The Managed Service Provider (MSP) ideal for your business hinges on a number of factors—from your technology needs and client expectations to desired response times, digital security concerns, and more.
The First Step: Identifying Your Needs
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you need from your MSP. Take some time to research what technical capabilities, business priorities and business risk your company has and needs. Do you need an IT business partner that will help you use technology to improve productivity or one that will just provide immediate, friendly and knowledgeable support? Your business needs relative to network security, information management, communications, and disaster recovery won’t be the same as other businesses—every business is unique. Consider the size and demands of your workforce, too. If an MSP is not large enough to handle your tech demands, you will be disappointed. The right MSP needs enough manpower and resources to handle your workload and should be able to scale with your business.
Not all MSPs are created equal. Some are true partners willing to handle nearly every technical challenge, while others provide highly nuanced services catered toward specific business niches. Make sure you know exactly what you want from a Managed Service Provider so you know you’ve hired the right one.
Make Sure There’s a Culture Match
Your Managed Service Provider should match your company culture. If MSP engineers do not jive with your team in terms of personality and workplace norms, there will be conflict. Ensure the MSP you hire has a company culture that’s similar to your own and you will avoid potentially awkward, dramatic or destructive interactions between personnel. The service industry is all about people. Your Managed Service Provider should value the people it hires and works with, and if they’re doing it right, it should show.
Be an Investigator
It’s usually a mistake to hire the first MSP you find, just because you’ve found it. Compare the merits of each prospective MSP; consider online reviews, business referrals, client testimonials, white papers, case studies and whether or not they have experience in your industry. Do not take an MSP representative’s word for relevant experience. Ask to see their portfolio for proof of experience in your field.
Put Extra Value on Peer References
Professional recommendations go a long way. Ask your trusted peers for MSP references and take notes as they describe the companies they’ve dealt with. Gather enough information from your social network, and you will surely find common themes. It makes more sense to place a higher value on peer referrals, and not MSP marketing materials or sales pitches, as your colleagues are more likely to paint an accurate picture of each MSP’s merits.
A good MSP can’t just provide remote support from afar; it needs to be able to get into your system immediately (or pay you a visit!) if there’s an emergency. If your MSP team is far away, make sure they have both the technical capability and willingness to directly control your computer from their office, as if they were right there with you. Along with that, if there’s a major issue, they should be able to send someone onsite immediately. Time is money, and an MSP that can offer quick support, exactly how you need it, will be able to solve complex tech problems efficiently.
Focus on Building and Maintaining Relationships
MSP assistance should be cordial and supportive. This is a customer service-oriented business. The best MSPs understand client relationships are the foundation of success. Choose one that makes you feel comfortable picking up the phone and asking for help.
Remote Monitoring and Management
The best MSPs provide remote management and monitoring around the clock. (Your network never sleeps, so why should your tech team?) If remote management and monitoring are not provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, your valuable data will be put at risk. If anything goes wrong, the MSP monitoring system should flag it and apply the appropriate remedy remotely.
You don’t need an MSP to come to your office every time a threat arises. If the candidate in question is unwilling to continuously monitor all of your technical systems—from your physical hard drives to your security networks—and mitigate threats from a separate location, find one that will.
Cybersecurity, Cloud and Mobile Solutions
MSPs should do more than merely troubleshoot hardware and software challenges. These tech support providers should also implement cybersecurity safeguards to help you prevent and avoid a cyber attack. Malware, a phishing scam, keylogger, ransom ware or other cyber threat really can sabotage your productivity to the point that you might lose clients… and ultimately go out of business.
An MSP that cannot protect your data on servers, computers, in the cloud and on mobile devices is not worth your money. Gauge the candidate’s dexterity with technology before committing. Even if your team doesn’t use the cloud now, you might want to in the future. Make sure your MSP can keep up.
Find an MSP with a Responsive Chief Information Officer (CIO)
There is nothing wrong with asking an MSP to offer their CIO as a staff resource. CIOs lend valuable insight and assistance in technology procurement, budgeting, identifying technology trends, performing cost-benefit analyses and asset, vendor and license management. Having an experienced executive like that is invaluable to problem-solving. If the CIO is unwilling to help or unavailable, there’s a better MSP out there.
Most MSPs will claim to be highly responsive when first interviewed. However, once your business is secured, some MSPs will only communicate when summoned for a tech problem. You deserve a highly responsive MSP that proactively solves problems and interacts with your team. The best MSPs conduct periodic meetings with every single client and assign account managers to monitor your needs. If an MSP does not plan to give you an account manager, it’s a red flag for unresponsiveness.
The MSP best suited for your company will meet all of the requirements detailed above and satisfy your nuanced specifications. Take your time when reviewing candidates to find the right fit. Choose wisely and you will enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship that helps your business reach new heights in the years and decades to come.