What’s The Difference Between Managed Services vs. Professional Services?

It’s easy to assume that “professional services” refer to any service offered by a professional. While this is true in the general sense, professional services mean something quite specific in the world of IT. So, what is the difference between managed services vs. professional services in IT?

The most fundamental difference between the two is scope. Managed IT services offer ongoing support while professional IT services are offered on a one-time or project-by-project basis. Based on this scope, firms that offer each service will be able to help you with different information technology issues.

Considering that over 50% of American businesses are facing talent acquisition issues, causing 32% to increase their budget on outsourcing, there’s a good chance that you’re reading this article because you want to know what kind of IT outsourcing is best for you. So, we’ll go over what managed and professional services are and how you can leverage them at your business.

“Outsourced IT services are proving to be a lifesaver in the era of employee retention strain. You can get the services you need, and fill in missing gaps without disrupting operations.” –  Brian Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, Bakersfield Networks


What Are Managed IT Services?

Managed IT services refer to the provision of ongoing IT support and maintenance by an external service provider. These external service providers are known as managed service providers, which is often shortened to MSPs.

MSPs can become a small business’ IT department or work alongside an existing one. Typically, the MSP takes over tedious day-to-day IT tasks while internal staff focus on business growth and exciting new projects.

Outsourcing to an MSP offers several key benefits. These benefits include, but are not limited to:


Proactive IT Management

MSPs actively monitor your systems to catch and fix issues before they become major problems. This means less network downtime and more productivity for your business. It also enhances your cybersecurity position because potential data breaches are stopped before they get a chance to evolve.


Access to Expertise

Each provider comes equipped with a diverse range of IT experts. Whether you need network monitoring, technical support, or cloud services, usually one MSP can do it all. You’ll get all the benefits of an expert team without the cost of hiring in-house.

MSPs can also offer a fresh set of eyes on your IT policies and systems. This can help you pinpoint gaps in your IT environment that you didn’t realize were there before. This is a significant advantage when you consider that 60% of data breaches began at an undetected vulnerability.


Optimized IT Performance

With managed IT services, your systems will run more smoothly and efficiently.  That’s because your MSP partner will do all the work keeping everything up and running without a lot of effort on your part. This can lead to overall improved performance and productivity.


Predictable Costs

Managed IT services come with a predictable cost structure based on their service level agreement (SLA). Typically, you pay a monthly or annual fee for continuous support, making it easier to budget for your IT expenses. That means no more unexpected costs from ad-hoc IT support.

Even without the extra ad-hoc spend, this predictable monthly cost is much more affordable in the long run. Let’s break it down with example data.

Example Cost Breakdown
In-House IT
  • Hardware: $15,000/year
  • Software Licenses: $5,000/year
  • IT Staff (salaries & benefits): $80,000/year
  • Unexpected Breakdowns: $10,000/year (on average)
  • Upgrades: $10,000/year
Managed IT
  • Monthly Fee: $6,000/month or $72,000/year

A managed IT provider can take care of many of those extra expenses for you in their regular service fee. As a result, the long-term price difference between managing your IT in-house vs. a provider looks like this chart. A rather striking difference.

Managed Services vs Professional Services


What Are Professional IT Services?

Professional IT services offer project-based support. However, you still gain access to seasoned IT experts from a third-party firm. The difference is that you won’t have constant access to them and will need to rehire them every time you need them.

While this may seem like a more cost-effective services solution, constantly rehiring professional services can add up. Therefore, it’s best to opt for them only if you truly need simple one-time help with specific IT projects every now and then. Otherwise, you’re better off with managed services.

A few key benefits of professional IT services include, but are not limited to:


Short-Term Commitments

Not every business owner is ready to make a long-term commitment to a third-party service provider. If that’s the case for you, then professional services may be your answer. Many provide similar services to managed IT services without the ongoing relationship.


Reduced Project Risk

Hiring a professional IT service provider can reduce the risk associated with IT projects. Professionals have the experience and skills to consult you on how to handle complex projects and so you can avoid common pitfalls. This can lead to more successful project outcomes and less risk for your business.


Hyper-Specialized Expertise

While MSPs have a diverse range of experts, professional service providers have highly specific experts. People who offer professional IT services are usually masters at one type of IT service, such as disaster recovery or cloud migrations. This provides a deeper level of expertise.


More Tailored Than Off-The-Shelf Solutions

Both MSPs and professional service providers should work with your business leaders to ensure that your IT solutions align with your business goals. However, because professional services are project-by-project, it can be tempting to opt for a cheaper off-the-shelf solution instead of seeking their guidance.

By comparison, the professional service model is more likely to offer a better business fit on the first try. It’s incredibly frustrating to purchase a retail IT solution only to find it doesn’t do what you expected it to do in practice. Professional IT services can help you avoid that situation.


When Should You Choose Managed Services vs. Professional Services?

Considering the differences between the two services, there are many situations where one makes more sense than the other. While this is partially a judgment call based on your business and project needs, generally these situations call for one or the other.

Managed Services Professional Services
Monitoring and maintaining a network for a business with multiple locations
Upgrading network infrastructure
Continuous cybersecurity threat monitoring and response
One-time cybersecurity risk assessment
Long-term IT support
Short-term IT support for a  specific project
One-time cloud migration project
Ongoing cloud infrastructure management
Long-term software development and maintenance
Short-term software development for a specific project
Managing IT hardware and equipment for a call center with 24/7 operations
Procuring and setting up IT hardware for a new office

Please note that this table is very general. You may choose the opposite of what was advised above if it makes sense for your specific situation.


Can You Get Both?

As you may have noticed in our table, there are a lot of managed and professional services that you may need simultaneously. This may beg the question of whether that means you need to hire two separate firms to cover your bases.

The good news is that you don’t. Bakersfield Networks offers a comprehensive suite of both managed and professional IT services. Our managed IT company offers all of the following services to businesses across California and beyond.

Reach out to us today to get all your IT service needs in one.