Managed service providers are playing an integral role in today’s IT strategies. From server administration to network monitoring, these firms support organisations by using tools, expertise, and processes that enable their IT operations to run as smoothly as possible. While more small and medium-sized businesses are coming to realise the value of the services an MSP provides, what some run into when setting out to find one is confusion.
Over the years, the IT industry has faced many dramatic changes. From ethernet connections to complete wireless support, business technology has endured many innovative waves. When issues emerged years ago, IT companies would come to tackle the matter in person and charge an hourly bill for each service. Today, things are entirely different. Now, this responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of a managed service provider (MSP).
Nowadays, many businesses are adopting support from a professionally managed service. As cloud technology becomes increasingly important, so do the responsibilities of MSPs. Companies no longer have to wait for IT providers to arrive on-site to diagnose or repair an issue. Just contact your MSP partner, and they’ll be able to tackle the matter more efficiently for you.
If you’re in need of any technical support, then make sure you have these trained professionals by your side. These are the main things you need to consider when hiring an MSP:
What should be the record of the MSP?
Managed service providers are highly-skilled IT professionals. They have a bevy of licenses and certifications under their belts. The best MSPs have a proven track record with years of experience. Make sure you do your homework before you develop any partnership. Read all customer reviews, study websites, and check out previous case studies. Choose a professional service that has a history of delivering a quality customer experience.
Even some of the biggest and most successful companies owe their success to partnerships. If your MSP is worth dealing with, they’ll be in that same boat. The vendors in this arena depend on partnerships to power their internet connections, software applications, support services and many other elements of the infrastructure. When evaluating different service providers, be sure to browse their websites to find out who they’re teaming up within the industry. These partnerships are vital to your success, too, so treat this part of the process as such.
With MSPs, a proven track record is everything. Once a deal is done, and a salesperson is no longer involved, you need to know that the service you’ve signed up to will be delivered. When you are deciding on an MSP, it’s key to ask for references before signing a contract.
You may even know another business they serve that will act as a reference point and could ask them on an informal level about the experience they have had with your potential MSP.
An MSP’s relevant industry experience (or the lack thereof ) can help a business decide if the MSP is a good fit.
Learning how the MSP helped similar businesses achieve efficiency and expected ROI can be very illuminating. Be sure to get sample case studies of businesses that have not only similar business processes as yours but also a number of seats. Ask how the MSP custom-fit their managed services and tweaked their processes to provide a more personalised solution for these related businesses.
An MSP should also be mindful of and have the ability to comply with any applicable compliance regulations for your industry.
The MSP market is growing slowly but surely. According to Insight Research Corporation, the global industry is worth roughly $152 billion and will grow by 11.6 percent annually over the next four years. While these numbers paint a picture of revenue, market growth is also driven by new players entering the game. There is nothing wrong with giving a new service provider a chance. They have to start somewhere, but there is something to say about a firm that has a long history in the business. With this history often comes a documented track record of a company that has proven its ability to support IT needs and keep customers satisfied fully.
Choosing a managed service provider to accommodate your IT needs is no easy feat. There is so much that goes into it that it becomes a time consuming, exhausting and even frustrating process. It’s a tough road regardless of the paths you take, but when you know what to look for and where you’re going, you’ll get there eventually. And isn’t that what the trip is all about?
How long is he doing it as a professional?
Experience and expertise are invaluable when partnering with an MSP. It’s crucial you find a counterpart able to handle your systems and provide creative solutions while working from experience to manage your platforms.
Any Managed Services Provider should, at the very least, have skills that go beyond basic software installation, maintenance and upgrades. Your business will likely need some advanced IT functions, such as database management, virtualisation, cloud technology, security, and cross-platform integration. An MSP should have strong expertise in these models in order to meet the expectations and needs of your company.
Like any business, the longer you have done something; hopefully, the more efficient you have become. MSPs know how much time it takes to write scripts for your RMM tool, but the more you do those tasks, the more efficient you become every day. Ask about how your Master MSP has increased efficiencies (i.e. Ticket Escalation Process; SLAs; Partner Notifications, etc.) over time and their focus on continual improvement.
Also, an interesting subset of this topic is “what is the Master MSP heritage”? Meaning, how did you grow up? Often you see an MSP create some secret sauce and then realise how beneficial it could be to other MSPs in the channel. I look at IT Glue as a brilliant example of this. Chris Day runs a great MSP, and he created an internal product for his own business but decided to sell that product to other MSPs under the name of IT Glue. Selling to Managed Services to end-users is very different from selling to MSPs. I have seen it done well with companies like IT Glue, but I have also seen it done poorly. Just make sure you pick a Master MSP with a long track record of selling through the channel.
What are the cloud migration services inclusions?
More and more companies are adopting some form of cloud computing function each day. Using a cloud-hosted service provides your company with a solution that is convenient, flexible, and cost-effective. This reduces the need to support any bulky server equipment. Trust an MSP that can migrate documents to the cloud centre with ease.
