Hiring an IT managed service provider (MSP) is a useful step when growing your business.
For your staff, it alleviates the burden that maintaining technology can create. A good MSP takes preemptive steps to make sure that your critical technology is always working. This means less time wasted by employees. And, when things do go wrong, an MSP steps in at a moment’s notice to fix hardware or software causing the problem, leaving you to worry about more important aspects of your business.
You may already have a managed service provider in place. Chances are, there are some things that they could be doing better to drive your business forward.
Here are questions you can ask about your current or prospective MSP that will lead to a better experience for you and your company.
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1. Is your MSP present?
Are they showing up to your site, or do they simply manage your issues from the cloud? Do they know your employees personally and work to drive them forward?
To find a proactive MSP, read through each potential firm’s marketing language. Do they frequently reference “serving you from the cloud” or “remote monitoring?” Chances are, these firms have a business model that relies on spending little time at your office. Consider more consulting-oriented firms if facetime is important to you.
2. Does your MSP have purpose?
Are you getting a Helpdesk experience, or does your MSP act as a strategic partner?
Did you know that an MSP with a consulting focus can actually pay for itself by making efficiency improvements within your business? For example, we saved a client $3000 monthly by switching their phone contract. The savings pay a large portion of their MSP bill.
Look for MSPs that advertise expertise in different industries – namely yours. Be sure that there are specific focal points, and client references. Ask a few pointed questions in the interview about your industry. Production folk might want to throw out the names of certain edit systems or software suites (Adobe, anyone?). Healthcare professionals should strongly consider asking about HIPAA. By the fluency of your MSP’s answers, you’ll be able to tell if the firm has deep knowledge within your field.
3. Is your MSP custom?
When you have a problem, does your MSP survey the entire marketplace of solutions before making a recommendation? Does your MSP keep abreast of the latest trends in tech and your industry?
Some MSPs take what they’ve built for other clients and resell it to you.
How do you know that your MSP will put in the research to get you exactly what you need?
Ask for some case studies from clients in similar industries. Ideally, multiple different vendors are used across clients according to client needs. A solid MSP might tell you that “company X benefitted from this solution, but at company Y, some parameter was different, so we found this other solution that worked better.” Ask for client references and really dig into satisfaction in areas that are key to your business.
4. Is your MSP qualified?
Do key personnel, and the people you interact with daily, have a minimum of a four-year college degree? Do they carry credentials related to your industry?
Your MSP needs to understand not only their business, but your business, and be able to drive you forward.
How do you find an MSP that will enhance your business with deep expertise and creative thinking?
Traditional credentials tell some of the story. While some MSPs may discount the usefulness of a four year degree in the field, a college education teaches valuable “how to think” skills. A degree outside of computer science is even better, as knowledge is applied in another area. Refer to the point about strategic partnership above – purposeful, industry-focused firms often come with strong qualifications and expertise.
5. Do you like your MSP?
You and your staff have to deal with your MSP day in and day out. These are the people that will be there when some critical technology at your business is failing and your clients are getting impatient. You want an MSP you can turn to for results, but also a firm that you like, even under pressure.
How do I find a likable MSP? Ask to interview the person or team that will be assigned to your account in person. Allow staff members that will be interacting closely with the MSP to sit in, and evaluate their opinions. Apply the old “airplane test” if warranted: ask “would I be able to sit next to this person on a sufficiently long flight?” Better yet, ask yourself if you would want to.
Recap: Vet for success
These tips provide an evaluative framework for vetting MSPs or outside IT providers for your organization. Choose an MSP that is present at your business, engages on a strategic level, builds solutions just for you, is deeply qualified, and is likeable to you and your staff. Remember – a good MSP can relieve your technology burden, leaving you free to grow your business. And since you typically pay by the user, and MSP is an affordable alternative to a full-time IT hire.