How to Choose the Best NOC Partner for Your MSP - Tubblog: The Hub for MSPs

How to Choose the Best NOC Partner for Your MSP

How to Choose the Best NOC Partner for Your MSP image

How to Choose the Best NOC Partner for Your MSPI’ve written before about my belief that more IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) should embrace outsourcing. In fact, I’ve asked the question Why do IT outsourcers not outsource more? Specifically, why don’t they have a dedicated NOC partner?

Given that most MSPs essentially provide outsourced IT support to their clients, it surprises me that they don’t look to outsource more of their own tasks. When done well, outsourcing can be a great way to reduce costs, deliver services well and increase profits.

For most MSPs, the most effective way to outsource is with their Network Operation Centre.
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What is an MSP NOC?

Remote Monitoring and Maintenance ToolFirstly, let’s clarify what a Network Operation Centre (NOC) is.

Most MSPs provide 24x7x365 monitoring and maintenance of their clients’ IT infrastructure. The vast majority so this via Remote Monitoring and Maintenance (RMM) software.

They deploy RMM software to their various clients, and it monitors everything for them. So that’s servers, PCs, printers and network equipment, plus anything more specialised the client has.

Then it reports back to the MSP’s central dashboard with information on performance, plus gives alerts on any current or potential issues.

The MSP’s Service Desk staff then resolve any alerts they’ve received from the RMM software, such as a backup failure, a disk running out of space, or a printer server going offline.

And they pro-actively resolve any potential issues the RMM software highlights (such as a PC running slowly, anti-virus software going out of date, or a backup taking a long time to complete).

This is all fundamental work to an MSP, who wants to minimise and eliminate downtime for their client. It’s a necessity in the proactive management of a client’s infrastructure.
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Why You Should Outsource This Work

Bored MSP EngineerThe trouble is, it’s typically dull, dull work.

I’ve seen engineers who are ready to gouge their own eyes out if they have to tackle another failed Datto backup, or manually update a PC’s Anti-Virus definitions.

Don’t get me wrong, some engineers love NOC work. They take pride in it. If you’ve found an engineer who likes that work and is content doing that work, then happy days!

However, the majority of engineers see NOC work as a necessary evil and if they can avoid it they will.

What if you could outsource that laborious, boring NOC work to an organisation who offered to do this work cost-effectively and with expertise? That’s where a NOC partner comes in.
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What is an MSP NOC Partner?

Put simply, an MSP NOC partner is a third party who will look after the monitoring and maintenance of your clients on your behalf. This is  typically for a fixed fee based on the number of clients, endpoints (servers and workstations) and/or network equipment across your client base.

An #MSP NOC partner will manage the monitoring and maintenance of your clients systems, freeing up your time for other work. Click to Tweet

When I used to run an MSP business, we used a NOC partner based out of the USA. They had staff based in India who delivered a high quality service to keep our clients’ IT infrastructure running. So, this freed up me and my engineers to get on with helping clients with their pressing problems.

Most NOC providers run to a similar model, with the NOC staff themselves being based in India or another developing economy.

This means they can use globalisation to provide high-quality work for a lower cost than MSPs in countries like the UK, USA or Australia.

Here in the UK, there are a couple of NOC providers I recommend:

At this point, it’s worth pointing out that I used a NOC partner for back-office monitoring and maintenance. Plus, most NOC providers also provide Service Desk services (i.e. they deal with client telephone calls for you).

But if you’re new to the idea of outsourced service, this might be a step too far . I know plenty of MSPs who use outsourced Service Desks very successfully, but I’ve no experience doing so myself.

It’s crucial that you feel comfortable working with an MSP NOC partner as an extension of your team. They’re representing your business to your clients. Click to Tweet

So, if you’re looking to explore the idea of working with an MSP NOC partner, where do you begin?

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The Most Important Aspect of Choosing an MSP NOC Partner

How to Choose the Best NOC Partner for Your MSPI’d strongly suggest that *the* most important thing in choosing a partner is finding a NOC provider who you feel comfortable working with as an extension of your existing Service Delivery team.

And, you need to trust them right from the start. It really is crucial that you feel comfortable working wih an MSP NOC partner as an extension of your team. They’re representing your business to your clients.

 

You might go about doing your research by asking the potential NOC partner to introduce you to some of their other MSP clients and asking then how they find the working with the team.
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Why NOC Partner Relationships Fail

Many relationships fail because the MSP tries to shoehorn what the NOC provider delivers into their existing services.

The MSP triey to force the NOC partner to change how they do things to fit in with their own process. And that is a recipe for disaster. Most NOC providers have a set way of doing things that are repeatable and give the consistency of service.

If you try to force them to change that process, mistakes will happen. Plus, the internal attitude of your staff is key.

Most NOC providers will be technically competent and have great processes, but what are the team really like to work with? You’ll only find this out through asking existing partners of the NOC provider.

I can’t underestimate this aspect enough. Most NOC partner relationships that I’ve seen fail is because the MSP’s Service Delivery team and the NOC partner team aren’t on the same wavelength. Tread carefully!

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Find an MSP NOC Partner with a Security First Approach

MSP NOC Provider SecurityThe next most challenging aspect of finding an NOC partner to work with is by doing your due diligence on their security process and credentials.

It’s scary enough for most MSPs to give up control of their clients’ networks to a third party. So, you want to make sure that your partner deserves that immense trust you are placing with them.

