Businesses are expected to meet growing customer expectations around advancing technologies. The problem is, they don’t have an extensive budget or IT staff dedicated to integrating and implementing ever-changing applications. The good news is, as technology demands more from SMBs, there are also innovative solutions available to meet their demands. An MSP (managed services provider) can help you explore and identify those solutions.
First: let’s define Managed Services Provider (MSP). It’s a common acronym used in our industry, but most business owners aren’t familiar with this terminology. A managed services provider is a technology (IT) services provider that manages and assumes responsibility for providing a defined set of services to its clients. Managed Services Providers often act as the IT department for businesses who do not have their own IT department or IT staff, or they complement a business's existing IT staff.
Now let’s discuss these 5 factors to consider when choosing a managed IT services provider:
- Do their services and partnered solutions fit your needs?
- Experience with past clients in similar industry
- Expertise in applications
- Technical support ability
- Culture and people running the MSP
Do Their Services and Partnered Solutions Fit Your Needs?
First you must assess the structure and systems in place already, then ask: what do we need to improve? Where do we have inefficiencies? Where are we most at risk? There are endless solutions available, and it’s difficult to determine the best fits when you don’t know where to start.
For instance, is your business running an outdated accounting system? Are you doing things with pen and paper that should be digitized? Are you entering the same data into multiple programs?
If you're not sure where to start, no worries. Many MSPs will offer a technology auditing service to help you take stock of your current situation, identify risks and opportunities, and give you a path forward.
The point here is to examine what you have, what you want/need, and what the MSP has in the form of services and partnered solutions. This is an important part of the evaluation period, which you’ll have with the MSP’s consultants. All questions should be exhausted until you understand whether or not they offer the specific solutions your unique business needs.
Experience With Past Clients in Similar Industry
This is a very important consideration to make when choosing an MSP. Examining their past and current clients in similar industries as yours gives you a good estimate of their capabilities. What do their testimonials and reviews say? Is there a list of past projects and clients on their website? Do they offer a list of references whom you can contact? Can they discuss freely a past client they’ve helped similar to your situation?
From this research, a business will start to understand if this is the right MSP for them. Not every MSP is the same. For instance, some may be more geared toward helping the healthcare industry and not retail. Others may be less expensive, but have a small or inexperienced staff.
Expertise in Applications and Partnered Solutions
OK, so they’re offering some great sounding solutions, but what level of expertise do they have with these applications and partners? Are they an Amazon Web Services certified partner for instance, and what other certifications and qualifications can they show you?
When trying to gauge this criteria, take a look at the personnel working at the MSP. After looking at the expertise and experience of each employee, partner, and founder – gauge the company holistically, to measure what their weaknesses and strengths are.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to gain further insight into this important factor to consider. An MSP is only as good as the people who are working in it.
Technical Support Ability
Many times technical support issues are what drive businesses to a new MSP in the first place. The headaches of downtime, coupled with security threats and slow response from existing support, make outsourcing the IT department and gaining cloud computing capabilities very alluring. Thus, businesses are laboriously searching around seeking the right provider for them.
Check out the MSP’s technical support promises and options within their services. For example, do they offer a guaranteed response time for service requests? Do they rank customer satisfaction through continuous surveys? How do they cover after hours support? Are they available to handle emergency requests 24/7/365?
Then check out what past clients say about them, concerning their technical support abilities. Ask them direct questions about how they plan to provide technical support and the price structure around it. This should give you a good picture of what sort of MSP you’re choosing.
Culture and People Running the MSP
This is the last factor to consider, but not the least important. Think of this as if you’re hiring a person to work for your business in-house, because this is the type of working relationship you’ll want to have. What is the culture like in their office? Are they located close to you geographically? Are the employees able to relate to clients without talking down to them or using “Geek Speak?”
After researching the first 4 factors to consider, this one will naturally be apparent. Don’t disregard a negative feeling you may have when dealing with certain candidates, and make sure to talk with more than one person to begin with. Ask to meet some of the support engineers you will be working with on a regular basis. Although you might be meeting with the owners and sales reps to begin with, the day-to-day relationship you will have will be with the MSP’s support staff. You want to choose a MSP with employees (not just owners) that truly care about your business’s issues and success, and will hold up their end of the bargain.
When choosing an MSP, considering these 5 factors will help ensure a good fit for your business. Remember, not all MSPs are the same, and you should heavily vet them to find one that speaks your language and connects with your ideals. This way when problem-solving occurs, a profitable relationship will be formed. This relationship should have mutual respect and consideration for the success of both.