What is the Role of a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP)?
One of the biggest misconceptions about working with a managed IT services company is the idea that you have to replace your IT department.
However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Managed Services companies are usually brought in to augment and assist existing IT personnel.
Small and medium sized businesses often hire a managed IT services company to provide the same support they would have with an advanced IT department at a lower cost.
Co-managed IT services are options as well. Co-management services are for businesses that already have an IT department but want to improve upon it while taking advantage of the cost savings and structure of an MSP.
The benefits of a managed services company are numerous. For one thing, they handle application and network security issues while lightning the workload for I.T. departments.
Every business wants to grow, but growing too fast comes with its burdens as well. Rapid, exponential growth could start putting a strain on your resources and time. IT is no exception.
But, should you make the decision of hiring a managed IT services company, you have to know what to look for and what questions to ask.
Unfortunately, business owners fail to consider some very important factors when choosing an MSP that is right for them.
Here are 5 questions businesses should consider when choosing to partner an MSP.
1) How should I Leverage my IT?
Outsourcing all of regular applications and security to an MSP doesn’t rid you of responsibility. It’s still very important that you develop a strategy alongside your IT department and review it with the Managed services provider.
Businesses have to stay in the know when it comes to IT solutions and requirements. An MSP might know your industry well, but only you know your company.
As a business owner you need to discuss compliance, security, infrastructure and strategy regularly and frequently. This ensures the MSP is doing their jobs according to your business goals and complimenting them.
2) Does MSP size matter?
Some providers gain popularity simply because they are large. But that doesn’t make them right for your business. Especially since they are so large that establishing a point of contact is nearly impossible.
This is a big problem among large public cloud providers. Public cloud providers have so many clients that they don’t have the time to cater to a individual client’s needs. It devolves into a tenant/landlord relationship rather than a partnership.
You are sharing their services with other businesses and they don’t have time to review your concerns. There are even cases where support is sold separately from the cloud service.
At the end of the day an MSP is an extension of your business, not a business unto itself. They are there to consult and contribute but not control. Choose a provider that is transparent and easy to access.
Which leads us to mistake number three.
3) Are they responsive when I need their support?
Downtime is a significant issue for all businesses. However, not all MSP’s act accordingly when it comes it comes to downtime.
Choosing a provider that fails to properly respond to down time is particularly horrible because it can be frustrating, agonizing and terrifying.
Imagine your business goes down and not only is the response time slow, but support is nearly unreachable. The average response time for a large MSP is 5.5 hours. They often market themselves in a way that de-emphasizes their response time in favor of their durable network and security. But, that’s just a trick.
A great MSP has multiple alert systems and responds to downtime in twelve minutes or less. Anything beyond that is negligence. It doesn’t matter how popular, “efficient” or “secure” an MSP is when during an outage or downtime they’re nowhere to be found.
54 percent of companies experienced a downtime event that lasted more than eight hours. That means over half of all companies, regardless of size, experience downtime of over a full work day. Furthermore, that could lead to massive hits in profit and revenue.
According to a Ponemon Institute Study, the average cost of an outage is $9,000 per minute. Let that sink in. Eight hours, sixty minutes an hour, $9,000 per minute. Let that sink in.
4) How can I trust they really know my industry?All MSP’s are different. Managed IT Services companies have resources and tools that suite different companies. Don’t assume that all MSP’s offer the same services or have the same expertise.
For example, Nerds Support provides IT for financial services companies and CPA’s. As a result, we put a heavy emphasis on cloud compliance and regulations. Financial firms are heavily regulated due to the sensitive information they work with on a regular basis. So whatever MSP a financial firm hires has to closely follow those same regulatory guidelines.
To achieve compliance we had to undergo SOC I and SOC II audits to ensure our clients felt secure relying on us with securing their data and systems.
You have to make sure you ask any potential MSP the right questions. If you want to know exactly what questions to ask a prospective MSP, check out our ongoing YouTube series Top Questions to ask Your IT Provider.
5) Is the Service Level Agreement clear and concise?
The contract between a company and a Managed IT services provider is called a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. Make sure that the contract and the agreement are clear that all relevant staff knows the ins and outs.
That includes where and when these services are available, where their servers are located, how to contact support and what is covered in the terms of billing.
The MSP should provide you with a non-disclose agreement that needs to be signed before the provider gains access to your company’s confidential data.
There should also be an understanding of how to report and analyze resources and services. If something isn’t working to your expectations, know how to report it and who to report to.
How do I Move Forward?Now that you know the right questions to ask, it’s a matter of finding the right MSP for your business to succeed. Remember to ask yourself:
- Will my IT be leveraged properly?
- Is their MSP the right size to handle my needs?
- Are they responsive and proactive in their communication?
- Are they a specialist in my industry?
- Is the SLA written out clearly so both parties understand what needs to be done?