Information technology is playing a bigger role in our businesses than ever before. As more of our functions become automated, and as our workers rely even more on technology, the more urgently IT infrastructures need to be revitalized and supported. Unfortunately, managing our business’s network usage and understanding its IT needs is not a skill set we all have. Fortunately, there is an opportunity with outsourcing that can help companies manage this essential need. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are companies that work to manage their clients’ IT systems. They do not simply lie in wait until an issue arises; rather, they work throughout the year to control the IT platform and keep it functioning at a high level. Selecting the best MSP for your organization can be tricky. In our experience, here are the things you should be thinking about when considering hiring an MSP.
Ask yourself, “is what they are offering valuable to me?” You want the services they provide to meet your entity’s specific needs. Some MSPs, for instance, provide remote firewall administration. Others will go so far as to manage your printers and install your PCs. Know what you need, and don’t be afraid to shop around until you find the entity that will offer the best combination of services for you. You may even want to consider the cost to terminate the contract early in the event your MSP lets you down before the contract ends.
MSPs have all different types of pricing models; some will be based on time, some will charge for materials used, and others will have fees set for specific services that you can purchase à la carte. A common pricing structure is tiered, where the complexity of services shifts with each price point. Many MSP’s have one business day price and one after-hours price. What is their after-hours pricing? Again, consider your needs as an organization. If you are unsure of what you need, you can commission an IT audit from a reputable accounting firm to see where your deficiencies lie.
Outsourcing such an important job does expose your entity to risk – risk of data loss or exposure, risk of service interruption, risk of network failure. Ask the MSP what they stand behind. Do they guarantee your internal security? And how will they fit into your own incident management process? What security policies, systems and processes do they follow to secure their own network? When was the last time they had an external audit performed and what were the results? They should be able to describe how they address reported breaches and how they would respond in other possible circumstances.
Responsiveness to Service Requests
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are the agreements between you and your MSP that define what they will deliver and the responsiveness you can expect. Many MSPs, for instance, provide IT support services. Employees may submit a ticket describing a technology issue they are having, and the MSP will address that ticket in due time. Knowing your MSP’s SLA Attainment Rate will show how their contract obligations compare to their real-world performance. Ask for their ticket response time, and look at how quickly they resolve those issues. Will those time frames be acceptable for you and your business?
How neatly an organization fits into your cultural paradigm should not be undervalued. The MSP’s personnel will be interacting with your staff on a regular basis – perhaps even daily. Ask yourself some of the following questions to see how well they would fit inside your organization:
- What is their communication style?
- Will your employees feel confident that the reported issue will be fixed timely?
- How well do they respond to unique problems or requests?
- What does the typical user call look and feel like?
- How long are users on hold with the MSP on average?
- What verification will the MSP require before helping?
Get a feel for how they would be as a de-facto business partner, and trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right.
Going through this checklist for each MSP candidate will tell you what kind of company they are and how well they would work with your business. It’s important to find a provider that matches not only your technical needs but client service style. If you have questions about MSPs or need assistance with an IT issue, we can help. For additional information click here to contact us. We look forward to speaking with you soon.