Deciding to hand over management and responsibility for your business’s IT infrastructure to an external managed service provider (MSP) is not a decision to take lightly.
Your IT network and systems likely underpin many crucial business operations and processes. This means that it’s vital you choose a service that not only meets your current needs but provides reliability, expertise, and continuity well into the future.
What are managed IT services and does my business need them?
Put simply, managed IT services see an external company take on responsibility for tasks such as:
- Managing IT systems
- Optimising IT and tech systems
- Providing proactive maintenance
- General computer support
This ranges from infrastructure like networks, servers, PCs, phones, and connectivity through to cloud solutions, security, backup, and disaster recovery services.
The goal for the client business is fewer day-to-day IT headaches, long term stability, and optimised systems which underpin and facilitate business operations and growth. Meanwhile, the MSP benefits from stable, fixed-fee monthly contracts over multi-year periods.
Most small and medium sized businesses do not have the in-house resource and expertise to manage, maintain and get the most out of increasingly complex IT infrastructure and services. For this reason, partnering with an MSP makes financial and operational sense. It allows you to focus on your core business goals rather than spending valuable time and brain space wrestling with technology problems.
15 Key Things to Look for in a Managed IT Service Provider
When evaluating MSPs, there are many variables at play. Below we explore the 15 most important areas and services to look at when searching for a provider able to meet your current and future business needs:
1. Familiarity with Your Industry
Seeking out an MSP with pre-existing experience within businesses in your sector is often a good idea. It shows they will easily understand your technology infrastructure requirements both now and as your operations scale. Check their reviews and case studies to find out what kind of businesses they’ve worked with previously.
2. Clear and Friendly Onboarding Process
Your onboarding experience is your first impression of working with your chosen provider. Look for MSPs who offer clarity over the process. Ideally, you’re looking for a business where early, friendly, structured conversations ensure all stakeholders within your business are on the same page.
3. Quick & Guaranteed Response Times
Service level agreements stipulating response times for various incidents ensure you have cast iron assurances around receiving swift support when you need it. One hour or less responses to business-critical system outages should be the norm.
4. Proactive Support and Advice
Purely reactive IT support just deal with problems as they become a critical issue. The best MSPs reach out with communications and recommendations aimed at optimising your systems’ performance, halting IT issues before they start causing you problems. This both saves you money and enhances security and compliance.
MSPs should act as trusted IT advisors tailoring their recommendations to your business and objectives.
5. A Single, Friendly Point of Contact
Having a go-to IT support contact helps ensure familiarity with your infrastructure when issues arise for a quick resolution. Additionally, an account manager approach helps facilitate those advisory conversations around optimising technology spend and strategy.
Ask some questions to find out exactly who will be answering your calls and emails and what kind of on-going relationship your business can expect with them.
6. Expertise in Disaster Recovery Processes
Unfortunately, downtime and disasters do occur. A good MSP should have strong systems and processes in place to get you back in action as soon as possible if your business does find itself in trouble.
Thorough backup protocols and procedures, replicated systems across multiple locations and the expertise to restore business-critical systems rapidly are all must-haves.
7. Respected Within Your Industry or Network
Look at client testimonials and case studies relevant to your sector. If a provider has long term clients within businesses like yours, it demonstrates sector familiarity and trust.
8. 24/7 Support
Many businesses rely on IT infrastructure and internet connectivity constantly. Support response SLAs therefore need to match business operating hours.
If your company operates 24/7, you should look for options for rapid assistance - irrespective of holidays and weekends - when critical issues unexpectedly arise.
9. Ability to Provide Onsite Support
While remote support suffices for most minor incidents, some business continuity scenarios require in-person, onsite intervention. If your operations ever mandate physical presence to diagnose or remedy problems, your MSP must be able to provide this.
This might mean speaking to local IT Support providers first, or looking for those with offices nationwide.
10. Qualifications Matter
Cloud computing, cybersecurity threats and regulations governing areas like data protection evolve rapidly. You need confidence your MSP partner maintains up to date industry accreditations - like ISO certifications - guaranteeing expert, best practices-driven service delivery.
11. Solutions Spanning Different Budgets
Evaluate the range of monthly contract tiers available. Even if you need to start small, securing a relationship with a provider offering growth-oriented packages which accommodate rising user counts and additional systems makes good business sense.
12. Strong Security Credentials and Practices
Even MSPs themselves represent attractive targets for cyber criminals. Look through their business for evidence that they lead by example with robust, best practice internal security policies. Securing advanced security qualifications also never hurts!
How Secure is Your Business IT? Get your Security Score
13. Technology Vendor Partnerships
When MSPs partner directly with leading technology providers like Microsoft and Dell, it allows them to deliver cutting edge solutions built around the latest infrastructure. In some cases, it can also give them access to faster solutions to potential tech issues. Ask potential providers about their vendor relationships.
14. Training and Technology Education
The most effective MSPs act as true extensions of your team. They share security insights and industry trends with clients through regular bulletins and updates. Maximise value by selecting a provider offering ongoing technology education free of charge.
15. Culture Fit
Last but not least, assure yourself that your personalities, values and general ways of working align. Your IT Support becomes your technology partner for the long haul, so ensuring mutual trust, transparency and understanding is key.
Taking the time to consider all of the above helps guarantee you choose the right managed IT services partner to meet your business needs now and deliver security and reliability into the future.
At SpiderGroup, we tick all the above boxes through our managed IT contracts built around clients’ specific sectors, budgets and operational needs. To learn more about partnering with us, call us today or view our range of IT support options for businesses.