Information Technology

What are the best ways to choose a managed IT service provider?

There are tens of thousands of managed service providers (MSP) worldwide, with over 1300 based in Australia and New Zealand. Finding the right one for your company can be difficult with those numbers, to say the least.

In any case, simply partnering with one will not alleviate all of your concerns. The main issue is what happens when a long-term partnership goes wrong, resulting in outcomes that fall short of each party’s expectations. Except for the loss of a lot of money, effort, opportunities, and goodwill, nothing is certain in those unfortunate situations.

Nobody wants to learn from costly and exhausting failures. As a result, it is critical to be clear about your business goals as well as your criteria for selecting a managed service provider. Obviously, the key to a trouble-free MSP partnership is to work with a good one from the start.

Customers should understand the fundamentals of the MSP market

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the old adage goes. So here are some insider tips on how to create a shortlist of MSPs and choose the best one for your business.

Recognize that no two MSPs are alike. Some MSPs are more competent or better equipped for your line of business and unique situation than others. Find MSPs that have successful partnerships with companies that are similar to your own in terms of size, market, and line of business. MSPs with a strong local presence (in case you require on-site tech support) should also be considered.

  1. Based on standard industry metrics, there is a shorthand for assessing MSP competence.
  2. And there is a tried-and-tested method for compiling your MSP shortlist and selecting the best one for your company.
  3. In the following section, we have distilled some of the most important questions from the MSP selection guide.

Consider the following questions: (in order of importance)

As you look for the right partner for your business, these key questions will help you determine the credentials, competence, and commitment of each managed service provider you engage. Positive responses to this practical screening tool, on the whole, reflect favourably on the service provider. The more detailed question-based guide can be found here.

It is critical.

  1. Do they inquire about your company and how it operates, and then use that information to discuss a solution tailored to your needs? (Takeaway: If the conversation focuses on what the provider can offer rather than what you say, they aren’t listening and aren’t likely to build a tailored solution that is fine-tuned to support your business.)
  2. Do they suggest a small first date? (Takeaway: A get-to-know-you stage allows you to determine whether the provider is a good long-term partner. A small first engagement also prevents you from entering into a long-term contract with which you are not comfortable.)
  3. Who believes them? (Takeaway: choose service providers who have many well-known brands and key business leaders among their satisfied customers. Customer testimonials and third-party review sites would be beneficial.)
  4. Is their support desk outsourced to a non-local location? (Takeaway: Local engineers understand your customers’ language better, resulting in faster issue resolution.)
  5. Are they fix-oriented or proactive in their approach to system issues? (Takeaway: Look for providers who proactively and successfully resolve recurring issues, with the goal of maintaining a problem-free system for reasonable periods of time.)
  6. Do they clearly de-risk the solution and explain it thoroughly? (Takeaway: Excellent providers take proactive steps to reduce their customers’ exposure to mainstream and niche risks that can jeopardize business continuity or disrupt productivity.)
  7. Do they invite you to come to their place of business? (Takeaway: Look for providers who can show you their entire team as well as their own business approach – see behind the scenes to judge for yourself.)
  8. Can they get to your location quickly if needed? (Takeaway: It’s always preferable to have a partner who can put boots on the ground whenever and wherever you need them.)
  9. How does their security posture appear? (Takeaway: Every well-managed service provider strives to provide consistent vulnerability management of their customer’s IT infrastructure. Patching, whitelisting, security audits, vulnerability testing, and awareness training are all taken very seriously. The cost of laxity can be fatal to a company.)
  10. Can they work with the on-site staff? (Takeaway: Some MSPs can do this. It means they can provide a more flexible, nuanced service, allowing you to get the most out of both your onsite and remote support teams.)

Significantly Important

  1. Do they test your resolve? (Takeaway: Put providers on your shortlist who have the experience and expertise to respectfully challenge your assumptions and recommend better-than-expected solutions.)
  2. Do they have the necessary connections (and are they accredited or simply resellers)? (Note: A good MSP will have numerous accredited partnerships with leading third-party vendors and solutions.) The more, the better, because you won’t be stuck with a one-size-fits-all solution.)
  3. What is the format of a monthly report, and what happens during the meeting? (Takeaway: When it comes to monthly reporting, great providers go above and beyond mere compliance. They use the event to communicate how you can improve your business’s processes, knowledge, and efficiency to increase profits.)
  4. Do they have firsthand knowledge of the industry? (Takeaway: Look for providers who successfully serve companies in your industry, size, and line of business.)
  5. How diverse is their skill set? (As an example, cyber security, ICT consulting, service desk, and software/hardware procurement are all distinct skill sets. Look for a service provider who can handle all of them under one roof.)
  6. Is there a service guarantee and a trial period available? (Takeaway: A good MSP guarantees service quality without tying you to a long-term contract with steep penalties for early termination.)

Only Slightly Significant

  1. What is their pricing like? (Takeaway: Managed services, like utilities, have become business necessities. When it comes to things that must be consistently dependable, price takes a back seat to high quality and reliability standards. Nonetheless, there are MSPs that provide excellent services on nearly every front while not charging the highest fees. Seek out those rare outliers.)

Takeaways: Important Characteristics

Partnering with a managed service provider has become a critical business milestone that can make or break your company’s efficiency and profitability. The managed service provider you select will have a direct impact on every aspect of your business that uses information technology. To call such a decision “important” is an understatement.

Save yourself from a failed relationship. Choose providers who clearly demonstrate the following characteristics from the start:

High Net Promoter Score (NPS) + a strong portfolio of well-known clients

Multiple third-party accreditations and certifications

Service breadth and industry coverage

Strict cybersecurity procedures

A proven track record of commitment, quick response/resolution, flexibility/adaptability, strategic insight, and reasonable pricing.

Finally, test the water before diving in. Choose providers who provide a no-obligation trial period. A good MSP will not bind you to a long-term contract that you are unhappy with. A great one will entice you to stay simply because of the excellent service.

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