Can an MSP Provide Support for Your Distributed Workforce?
Remote work is here to stay. Despite the push from business owners and executives to return back to the office, it doesn't seem like they will push through any time soon.
The trend began at the height of the pandemic in 2020 as lockdowns forced waves of employees to work from home. While the number of full-time remote employees has dwindled from almost 70% in 2020 down to around 45% in 2021, that number has persisted. That's because a majority of employees are now demanding more flexibility. And, it's forcing many businesses to consider adopting hybrid setups or lose talent.
It's still unclear what the future of remote work will look like, but one thing is certain, it's here to stay for the foreseeable future. The challenge now is how to ensure your technology is capable of keeping up with a distributed workforce. How do you provide tech support for a team located across the country?
Fortunately, plenty of managed service providers (MSPs) can do just that. They are empowering teams to stay connected and make the most out of their technology despite being miles apart. Even our team at ITS is a distributed workforce that spans several states and countries.
If you're still on the fence about whether managed services can help with your remote teams, this article can guide you. We spoke with Kyle Ramirez, our Technical Sales Engineer from ITS San Francisco, to share his insights for this article. So you can learn how an MSP can support your team wherever they are and what challenges we need to navigate to do it effectively.
How MSPs Provide Support for a Distributed Workforce
MSPs can support distributed teams with the help of remote access tools that allow them to troubleshoot and provide guidance over the phone to help resolve around 80% of all tech-related issues. They can help keep your team connected despite being in different locations.
When asked what kind of support an MSP can provide businesses with remote teams, Ramirez replied: "Instead of saying what things can be done remotely, it's probably easier to say what things cannot be done remotely."
MSPs have developed processes around providing effective remote support. Those enable them to address virtually any problem that comes up.
"I think everything can be troubleshot remotely. Some things take longer, but there's nothing that we can't figure out a pathway for," Ramirez said.
According to him, they can even resolve hardware issues without visiting your team on-site.
For example, if your team is in a location ITS doesn't usually service, they might call on a remote field technician from the manufacturer of the device you need support with. Or, they can contact smaller providers or certified local technicians from their network all over the country and send them over for assistance.
If the location is inaccessible to either option, they could even have parts shipped and provide remote guidance over the phone to help with hardware replacements and installations.
Challenges of Providing Support for a Distributed Workforce
While MSPs are used to troubleshooting issues remotely, that doesn't mean providing remote support for a distributed workforce is the same as providing one for on-site employees.
The shift to remote work has forced MSPs to adapt to the current landscape. According to Ramirez, before 2020, 80% of the workforce was in the office, and around 20% was remote.
"We only had to troubleshoot 20% of the users that were using [remote access solutions]. Now, it's completely different. Maybe 100% of the workforce is using [them]," he said.
"Traditionally, with in-office employees, the environment is the same, and so mostly the support needs are the same. Everybody has the same workstation, same network, same security services. With remote work, there are just more variables," added Ramirez.
"We need to provide a greater level of support because we are utilizing more complex technologies like remote access systems, and we're doing it on unsecured networks like home networks. So I would say the support needs have definitely become less predictable," he explained.
Some of the main challenges MSPs face when providing support for a distributed workforce are:
Some Businesses are Not Prepared for Remote Work
Despite the fact that the pandemic has dragged on, many business owners are still failing to pivot toward remote work properly. According to Ramirez, "even two years later, after some of this pandemic shift, many businesses still have not changed their system architecture. So a lot of businesses still have on-premise resources like file servers."
That presents a problem as workers will be accessing those servers remotely via unsecured networks. "Remote workers need to access these things securely, and so they have to use VPN or something like that," he added.
Businesses really need to prepare before transitioning to full remote or hybrid working arrangements. That includes not just their office policies but their technology as well.
Tech Support Takes Longer in Some Cases
In some cases providing support can take longer as the helpdesk will need to ask more questions to investigate issues.
"If you're on-site or physically have access to the workstation, you know you can answer questions for yourself visually," Ramirez explained. "The engineer can say: 'I see you have two HDMIs, you have USB 3.0, a docking station. So to get to those answers over the phone, it might take a little longer because I have to ask more questions. Or, I may have to educate you on how to get the answer," he added.
There are More Variables to Consider
There are many factors that can cause slow network speed or any other tech issue you might encounter. However, troubleshooting becomes more challenging for a distributed workforce as there are simply more variables that technicians have to consider.
According to Ramirez, you have cases where people are working from their home networks or coffee shops. "The way that we provide support has changed because we need to ask more questions about the environment," he said. They need to investigate whether the user's friends or family are using the same network, or whether it's secure, etc. That requires a bit more work and eats up a bit more time.
It's More Difficult to Build Trust and Rapport
Another challenge for providing support for a distributed workforce is building trust and rapport between technicians and clients. It's more difficult to achieve the same relationship over the phone than it is when you're face to face. That bond is important as it helps tech support get a better understanding of their client's needs.
"If you were an on-site engineer, you could chat with that person and build a relationship and understand more of their needs other than just the technical issue that they're having a problem with," Ramirez said.
Need Support for Your Distributed Workforce?
Making the strategic shift to remote work arrangements can be a challenge. But, it might be a necessary compromise in the foreseeable future. Hiring an MSP can help prepare you to make the transition more smoothly and securely while providing the support your distributed workforce would need.
At ITS, we've helped hundreds of clients manage the technology of their remote teams. If you want to learn more, download our eBook on how to make remote work effective for your business.