Ryan Stickel

By: Ryan Stickel on March 15th, 2024

Print/Save as PDF

Understanding invoices from different managed service providers


If you’re looking to change your MSP, you will need to know what you’re currently paying for and how the new MSP will charge you for those things. That’s a bit more complicated than it sounds, though. This article will discuss some differences you might see on MSP invoices and how to sift through all the information.

For starters, we’ll note our bias as an MSP. This article will mention examples of common mistakes we see on other MSPs’ invoices, but we know we’re not perfect ourselves. Our intent is just to educate you on some questions to ask and points to understand so everyone is on the same page, whether your MSP is Innovative or someone else. This is a complex industry that’s constantly evolving.

Understanding Quantities

You need to understand quantities to know what your MSP charges you for and how accurate it is. Some MSPs will do flat-rate bundles, while others may charge per device, user, or server. It could also be a combination of all of these things.

Being aware of what’s being charged is essential. If the invoice says 40 users, but you know you only have 30, you should probably ask why. Also, what kind of support are you receiving? Are you receiving any on-site or Level 3 support, or just support over the phone?

It’s also important to understand that per device and per user are two completely different things. This will depend on your business. If you’re in an office environment, it’s more likely than not that your per-device and per-user numbers will be pretty close to the same. If your business is more of a warehouse environment, you might only have three to four devices for many employees.

When to ask about your invoice

There is never a wrong time to ask about your invoice. It’s your business’s money, and your IT leader should be willing to explain it to you. In fact, a good IT leader should get excited when a client wants to learn more! Now, if you’re simply curious about your invoice or want more understanding, there’s no problem with asking, but what if you’re in a situation where something about the service you’re receiving doesn’t feel right?

Maybe you’ve noticed service has gotten a bit worse, but there hasn’t been a significant change in the MSP’s workforce. This could be because of some inaccuracies with how many workstations they’re managing, and they aren’t appropriately staffed. This means you might be getting over or undercharged for your services.

While getting undercharged doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world, it does speak to a larger auditing and documentation issue with the MSP. Are those forgotten endpoints being covered? Are the solutions you’re paying for actually deployed on the devices?

These are entirely fair questions to ask your MSP. If your gut tells you something is wrong, ask to meet with your account manager or point of contact and request documentation of user lists, licenses and device counts.

If any major discrepancies are revealed, it might be time to discuss accountability and ask your MSP about their auditing and documentation process.

We will note, though, that due to rapidly changing, complex environments, there may be some minor differences in categories like device counts and licenses. These small fluctuations are common and not usually indicative of a larger problem.

Often, license overlap is needed during the completion of projects due to timing with vendors and to ensure you always have the tools you need to be productive.

Line-Item Language and Descriptions

On your invoice, you’ll need to know what each line item is. Is it a service, tool or a service that includes tools? For example, one MSP resells Microsoft Azure cloud services, but that might be where it ends—no further management or configuration.

Another MSP might do the same while managing it for you, looking at resource consumption and recommending ways to reconfigure it for efficiency.

The issue? Without a proper understanding of the services, both could appear to be the same offering.

If you’re looking for more insight into a service, it’s best to get a face-to-face explanation from your MSP to ensure no details are missed. You can also refer to the quote or contract you signed at the start of the service, but human interaction is never a bad option!

Those service descriptions should contain enough information to give you a high-level understanding but won’t go into every detail. It’s not practical to list out those minor details, plus a more generalized description will allow services to fall under a contract rather than having the client pay extra or separately for it.

Vague wording is not a substitute for diligence, though. It should not be used to describe a service lazily but rather allow it to be all-encompassing.


As cyber threats grow more advanced, businesses need to take the proper measures to stay protected. Each MSP will offer its stack of cybersecurity services, but what’s listed on the invoice may not provide the whole picture.

You might see a cybersecurity monitoring solution listed on the invoice, but is it just some software installed on your devices, or is someone actually managing it? Is it even turned on?

The answers can be a little complicated. MSPs may use different terms for the same service or the same terms for different services. This happens because when newer services and solutions become available, there may not be an industry standard name for them yet. This is especially true for cybersecurity, as it’s a fast-evolving industry.

If you’re beginning to work with a new MSP, they may even implement multiple solutions together to replicate one solution you previously had. It all depends on their solution stack and areas of expertise.

At the end of the day, the people managing it and how they manage it are more important than the solution itself.

People, Process, Technology

If you’re beginning to work with a new MSP and see that they are using the same cybersecurity solution as your old MSP (one you didn’t like), that might be frustrating. You really like this new MSP but also wanted to avoid that solution.

Fear not! While not every solution is created equally, what’s most important is WHO manages it and HOW.

There is more context than just the solution listed on the invoice. The people aspect is most important. That’s why here at Innovative, we tend not to list the individual solutions on the invoice.

We have done our due diligence to make sure our solution stack is what works best for our clients and us, but we also realize that:

  1. Our client chose us to manage their environment, so the solution itself becomes a little less important at that point.
  2. Leaders who aren’t quite as tech-savvy might not even recognize many of the solutions listed. It would just look like a bunch of brand names. The service it’s for is more important.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

With some new MSP invoice knowledge at your disposal, it’s time to either take a look at your current invoice or compare between MSPs if you’re on your search. If you have any questions, there is no reason to stress. A trustworthy MSP will happily sit down and walk through your invoice, even explaining some of the vague or “hidden” terms.

This is YOUR technology investment, after all.

Innovative Ideal Client