close) a new location, your solutions can be upgraded or downgraded easily to match!
- They Improve Your Efficiency and Give You a Competitive Advantage – MSPs have the resources to immediately begin working on specifically tailored solutions that are then deployed and integrated with your existing systems. This process is much faster than it would take to do the research, development, and implementation in-house from scratch. For example, if you wish to update your data storage and improve security systems to keep all guest and consumer data safe, an MSP will do that for you.
- They Help You Plan Ahead and Predict Expenses – They help determine peaks in your traffic and help you prepare for it by adjusting your infrastructure to withstand the higher demand. For instance, if you have peak reservations and stays during holidays, your MSP will ensure that your network can carry the increased visitor load and handle billing efficiently.
- They Lower Your Business Costs – Instead of using a one-size-fits-all solution that has elements you will never need, you will only pay for services you use and nothing more. In addition to this, they eliminate the costs of hiring, training, and retaining in-house IT staff or hiring emergency or temporary staff only to fix or update your systems. Plus, because they are often on a contract, you get a better rate than if you were to hire an ad hoc IT consultancy firm.
- They Eliminate Issues Quickly – Because MSP resolve issues daily, there are a few unknowns left. When your business has an IT issue, they will be able to solve it quickly as opposed to an in-house IT employee who might have never had to deal with that specific issue.
- They Help You Focus on Your Business – All businesses have limited resources and focus available, hiring an MSP helps you focus your attention to where it’s really needed – your core business. Leave the IT decisions to them.
- They Handle Risk and Compliance for You – Shifting markets and financial conditions make every business decision a risk. MSPs have the required expertise and industry knowledge to choose the best possible strategy. In addition to this, they can help you remain compliant under technological and data protection legislation. .
- They Keep Your Systems and Data Secure – A good MSP will ensure your systems are fully secure and up to date on security patches. They will handle PCI compliance standards for online payments and reservations, ensure your firewall is active, and your guests’ data and sensitive information are safe.
Who A Managed Service Provider Would Suit Specifically
Managed services are used through a broad range of industries but are particularly effective in the following:
Hotels, resorts, restaurants, and bars have embraced digitalisation and are striving to offer the best online and in-house experience to their guests, from the initial landing page all the way to booking, reservations, and payment options on the day.
The key challenge to success in the hospitality industry is providing the perfect customer experience. And innovative technology helps you get there.
A growing number of hotels and other key players have migrated to cloud software to improve their business operations and get access to data analysis capabilities to detect trends and potential customers. On top of this, in restaurants or hotels where you can’t have large equipment or server racks, it’s an effective space saver too.
Because the hospitality industry handles vast amounts of sensitive guest and customer data, they require the right security solutions and must ensure they are compliant with government regulations (like GDPR.) Financial transactions play a big role, so having safe IT security is the prime objective.
Smaller hospitality establishments often don’t have fully equipped IT teams available, so complementing their existing team or relying on managed services for all their IT needs improves their IT security and quality, gives them access to newest software, and helps them compete with big players.
Small Business Owners and Start-Ups
Small and medium businesses, as well as start-ups, often struggle with keeping up to date on newest IT solutions. It takes a lot of time and money to keep their IT professionals on top of the newest trends and solutions which are often things that a startup doesn’t have.
Managed Service Providers help SMBs and start-ups with a full suite of IT services that are customised to their needs, goals, and preferences. This brings down overall costs and distributes them evenly throughout the year thanks to fixed monthly fees. Plus, business owners and start-ups get access to the latest tech and software solutions, as well as security options.
Companies With Unfavourable Opening Times
Any company working 24/7 knows that IT costs can run high because you have to hire a team to rotate so you have someone on site. Telephone support only goes so far and hiring emergency IT professionals when something goes wrong can be difficult and costly to fix if they don’t know your business or setup.
Employing an MSP gives them access to IT monitoring and support around the clock, which eliminates overtime pay or shift costs for internal IT staff. MSPs can complement and manage on-site IT staff as a standalone solution.
Things To Look For In A Managed Service Provider
A good managed service provider will have the required industry knowledge, qualifications, and certifications to back up their expertise. When choosing an MSP, look out for the following:
- Qualifications and Certifications – The MSP of your choosing should be up to date on industry-specific knowledge and have experience working in your field. For example, those working in the hospitality industry should look for an MSP who provides cybersecurity solutions that are compliant with GDPR (if you or your customers are in Europe.) Ensure that the IT professionals who handle your infrastructure have the required certifications, but also experience working with your frameworks.
- Partnerships – For example, an MSP who is a senior Microsoft partner will suggest they have the knowledge, expertise and vetting of Microsoft to work with their systems. Meaning you have peace of mind that they know what they’re doing.
- Pricing, Range of Services, and Customisation – Depending on your needs, you will be able to choose what services you need and which ones you don’t. The right MSP will be flexible and understand your specific needs. They will listen to your goals and get to know your business before offering their services. The pricing options should reflect the services that you will use, and those that you won’t should be excluded from the price. Most commonly, you will be offered a monthly retainer based on the service and level of support that you need.
- Service Level Agreements – A good MSP will offer a service level agreement (SLA) that determines all the details, such as quality and performance metrics that should be met, details about liability in case of performance issues or outages, a list of services and responsibilities offered by the MSP, and a framework to resolve service issues.
- Availability – Always choose an MSP who provides flexible assistance that includes remote monitoring and emergency support. If possible, opt for one with a local presence so that their professionals can visit your office if needed.