One excellent way of making big financial savings is by outsourcing all your IT maintenance and support. As well as being a great driver for your business by doing away with the need for keeping an in-house team, this brings with it a great opportunity to work with some of the most knowledgeable people in the business.
Unfortunately not all MSPs (managed service providers) are the same. For every good one that you find, there will in all likelihood be another which doesn’t live up to its promise when it comes to service delivery.
We thought then that we should compile a list of all the considerations that you might wish to address when taking on a new MSP. The list is by no means exhaustive, but we believe it goes some way towards ensuring that the service provider you decide to engage is right for you and for your business.
Find an MSP who is on your wavelength
Information technology has a language all of its own, and those who live and work in IT tend to do everything on the assumption that everybody else speaks it as they do.
You on the other hand, whilst no doubt being tech savvy, will be more focussed upon the wider requirements of your business operation than with the nuances and intricacies of computer-speak.
Being mindful of this, it’s important that you make clear to your provider that you expect information to be conveyed in a way that is clear to you, and that you are fully comfortable with. This is not a pedantic point, but rather a key to building a good working relationship with your MSP in a way that benefits you and increases your awareness of what it is that is being done on your behalf.
Ensure that your provider understands your company’s needs
An MSP that really wants to work for you will make the effort to understand the way in which your company works, and the nature and personality of your business.
This need not involve an intricate understanding of your business, but your provider does need to have an overview or what it is you do and how it all works. In particular they will need to know how IT works for your company, and how it intersects with the various facets of your operation.
In this way your service provider will know which features of the package they provide are essential to your company in order to keep it function, and which are perhaps more peripheral.
In an ideal world they will have worked previously in a similar environment to your own, of a similar size and in the same line of business. Doing this will help them to better understand your needs and requirements.
Is your IT service provider up to the task?
Anticipate your company’s potential growth before deciding whether the service provider you have engaged has the capacity to continue to deliver a first class support service – and plan for the best rather than holding back on your ambition.
Apple and Amazon were not always the gigantic corporations they are today, and whilst it is of course unlikely that you will ever reach the same dizzy heights of achievement it doesn’t hurt to plan for the biggest possible growth. And if that does happen, will your MSP be able to keep up with servicing your requirements?
Be frank with them when outlining your goals, and encourage them to do the same. And be sure to take stock of the situation at various points along your journey, so that the service you receive never falls behind the standards you need from them.
What do you do when not everything goes to plan?
No matter how good your relationship with your provider is there will inevitably be some issues along the line. Make sure they sit down and discuss them with you, always keeping you fully in the picture in respect of any difficulties. How your MSP handles downtime will prove a good indicator of whether your business’ infrastructure is in good hands with them.
Always be prepared to ask what went wrong, what is being done to fix it and also to prevent the situation from either recurring. If failings can be used to perfect the learning process then they are not the end of the world, just so long as they are manageable.
You might also want to consider incorporating some provision for compensation into your service agreement for such things as system failures and downtime, which after all may end up costing your business money. Many providers hold business liability insurance and therefore are cushioned from the effects of financial claims against them.
Are they proactive?
Fixing problems when they occur is one thing, but your MSP should be proactively trying to ensure that systems don’t malfunction in the first place rather than waiting for problems to happen. Many providers engage in regular monitoring and maintenance through the installation of SD WAN network tools.
Sudden downtime and unpredicted failures can potentially be extremely harmful for a business. Indeed official figures suggest it is not unusual for a company to lose up to £100,000 an hour as a direct result of system failures when revenues and lost time are factored in.
A proactive approach goes a very long way towards keeping such losses to an absolute minimum.
Engage a partner rather than a contractor
When you take on a good managed service provider you are not only employing somebody to fix your computer systems when they go wrong. On the contrary, you are engaging expertise which can be harnessed to the benefit of your company. Indeed it pays to consider your MSP as a partner rather a contractor.
Invite them to board meetings to input knowledge and fresh ideas into the discussion, ensuring that there is always an expert IT perspective to every aspect of your operation. Use whatever intelligence is available from your provider to ensure the best possible service is delivered to your clients.