Managed Service Provider Certifications

Some time back, not so many businesses appreciated the importance of MSPs. Many wondered why they needed to bother with retaining an MSP in the first place while their internal IT teams were reporting to work daily. Well, this has changed. Most businesses now rely on managed service providers (MSPs). It is estimated that approximately 60 percent of organizations will depend on MSPs in the next few years. The modern enterprise not only recognizes the strategic role played by MSPs but also the level of standards that a good MSP should guarantee. It’s no surprise that almost any business that relies on managed service providers now knows that it's important to find an MSP that can guarantee top-quality service management. This push for exceptional management has pushed the competition for quality MSPs to fierce levels. That's why the demand for MSP certifications has ballooned: they provide a way to verify an MSP's competencies.

Let’s discuss MSP certification and highlight a couple of certifications across various key fields.     

What is an MSP certification?

A managed service provider (MSP) certification is a professional designation awarded to MSPs to validate their training and credibility. This certification is issued by an objective, independent organization. A credible certification is one that is standardized, authentic, and widely recognized. It can be issued by a company that manufactures or creates products that businesses use widely, such as Microsoft, Amazon, etc., or recognized certification bodies such as the International Association of Managed Service Providers which we’ll look at towards the end. These certifications are issued to be valid for a specified period of time. Those MSPs that wish to continue using them must always renew their certifications before the validity period expires.    

MSP certifications require deep expertise in the chosen area. All involve on-site and pre-audit assessments conducted by independent third parties. Depending on the awarding organization, the process can be over 300 hours long. Before renewing their certifications and badges, MSPs must complete a progress audit to determine whether they have been consistently meeting the certification requirements.   

What is the importance of an MSP certification?

MSP certification is very important for both MSPs that practice as individuals as well as MSP companies. The certification essentially validates an MSP's commitment to providing quality IT services and managing its business according to best practices. The certification also provides a way for MSP companies to benchmark their performance against their peers. Finally and most importantly, many customers these days prefer to work with certified MSPs, and some will even require certification as a condition for doing business together. As a result, MSP certification can be a valuable marketing tool, helping to attract new customers and grow your business.

Here are the top benefits you can expect to enjoy as a certified of MSP:

  • Increased earning potential — Certified MSPs are likely to earn much more than their non-certified counterparts.
  • Improved job satisfaction — Certified MSPs report higher levels of job satisfaction, due in part to the increased opportunities that come with the designation.
  • Greater resume credibility — MSP certification adds instant credibility to professional resumes, making practitioners more attractive to potential employers.
  • Increased opportunities for advancement — With MSP certification, you’ll have access to better job prospects and accelerated career growth.
  • Enhanced professional reputation — As a certified MSP, you’ll be respected by your peers and viewed as a thought leader in the industry.

The major types of MSP certifications

It’s important to mention at this point that a very large number of  MSP certifications in the market are targeted at individual professionals working in solo MSP practices or as employees in MSP firms. The reason for this could have something to do with the fact that many organizations, especially the small businesses, prefer to engage different MSPs for different services. And since hiring several full-fledged MSP companies for so many different services might become so expensive, the demand for professional individuals goes up. This widens the need for certification because businesses will find it hard to trust a solo practitioner who is not certified. Add to this the fact that many MSP companies are also looking to hire certified professionals. So we end up with a scenario where there are so many individuals looking to be certified. This creates a market that attracts so many companies and organizations offering career-driven MSP certification programs. 

Because of this dynamic, we have divided the types of MSP certifications into two major categories: individual and company level. 

Individual level certifications

The greatest advantage of this type of certification is that it benefits both individuals practitioners and established MSP companies that employ these certified talent. A workforce full of certified teams will easily dwarf that with few or none. 

Some of the most popular certifications in this category include programmers in general and network experts. 

Programmer/applications-based certifications

These certifications are best suited for skilled developers across different software development categories. 

1. Developer

The main developer MSP certifications include AWS Certified Developer, Google’s Professional Cloud Developer, and Azure Developer Associate. 