Security standards such as Cyber Essentials, ISO 27001 and HIPPA (in North America) are important, but is the NOC partner merely ticking boxes or are they really dedicated to security? You can usually tell from the attitudes of staff. And that’s not just the NOC team but the Senior Management team too.

You might want to look at the potential partner’s contractual provisions for privacy and security, along with insurances. Ensure that it at least matches the provisions that you have in your client contracts. This may also be a condition required by your customers.

You might want to be really specific with your questions. For instnace, ask about door entry systems to premises, whether technicians are allowed to have their mobile devices near workstations, and whether NOC staff have provable audit trails..
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Doing the Financial Calculations for Outsourcing

Is it profitable to outsource to an MSP NOC provider?Once you’ve found an NOC partner you believe is a good fit for your company, it’s time to do the figures. I suggest working out whether the partnership is a financially sound move for you.

For most MSPs, it will be. When I was first growing my MSP business, the cost of outsourcing the low-value but high importance tasks like monitoring and maintenance paled in comparison to hiring employees to do the same work.

There is an argument that there comes a tipping point where it may be better to bring the NOC services in-house rather than outsource. But for most small and medium sized MSPs reading this blog, I believe that won’t be the case.

Check with your NOC provider on the terms of their contract. Make sure you’re not tied into a long-term contract, and that you have flexibility. For instance, some providers offer a ‘pay as you grow’ model.
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The Final Stage of Selecting a NOC Partner

How to Choose an MSP NOC ProviderOnce you’ve done the financial calculations, there’s one final and important question to ask your potential NOC partner.

“Are we a good match for you?”

Many MSPs may be surprised to learn that, while they’re evaluating potential partners, they’re probably doing the same to you!

Some MSPs are ready to embrace outsourcing and partnering with an NOC provider — others not so much. If you’ve read this article this far and like the idea of outsourcing, then I’d suggest you explore it further.

However, if the idea of expanding your business through outsourcing scares the wits out of you, an NOC partner isn’t for you.

I know that most NOC providers are looking for a willingness to go into a deep partnership rather than dipping their toe into the water. A good NOC partnership can help your MSP to scale its business without taking on lots of new staff. However, it can also mean a change in attitude towards growth.

Choosing the right NOC partner for your specific needs can help you scale your MSP business. But choose wisely! Click to Tweet

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What Types of MSP Should Consider a NOC Partner?

Some MSPs are more suited to partnering than others. And some partners’ business models more relevant to a specific type of MSP.

When I meet with an MSP, I’m looking mainly for willingness to partner and an understanding of what that really means.

We can help MSPs to scale up their business without increasing their in-house resources. But this often requires them to look again at the way they deliver their services – from the ground up.

A less-than-ideal partnership can turn into a nightmare for both parties. Nobody wants that, most of all your NOC partner.

By all means, explore whether an NOC partner will be able to help your business. But above all, remember that this is a partnership you’re entering into, not a cure-all for your monitoring and maintenance issues.

To help with this, I asked Jason Kemsley at Uptime Solutions to share some advice. His company is one of the go-to partners for MSPs when they’re ready to outsource and scale. Here’s what he had to say:

“Focus, Fulfillment, Five Star. These are the three words that are achieved whilst utilising a good outsourcing partner. The MSP world is hectic, and there is always something new to worry about or the next customer to call.

“Outsourcing the bits you don’t enjoy allows an MSP to focus on the bits they do enjoy and do well, this leads to a higher overall level of service as well as better staff retention.

“An MSP isn’t made or broken through only its service desk/NOC. Because it’s a combination of services, projects and relationships that allows the SMB to trust you.

“If you have a shortage of people and want somewhere to start that is low risk, try NOC. It’s cost effective and can lead to happier customers quite quickly.”

'An MSP isn't made or broken only through its #NOC. There are a number of factors that allow your clients to trust you,' says Jason Kemsley of @UptimeSolutions Click to Tweet

How to Choose the Best NOC Partner for Your MSP_Blog Graphics
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Conclusion

How to Choose an MSP NOC ProviderManaging your Network Operations Centre (NOC) services, such as monitoring and maintenance of your clients’ IT infrastructure, is an essential task for any IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP).

However, it can be one that’s a thankless, unrewarding task for most engineers.

An outsourced NOC partner will help your business by delivering a high-quality service for monitoring, maintenance and more.

This means your business can grow with fewer employees to service client requirements.

Choosing an NOC partner is a step you should make very carefully. Make sure that the NOC provider is one that can become a long-term partner for you.

You’re looking for a partner who treats the security of your clients with the highest of priority. Who is on the same wavelength as you. Who is committed to helping your MSP business grow alongside their own business.

Do you use an NOC partner? What have your experiences been? If you’re undecided whether an NOC partner is for you, what are your concerns?

Please leave a comment below or get in touch with me. Helping MSP clients find the right NOC partner is something I can help you with.

How to Choose the Best NOC Partner for Your MSP_Blog Graphics
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RICHARD TUBB

Richard Tubb is one of the best-known experts within the global IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) community. He launched and sold his own MSP business before creating a leading MSP media and consultancy practice. Richard helps IT business owner’s take back control by freeing up their time and building a business that can run without them. He’s the author of the book “The IT Business Owner’s Survival Guide” and writer of the award-winning blog www.tubblog.co.uk

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