Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore the practical issues regarding standards and the management of IT services delivered by external or outsourced service providers called managed service providers (MSPs). Design/methodology/approach ‐ Extensive review of published materials from academic and industry sources is carried out to discuss the managed services practice as well as IT standards applicable for managed services. Findings ‐ Implementation of international IT standards such as the ITIL framework for IT service management benefits both internal IT organizations and MSPs. Availability of a common standard for managing IT services makes the transition of IT service management from the client organization to an MSP or from an MSP to another MSP less painful and helps to reduce or eliminate service disruptions. Practical implications ‐ The ultimate objective of this paper is to offer MSPs as well as internal IT organizations a comprehensive discussion on the IT standards that are applicable for managed IT services. Originality/value ‐ It is believed that this paper will help both MSPs as well as the internal IT organizations to understand the importance of having a common standard for managing IT services.