Selecting a managed service provider (MSP) is an important decision. The right choice will enable you to maximize your investment in IT and accomplish your business goals. The wrong choice can make you rue the day you selected your MSP. Partnering with an MSP is typically a long term relationship so it is critical that you perform due diligence before making this decision.
When determining your requirements for IT services and evaluating MSPs, remember that your needs may be unique based on your specific business and your in-house IT capabilities. Learn more in "What are managed IT services?"
Thinking about your internal capabilities and needs can help you understand the level of service you require. In addition to asking the MSP questions, it is equally important to understand what types of services you will need. You may be looking for a particular service but without carefully considering this list of questions, you could select an MSP that falls short of requirements you are not yet fully aware.
When selecting a managed service provider, consider these questions.
1. What services are important to me?
At a minimum, you will need asset monitoring, antivirus, and patch management. A managed service provider can provide these services on an ongoing basis using centralized, reportable processes. Remote infrastructure monitoring services should include network infrastructure monitoring so that your entire network is being managed, not just endpoint devices. You should consider these minimum requirements.
2. Do I need 24x7x365 network operations support?
Even if your physical business is only open from 9 to 5, problems with your website or server can occur outside of these hours. A major outage on Sunday night can significantly impact your ability to generate revenue and service customers on Monday morning. You should strongly consider 24x7x365 managed IT support as part of your minimum requirements. Learn more in "What No One Tells You About Computer Network Support?"
3. How will the services be delivered?
After the great sales pitch, visit the providers you're considering. What do their data centers and network operations centers look like? Are they secure with advanced capabilities, or is it a couple of people sitting in cubicles? Cut through the sales and marketing hype and perform an on-site review of your potential providers.
4. Do I need technical engineers servicing my account?
Managed service providers typically have numerous clients that share a pool of user support technicians and engineers to answer questions and fix IT issues. Having resources dedicated to your account is more expensive but, depending on your requirements, you may need someone assigned to your account with specific experience in your industry.
5. Which performance metrics are important to me?
Performance metrics and reports can identify patterns that might lead to outages, recurring issues, or the need for employee training. You should inquire about the types of reports available and how they will be delivered and analyzed.
6. What is my budget?
Ideally, you want to select a plan where you pay for what you use and nothing more. The MSP should offer service plans that are flexible, scalable, and affordable. Your needs may change in the future. The MSP should be able to create a customized package for managed services that includes precisely what you need – and nothing you don’t.
7. What are the skills and scale of the MSP's staff?
In depth, specialized knowledge is a critical requirement. The MSP you select should have a mix of technical people with advanced skills in such areas as security, networking, virtualization, and advanced infrastructure. There should be redundancy among the staff to support multiple clients.
8. How will issues be resolved?
When it comes to technology, issues can result from multiple factors. If an MSP outsources one or more elements of their service offering to third parties — backup and recovery data centers are a prime example — this will hinder the ability of that MSP to resolve a client problem. Nothing can be more frustrating for you than to deal with the resulting finger pointing. If the MSP doesn’t cover the entire delivery chain, how will issues be handled between multiple vendors? You should choose an MSP that owns its own data centers and takes responsibility for resolving all IT issues, no matter the cause. Learn more in "The Importance of Selecting an IT Service Provider with Its Own Data Centers."
9. What guarantee does the MSP offer me?
You will want to choose an MSP that provides formal, written service level agreements (SLAs) that describe the obligations of the MSP. This comprehensive agreement should clearly define the responsibilities of the MSP, metrics as to what constitutes meeting the SLA standards, and what penalties are in place if the MSP misses a provision of the SLA. As described in the MSP agreement, the MSP should have a monitoring system in place that tracks any outages down to the minute, and be able to report this information to you. Learn more in "What is a managed services SLA (service level agreement)?"
10. What is the longevity of the company?
You will want to select an MSP that has decades of experience. The MSP should be able to provide you with a referenceable client list.
Do Your Research Now, You'll be Thankful Later
Choosing the right MSP for your business is an important decision. Learn more in "What Can You Expect When Engaging with an MSP?"
Do your research ahead of time and you'll be thankful later that you did. We hear horror stories from our clients of MSPs they've used in the past who couldn't meet their needs.
Corserva provides IT managed services, cybersecurity, business continuity, and lifecycle management to companies in such industries as healthcare, law, manufacturing, hospitality, financial services, and insurance. We have a depth and breadth of technical expertise in our staff members that is unmatched by other MSPs. We have been in business 30+ years and we own two HIPAA and PCI compliant data centers. To learn more about our services, request a free consultation.