The five-step guide to choosing the right co-managed service provider

Many businesses these days are choosing to work with co-managed IT support to run their IT systems. Co-managed service gives companies access to high quality IT support, providing the expertise they may not have in house, as well as after-hours coverage.

In the context of COVID-19, companies are relying on their IT systems more than ever. With 88% of organizations now requiring or encouraging their employees to work from home, they are using virtual desktops, accessing common drives online, and connecting via video conferencing in order to achieve this. Other businesses are taking services that were previously handled in-person and moving them online, including everything from therapy to yoga classes. In this context, it is critical that you have effective and reliable IT, managed by a competent service provider.

But how do you know which is the right partner for you? Here is our five-step guide to choosing the right co-managed service provider.

1. Conduct an IT audit of your business

The first thing you need to do before you can contract the right co-managed IT service is to take stock of your business’ current IT situation. This should include your IT equipment such as servers, computers and network equipment, cybersecurity efforts as well as the software and cloud applications you use.

All of these factors impact on the type, level, and depth of services you need, because these services are highly customizable and so can be tailored to your business’ needs. The right service provider will be able to fill in small or large gaps in your current IT systems, as well as expanding your capabilities with completely new projects if required.

2. Assess your needs

Once you have a good idea of your current IT situation, you can use this to determine what you need from your managed services. Co-managed services vary greatly between providers. It is important to be clear on your needs so that you can find a partner who will be able to meet them completely.

One of the advantages of co-managed IT is that it works with your existing, in-house IT team, and so can expand on your current expertise and resources. For example, you may want to work with a provider that can deliver the knowledge of cybersecurity that your teams lack. Alternatively, you may want after-hours helpdesk services that your in-house team doesn’t have the resources to provide. 

Additionally, think about the needs you expect to have in the future, as your business grows or as external factors change. You want a provider who will not only meet your needs now but also moving forwards.

3. Investigate providers

The next step is to assess different co-managed IT providers in order to find the one that best meets your needs.

Here are some of the critical areas to assess when interviewing potential providers:

  • Scope of services and the specific services they do (and do not) provide
  • Expertise in cybersecurity: 62% of businesses experience phishing and social engineering attacks
  • Tools and equipment they use: some providers may give you access to the latest cutting-edge technology
  • How long it will take to set up co-managed services
  • Online reviews and referrals

4. Consider methods of communication

Another critical area to consider is the communication methods your potential partner will use. Your company will be working very closely with your co-managed service provider, and so it is important that communication is not only flawless but appropriate to the way you do business.

Be sure to ask what methods they will use to communicate when it comes to changes, problems, and updates. In particular, check how they will alert you of any system errors, and ask about their escalation procedure. You should also find out whether they offer 24/7 support.

5. Sign a service level agreement

Once you have decided which co-managed IT service provider is right for your business, all that remains is to sign a service level agreement (SLA). SLA’s vary from company to company, but they should include warranties, client duties, and outline the processes if problems should arise. Be sure to check the fine print and raise any questions or concerns you may have before signing the SLA.