The options are seemingly endless when it comes to IT hardware.
From firewalls to switches to servers and more, there are different manufacturers, different models, and different features for every component within your IT environment.
If you rely on a managed IT services provider (MSP) for IT support and management, your options aren’t quite so endless, though. Most MSPs have a set of standards they require customers to abide by when it comes to IT hardware.
At The KR Group, we require all of our customers to use the same firewall hardware, back-up solution, and software suite, as well as enterprise-grade equipment throughout their environment.
We’ve found there are three major benefits for us and customers when MSPs standardize their hardware (and software):
- A hardware standard creates uniformity.
- When an MSP requires specific hardware, it means it is back-tested and trusted.
- By having hardware standards, MSPs guarantee the devices are enterprise-grade.
Overall, these benefits create a better experience and optimum security for the customer and the MSP engineer.
1. A hardware standard creates uniformity.
On the MSP’s end, though, this means they’re juggling requests from multiple customers at a time. Ticketing systems help organize the requests, but to enable efficiency, most MSPs require some level of uniformity with their required software.
This prevents an MSP from having to know the specifics of a different brand of hardware for every customer.
On the customer end, it means your MSP should be able to troubleshoot and resolve problems faster since they know the ins and outs of this brand of hardware.
2. MSP requirements are back-tested and trusted.
Having a hardware standard goes beyond uniformity, though. It also means your MSP is familiar with the equipment they require you to implement.
Not only does the MSP initially choose hardware they’re confident will perform well, but since all of their customers use it, they’re repeatedly testing the hardware in various environments.
When an MSP requires a specific brand of hardware, it means they research, test, and trust it.
As a customer, it means your MSP has worked through problems or quirks with the particular make of hardware and has a database of knowledge to rely on.
3. MSP standards ensure enterprise-grade equipment
By requiring certain brands of hardware, your MSP ensures you’re implementing enterprise-grade equipment into your business’s IT environment.
There are some components of your IT environment (such as routers, switches, and servers) that an MSP doesn’t require to be from a specific manufacturer. However, they do require them to be enterprise-grade.
This requirement is important for three reasons.
1. It ensures the hardware is capable of keeping up with the demands of your network.
For example, a consumer-grade router might be suitable for your home network, but when you have multiple users with multiple devices, you’ll need something with more capacity to handle the increased throughput.
2. Enterprise-grade equipment is designed to be more reliable than consumer-grade.
Unlike the majority of consumer-grade IT hardware, enterprise-grade is designed with built-in redundancy and to be running all the time. This reflects the different demands of personal and business use.
Take local switches, for example. Typically, consumer-grade switches don’t have robust enough software, and they lack the redundant power supply and commercial-grade fans and cooling.
3. In general, enterprise-grade equipment is less susceptible to exploits.
A security breach to a business’s network has larger implications than a personal network. IT manufacturers design enterprise-grade equipment to have a greater level of security built into the main networking components.
We encourage everyone to check out our article on endpoint security to further protect your network. However, in general, you’ll be a little more secure using consumer-grade equipment.
So what do we require?
While every MSP will have their unique standards, we’ll share what our requirements are to give you an idea of what this looks like.
All of our MSP customers need to have the following:
- One Meraki firewall per site
- Enterprise-grade routers, switches, servers, etc.
- Datto back-up solution
- Our software suite (including antivirus, anti-spam, DNS and remote access tools)
Once you have these four components implemented/installed, you’ll be ready for our managed IT services.
We require our customers to have one Meraki firewall per site. This requirement is to filter unwanted or malicious traffic within your IT environment.
We can configure what is and isn’t permissible use within your network to match your company policies. The ultimate goal is to protect your endpoints.
Some features of Meraki Firewalls include:
- Layer 7 classification and control, which enables control of evasive, encrypted, and peer-to-peer applications (like BitTorrent or Skype) that traditional firewalls can’t control.
- An intrusion detection and prevention system to protect your network against malicious entities and threats.
- Identity-based and device-aware security to enable administrators (your MSP) to ensure appropriate access levels across your network.
Enterprise-grade routers, switches, servers, etc.
Some MSPs might have specific brands they require customers to use for other hardware, such as routers, switches, servers, etc.
At The KR Group, we don’t have brand requirements for these pieces of hardware. However, for the reasons we previously discussed, they must be enterprise-grade.
Some questions to ask yourself when determining if a piece of hardware is enterprise-grade:
- Does this product have an overarching strategy for servicing the needs of businesses?
- Is this equipment capable of managing my company’s data without sacrificing speed?
- Does this product include data encryption and/or audits to ensure security?
- Can I guarantee I will stay compliant with industry regulations (HIPAA, FACTA, etc.) with this equipment?
If you’re still unsure, you can ask your MSP, and they’ll be able to help you determine if your hardware is adequate or if you need to upgrade.
Datto back-up solution
While not a piece of physical equipment, we also require all users to abide by our standards for a back-up solution. As the name of this IT component implies, it provides a backup of your important files and databases in case you lose data.
We specifically require MSP customers to use Datto for back-up.
Datto provides enterprise-grade technology for MSPs and their clients.
Noteworthy features of Datto back-up solutions include:
- Security infrastructure and compliance
- Data privacy certification
- Central management and configuration
- Fast and easy file restoration
Although we’ve mainly talked about hardware in this article, it’s worth mentioning we (and other MSPs) do require a specific software suite.
At The KR Group, our MSP contract includes the use of WebRoot for antivirus/anti-malware protection, AppRiver for anti-spam, Cisco Umbrella for DNS filtering, and Automate for remote access tools.
The reasons for software requirements are the same as hardware requirements – it creates uniformity among the MSP’s clients, is back-tested and trusted, and guaranteed to be enterprise-grade.
Implementing hardware requirements
If you’re looking to start a managed IT services contract, looking to introduce new hardware along with a new contract can be daunting and expensive.
When it comes to purchasing these products, you can typically do so through your MSP.
They will also typically work with you to create an implementation plan if your budget isn’t equipped to accommodate all new hardware at the start of your contract.
Hardware isn’t the only thing you should consider when switching or onboarding with an MSP. Check out our free onboarding checklist to guide you through the onboarding process.