There are a lot of good reasons why you should consider using a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to outsource your business IT requirements. From huge financial savings to ever-evolving best practice knowledge, a good MSP has the potential to unlock incredible growth for your business.
That said, with an increase in the popularity of MSPs, there are also more in the marketplace – and more in the marketplace means quality can sometimes be spread more thinly.
For many companies, IT is the backbone of your entire operating structure – so it needs to be a very carefully calculated risk allowing someone else to get hands-on with your network. Here, we’ve laid out a few considerations that’ll make sure you choose the right MSP – and get the most for your monthly outlay…
Have they worked with companies like yours before now?
While it’s not absolutely crucial that your MSP has worked with companies like yours before – it does offer some significant benefits.
Firstly, you’ll know you’re working with a team that has a rough idea about your produce and your marketplace – a definite advantage compared to working with a team who have no idea about the service you deliver or the requirements of your IT surrounding that. Of course, they don’t necessarily need to work with a company in your industry – simply working with businesses of a similar size and the geographical footprint is important too – as are the systems you’re hoping to use.
Don’t be afraid to ask to talk to the companies they work with – or have worked with in the past. Effectively, this is outsourcing your IT team – and you’d look for references from someone you took on internally – so it’ll pay to do it with an MSP too.
What would your service level agreement include?
You’re likely to find a variety of approaches to creating an ‘SLA’ – or ‘Service Level Agreement’ when you talk to MSPs. For some companies, they’ll work from a certain base-level agreement and adapt it where necessary to meet your needs. On the other hand, you may find that a company approaches with a blank sheet of paper – and builds that agreement around you precisely.
There’s no real right or wrong approach here – but adapting to your needs is absolutely crucial. You’ll want to talk to the MSP about the different parts of the agreement that both you and they think will be important for your business – and make sure they’re a perfect fit.
Ultimately, you’re creating a legally binding, working agreement. In much the same way that you wouldn’t let a group of employees dictate their own job descriptions – you need to make sure your needs are met when a pen is put to paper to agree your SLA.
Will out monthly cost be fixed?
Cost is likely to be outlined in your SLA – but it’s also going to be important to ask how it’ll vary – and get an idea of the cost involved with anything that goes above and beyond that agreement.
There’s a good chance you will turn to your MSP for on-going network development needs – especially if you anticipate growth – so, having a forward projection of costs that’ll be involved with development is a good idea.
Can your MSP guarantee proactive support?
Downtime costs businesses a lot of money – so, it’s reassuring to know that your MSP is going to have some kind of network monitoring tools set up that allows them to keep eyes on your network for potential early-warning-signs of problems.
Depending on how sophisticated your systems are – for instance, if you brought an SD WAN management system into your business – an MSP might be able to get hands-on without even needing to come to your site.
Of course, downtime doesn’t always cost – so if your business can afford to be offline while changes are made and problems are solved – then you may save yourself a little monthly outlay – but for most business decision makers, it’s better to hear about problems after they’ve been fixed – rather than when they simply represent an unknown…
Do they hold the accreditations you need?
It’s absolutely vital that your chosen MSP holds the accreditations required to work on your network. If you’ve got Cisco systems but a bunch of engineers that only know their way around Microsoft networks, then you’re inviting problems (or a large spend).
Does your MSP hold the right insurance?
It’s very rare that you’ll need to seek insurance company compensation for something an MSP does to your network – but it’s not entirely impossible – so it’s far better to ask the question now, rather than be left floundering if a problem ever occurs.
Your MSP should be willing to talk openly about the cover they have and what it means to you. With data loss and security breaches now more serious than ever – you need to make sure that they people you’re trusting to look after your IT have got a safety net.
How quickly can they help you scale?
You don’t have to look far to know that ‘business agility’ is a buzz phrase that won’t go away – and, it seems, for good reason.
In today’s ever-changing world of business and service, it pays to be able to deliver quickly – because if you can’t, the next company will. So, with that in mind – how quickly can your MSP help you put the infrastructure you might need into place – if a large contract depends on it. You shouldn’t expect miracles – but a willingness to help you drive your business forward is nice to see from a business you’re going to be working closely with.
Of course – it’s not just immediate growth and development they should be willing to support with – it’s also extremely useful to know if they’re going to be able to keep up with your business as it naturally grows and expands. It’s better to have conversations now about where you’d like to be in 5 years – rather than having it further down the line and finding out they’re not able to keep up with you…