Most businesses today rely on information technology to one degree or another. As IT grows in both significance and complexity, managed service providers (MSPs) fill an essential need. MSPs deliver value by providing access to expertise and tools that can be cost-prohibitive to maintain internally. Additionally, managed services allow you to offload some of the routine but essential IT tasks that could be diverting focus from more strategic initiatives.
The key to gaining maximum benefits from the managed services model is finding the right partner. Here are some factors to consider when assessing potential providers:
Do they have experience? Longevity and stability are always important indicators. It takes time to establish the processes that make a relationship run smoothly. Long-established firms are also more likely to have the technical infrastructure such as network operations centers (NOCs) and training facilities that can be highly beneficial.
What are their areas of expertise? Even if your current needs are fairly standard, you may eventually want to move into more sophisticated areas. Your provider should have the ability to facilitate your growth with advanced technologies that can help your company innovate. In particular, look for providers who have specific, real-world experience with the latest cloud, mobile and networking services.
Do they understand your requirements? As part of a well-defined onboarding process, the provider should devote significant resources to assessing your business and your current IT environment. This will allow them to prioritize critical issues and applications and establish key performance indicators.
Do they know your market? Location can be a very important consideration. Most organizations prefer to work with a technology provider rather than directly with a manufacturer because of local presence and hands-on support. While many support functions can be performed remotely, there will be times when you’ll require personal attention.
Can they grow with you? Instead of a generic, one-size-fits-all service plan, the provider should be willing and able to customize its offerings to meet changing needs. In addition to deploying immediate fixes, your MSP will work with you to create a long-term plan designed to provide the scalability to grow and the flexibility to capitalize on changing market conditions.
Can they deliver on their promises? Take a tour of their facilities to get a better understanding of their technical capabilities. Do they have their own NOC or do they outsource services to a different provider? If they do not have their own NOC, what is their plan for dealing with client growth or unpredictable demand spikes? Do the service level agreements and other contractual arrangements between the MSP and an outsourced NOC align with your business requirements?
What’s their response time? Test the responsiveness of a prospective MSP by creating a hypothetical issue and find out how it would be resolved, by whom, and how quickly. Providers should be able to give you an upfront estimate of response times in any given situation.
What security measures do they use? Reputable providers will have multiple levels of security to ensure your data is secure. Check to see if the managed services program incorporates virus and spam prevention, firewall capabilities and other measures. Ask to see their plans for responding to data breaches or other incidents.
Will they be a partner or just a provider? A good MSP should also come to the table with ideas for saving money, increasing efficiency and improving profitability. It’s not enough to simply react to issues that arise. A consultative approach combined with in-depth knowledge of the options that are available can prove invaluable.