A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a third-party company that manages a customer’s information technology infrastructure and end-user systems, typically remotely but not always. Many businesses across various industries hire MSPs for day-to-day information technology management services like network and infrastructure management, help desk support, security and monitoring. Some MSPs also have the expertise to provide management-level advisory services for operators without a CIO, help with advanced business tools such as process automation, data analytics and artificial intelligence or support in-store information technology.

An MSP lets you outsource activities and expertise your leadership may need at a lower cost than having your own IT staff.  This gives you time to focus on operations, marketing, and other critical activities related to your brand.

Managed IT services can help shift the burden of information technology activities off business management and onto an expert. This allows management to focus on core operations.

In 2019, technology firm ConnectWise estimated there were about 40,000 managed services providers in the United States. That’s a lot of choices! Many MSPs support other industries, work with different vendors, and offer various pricing models and levels of support.

While selecting the right MSP is critical, evaluating your choice of MSP regularly is also essential.  If you are already working with an MSP, assess them as critically as you would a key management hire.

Here are the criteria we consider when assessing MSPs as a service to GBQ clients:

Does the MSP align with business needs and budget?

When partnering with an MSP, you should expect a range of services to support your IT needs. These services typically include on-site technical support and installation, remote monitoring, troubleshooting, basic security measures, network monitoring, cybersecurity, scheduled maintenance, and aligning technology with business objectives.

Does the MSP perform well against the service level agreements in your contract?

First, confirm you are working off of a contract. An MSP contract should define what they will do for you, usually with metrics associated with measuring those services and what they consider out of scope or available for extra fees. It should also explain your role in managing and securing the IT environment by, for instance, making sure of a rapid notification to remove terminated employees from the network.

Second, compare actual performance against the service level agreements in your contract. If you contracted with them to manage system patching on your network, are your systems patched and up to date? Is support timely? Is it available during the hours stated in the contract?

When we conduct MSP contract reviews for GBQ clients, we often find a natural drift between the service provided and the client’s needs. Most of the time, that drift can be tightened up to improve the relationship. Other times, poor performance against a contract indicates it is time for a new MSP partner.

Furthermore, don’t hesitate to negotiate terms that resemble your business’s unique needs more closely. A proper service level agreement (SLA) protects your business interests and fosters a transparent and efficient partnership.

Cybersecurity is imperative – is your MSP secure?

Cybersecurity is a significant enough risk for any business to manage. An MSP should not bring more risk to the environment. Since cybersecurity should be on everyone’s radar, this is an essential must-have not only during onboarding but also for review on an annual basis with the MSP.

An MSP should be able to articulate a written information security plan (WISP) or security statement and share executive summaries of the latest cybersecurity risk assessment and penetration test. They should be able to state how they secure their business and how they keep your business secured or segregated from all of their other clients. Some may be able to share the results of external audits and attestations to support their claims.

Is there a single point of failure?

When a problem arises with your information technology, are you stuck waiting for the one superstar tech staff member to solve the issue?

The information technology labor market is as uncertain as the labor market in the restaurant industry. Smaller MSPs can be a risk when their key person is the only one with the expertise you need. Sometimes, that person is the owner, but other times, they are staff members who might be tempted to move on. Ask your account executive to discuss the resiliency of the MSP’s staffing once a year when contracts are renewed.

Employee satisfaction – are your users happy with the service provided?

A happy user is a productive user. An unhappy user is likely to have technology issues that get in the way of their productivity. An MSP should be as concerned with the users they support as they are about management’s perspective on their work. Users are customers too, and client experience is a key component of success with technology.

Are they helping you think about applying technology in the future?

Most MSPs are good at managing infrastructure, supporting end users, and, with the right skills and services, securing your network. Those same firms may not have the expertise to help you think strategically about technology. Are you applying technology to run and grow your business? Improve performance? Outflank competitors?

Some great MSPs lack the expertise to provide strategic direction, fractional CIO or advisory services. Having someone to rely on to extend your management team is essential, particularly when technology is making such an impact on the industry.

If you have questions about your MSP or are looking to engage an MSP and need more information on how to make that decision, contact Doug Davidson or your GBQ advisor for more details.



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Tags: Technology