Understand and Simplify Your Managed IT Services Pricing For SMEs

by | Oct 10, 2023

Many SMEs turn to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to address their numerous challenges and streamline IT operations. However, one significant obstacle often stands in the way: understanding and deciphering MSP pricing. Managed IT Services pricing can indeed be complex and perplexing for SMEs. A lack of transparency, varying pricing models, and an array of bundled services often leave decision-makers scratching their heads and, in some cases, passing on the benefits of partnering with an MSP. 

In this guide, we’ll unravel the mysteries of MSP pricing, helping SMEs gain clarity and make informed decisions regarding their IT needs.

The Importance of Managed IT Services

Before delving into the intricacies of MSP pricing, let’s take a moment to understand why SMEs turn to managed services in the first place. Managed IT Services offer a range of benefits, including:

1. Cost Efficiency: MSPs provide cost-effective solutions by offering a team of experts at a fraction of the cost of hiring in-house staff.

2. 24/7 Support: Many MSPs offer round-the-clock monitoring and support, ensuring your IT infrastructure remains operational.

3. Enhanced Security: With the growing threat of cyberattacks, MSPs specialize in implementing robust security measures to protect your data and systems.

4. Scalability: As your business grows, MSPs can quickly scale their services to accommodate your evolving needs.

5. Focus on Core Business: Outsourcing IT management allows your team to concentrate on core business functions rather than dealing with technical issues.

Now that we understand the significance of Managed IT Services let’s dive into the various aspects of MSP pricing to help SMEs make more informed decisions.

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Common Pricing Models

MSPs employ several pricing models to meet the diverse needs of their clients. While the specific pricing structure can vary from one provider to another, here are some common models you’re likely to encounter:

1. Per-Device Pricing

In this model, you pay a fixed monthly fee for each device, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones covered by the MSP. It’s a straightforward approach that provides cost predictability, making it suitable for SMEs with a well-defined number of devices and solid forecasts for employee growth.

Pros: Predictable costs, easy to understand, suitable for businesses with a stable device count.

Cons: May need to account for variations in workload or the number of users.

2. Per-User Pricing

This pricing model charges a monthly fee for each user accessing the services covered by the MSP. It’s an excellent choice for businesses with fluctuating device numbers or seasonal staffing changes.

Pros: Flexibility to accommodate changing user counts, scalability.

Cons: Costs may increase during periods of high user activity.

3. Tiered Pricing

Tiered pricing structures offer different services at various price points. You can choose the tier that aligns best with your needs and budget.  For example, a basic tier that covers essential monitoring and maintenance or a premium tier that includes 24/7 support, disaster recovery, and cloud services. 

Pros: Customizable options allow you to select services based on your requirements.

Cons: Complexity in comparing different tier offerings.

4. Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) Pricing

PAYG pricing is based on your actual usage of services. This flexibility ensures that you only pay for the resources you use for a predetermined period, such as monthly, making PAYG pricing a cost-effective choice for businesses with variable workloads and unpredictable IT demands.

Pros: Cost-efficient for businesses with variable workloads.

Cons: Costs can be unpredictable if usage varies significantly.

5. Bundled Pricing (aka Packages)

Some MSPs bundle services together into a single package at a fixed price. This approach can simplify billing and provide a comprehensive solution.  For example, a bundled package might include a 24/7 help desk, data backup, cybersecurity, and cloud hosting, seamlessly integrated, making it an attractive option for businesses seeking convenience and comprehensive coverage.

Pros: Simplified billing, inclusive services.

Cons: May include services you don’t need, making it less cost-effective.

6. A-La-Carte Pricing

The alternative to packages.  A-la-carte pricing allows you to select individual services and pay for each separately. It provides maximum flexibility but will require understanding each service’s features and benefits and careful budgeting.

Pros: Customizable, cost-effective if you only need specific services.

Cons: Managing multiple bills and services can be complex.

Factors Affecting Managed IT Services Pricing

Understanding the pricing models is just the first step. Several factors can influence the cost of your MSP services. It’s crucial to consider these variables when evaluating MSP proposals:

1. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

An SLA is a contract that defines the agreed-upon service quality and responsibilities between a provider and a client. It ensures both parties understand and meet their obligations. Different SLAs may offer varying levels of service and support. The more comprehensive the SLA, the higher the cost.

2. Scope of Services

The specific services you require will directly impact the pricing. Basic monitoring and maintenance services are generally more affordable than advanced security or compliance-related services.

3. Service Add-Ons

Many MSPs offer additional services that can be added to your plan. These can include data backup, disaster recovery, and cloud storage services.

4. Size and Complexity of Your IT Environment

The number of devices, users, and the complexity of your IT infrastructure will influence pricing. Larger, more intricate setups generally require more extensive support, resulting in higher costs.

5. Location and Geographic Coverage

MSP pricing may vary based on geographic coverage if your business has multiple locations or requires global support.

6. Contract Duration

Long-term contracts often come with cost savings compared to month-to-month agreements. However, committing to a longer contract means you’ll need to assess your long-term IT needs carefully.

7. Customization and Flexibility

MSPs may offer customizable solutions that align with your unique requirements. While this can be advantageous, it may come with additional costs.

Tips for Making Informed Decisions

Now that you have a clearer understanding of MSP pricing models and the factors that influence costs, here are some tips to help you make informed decisions:

1. Assess Your Needs

Begin by identifying your specific IT needs. What services are essential, and what can you do without? Are there services you’re better off running in-house, like cloud computing services? Understanding your requirements will help you choose the right pricing model.

2. Request Detailed Proposals

When evaluating MSPs, ask for detailed proposals that outline all services, costs, and SLAs. This will allow for an apples-to-apples comparison.  Discuss pricing models early in the discovery period.

3. Consider Scalability

Choose a pricing model that accommodates your business’s growth. It should be flexible enough to adjust to user counts, devices, and service changes.

4. Beware of Hidden Costs

Ensure your MSP contract has no hidden fees or unexpected charges like software fees or bandwidth and storage. Transparency is key to avoiding budget surprises.

5. Review SLAs Carefully

Thoroughly examine service level agreements to understand the level of support and response times provided. Make sure they align with your business needs.

6. Seek References and Reviews

Ask for references from current clients and read online reviews to gauge the MSP’s reputation and reliability.

7. Negotiate

Always negotiate terms, especially for more extended contracts. MSPs may offer discounts or additional services to secure your business.  But first, you need to ask.


Understanding and simplifying managed IT services pricing is critical for SMEs looking to leverage the advantages of working with Managed Service Providers (MSPs). These partnerships offer cost-efficiency, enhanced security, scalability, and 24/7 support, allowing businesses to focus on their core functions. 

With insights into common pricing models such as per-device, per-user, tiered, pay-as-you-go, bundled, and a-la-carte pricing, SMEs can align their IT needs with the most suitable model.

Factors influencing MSP pricing, such as service level agreements, the scope of services, customization, and contract duration, should be carefully considering references and reviews and negotiating terms when evaluating MSPs. 

Ultimately, navigating the complexities of managed IT services pricing empowers SMEs to make informed decisions, ensuring they get the most value from their MSP partnerships and stay competitive in the evolving digital landscape.

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