Ryan Stickel

By: Ryan Stickel on October 25th, 2023

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Which is better: A National or Local Managed Service Provider?

Technology Strategy | Business Strategy | Outsourced IT Support

So, you’re looking to invest in technology for your business, and you want to hire a managed service provider (MSP). Now the question is, do you work with one of the big national companies or find someone more local? This can be a tough decision, as both choices will each offer something a little bit different.

Let’s walk through the biggest differences between a national MSP and a local or regional MSP and some factors that may help you decide.

Before we get into it, we need to let you know that we have some obvious bias here. Innovative has been in the local MSP game for over 20 years (serving the Western Maryland and Washington, DC metro areas), but we don’t want that to sway you from reading this article. We feel our services are valuable, but they aren’t for everyone. A national MSP might be a great fit for someone, and that’s okay!

Also, throughout this article, we generalize local and national MSPs, specifically not calling out anyone by name. This is a high-level overview of what you can generally expect from each.

It’s also important to note that there are local MSPs that are owned or have been bought out by larger companies, so there’s nuance to this conversation. But the overall message is that when you’re conducting your search for the right MSP, you should have an understanding of their scope and structure and how that aligns with the service you need.

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Now that we’ve got that all clear, let’s compare!

Which is cheaper: a national MSP or a local MSP?

This is a bit of a loaded question. While national and local MSPs offer just about the same cost for similar services, the nuances of those services may cause prices to vary. Let’s talk about those nuances and how they’re influenced by the structure of these MSPs.

National MSPs can offer remote support on a much larger scale than your typical local MSPs. They’re more likely than a local MSP to staff large call centers with entry-level technicians taking calls around the clock. This could be a great fit if your business needs only basic assistance (like password resets), or if waiting for longer escalation processes doesn’t negatively impact your business.

Local MSPs likely have a smaller group of more experienced technicians taking calls, but that means the technician who answers the phone is more likely to be able to solve your problem in the moment.

So – when you see a national MSP offering help desk services at a fraction of the cost of your local MSP, ask about the skill level of the technicians answering the phones, and the availability for escalation to more seasoned technicians.

The reality is that the cost of technical resources is about the same for national MSPs as it is for local MSPs. If you’re looking at drastically different prices for the same or similar services, that’s a sign that there are likely differences in the services offered – even if the names of the services are the same.

Will a larger or smaller MSP have better customer service?

Here’s another “it depends” answer. There are both local and national MSPs with poor customer service. You can likely weed those out by talking to references, looking at reviews, meeting more of their teams and just the general “vibe” you get through the sales process.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the local and national MSPs you’re considering have good customer service for the types of services they provide. The key part of that is “for the types of services they provide.”

As we mentioned above, a national MSP is more likely to deliver Level I support on a larger scale than a local MSP, but because of the national MSP’s size, a local MSP’s team is more likely to get to know the intricacies of your business.

If you’re a business with a high volume of Level I tickets, you might say that your national MSP delivers great service. If your business has a lot of nuances and technology with unique configurations, you may feel like you’re not getting great service from the same MSP because you’re stuck waiting days or weeks for your issues to get escalated to someone who can solve your problem.

Your local MSP is more likely to have a lower turnover rate – giving their staff the opportunity to really get to know your business over time. The national MSP’s tech who takes your call today may never even meet the tech who will take your call tomorrow – making it difficult to share knowledge about the nuances of complex client environments.

If you find value in having a team who has been working with your business for multiple years, a local MSP may provide you with better service.

That’s not to say the customer service from the national MSP won’t be friendly or effective, but you’re probably setting yourself up for more of a mixed bag. How many times have you sat on the phone for way too long dealing with the cable company or your internet service provider? It’s not very fun.

A local MSP will have less turnover and less on their plate, meaning faster service to get you back on track.

Contacting MSP Leadership

Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, which means issues will arise now and then. When that happens, you understandably want to be able to talk to someone in charge. If your MSP is a national company, odds are you won’t be able to get one of their higher-ups on the phone. Would you be able to get in touch with a manager or CEO of a local company? Absolutely.

If you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company – you probably can get the CEO of your national MSP to take your call. In that case, you’re likely a size and scale that would be difficult for a local MSP to support, except for perhaps some very specific types of services.

But for the average small to mid-sized business, you’re more likely to find a much more direct line to your MSP’s leadership with a local MSP.

In addition, the leaders in charge of a local MSP are far more likely to be in touch with the day-to-day operations than someone higher up at a national company. This is also where you want to be sure to understand the ownership model of the MSPs you’re considering.

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of seemingly local MSPs owned and controlled by national MSPs or large private equity groups, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of benefits private equity can bring to a local MSP. But as a potential client, make sure that the local leadership you’re establishing relationships with have the authority to solve customer service challenges in ways you’d want to see.

For example, if your MSP makes a mistake – is there local leadership with the freedom and authority to waive fees, grant invoice credits, reassign team members, or come up with other creative ways to fairly address your service issue?

Account Management

When we talk about account management in a local vs. national MSP, the relationship will likely look different for each, and for good reason.

If you’ve decided on the national MSP, it’s probably because your business needs someone to handle a high volume of calls. The small intricacies of your business aren’t a large part of the equation, meaning the long-term relationship with an experienced account manager isn’t quite as important.

If you prefer the more personalized touch of a local MSP, your account manager is one of the most crucial relationships you’ll have. They need to be able to deliver tailored advice for your business, and the only way to do that is for them to spend time getting to know you. It can’t happen overnight.

Comparing IT Strategy

Now let’s get down to the IT strategy between our two options. As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, a local MSP will likely provide a more individualized experience using their knowledge of your business. Due to higher turnover, and just a different approach overall, you’re not likely to find this from one of the national companies.

A national MSP may provide more of a one-size-fits-all approach in order to provide service to a company with a higher volume of calls and service requests. If volume is your focus, then this is the way to go.

Think of it like this: partnership vs. subscription.

The local MSP is the partnership. Your business and their business work together to ensure you have what you need from your technology through long-term, detailed planning and strategy. The goal is that both of you continue to grow. It’s mutually beneficial.

The national MSP is the subscription. This isn’t as much of a two-way street as it is paying a monthly fee to have someone clean up issues as they arise. You likely won’t form many meaningful business relationships with this MSP, but that’s not a flaw. They are designed to resolve your high volume of issues without any issues of their own.

Which option is better for me?

A national MSP is right for you if…

You want to pay a recurring fee for someone to make sure your technology is working. You understand technology is important to your business, but you’re not in a position to invest a ton of money into it. You just need something that works right now, and a national MSP can do that.

A local MSP is right for you if…

You’re looking to leverage the best technology for your business in order to achieve your goals. You want a real business partnership that comes with a high level of expertise and experience. This partnership allows you to work with IT professionals who are knowledgeable about your business and what it needs to succeed.

Ready to Move Forward?

Hopefully, this article will have you better equipped for the process of picking (or switching) your MSP. Technology is extremely valuable and the people you have managing it are crucial. We know that Innovative won’t be a great fit for everyone, but if you feel that the local MSP is what you’re looking for (and you’re within our service area), click below to get in touch with us!

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