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If you’re currently using an outside managed service provider or thinking about bringing one on board as an additional service partner, it’s time to read up and get informed.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business. After all, you probably have your hands full trying to figure out how to best meet customer demand, maintain a certain inventory level, and keep things running smoothly. At some point, you need to take a step back and evaluate the bigger picture. If you’re currently using an outside managed service provider or thinking about bringing one on board as an additional service partner, it’s time to read up and get informed. A managed service provider (MSP) is essentially an IT company that offers expert IT services on a subscription basis and has experience working with small businesses like yours. A managed IT support service can take care of various IT tasks for you such as installing software patches and updates, handling data backups, monitoring system performance, fixing technical issues, upgrading hardware when necessary, and more. If this sounds like something your business could benefit from, read on for a comprehensive list of questions that you should ask any potential MSP partners before signing on with them.
By asking this question, you are trying to get a sense of where your MSP’s expertise lies. Ideally, you would want an MSP who is focused on your industry, has experience working with your type of business, and has experience within your specific vertical. This is important because you don’t want an MSP who is trying to learn everything from scratch while they are working on your team. You want an MSP who understands your business needs and can hit the ground running. You also want to make sure that your MSP has the specific expertise (and skills) necessary to solve specific problems for your company. For example, if you have an aging infrastructure that is desperately in need of an overhaul, you want to make sure that your MSP specializes in this area so that they can address the problem head-on.
This is another important question to ask, particularly if you’re dealing with a smaller or newer MSP. Ideally, you want to work with an MSP that has been in business for at least a few years (preferably five). This will allow you to benefit from the MSP’s experience and track record, including any successes and failures they might have encountered along the way. A company that has been in business for a few years will probably be a better fit for your business than a newer company. After all, a company that has been in business for several years will have more experience dealing with a variety of different types of businesses. Plus, they will have more experience dealing with specific problems that your industry and type of business might encounter. A newer MSP might encounter these same problems, but they might not have the same level of experience solving them and implementing solutions.
Ask about the specific employees who will be working on your team, as well as their qualifications and experience. Ideally, you want to work with an MSP whose employees are certified in the areas where you have specific needs. For example, if you need someone to handle your data backups, you want to make sure that the employees who will be performing this task are certified and/or have experience in data management. Or, if you need someone to handle your network, you want to make sure that the staff who will be handling this task are network engineers. You also want to make sure that the employees who will be handling your team have the appropriate experience for the tasks that they will be performing. For example, if you need someone to manage your data backups, you want to make sure that this person has experience working with your specific types of data and that they have experience managing data backups in general.
Find out how your MSP plans to communicate with you and your team. Ideally, the MSP will have a dedicated project manager who will be in charge of managing all communication between you and the MSP team. You want to make sure that you have direct access to this person at all times. You also want to make sure that you have their direct phone number and email address so that you can contact them directly if necessary. Ideally, communication between you and the MSP team will happen through collaborative project management software like Basecamp/Trello or another online tool.
Find out how your MSP will help train your team on new technologies and new skills. Ideally, your MSP will have a mentoring program as well as regular team meetings where employees can exchange knowledge and ideas. You want to make sure that your MSP will regularly bring in guest speakers to help train your team members on specific new technologies and other industry-related topics. You also want to make sure that they will regularly host webinars to keep your team up to date with the latest industry news and trends.
If you can get references, do so. You want to make sure that the companies that you talk to are honest and open in their answers. You might also want to talk to a few different companies to get a better picture of the MSP market and what your options are. Make sure that you take the time to carefully review the references that you receive from different MSPs. This will help you to avoid being deceived when talking to companies that might not be the best fit for your company. It is important to remember that references can be faked or biased since the company may be trying to get a new client at the same time that they are trying to get rid of an old one. Be sure to verify the references you are given and confirm that they are legitimate references by talking to a few people who worked with the company and might know the individuals who provided the reference. It is also important to keep in mind that the references you receive may not be 100% honest as they may be trying to make themselves look better by saying that they have worked with other companies and are better than they really are.
Find out what your MSP’s philosophy is when it comes to protecting your data and improving the security of your systems. Ideally, your MSP will have a defined security philosophy that they follow throughout your team. This will help to ensure that all data and systems are properly protected. You want to make sure that your MSP has both internal and external auditors who will be in charge of identifying weak spots and recommending improvements. Ideally, your MSP will be working with your team to identify areas that need improvement, as well as the best way to implement improvements.
Find out how much time your MSP expects to spend maintaining your current infrastructure and monitoring it on a day-to-day basis. Ideally, your MSP’s tech team should be spending a significant amount of time each day managing your systems. This will help to ensure that they are always operating at peak efficiency and that they are ready to handle any potential emergencies that might come up. You want to make sure that your MSP has a robust schedule that they follow on a daily basis so that they can.
These questions will help you find a better partner, and in case you are looking at outsourcing your Managed services, check out our IT staffing service, that helps you get resources at your end, to ensure you have IT that works in cohesion with business requirements.