In 2019, public cloud service revenue was $182 billion—this year, it will be worth $250 billion.
Executives are placing more confidence and seeing the benefits in cloud services, and they are rapidly becoming centrepieces for many small and midsize organisations.
They are more secure than ever and provide flexible ways for hosting company data and licensing software. Your managed service provider should be able to show extensive partnerships with leading providers of cloud services.
When it comes to business technology, having the capacity to expand your user base is critical. You need to partner with an MSP that makes it easy to maintain high levels of growth. Businesses need solutions that align with all company actions. Find an MSP that will manage control over any amount of workstations in your office. This is especially important when your company starts to experience any explosive growth.
Make your success their priority. They must get to know your business and your goals. How can you tell if they’ll do this? Ask them about their clients and the success rate they experienced by using the services they provide. Any company that’s provided success for its customers will gladly be willing to share their stories and references.
Whether you’re a healthcare organisation, a beauty business or deal with bricks and mortar, every industry has its own niche. That means your Managed Services Provider needs a level of understanding of what your customers expect and how your business delivers service to them.
How well your MSP understands your industry has a direct impact on how well they support your business, especially when they’re supporting your IT infrastructure. They need to know how to support your business within your industry, so it’s worth investing the time in training the MSP on how to keep your customers happy.
The IT needs of businesses are continually changing, and MSPs tend to provide a suite of managed services to respond to these changes. This could mean anything from updates to software, security patches, antivirus and firewall protection, or even new compliance measures. Make sure that such services can be delivered without additional costs.
How should an MSP help your business?
Speak of partnership, and it’s exactly what you’ll be striking up once you enter an agreement with an MSP. The vendor’s flexibility may ultimately determine whether that partnership succeeds. Some small businesses choose to outsource their whole IT operation to capable third-party hands. That’s cool, but what if you’ve already got your own IT staff and infrastructure? In this scenario, flexibility will make it so you can leverage their capabilities to the level you require and if need be, work alongside their team to meet your objectives.
The beauty of the cloud and other IT solutions is the ability to customise their functions to meet your exact business needs. Look for MSP professionals willing to customise their services and solutions to give you the freedom to optimise your technology in ways that will best support your business. Your MSP should offer custom solutions and creative ideas to provide you with effective and efficient results.
Offers many different services and solutions you can choose from. This includes things like hosted cloud services, VoIP business phones, mobile device management, wireless services, virtual CIO services and more. Only with a variety of services can they provide the customised information technology solutions that best fit your needs.
The beauty of outsourced IT services is that all you need to specify is the type of cover you require and then it’s up to your MSP to ensure that the required resource is in place. For example, you might be considering expanding your customer support to provide out-of-hours cover, without having to increase your in-house headcount.
Then as your business grows, you may need to provide an even better service level, requiring additional resources available to handle customers’ calls. When you’ve decided on your MSP, it’s vital to discuss how flexible you need them to be and how the changing needs of your business require support.
There’s no doubt that every business is unique. When hiring an MSP, it’s important to choose a provider that wants to learn about your business. It’s only after fully understanding your business that an IT provider can suggest strategies that can contribute to the growth of your company.
What should be the financial stability and reputation of an MSP?
A Managed Services Provider’s length of time in the market doesn’t guarantee their longevity. Do your research into a potential MSP’s annual reports and financial statements. Also, ask the MSP to provide evidence of their reputation by way of customer references and testimonials.
You need to have a good understanding of the financial strength of the company and its ownership structure. You are potentially making a long-term strategic decision. You must have the confidence your Master MSP is in it for the long haul and their plans for the future.
How long should your MSP respond?
Managed service professionals can tackle any IT issues in a short amount of time. Whether it’s a simple break-fix or you need to replace any infrastructure, you can expect your MSP to tackle things quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t matter if you need on-site support or just assistance over the phone, managed providers are always ready to lend a hand. Most MSP’s offer on-call support to help guide you to a solution faster.
Offers access to a team of highly trained and experienced technicians who provide on-call service 24/7/365. They should ensure that your IT infrastructure is available when and where you need it. And that you have access to specialists who can ensure you are following IT best practices.
As with any business relationship, look for great customer service in your MSP from top to bottom — from the first sales team member, you work with all the way to your account manager. Your MSP should be an integral part of your tech team, so finding a helpful and service-minded provider is key to the success of your system.
When it comes to IT support, you want a managed services provider that’s available at all times. Catastrophic issues don’t always happen during normal business hours. Unfortunately, many MSPs don’t invest in a 24x7x365 help desk that can instantly respond to issues around the clock. At MessageOps, we have a help desk that’s available day or night to ensure that you and your team's IT needs are always met regardless of whether it’s a holiday or the middle of the night.
Why is proactive support important?
Hiring an MSP isn’t just about having someone available when a problem occurs. An experienced managed services provider should be performing a wide array of proactive tasks that can help to prevent issues before they even happen. Your IT support team should be able to monitor a variety of important metrics proactively and offer in-depth analytics to show you where potential problems may occur.
