Top 10 Things to Look for in Your Managed Services Provider

With the hundreds, if not thousands of information technology providers around the nation, how do you choose the right partner that will provide a high quality of service that you can rely on?

Here is an overview of the top ten key features you should be looking for in your IT Managed Services provider (MSP):

1. They act like a partner, not a vendor.
A good IT services provider will not try to sell you a product, but build you a solution that solves more than one problem.  If they are truly interested in serving you as a partner, they care about the longevity of your business and will help you consider ideas that you might not have previously considered.  They won’t be afraid to lose a sale if they don’t recommend a certain technology or product for your type of business.

2. They have switched their business model from break-fix to managed services.
Any IT services provider should be able to answer the question: Is your service model break-fix or managed services?  You will save a lot more money in the long run with a managed services provider that is proactive in fixing problems before they turn into large company-wide disasters.  An IT company that still waits for problems to arise before taking action will more likely spend more time (and therefore cost you more money) fixing each issue as it arises.

3. They review problems, solutions and recommendations with you on a regular basis.
Your IT Managed Services provider should have a solid plan of action for providing you with regular reviews of your network.  A good expectation would be to receive monthly reports on the work that has been performed and quarterly consultation reviews to go over areas that could be improved and technologies that could fix recurring problems.

4. They provide you with complete visibility and transparency to the problems in your network.
Can your IT provider pull a report on a moment’s notice of which servers installed the latest security patches?  Can they guarantee that each of your workstations is up-to-date its virus protection scans?  Do you know which servers are close to running out of disk space?  If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to find a new IT Managed Services provider.  A quality MSP focused on providing top quality customer service and will always be proactive in letting you know when to expect a problem, not struggling to patchwork an issue that they never saw coming.  Be sure to partner with an provider that will help you understand what is going on with your environment at all times.

5. They offer monitoring tools and resources to stay proactive on network issues.
Your MSP should utilize a number of different tools and resources for monitoring the activity of your servers, protecting the health of your employee’s workstations, remotely connecting to your systems and reporting on the problems that were fixed.  Be sure to ask about any integrated anti-virus, anti-spam and BDR (backup & disaster recovery) solutions that can help keep your environment in check.

6. Their IT expertise includes more than just desktop support.
Be sure to choose a Managed Services provider that has a wide range of expertise levels in their staff.  Don’t be afraid to ask about their engineers’ certification levels, knowledge of certain technologies, or years on the field.  A good MSP will cover a range of different expertise levels so that they can task the most efficient resource to solve your problem.  At a minimum, look for a company that has all of the above: desktop support technicians, Active Directory and Exchange Server experts, Business Analysts, Virtualization specialists, Server Administrators and more.   This way, when it comes to needing a company to work on your separate IT projects, you’re able to get everything you need all from one place.

7. They are able to provide a clear method for you to manage your annual IT budget.
ROI is an important factor for businesses to evaluate when trying to decide which is more cost effective - hiring internal resources or outsourcing your needs to a specialized firm.  Your Managed Services provider should be able to provide you a package with all the support you need for one fixed monthly price.  The days are over where you should wait in anxiety until the end of the month when you receive a higher-than-expected bill from your IT provider.

8. They have clients of all different sizes.
There’s nothing wrong for a company to have a specific target audience or a niche industry or company size they service.  But, think twice about hiring an IT provider who only deals with one avenue of business as that typically means they are not as well-versed in knowing what technologies work best for different types of businesses.  If an IT provider deals only with small business clients under 50 employees, what happens when you grow above that benchmark?   Will they be able to recommend the appropriate technologies to fit your growing business?  Likewise, if an IT provider deals only with large enterprise clients, will they be able to meet the budget and flexibility needs of a small to midsize company?  Look for a company that has a portfolio with a mix of small, midsize and enterprise clients.  Chances are they will be much more knowledgeable about what technologies will suit your current and future business needs.

9. They understand that your business is unique.
No two businesses are alike.  Your MSP should be able to understand your business model, the way you work and the way you communicate with employees and customers.  Each business has unique short-term needs and long-term goals including: connectivity, security, data storage, disaster recovery and more.  Don’t follow a company that tries to sell you blocks of hours of service at an hourly rate.   No two companies are alike and it’s hard to know how much or how little support you will need.  Instead, find a Managed Services provider that will provide you a fixed monthly price based on the number of users in your company.  This way, you no longer have to spend time each week calculating how many hours you have left in your service package, holding off requests for help because you’re afraid of being overbilled, etc. 

10.  They are responsive, highly available, and quick to resolve issues.
Your Managed Services provider should have an SLA agreement that guarantees certain levels of response times for standard ticket requests, ticket resolutions and emergency issues.  Your MSP should have some type of automated ticketing system or customer portal that provides you access to a historical record of your ongoing service requests. They should have the tools available to connect remotely to any system in a matter of seconds, not billing you for travel time all the way to and from your location.

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