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MSP Service Level Agreements: What's Covered, What Isn't?

MSP Service Level Agreements: What's Covered, What Isn't?

What services should you include -- and exclude -- in your managed services offering? A recent call from one of our Virtual Administrator partners got me thinking about that question. John (a fictitious name) told me a story of a managed services client who demanded a service I feel lies outside the scope of a reasonable managed services contract. Here's the story, and some guidance for established and aspiring MSPs.

John's client, a law firm, had planned a move to a larger office suite down the street and requested John's help. John told the managing partner he would be more than happy to move his workstations and servers, but there would be an hourly charge to do so. The managing partner of the law firm disagreed. He pointed out that nowhere in John's managed services contract did it clearly state what services were included and excluded. He felt that as part of his service, John should be responsible tearing down and setting up their equipment at the new location. After all, John had told him he would take care of all of his technology problems as part of the managed services agreement.

John was in a quandary. His client was right, he never spelled out what was included and excluded. John did tell him in his initial sales pitch that he would take care of all of his technology needs. That's a pretty broad statement to make any client, much less a lawyer.

At the end of the day, John honored his request and spent a day and a half of his valuable time implementing the move. This led to John calling me to ask what services he should include and exclude from his managed services offering. Here is what I think, based on my experience at Virtual Administrator and Network Depot...

Included Items:

  • Help Desk Support: Help your customer remotely solve workstation issues.
  • Onsite Repair: There should be some limitations here, but normal onsite repair work such reinstalling corrupted Operating Systems and fixing and repairing hardware failures/issues should be included.
  • Server Support: Remote and onsite server support should be included.
  • Switch and Firewall Management: Manage, monitor and support switches and firewalls.
  • Remote Monitoring/Management: Remote monitoring, reporting, and patch management of network attached systems.
Excluded Items:
  • Project Work: This includes installation and configuration of new equipment, major systems/hardware upgrades, virtualization, major network reconfiguration, etc.
  • Moves: Lesson learned from John's mistake. Moves to new locations should be billed hourly.
  • Major Software Upgrades: OS upgrades, new management systems, database implementations, etc.
  • Disasters: Recovering and rebuilding after floods, fires, earthquakes, lightning strikes, pipe leaks, power surges/failures, etc.
  • Hardware Failures: While I think the labor should be included, the cost of replacing the hardware itself should not.
  • Legacy Hardware: Limit the age of hardware and software you support. For example; no servers older than six years and/or running an OS more than two generations old.

The moral of this story is to spell out what your plan includes and excludes. You have to use some common sense when putting your offering together. Exclude too many things, and you will scare away potential clients away. Include too much, and you end up painting yourself into a corner.

Paul Barnett is marketing director for VirtualAdministrator, which offers hosted solutions for managed service providers. Read all of Paul’s guest blogs here. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of MSPmentor’s 2010 Platinum sponsorship.

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