As a Managed Service Provider (MSP), keeping track of clients’ networks, systems, software, and hardware can quickly become complex and disorganized. In such a scenario, documentation offers a lifeline by providing a structured approach to maintaining and keeping track of client data. In this article, we dive deep into MSP record keeping, its importance, its benefits, and how to create it. We also address some common FAQs and how you can get started with the process.
What Is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?
In today’s digital business environment, having a reliable IT infrastructure is crucial to maintain productivity and minimize downtime. A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a critical component that many businesses turn to for support.
An MSP is an IT service provider that assumes the responsibility for managing and maintaining the IT infrastructure of a business. This means they handle everything from network management to cybersecurity and backup services.
The MSP can provide a cost-effective solution for businesses that might not have the resources to manage and maintain their IT infrastructure. This saves time and provides access to a team of experts who specialize in IT management.
There are many benefits to working with an MSP. One of the most significant advantages is that they can help businesses save money. With a managed service contract, companies can receive IT support on an ongoing basis without hiring an in-house IT team.
Another significant advantage is that MSPs offer scalability. As businesses grow and their requirements change, their IT infrastructure must adapt. An MSP can provide flexible solutions that grow and evolve with a company over time.
Finally, MSPs can provide businesses with greater peace of mind. By outsourcing their IT infrastructure management, companies can focus on their core operations and leave the technical details to the experts.
Importance of Documentation
While MSPs offer many benefits to businesses, there is also a critical need for proper documentation. It is an essential component of IT infrastructure management and vital when working with an MSP.
Documentation refers to recording and updating information about the IT infrastructure, support tickets, and other critical details. This documentation helps MSPs better understand the business, its needs, and how its IT infrastructure is performing.
One of the most critical aspects of documentation is the creation of a detailed inventory. The inventory should include all hardware, software, and network appliances the business uses. This includes everything from servers and workstations to routers and switches.
By creating this inventory, the MSP will better understand what solutions are in place and how they are configured. This documentation can also help the MSP plan and budget for any necessary upgrades or replacements in the future.
Another essential component of documentation is support ticket tracking. The MSP should record and track all support tickets generated by the business. This includes details such as the issue, the resolution, and how long it took to correct.
Tracking support tickets can help the MSP identify recurring issues and provide insights into how to improve the IT infrastructure. This information can also be shared with the business to help them understand how their IT infrastructure is performing and where they might need to invest in upgrades or new solutions.
Documentation can also help businesses meet compliance requirements. Some industries have strict regulations around data storage, archiving, and security. By working with an MSP, companies can ensure that they meet these requirements and that the necessary documentation is in place.
How to Create and Use MSP Documentation
Proper record-keeping is crucial to delivering high-quality services to clients. Documentation ensures all critical information, including procedures and policies, is well-documented and easily accessible.
Step 1: Determine what to document
Before getting started, it’s essential to determine what information to document. Typically, documentation includes Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), client network infrastructure diagrams, firewall configurations, routers and switch configurations, vendor device configurations, and client contact information.
Step 2: Choose the Right Tools
The next step is to identify the correct documentation tools. When selecting a tool, it’s essential to consider how it will impact your MSP’s efficiency, confidentiality, and scalability.
Step 3: Document Everything Consistently
When creating the documentation, it’s crucial to ensure consistency across different records. This consistency clarifies the documentation and helps clients and employees quickly find what they want. To achieve this, consider developing a standard documentation template. This template should outline the structure of every document created, such as the document header, sub-headers, and section headings.
Step 4: Keep the Documentation Updated
Documentation becomes obsolete quickly, and constantly updating documentation is crucial. It helps clients and employees rely on this information with trust and accuracy. To ensure your documentation is always up to date, set up regular reviews at specific intervals, quarterly or yearly. This review process should include updating information, adding new content as needed, and removing outdated information.
Many benefits come with creating and using documentation, including:
Easy Access and Control
With documentation in place, access to critical information is easily accessible by clients and employees alike. It ensures everyone is on the same page and has the right tools to resolve any issues or resolve problems that arise in the future. Additionally, documentation enhances controls by setting employee accountabilities, usage policies, password management, and other necessary security measures.
When information is documented, it enhances your ability to deliver high-quality services by reducing error risks and client complaints and reinforcing the standardization of processes. It also saves time and improves productivity because people involved can better understand processes and the expectations around them.
Documentation helps companies be cost-effective by ensuring they don’t need excessive training, lost time, or replace staff due to their lack of adherence to documented protocols. Moreover, it also ensures that clients don’t need additional time and money repeatedly explaining the same tasks.
