Finding the right Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) can be tedious and time-consuming. Two glaring issues that arise with Managed IT Service Providers, is trust and cost. A lot of companies prefer to keep their data ‘in-house’ so as not to have to entrust their data in the hands of an external person or business. For most large companies, this is not a problem because they have the financial means to hire in-house technicians to fill an entire IT department. Most large companies also have a pack of hounds…err, I mean attorney’s that can be unleashed at a moment’s notice to deal with any litigation issues that may arise from loss of organizational data due to faulty equipment or inadequate security in place.
Smaller businesses, on the other hand, may not have the luxury of having an IT department, let alone the resources to hire an attorney to protect and preserve organizational data.
There are several small to medium businesses that have struggled at one point or another in finding the right team to work with. Hopefully, with our help, we will be able to make that decision a little easier for you by knowing what to look out for.
What the heck is an MSP or Managed IT Services anyway?
A managed service provider (MSP), refers to a company that can monitor and manage an organization’s IT infrastructure remotely. MSP’s render services on a customer by customer basis, providing an array of different services to help fulfill the technological needs of their clients. Managed IT services on the other hand, simply implies that some services (not all) are being managed.
Benefits of MSP’s
Proactive Security, Not Reactive
A key difference to having an MSP as opposed to in-house technicians is the ability to adopt a proactive security posture in protecting your data. Since MSP’s provide subscription-based resources, MSP’s utilize tools that provide active monitoring and patching. This allows the MSP to resolve any issues and notify the company of any potential vulnerabilities or threats before they become serious.
In contrast, in-house technicians tend to have their hands full with day to day operational projects/procedures (i.e. password resets, repairing printers, troubleshooting connectivity issues) to ensure normal business functions can resume. This means they do not have the time or resources to resolve security issues until after a security breach has occurred or a threat has been detected. Even with an Intrusion Detection System (IDS) or Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) in place, the in-house team must invest time (which costs the company more money) into looking into the matter and that is also timethat impacts productivity.
Because managed service providers adopt proactive measures, response times to addressing issues are also faster. Potential threats that are detected and can be addressed before they become severe. In-house teams are usually forced to respond to threats when they have the time to do so. Because every moment in business counts, responding when the time is convenient is not an option for many businesses.
In-house technicians are usually forced into accepting the age-old adage, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Even if it is not by will, the company may force their hand. If things are running smoothly why mess with it? This is a bad idea to adopt. It harbors a stagnant environment, as opposed to promoting innovation and encouraging ideas that can help the company grow or become more effective. Sure, maybe that process is running smoothly. But maybe another method has come out that can increase the speed of the process tenfold. Maybe that application is secure, but its age is starting to show and more attackers are getting sophisticated. So perhaps it would be wise to look into a newer application that has more complex algorithms that make it harder for attackers to penetrate.
Technology is constantly evolving and for businesses to thrive it is important to have your finger on the pulse of what is going on. Because managed IT service providers have the ability to work with different vendors and utilize different tools, they are not locked into one manufacturer or vendor.
MSP providers have different levels or different price points in the services they offer. Meaning you are never locked into one plan. Managed IT service providers can be flexible with the needs of each company they serve as opposed to providing a cookie cutter service across the board for all clients. MSPs, particularly those that host services, can also adjust licensing needs accordingly and quickly to ensure businesses are not paying for applications or services that are not necessary.
Unfortunately, technology can fail at any moment. Hardware can crash, software or applications can become corrupt, services can stop performing as intended. MSP’s provide preventive care by actively monitoring the network and responding to any detected issues accordingly before they become a problem. MSP’s use tools that proactively seek out problems to nip them in the bud.
In-house technicians, on the other hand, are usually forced into a break-fix situation. As previously mentioned, in-house technicians have to focus on ensuring day to day operations can resume. They do not have the time to proactively seek out problems and resolve them. This forces them into a reactive stance when issues arise; only responding after a level of acceptable risk has been passed.
What to look for in an MSP
- It all comes down to trust. IT businesses pop up and disappear; they come and go. You want to look for a company that has been around for a long time. An organization that has faced adversity and is still around.
- Competence over flashiness. A newer company may have a very nice website that looks amazing, catchy and promises several services that you may find useful. However, just because a site looks nice or flashy does not automatically mean they can cater to your needs. Look for competence, in the form of testimonials, awards posted on the site, or even customer reviews. Yes sometimes, there are some customer reviews that are inane or over something silly and sometimes even irrelevant to the company. But at least looking at the reviews gives you an idea of the MSP’s offerings, services, friendliness, environment of the MSP and determine if that is a business you can see yourself partnering with.
- Find a business that wants to work with you and your current infrastructure; not hijack your infrastructure. For the most part, MSP’s are willing and able to work as a partner in building off of an established infrastructure. However, there are businesses that will do everything they can to sell you every service possible, even when it’s not necessary, at your expense of course.
- Question what is being offered. Does it align with your needs? Are you being sold a needed service or a desirable one? Is it feasible or cost effective to get the service? Several MSP’s offers bundled services. The more items the MSP can convince you to get, the better the bundle is. But is it cost feasible and does it serve a purpose your business needs? Or is the MSP adding a bunch of bells and whistles to get more out of you? You need to ask the hard questions for the sake of your business.
- Shop around. Look at different companies and their managed IT services before committing. You do not have to settle and have every right to demand great service. You have the right to decide what is best for you and your business. You have the right to find an affordable plan that works for you; not to be force-fed scare tactics to make you purchase features or services you may not need.
- Factor in reputation. If a company is willing to put its reputation on the line when backing up its service and/or what it provides, you know they mean business. Why? Because if a company is serious about their reputation, they stand behind their business. When a company stands behind their business, they firmly believe in what they do and what they offer. A company does last long by providing poor services. Nor can a flashy website mask poor work ethics.
Building an effective relationship with your MSP:
Developing a relationship with your MSP is critical to your business operations. The better the relationship, the more likely everyone will be on the same page.
- Communication is key. Several businesses only contact their IT staff or support when something is going wrong. This can often lead to tense or even heated conversations. It is important to develop a relationship with your managed IT service provider so that everyone knows they are on the same team. In this way, even if a disagreement arises, each party can work towards accomplishing the same goal.
- Don’t be left in the dark. Many business owners don’t care about tech issues. They just want them resolved. This attitude can often lead to a discord between the technicians and the owner. By being engaged or even showing a slight interest or concern in what is occurring, the technician is more inclined to provide useful information that may benefit the company in the future. Most technicians are happy to discuss issues and help the client understand what is going on and how to resolve any issues.
- Tell your MSP to dumb things down. If something is being explained to you in a way that seems overly technical, don’t be afraid to tell your MSP to dumb things down. I guarantee you (for the most part), they are not deliberately trying to confuse you. They are just used to being around other technicians and using similar wording that each fellow technician understands. The main key, however, is that you understand what you are being told. If you have questions or feel that you are only getting more confused, ask your MSP to make it relatable to you. Remember, a good MSP wants to work with you and make sure that you understand what is occurring to address the issues as adequately and efficiently as possible.
- Do not settle for less than you deserve; quality customer service. Remember, the company you hire should work with you to help you get to where you want to be. A quality managed IT service provider is always ready and willing to assist you and work with you; not hijack your business. While MSP’s can and often will make recommendations, you ultimately make the decisions.