What Is An MSP?

By Vince Lujan Posted March 6, 2019

Managed Service Providers

What is an MSP? A Managed Service Provider (MSP) describes a vendor in the IT services space that offers services to manage IT networks, generally, for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Modern SMBs are turning to MSPs because they often can’t access or can’t afford to manage IT resources in-house, so they are outsourcing.

With cross-platform system environments, web and on-prem applications, an array of storage solutions, and colocated networks, the thought of offloading such an IT environment to an MSP can be quite attractive for SMBs. As such, the MSP market is one of the fastest growing segments of the information technology services industry.

The challenge for IT organizations is to find the best MSP to suit their specific environment. Likewise, the challenge for MSPs is to streamline their services and to provide access to the right functionality for their customers. In either case, the root of these challenges is with identity management.

Traditional Identity Management Overview

Traditionally, IT organizations and MSPs alike have leveraged legacy identity management tools such as Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) to play the role of the core identity provider (IdP). AD is Microsoft’s on-prem directory services platform that is focused on managing Windows®-based users and IT resources.

Flashback to Y2K, around the time when AD was initially released, and most IT environments were on-prem and effectively revolved around the Windows operating system (OS). The dominance of the Windows OS made identity management relatively straightforward for most IT organizations. For the most part, IT admins and MSPs simply deployed AD and called it a day.

However, the IT landscape started to change after the turn of the century as a wide variety of “as-a-Service” solutions were delivered from “the Cloud” as it became known. New innovations such as web applications, cloud infrastructure, virtual storage solutions, and really the cloud in general couldn’t be managed directly with traditional AD tooling. Consequently, IT organizations and MSPs then required a variety of third-party add-on solutions (e.g., SSO, PIM, GADS, etc.) to extend AD user identities to cloud-based or otherwise non-Windows IT resources.

To be fair, the add-on approach has been effective at mitigating most of the identity management challenges with AD. The trouble is that leveraging a patchwork of identity management solutions is not only costly to implement, but labor-intensive to maintain. Of course, offloading the heavy lifting of implementing and maintaining such a network to a third-party provider is one of the primary use cases of MSPs. The interesting part is that the last thing modern MSPs want to do is shoulder the manual burden of an on-prem AD deployment for their clients. Especially, because there are now more powerful cloud directory services solutions available at a fraction of the cost and are provided as a service.

Identity Management for MSPs

As previously noted, MSPs have traditionally leveraged AD as the core IdP for their client organizations. However, the on-prem AD approach presents a few additional challenges for MSPs—as if there weren’t enough challenges already.

For one, modern MSPs often operate adjunct to all of the IT organizations they support and deliver their services remotely. Yet, AD is an on-prem deployment that must be implemented and maintained onsite.

Another issue for MSPs is that the native functionality of AD is primarily for Windows-based IT resources without the help of additional third-party add-ons. Consequently, MSPs are forced to choose IT resources that can be easily integrated within AD environments, rather than the best of breed solutions available.

Ideally, modern MSPs would be able to give end users of client organizations a single, cloud-based identity that could securely connect to virtually any IT resource, regardless of the platform, provider, protocol, or location. It would be even better if MSPs could manage all of their clients from a centralized multi-tenant portal, and all without having to implement or maintain anything on-prem.

Fortunately, a next generation identity provider has emerged that is effectively Active Directory reimagined for MSPs.

Next Generation Identity Management

JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®  is effectively Active Directory reimagined for the modern era. In short, the JumpCloud platform enables IT organizations to manage users from one centralized location and connect them to virtually any IT resource without anything on-prem. Check out the following YouTube video for insight into the JumpCloud philosophy.

Specifically for MSPs, JumpCloud has taken the concept of identity management a step further by offering a Multi-Tenant Portal, which enables MSPs to manage multiple client accounts from a single pane of glass. As a result, MSPs and IT organizations alike are free to choose the best IT resources to suit their specific needs, with the added peace of mind in knowing they can manage and connect their users to all of them from the cloud. Furthermore, the JumpCloud platform empowers MSPs and IT organizations to shift the on-prem data center fully to the cloud by eliminating the need for a traditional on-prem IdP in favor of a comprehensive Directory-as-a-Service.

Contact JumpCloud to learn more about MSPs, or check out the JumpCloud Partner Program to see how the Directory-as-a-Service platform can be a core part of your offering. Either way, sign up for a free account and check out the full functionality of our platform at no cost. We offer 10 users free forever to help get you started.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and videographer at JumpCloud. Originally from a small village just outside of Albuquerque, he now calls Boulder home. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found doing creek stuff.

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