For most business owners, the prospect of choosing a good Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) to set up and/or manage their IT systems (learn more about what an MSP is here) is just as daunting as trying to figure out all their technology needs by themselves. What are the right questions to ask? How do I tell if they are doing a good job? What services does my business need, and what is irrelevant or overkill? Business owners are usually far too busy running their business to research and understand all the concepts, standards, and lingo that MSPs deal with every day, and conversations can often slip into lost-in-translation territory, as a seemingly simple question results in mind-boggling and frustrating technical answers. Read on to reset your brain and consider how best to choose an MSP, and how best to evaluate your existing MSP and make sure it is doing right by you and your company.
MSPs are intentionally flexible businesses, as they are designed from a service-mindset, wanting to give their clients all the support they need in whatever field they work. Technically, there may be differences in how different engineers like to configure devices or how different reps like to word emails, but functionally, MSPs exist to help you with your IT. So, specific technical requirements aside, the best way to choose or evaluate an MSP is not so much related to what they are doing, but how the work is being done and how you are treated in the process.
Think about the best service provider you have ever worked with. The cleaning company who cleans your business. The utility company who supplies your fuel or electricity. The flight attendant or travel agent for your recent business trip or vacation. What aspects of that experience made it the best to you? Most likely, it had to do with a few critical categories: timeliness, friendliness, effectiveness, and expertise. These are some of the most critical categories to evaluate an MSP in, since we use the same metrics to measure pretty much any service we receive. When you call your MSP for help, how quickly do they respond? How friendly and effective are they when resolving your issue? Do they seem to know what they are talking about? Do they anticipate future issues for you before you encounter them? Think less about the service itself, and more about how the interactions went. If your MSP was unable to resolve an issue, or referred you to another provider for support, chances are any other MSP would have done the same thing. Considering that, how happy were you with the interaction otherwise?
The other side to take into consideration is the type of support you want. Some MSPs will only sell you the “total package” supporting everything so they can charge you as much as possible. Other MSPs can be more flexible. Consider first the IT environment of your business. Do you have users using both Mac and Windows workstations? Do you have a central server and networking devices like switches and wi-fi access points? Do you want your MSP to support your mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones? Do you already have someone on staff that can do basic helpdesk stuff like rebooting computers, installing updates, and resetting passwords, or will you need an MSP to help with everything?
Also consider your non-IT environment. Do you have third shift workers that might require 24/7 support availability? Is that something you want to pay for every month, or just as you need it? Where do your staff work from—office, home, work sites, etc.? How do they connect to the resources they need to work?
Finally, think about the times that you have reached out to other tech companies for support. Think about the aspects of that experience that you think could have been improved and apply those to your search for an MSP. Was it difficult to get to speak to someone on the phone when you needed help? Did you have trouble understanding the person you called for help when you did get through? Did emails go unanswered for extended periods? Make sure you have a direct phone number you can call, preferably to a specific person, so you never have to worry about being neglected by your MSP. Consider finding an MSP that hires all their support staff directly and does not outsource their work. Also, look for an MSP who can explain things in a way that makes sense to you and not just to another tech person. Annoyed by all those marketing emails you started receiving after you called in for help? Make sure your MSP is not sharing your contact info with its partners or adding you to marketing mailing lists without your express permission.
Overall, finding the right MSP can be tricky, and while the most obvious indicator may be the price tag, the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. If you are signing a contract, what is the duration? Are you being asked to sign a long-term contract to even start to work with an MSP company? You are the consumer, make sure you get what your business needs that provides you flexibility. An MSP who knows they will do a good job will not need to get you to sign a long contract to work with them. If you are being asked to sign a long-term contract, make sure there is a clause that allows you to back out of the agreement without penalty, or at the very least make sure there is an evaluation period, so you have a chance to try them on for size before you must stay the entire duration of the contract, even if you are not satisfied. Use these questions to help frame your opinion, and if they do not match up to your expectations, then check out another option. You do not want to get locked into a contract with a company that turns out to be far less than you had expected. Make them earn your business!
Is your business growing and you are at a point where IT needs are surpassing your internal capabilities? Are you reading this article and thinking about how your current MSP is just not hitting the mark? Reach out to us here at Vermont Panurgy to see if we would be a good fit! We are dedicated to our clients’ success, hire locally, and work flexibly across multiple platforms and environments. We are always transparent with our clients with causes of issues and recommendations for solutions. We know that in today’s IT world, providing MSP services really means partnering with each business, and we want you to know who you are partnered with, and that we are committed to the success of your business. Call us at (800) 974-1115 option 2 or email email@example.com to start the conversation today!