How an MSP ensures backup and data recovery processes in place?
One of the most important services that should be provided by an MSP is a sound backup and data recovery procedures. The value of an IT provider isn’t truly tested until a catastrophic data failure occurs that requires you to restore data from a backup. If your MSP doesn’t have a way for you to back up your critical data securely, it’s likely that they’re not experienced enough in this area, which can spell disaster in the event of any type of data loss.
Since data is essential to your business, you need to have a detailed game plan in place in the event of data loss or disruption.
Hacker attacks, natural disaster, and even human error can lead to costly downtime and loss of data vital to your business’s operation.
Backups can be the ultimate last line of defence against these threats. You should discuss the types of backups the MSP makes. Are they image-based? Are they replicated off-site?
Two important parameters to look at are the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).
RPO specifies the amount of data loss that can be tolerated before unacceptable damage to your operations is incurred. This is expressed in time from the data loss back to the most recent backup. So, RPO affects the frequency of your backups.
RTO specifies the amount of downtime that can be tolerated. What failover measures are in place to ensure speedy recovery?
The MSP should be able to advise you on optimal RTO and RPO based on your business and data, as well as your input.
What should be the Service Level Agreement (SLA) of an MSP?
Provides a guaranteed Service Level Agreement. They should monitor your network 24 hours a day to act on any issues before they cause IT interruptions or downtime that can disrupt your staff’s productivity.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) should be in place to define the level of service expected from the MSP. An SLA gives the end-user benchmarks and guidelines for such things as service reliability, reporting procedures, service exceptions, and consequences for the MSP for not living up to the standards set forth by the SLA.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable values that can help determine the effectiveness of managed services. Thus, these KPIs should be monitored closely on both sides. An agile MSP can utilise a mixture of standard KPIs that work for most operations, as well as custom KPIs that are specifically tailored to a particular business.
What services should the best MSP provide in your business?
Better Network Security
The best MSPs are proactively monitoring your network at all times of the day. They’ll be able to spot network threats from afar. Should any cyber attacks strike your network, your MSP needs to be able to provide immediate backup and disaster recovery support. Partner with an MSP that will keep your most important data and files protected from external risks.
While the cloud and other IT services inherently offer security solutions, finding MSP experts who value security and work in protected environments is key to the safety of your data. Understand their security procedures and the ways in which they will be handling your information.
Ensures that you’ll have a highly secure IT environment so you won’t have to worry about viruses, malware, and hackers stealing your confidential data. They should use best-of-breed technologies that block data intrusions and eliminate them before they enter your network. They should also help you maintain IT security compliance for industry and government regulations.
Your Managed Services Provider has responsibility for supporting and maintaining your valuable data which means they must be available whenever you need them. If and when things don’t go according to plan, you need to know that any potential data drama or cybersecurity risk is being handled in the timeliest way.
That means at any time of day or night, at weekends and on public holidays. Effective monitoring of your networks ensures that your MSP can deal with any potential problems or red flags proactively rather than reactively.
Managed service providers will typically offer a primary security baseline that can help an organisation have better cybersecurity.
Security is top of mind for Master MSPs, MSPs and end-users. Ask about security measures, history, including data incidents/breaches, and what it means to you. Also, evaluate the managed security services that can be offered to protect your customers. Are the tools the MSP is using in alignment with what your end-users need? The lack of or wrong type of security can make or break your customer’s company.
This is usually in the form of deploying the latest security patches, implementing solutions that are confirmed as stable, and ensuring that the warranty covers newly installed hardware should it be attacked.
If you’re concerned about your cybersecurity, it’s absolutely worth consulting with a managed security service provider to learn your options for comprehensive protection.
Security is a big topic in IT and for a good reason. Cyberattacks are occurring with ever-increasing vigour and sophistication.
Yes, you may have read about data breaches and ransomware lockdowns happening to big entities (Chipotle, Target, the City of Atlanta). The scary fact is many hackers are setting their sights on the SMB market.
Cost Savings Opportunities
Partner with a managed service provider that is willing to do whatever it takes to improve your bottom line. The best MSPs will support you with affordable tune-ups, retrofits, and other types of optimal work. They won’t talk you into an extra service unless you truly need it. By partnering with an experienced managed provider, you’ll be able to maintain exceptional cost savings for a very long time.
Helps you budget for the IT services you require. A good IT service provider will offer services that you can predictably budget for, and solutions that you can write off as operating expenses rather than capital ones. Your MSP should offer a customised package of services for a fixed monthly fee that you can count on.
Bringing a managed services provider into the fold of your business is a big decision, and you should treat it as such. Choosing the wrong provider can result in headaches, missed deadlines, and, in the worst-case scenario, an unfit system for your business needs. Taking the time upfront to research your options and find a great provider can save you time, money, and frustration down the road.