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Tips for How to Choose a Managed Service Provider

Corporate manager pushing MANAGED SERVICES on an interactive virtual screen. Business metaphor and information technology concept for outsourcing network security as part of enterprise IT strategy.

By Joe Flask, BrightLink Technology

Businesses today are focusing on rapid growth through digital transformation. To keep up with the dynamic market forces and changes in the digital world, they need to keep integrating new devices, programs, systems and applications, the upkeep of which requires continuous monitoring and maintenance. It is at this point where CIOs and CTOs of both startups and small and medium businesses (SMBs) are reaching out to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to keep the IT wheels of their business running.

Managed Service Providers are companies that address issues of the client company’s IT function. They are in charge of ensuring both proactive diligence and disaster management, in case things do go wrong. Over the years, the role of MSPs has evolved as they have tried to keep pace with the rapidly evolving world of IT by adding more skills and services to their portfolio.

In a survey conducted by sherweb.com, the 2018 IT Industry Trends for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) report presented these two valuable insights among many others (survey conducted in the US):

  • 39% of SMBs use MSP in some capacity.
  • 75% of SMBs occasionally outsource their IT issues to an MSP, in a typical year.

While outsourcing to MSPs is a common occurrence for larger businesses, SMBs are catching on to the trend that can help them focus on their core competencies and keep their resources engaged in a more strategic and value-adding task, instead of repetitive tasks that can otherwise be outsourced to MSPs. This also benefits the finance and HR verticals of the client company, as they will not have to spend on hiring and recruitment of resources whose tasks can be otherwise outsourced.

MSPs can, on the other hand, focus on their particular skill sets, handle tickets and daily operational issues efficiently by hiring the right resources and developing tools and automating solutions, which are basically their forte.  In short, the MSP-SMB partnership is a win-win.

MSPs, in order to keep up with the demand in the market, are now providing cloud services, infrastructure security, business continuity, remote and local access, and most importantly 24/7 remote monitoring which is a must in today’s global business environment, where the typical 9 to 5 model doesn’t stick anymore.

If you are a business looking to outsource your IT functions to a managed service provider, here are 10 Q&As which can help you narrow down and select the best.

  1. Are they a local company?
    Although global connectivity has made remote working a fair possibility, having close access to your MSP can be added advantage, in case you might need some additional onsite assistance on an urgent basis, or would like your MSP to work in tandem with your team.
  2. How fast is their response time?
    For a partner who is handling something as dynamic as IT itself, response time should be as little as possible. Whether it is to address a regular IT glitch or to roll out a disaster recovery routine in case a security breach occurs, your MSP should be available on a short notice.
  3. Do they have a good reference?
    It is always a good idea to go with a service that comes highly recommended. MSPs handle an extremely sensitive and important function for any business and before you hand over your company’s IT functions to a third party, you should ensure they are coming in with good references.
  4. Do they offer latest in security?
    43% of cyber-attacks are targeted towards SMBs mostly due to missing controls and security. Your MSP should have access to the latest controls in security and should keep your business data safe and secure from unwanted and unauthorized access.
  5. Are they expensive?
    Just like businesses come in all sizes, so do MSPs. Having an MSP should not burn a hole through your pocket. You can still find a good MSP that meets your requirements and seems financially viable for your business. Always consider the expense on your MSP as an investment into the steady and secure growth of your business.
  6. What does their SLA look like?
    An MSPs Service Level Agreement gives you a peek into how committed they are as your 24/7 IT service provider.  Their SLA should include details about their:
    • Warranties and legal pointers such as compensation policies
    • Plan of action when issues arise; this section also talks about response time
    • Client duties specifying their code of conduct
    • Performance agreement listing variables that will be used to measure and quantify their service
    • Termination, the section that will discuss under what circumstances will the partnership end
  7. What’s not included in the SLA?
    If you find that some of your requirements are not included in the MSP’s SLA, you can always discuss it with them and see if they open to making some changes and updating the same.
  8. Do they provide 24/7/365 monitoring?
    The MSP should be able to automate your IT services such as servers, firewalls, devices, routers and controls thereby helping monitor the system 24/7 and detecting issues or breaches as and when they occur.
  9. Are they capable of handling hybrid systems?
    If you are still looking at transforming your IT services from traditional to cloud-supported technology or would like to have both as it makes you feel more secure, you should find an MSP that can competently handle a hybrid environment and provide good support for both.
  10. Are they meeting compliance standards?
    IT is a domain which is largely regulated and yet comes under attacks and issues of non-compliance, every now and then. Ensure your MSP is meeting privacy and quality controls along with the minimum compliance standards.

By asking yourself and your prospective MSP these questions, you can ensure you find the right MSP match for your business!