Hiring a Managed Services Provider (MSP) to handle your IT operations is an excellent way for companies to make up for skills gaps among their technical personnel. MSPs offer services like monitoring business environments to prevent unnecessary downtime and protecting company networks. The following criteria can help you judge whether you’re getting the experience you need when evaluating IT operations managed services.
1. Review the Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Service-level agreements set up the kind of service you can expect from your provider and any obligations you provide to them. They should eliminate any confusion around issues like how long your business must wait to receive a response to problems and the kind of service offered. For example, will software issues be handled via a remote connection, or will someone come to your location to remedy the problem?
The terms of an SLA vary from one MSP to another. Your business should clearly understand the terms of each and what services fall under different priority levels. There shouldn’t be any surprises later on about what technology your company feels is a top priority versus what the MSP thinks is essential.
Organizations should also ask about any termination clauses within an SLA and go over the terms of any contract. Ask about the duration of the agreement, expectations around service delivery, guarantees on uptime, and whether the MSP provides insurance for its services.
2. Ask About the Staff
It’s not uncommon for IT service operations management firms to outsource engineering talent to handle specific issues. However, that may not be ideal for smaller companies that don’t have IT staff available to handle critical problems. They wouldn’t have the capacity to wait a long time for an MSP to find someone capable of addressing their issue. Your company should understand the kind of employee setup used by an MSP before signing a contract.
3. Inquire About the MSP’s Reputation
Old-fashioned legwork goes a long way toward informing you about an MSP’s history with other companies. Find out how long the company has operated and the kind of businesses they’ve assisted. Look at their organizational chart and the experience of those at the top and working in the field.
You should also ask the IT service operations manager for client referrals and follow up with a phone call. Ask about the technical certifications of their staff and what the MSP specializes in as far as technology. The last thing you want is an MSP unfamiliar with your infrastructure. It’s also helpful if they have an established history with other technology vendors.
4. Confirm Whether the MSP Helps With Upgrades
Another important consideration when evaluating MSPs is whether they offer help with technology upgrades, like patches to your Microsoft 365 instance. Think about the complexity of your setup and whether the MSP has workers with the experience required to maintain your infrastructure correctly. Your business’s MSP of choice should make operations run more smoothly and accommodate your need to add new technology.
5. Ask About On and Off-Site Support
Many companies today operate outside of the traditional confines of an office. With more employees working remotely, it helps to know whether MSPs can deliver services regardless of location. Technology makes it possible for MSPs to handle the majority of technical issues remotely. It’s more efficient, saves on time and cost, and expands the sphere of IT Ops management providers your businesses can choose from.
Even with the expansion of remote work, your company may still need an MSP to send someone out to deal with issues in-person. Some management teams prefer having technical problems handled on-site, so any MSP your company hires should accommodate that desire.
6. Think About Cybersecurity
While security may not be your top priority, you should still understand what kind of security an MSP provides to IT systems. Companies that work in IT operations management should understand the basics of network monitoring, security services, and the importance of proactively addressing cyber threats.
One way to assess the security knowledge of an MSP is to have them perform a security assessment on your company. If the MSP doesn’t have staff with extensive security knowledge, you should consider whether they are suitable for your business. If you decide to hire them regardless of their lack of security know-how, make sure you have a plan to address security concerns at your organization.
7. Ask About Support Availability
If something happens, will someone from your MSP be available to work through your issue? Your company should confirm the operating hours where you can expect to reach someone to deal with your operational needs.
Someone should answer the help desk and estimate when you can expect someone to handle your issue. Some MSPs make account managers available to clients to help them work through emergencies.
8. Ask Whether the Company Takes a Proactive Approach
The service offerings of an IT service provider should include trying to prevent problems from getting to a critical point. While it’s great if an MSP performs troubleshooting immediately when your company submits a ticket, it’s better to have strategies around keeping your IT environment free of issues.
For example, if your company is in the healthcare industry, you don’t want to run into trouble trying to submit updates to patient records. Your MSP should monitor your systems to pick up on network issues before impacting your employee’s daily workflow. Maintaining optimal uptime and setting up initiatives to protect your IT operations should be a top priority for your MSP.
9. Think About the Partnership
How involved will your choice of MSP be in the workings of your company? These days, many organizations are looking for support that complements their existing IT team, not take over for them completely. A strategic partner looks beyond the paycheck offered and looks for what’s best for their client.
An MSP who acts as a partner offers input about your technology, like whether they think you would be better off using Office 365 products instead of your current business software. They should note your IT infrastructure and offer ideas on potential improvements.
10. Ask About Metrics
See if the MSP you’re evaluating provides clients with reports detailing the IT services performed on your systems and networks. Your company should have information on what you’re paying for and whether the MSP meets your contract and SLA standards. That transparency allows you to see if your business is fully using available IT services.