Evaluating a Managed Services Provider

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The managed services industry has come a long way since the late 90s. Practitioners know how to present themselves in 2019, and certification is accumulating a legitimising history. Clients are also more aware of how to evaluate service providers. All these developments have been of great benefit to the industry. Much like many previously fledgling industries, IT support is now a professional fraternity.

It’s important to remember the principal benefit of a managed services provider (MSP) is assurance. Peace of mind. An IT support services firm is your aid. If they aren’t a step ahead of you and making you feel like they know your setup better than you do, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your provider. 

Some business owners look at MSPs as persistent harbingers of bad news. Rather, IT support should be a relief! An MSP is a savvy team that keeps your business secure online and running smoothly, after all. That’s the feeling an MSP should engender in you. If you do need to evaluate a new MSP, the points below will help you determine real value.

Are they experienced in the field?

While true of many industries, professional experience counts in the IT field. A technician who’s seen a hundred office setups (and heard people’s pain points) is going to be far more adept than a novice. When hiring a service provider, look for experience credentials.

How knowledgeable do they appear? Are they members of any business or industry-specific organisations? Is Microsoft certification important to you, and do they have it? Never be shy to ask questions you feel are relevant. The relationship with an MSP is in fact a very intimate one. It’s critical to be as frank as needed so you’re left feeling comfortable about the firm’s knowledge and professional ethics.

A good MSP should reassure you with their acumen. If possible, you should try to glean references from existing clients. Take time to call around to garner a broad view of the company. 

The days of the stereotypical, awkward geek showing up with taped glasses are also gone. An MSP should conduct their affairs in a business-like manner, and measure up to the same metrics as good business anywhere.

Are they people friendly?

Despite remote capabilities in IT, do you still see their faces from time to time? Do you know them, and do they still have face to face concern for their clients? These might sound like trivial aspects to focus on, but they’re far from it. An IT failure is incredibly debilitating for modern businesses. Without a genuine concern (and available presence) for their clients, IT service providers may not fulfil their promises. If you’re not sure what you’re paying for, that’s the MSP’s fault. 

We currently live in such a digital world that a personal human touch to customer service and relations is becoming a benchmark attribute again. Apply the same metrics as you would in any hiring situation, and ensure you’re left feeling happy handing over your IT capabilities to this company.

How much does it cost?

The main benefit of using a managed services solution is you gain comprehensive expertise in a cost-effective manner. IT support doesn’t need to be expensive, and you can typically pick and choose – and thus, weigh prices – as needed. A good service provider will point out the benefits and potential downsides of SLA omissions as needed, without pressure.

If a particular MSP is far more expensive (or far cheaper) than others, ask why. There might well be services or service levels that appeal to you and justify a higher price. Likewise, many businesses drastically undercut competitors in price – unfortunately, this usually entails genuine service trimmed to the bone, as well. The initial “savings” might feel great, but dirt cheap MSPs can’t provide real value for their price. It’s going to hurt your business in the long run. 

Price shouldn’t be your primary consideration, but everyone needs to be market-related in their offerings. In IT support, prices are seldom drastically divergent. The firm that leaves you feeling satisfied with their abilities and approach is generally worth the money.

Are they a limited offer or flexible firm?

IT support should address your baseline as well as specific needs. Some IT companies have very specific niches and – if their core business is a poor fit for you – keep shopping. There’s nothing wrong with highly specialised technicians offering a specific service. In any case, it’s best to ensure your business’ nuances are covered. Ask the right questions and listen for relief of your personal issues.

If it’s come down to reading through an SLA by way of a quotation, look for issues you raised being addressed by the content. Yes, IT support knows IT better than you. That’s their value, after all. However, every business owner knows their business and its needs better than anyone. 

Also, there are common IT services almost every company needs. If your MSP is contracting out tasks like installing a firewall or effecting mail migrations, warning bells should start ringing. Ask very specifically how an MSP’s technicians will address basic issues, including online security and safe storage.

When it comes to cyber security, your service provider needs to be able to demonstrate a detailed, logical and watertight strategy to ensure your business’ safety online.

Remember these points when evaluating an MSP. There’s a significant amount of trust involved in wholesale access to any company’s data and daily IT functioning. Ask the right questions to select the right people.