Choosing the Right Managed Service Provider (MSP)
Deciding who to trust with the entire scope of your business' IT can be daunting. In the modern age, businesses live and die by the quality of the technology - and by extension the IT team - that backs them.
This makes it ever more important to choose the right managed service provider (MSP) for your needs, with the qualifications and experience to take your company to new levels. These tips will help boost your confidence and ensure you're getting the most for your money when shopping for an MSP or consultant for your business' IT.
THE BEST MANAGED SERVICE PROVIDERS WILL:
Ask the right questions and design a solution just for you
How can someone improve your business if they don't know anything about it? There is no one-size-fits-all in the world of technology, and even businesses with the same number of employees in the same industry will have completely different IT needs.
A good managed service provider or consultant knows this, and will ask probing questions to help them determine the correct approach for your unique goals.
Do you want to scale production?
Improve customer service?
You may not think many of these goals can be affected by a company's technology. However an IT support provider knows that technology has ripple effects throughout an organization, both good and bad, and will design a plan to support and enhance whatever your vision may be.
Don't trust the guy who knows exactly what you need without asking a single question; make sure your provider or consultant is truly interested in learning your goals and crafting the solution that's right for your business.
Have extensive skills and experience beyond break-fix
Having skills that go beyond knowing how to install a hard drive and troubleshoot operating system errors is crucial. To proactively maintain an entire network of servers, computers, peripherals, software, services, and devices requires many years of experience and high-level knowledge.
Far more than just traditional break-fix where repair skill is generally sufficient, MSPs need to have a deep understanding of business processes and industry best practices.
When interviewing a potential managed IT service provider or consultant, go beyond questions about certifications or staff size. Ask about scalability, availability of staff with specific skill sets, proactive versus reactive support methods, and how best practices are followed.
You want to hire the organization that knows how to implement technology to improve every aspect of your business and has the expertise to make it happen, not the one that will simply fix issues as they occur without ever looking at the bigger picture.
Offer 24/7/365 monitoring and support (both on-site and remote)
A good managed service provider knows that computer issues don't take holidays. They should be monitoring your systems and resolving any problems regardless of the time of day or special occasion.
Many less reputable IT service providers will only be available during certain times/days, offer remote support, and charge you extra for on-site visits. While remote monitoring and service is great for many problems, there are occasions where an IT provider needs to come on-site for a fix or audit. These situations should always be accounted for in your plan.
Ensure that you know what you're paying for and that it covers all current and potential needs.
Maintaining consistent results and delivery is key. Your potential managed service provider should be able and willing to share examples of their policies and processes and demonstrate how they translate to different business environments.
If they can't explain what they do, how they do it, and why it is effective, then you'll want to question their validity. This also applies to current partnerships.
Good MSPs are happy to share details of their managed clients and how they have helped their company. If their success and client satisfaction metrics are inconsistent (or non-existent), you may want to rethink hiring them.
Take a forward-thinking, technology based approach
You would think that a company offering technology management would automatically take a modern, technology based approach, right? However many IT management firms are still stuck in the past, offering only reactive issue resolution and legacy processes.
As managed services have become more commonplace and in demand, lots of IT companies have jumped on the bandwagon claiming they offer MSP support. These will generally be glorified break-fix contracts without proactive monitoring and support or overall business improvement plans. You will only see them when something is already wrong and they won't do much, if anything, to prevent issues or look at the bigger picture.
Many also don't pay attention to IT industry trends and advancements which could restrict their clients to lagging behind competition.
Ensure that any potential MSP company you interview offers:
- Proactive monitoring to detect and prevent problems before they spiral out of control and cause downtime, data loss, or other disruptions
- Sophisticated capabilities such as modern detection and alert mechanisms, prioritization of tasks, scaling potential, automation, and a comprehensive web-based user portal
- Regular audits of their knowledge base, procedures, and offerings to ensure you're always getting the latest and greatest support available
Support multi-vendor and -device environments
The IT infrastructure of today looks much different than even 5 years ago. The typical office will have multiple desktops, laptops, servers, mobile devices, and software all from many different vendors.
A managed service provider should have no problem designing a support plan that encompasses every aspect of your technology. They will also be the ones responsible for contacting these distributors as needed. An MSP who has good relationships with multiple leading vendors is ideal. They will be kept abreast of new vendor offerings before the general public and can design upgrade paths that harness emerging technology.
However, it is important to find out if your IT provider is vendor neutral. If they are contracted or partial to using only certain vendors' products, some offerings may not necessarily be right for your business. A good MSP should always focus on selecting the technology that provides the best results for you.