Outsourcing your IT needs to a Managed Services Provider (MSP) is one of the most cost-effective ways to manage your business technology needs.
If you don’t have an IT department, or your existing IT staff are overwhelmed with special projects, then this is the solution for you. Partnering with a Managed Services Provider (MSP) gives you an instant IT department without the added cost of hiring full-time team members. For businesses with an existing IT department, working with an MSP can help take pressure off of the team without the business needing to add additional staff, creating a huge cost savings.
But how do you choose an MSP?
MSPs are not all created equal. They have differences in expertise, speed, availability, and cost. For businesses located in a large metro area, there will be many options to consider.
As industry experts, we’re here to help you navigate the MSP world. We’ve outlined the top 10 questions you want answered before you sign a contract with an MSP. Use these to help you choose a Managed Services Provider that’s right for you.
1. Do they understand your specific needs?
You need to feel confident that you and the MSP are on the same page. A positive working relationship is key. Are they taking the time to get to know your business, your goals, and your IT needs? Do you feel like they are helping you better understand your IT environment?
2. Are they flexible?
The MSP should offer a variety of plans so you can select one tailored to your business needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to business IT. The scope of work required by one business may be very different from the next. Make sure your potential partner works with you to give you the plan that aligns with your needs.
3. What range of services do they offer?
You may only need your MSP partner for specific tasks outside the scope or skills of your existing IT department. Do the services offered match your current requirements or what you might need down the road? These can range from database management to system monitoring, cross-platform integration, security and more. As your business expands, so will your IT needs. Find a partner whose work can scale with your small business.
4. Can they provide testimonials and references?
Pay attention to their reputation. This is more than just a contractor: they are a business partner. In our increasingly connected and technology-driven business environment, you need an MSP you can trust. Longevity, long-term clients and testimonials are all good signs that you are talking with a trustworthy provider.
5. Do they have expertise with your industry?
IT needs can vary from industry to industry. For example, if your business handles Personal Health Information (PHI), you will want to work with an MSP that has experience handling cybersecurity with an emphasis on HIPAA compliance. Find out if the company has worked with businesses similar to yours. You want a partner who can create (or already has) IT strategies that fit the needs of your industry.
6. Are they proactive?
Every MSP you talk to should have a proactive approach to protecting your system and minimizing downtime if disaster strikes. What steps do they take to keep your system secure? You want a partner who monitors your system for flaws and breaches and alerts you to ways you can improve your IT environment. When it comes to IT, you don’t want to wait until something is broken to fix it. You want a partner who will take steps like performing a security assessment and educating you and your employees on password best practices and how to recognize a phishing attack and other cybersecurity threats. Data breaches happen, even with our greatest vigilance. You want an IT partner who will do everything they can to keep your system secure and catch security breaches as soon as they occur.
7. Do they provide 24/7 remote monitoring and 24-hour emergency support?
Partnering with an MSP should mean that you no longer have to worry about your IT environment, and that if anything goes wrong and your system becomes compromised, your MSP partner will alert you and have a plan to resolve the issue. We all know that hackers do not limit their attacks to business hours. In addition to a proactive approach, you want your partner to provide the option for 24/7 emergency support. If your system goes down, you want to be up and running as soon as possible, not on the next business day. Plan to find out if they are available should an emergency happen over a holiday. In addition to finding out whether they offer emergency support, you will want to gain a sense of their average response time. These questions will help you know what kind of support you can expect when you need it most. You want to work with an MSP that treats your emergency like their emergency.
8. What is their Disaster Recovery plan?
Find out what steps they take in the event of a disaster. Who on your team will be alerted? How often is your data backed up? How quickly can it be restored? Discuss these steps ahead of time so that you feel confident your business IT is in good hands.
9. Do they have a local presence?
Will someone be able to come into your office if needed? Much of your IT needs can be served remotely, but sometimes you need an in-person response to resolve an issue. If you are choosing between two MSPs that seem equal in all other ways, but one is over an hour away, your best option would be the provider in your area. If your servers go down, you do not need a long commute adding to your network’s downtime. Make sure the MSP is willing and able to send someone to the office if that becomes necessary. If you are using the MSP to augment your existing IT team’s work, this one may not be relevant to your business, but may be vital for those who rely on the MSP as their sole source of IT support.
10. Do they keep up with the latest business IT trends?
You should be able to think of your MSP as a resource for your business, not just someone you call when you need something fixed. They should be able to manage all of your IT needs, and that can include keeping up with the latest technologies and platforms that may benefit your business and create more efficiencies for your team. The world of business IT is constantly changing as new platforms emerge. If you are working with a trusted MSP, you should not feel like you have to keep up with the latest technology trends. Find out if they will help your business IT grow as technology shifts and changes. Ask how they keep their staff up-to-date on the latest certifications, skills and trainings.
Finally, the most important factor is that the MSP you contract with sees themselves as part of your team, not only an external vendor. You are looking for a partner who understands your needs, has a proactive approach, and a solid plan for how to handle any IT disaster that may emerge. The ten questions on this list will help you in your discussions with potential MSPs so that you can feel confident you are choosing the right partnership for your business. When you work with the right MSP, you gain more time to focus on the rest of your business goals.