AWS Certified Developer validates that one can code and implement cloud-based applications. It helps organizations identify vital skills for executing cloud initiatives. AWS Certified Developer is suitable for persons with over a year of building and managing AWS-based applications. To gain this certification, you must pass an associate exam, a combination of multiple choice and multiple response questions.

The Professional Cloud Developer certification by Google proves that a programmer can develop scalable, reliable, and available apps using Google’s recommended tools and practices. These programmers are experienced in developer tools, cloud-native apps, next-generation databases, and managed services. You must also be proficient in one general-purpose programming language and be able to generate metrics and logs to trace and debug code.

The Azure Developer Associate is a Microsoft-certified certification for cloud developers that contribute to all development phases. These phases include defining the needs, designing, programming, implementation, and maintenance. The programmer collaborates with cloud database administrators and clients to develop and deploy solutions. Candidates must have one to two years of professional development experience with Microsoft Azure. 

2. Cloud Architect

Cloud Architect certifications include AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Google Cloud Professional Architect, and Azure Solutions Architect Expert.

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification is issued to persons with skills to implement cloud initiatives. It validates that one can build, implement, and manage applications with complex and diverse requirements on AWS. You must have at least two years of experience building and implementing AWS cloud architecture. 

Google Cloud Professional Architects have a deep understanding of Google Cloud architecture. They can design, build, implement, and support secure, robust, scalable, and dynamic business solutions. Such professionals help businesses to use Google Cloud technologies to drive their objectives.

Azure Solutions Architect Experts can design, develop, and implement cloud and hybrid solutions, including network, storage, security, and monitoring. These solutions must run on the Microsoft Azure platform. They partner with administrators and developers and assist clients in translating their requirements into scalable, reliable, and secure Azure solutions. 

3. DevOps Engineer

Certifications for DevOps engineers include AWS Certified DevOps Engineer, Google Cloud Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer, and Azure DevOps Engineer Expert.

The AWS Certified DevOps Engineer certification validates that one can comfortably manage the AWS infrastructure all the way from implementation to testing. You must have more than two years of experience deploying, operating, and managing AWS infrastructure. Before taking the certification exam, you should also be proficient in one high-level programming language, administering operating systems, and creating automated infrastructures. 

A certified Google Cloud Professional DevOps Engineer can handle development operations that balance delivery speed and service reliability. The exam measures the ability to develop software development pipelines, implement, monitor services, and use Google Cloud to optimize performance.

Candidates for the Azure DevOps Engineer Expert certification should be familiar with GitHub and Azure DevOps. These engineers work with cross-functional teams that include Azure administrators, developers, and reliability engineers. Their roles include developing and implementing strategies for continuously delivering value in businesses.

4. App Integration

A professional App Integration MSP provides a comprehensive solution that makes it easy for businesses to connect their various applications and data sources. This is an important integration that helps businesses to streamline their operations and make better use of their data. In addition, an App Integration MSP can help businesses to avoid the need to duplicate data or manually transfer information between different systems. As a result, an App Integration MSP can save businesses a significant amount of time and money by avoiding duplicate data entry, reducing the need for manual processes, and improving data accuracy. Certified app integration MSPs work with businesses to help them better manage and optimize workflows, improve customer service, and increase operational efficiency.

5. Datacenter Architect

Data center certifications are designed to standardize the skills needed for data professionals. Besides learning new career development tools, data center certification courses also help professionals stay updated on data center products and trends. 

There are numerous options to choose from when it comes to data center certifications

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Data Center
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Data Center
  • Data Center Certified Associate (DCCA)
  • Data Center Design Consultant (DCDC)
  • VMware Certified Professional 6–Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV)

Network expert certifications

This certification validates an MSP’s technical and business expertise in delivering network-based IT services. To earn the certification, an MSP must first pass a comprehensive exam that covers topics such as network design, implementation, and management. The certification also requires an MSP to have a minimum of two years of experience in delivering the network services they offer.