It would be best if you avoided some mistakes when creating, like lack of detail, inadequate standardization practices, and failure to keep documentation confidential. Protecting sensitive information is vital in deploying and securing clients’ IT workflows.
Multiple MSP documentation variations depend on the service offered, industry, and regulations. Some variations include Network Documentation, Client Documentation, Security Documentation, Compliance Documentation, and Project Documentation. For example, Security Documentation outlines the policies associated with cybersecurity in a company, which might include password management policies or incident response procedures.
Improve Your Business with MSP Documentation
As a managed service provider (MSP), your business depends on efficient processes and adequate documentation. It is a crucial component of MSP operations, which can significantly improve every stage of the service delivery process. From onboarding new clients to troubleshooting issues and billing, proper documentation can streamline operations, improve communication and accountability, and ultimately enhance the customer experience.
Proper documentation can help MSPs onboard new clients more efficiently and smoothly, reducing errors and misunderstandings that can undermine the customer experience. Onboarding documents should clearly outline the scope of services, expectations, and responsibilities of the MSP and the client, as well as any relevant policies, procedures, and service level agreements (SLAs). Onboarding documentation can also help MSPs identify risks and opportunities and build a strong foundation for a positive long-term client relationship.
Technical documentation provides MSP technicians with the information they need to perform their duties effectively and accurately, reducing the risk of downtime, errors, and dissatisfied customers. Technical documentation can include network diagrams, credentialed account and device lists, vendor-specific documentation, and escalation procedures. It’s essential to keep technical documentation updated, accessible, and secure, as it may contain sensitive information that can compromise your clients’ systems, data, and privacy.
Change Management Documentation
Change management documentation is critical in managing configuration changes to IT systems or components, ensuring that all changes are thoroughly planned, tested, approved, and documented. Change management documentation can include change request forms, approval workflows, testing plans and results, rollout plans, and rollback procedures. Proper change management documentation can prevent risks, mitigate potential issues, and ensure all stakeholders are informed and aligned around the changes.
Customer-facing documentation is an essential communication tool that can help MSPs build trust, credibility, and value with their clients. Customer-facing documentation can include user manuals, how-to guides, FAQ documents, and service reports. Adequate customer-facing documentation should be tailored to the audience’s technical literacy and business context, be visually appealing, and contain clear and concise information. By providing comprehensive and high-quality customer-facing documentation, MSPs can reassure their clients that they meet their needs and expectations and differentiate themselves from competitors.
Documentation is essential to any managed service provider’s (MSP) operations. It involves recording and cataloging all aspects of your client’s IT infrastructure, including hardware, software, network configurations, security protocols, and support logs. Good documentation enables efficient troubleshooting, enhances customer communication, improves service delivery, and ensures regulatory compliance.
1. What are the key benefits?
Documentation provides several benefits, including:
- Enabling efficient problem-solving by giving detailed information on clients’ systems and configurations.
- Improving customer communication by enabling your support team to provide detailed and accurate answers to clients’ queries.
- Supporting regulatory compliance by ensuring that all systems are appropriately configured and patched and data is stored securely.
- Improving service delivery by enabling your team to share knowledge and collaborate effectively.
- Enhancing staff training by providing a reference for standard operating procedures (SOPs) and knowledge sharing.
2. What documentation should MSPs maintain?
MSPs should document all aspects of their client’s IT infrastructure, including:
- Hardware – devices, servers, workstations, printers, and peripherals, including serial numbers and configurations.
- Software – installations, versions, licenses, and configurations.
- Network – topologies, addresses, VLANs, switches, routers, firewalls, and virtual private network (VPN) configurations.
- Security – access privileges, antivirus, firewalls, patch management, and disaster recovery plans.
- Support logs – service requests, incidents, resolutions, and follow-up action items.
3. What tools are available?
There are several tools are available in the market, depending on your requirements and budget:
- Document management systems – centralized repositories for documents, spreadsheets, and reports, including Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, and Dropbox.
- IT management platforms – software suites that provide integrated tools for network monitoring, device management, asset tracking, and ticketing, including ConnectWise, Kaseya, and SolarWinds.
- Knowledge management systems – platforms for capturing and sharing knowledge, including wikis, knowledge bases, and forums, including Confluence, MediaWiki, and Zendesk.
- Custom-built solutions – MSPs can build documentation tools using scripting languages like Python, Ruby, and Perl or low-code development platforms like Microsoft Power Apps, Zoho Creator, and Bubble.