Here are some examples:

1. System administrators

Sysadmins manage a client’s software and hardware to ensure that all systems work effectively and securely. They install, operate, and maintain computer networks including servers. 

Common system administrator certifications:

  • Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate
  • Red Hat Certified System Administrator
  • ServiceNow Certified System Administrator
  • Linux Professional Institute LPIC-1 Linux Administrator
2. Virtualization

Virtualization has numerous benefits, especially for startups and small businesses that struggle with capital. This technology has proven so helpful for businesses that are keen to reduce hardware costs and the need for costly IT departments. It’s a cost-effective, flexible, scalable, reliable, and secure computing solution.

With the rising adoption of virtualization, businesses prefer working with certified MSP professionals whether at company or individual level. Here are some of the best virtualization certifications. 

  • Professional VMware vSphere 6.7 Certification
  • Cisco CCNA Data Center Certification
  • MCSA Windows Server 2016 Certification
  • Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist Certification
  • Citrix Certified Associate (CCA) – Virtualization (CCA – V) Certification
  • Red Hat Certified Specialist in Virtualization Certification
3. Storage specialists

Data storage has become complex, with the demand for more data security to overcome cybersecurity threats. Apart from the constant security question, data availability is also becoming a major concern. Storage certifications allow professionals to showcase their knowledge and ability to guarantee reliable storage at all times. 

Here are the most common storage certifications;

  • Hitachi Vantara Qualified Professional Storage Administration
  • Dell Technologies Certified Associate, Information Storage, and Management v5
  • IBM Certified Specialist, IBM Cloud Object Storage V3.14
  • HPE Master ASE: Storage Solutions Architect V3
  • EMC Storage Administrator

Recommended: Top HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storages

4. Security

The number of remote workforces is increasing steadily, and more people are doing their shopping online. This massive data calls for authentic safeguards as businesses stand to bear big losses in case of data breaches. It means that any MSP that offers cyber security services must prove their credentials through certification.  

Here are top security certifications. 

  • Certified Ethical Hacker
  • EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEHv11)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • Certified Information Security Manager
  • CompTIA Security+ (SY0-601)
5. Enterprise mobility management (EMM)

An Enterprise mobility management (EMM) certification showcases an MSP’s competencies and technical skills in designing, implementing, managing, and supporting mobility and security services. EMM ensures that a company’s data on corporate-issued and employee-owned devices is safe. Here are popular EMM certifications. 

  • Aruba Certified Mobility Professional
  • GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst 
  • VMware Certified Professional
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional Wireless

Company level certifications

While established MSP companies might already have certified staff as we have illustrated above, some services require companies to be certified as entities in addition to having certified employees. A good example of a company that gives high level certifications to MSPs that use its services is Cisco. You can choose from its wide range of partner programs that cut across key specializations including business, IT architecture and Solutions. According to Cisco, these programs are aimed at helping MSPs to increase profits. A company level certification proves that an MSP is qualified to implement and administer technologies of the awarding organization, such as Cisco in this case. 

MSP Verify™ certification

MSP Verify™ certification by MSPAlliance (International Association of Managed Service Providers) is the gold standard for Managed Service Providers (MSPs). This is a general certification which demonstrates that an MSP has the experience and expertise to deliver high-quality services to their clients.

The International Association of Managed Service Providers also offers MSPs the option to customize certifications so that they align with their unique services. This is a good move because it means you don't have to limit your MSP to certifications that don’t necessarily serve your needs.  

Conclusion

Even as we acknowledge that Managed Service Provider Certifications are key for MSPs that want to rise to the top, it must be noted that a certified MSP is held to very high standards. Any slip up and you'll not only disappoint your clients but also your peers in the industry. So before you go for any of these certifications, be sure to understand the requirements and expectations. Having said that, being certified is one of the fastest ways to entrench your name in whatever services you want to offer, from managed cloud services to  IT support services.

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