Selecting a managed IT firm that can meet all of your expectations and provide critical goal-achievement support may be the most important decision an organization makes.
Businesses have grown increasingly reliant on technology for communication, productivity, and planning. If you stop and think about it, even security priorities shifted from posting a guard at the door to defending cybercriminals from stealing your digital assets. Working with the right managed services provider (MSP) can make the difference between sustainable success and shuttering your business.
But the inherent problem industry leaders face is knowing what to ask. Although you may possess expert-level knowledge about your niche, IT can seem abstract. That’s why it’s critical to know what to ask and — perhaps of equal importance — what constitutes a good answer.
According to Sean Connery with Las Vegas IT Services company Orbis Solutions, these rank among the most important questions to ask an IT firm before investing in its services.
1: Who Will Answer When I Call?
There are multiple good answers to this question. If you are considering a small IT firm, perhaps a member of the leadership team takes your calls during the day. Perhaps a designated staff person remains on call for off-hour emergencies. Some outfits integrate an online chat presence that filters your call to the appropriate person.
The best answer is typically a live person who you know in the event of an emergency. Online chat and help desk applications should be reserved for non-priority issues.
2: How Large & Diverse Is Your Team?
Some firms tend to focus on niche aspects of managed IT such as Cloud migration or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication systems and management. Others keep a stable of skilled technicians with expertise in wide-reaching areas. These might additionally include cybersecurity, Microsoft applications, remote infrastructure, and disaster planning, among many others. Too many outfits claim to be able to do-it-all.
You are purchasing services, and the best value comes from matching your IT needs to experienced people. It’s not unreasonable to contract specific services such as VoIP from one firm and cybersecurity monitoring from another.
3. Does The Firm Offer Different Service Contracts?
Approximately 60 percent of IT is addressed through an MSP. One of the primary reasons stems from the cost-effective nature of agreements. Many firms offer reasonable deals that allow business leaders to select only the services they require or level they can afford. Contracting with a one-size-fits-all outfit may not be in your best interest.
An MSP that offers flexible options and rates may allow you to add or subtract services as needed. Why pay for services you don’t need right now?
4. Do You Offer 24/7 Remote Oversight?
In the early days, technicians operated under the “break-fix” model. They typically reacted to system and computer glitches and failures. This model caused businesses to suffer downtime and take unnecessary losses. Proactive firms engage in ongoing monitoring and anticipate many problems before they occur. Ask yourself, do you need 24/7 monitoring, or do you want to wait for systems to go back online while employees sip lattes?
5: Does The Firm Carry Errors and Omissions (E&O) Coverage?
Given that human error tends to cause a wide range of business snafus, managed IT service technicians are not immune. Although many highly trained and experienced professionals work in the sector, what happens when a mistake costs you time and money.
A reputable MSP usually carries an insurance policy with enough bandwidth to cover any of your accidental losses. If the person from the MSP you’re speaking with says something along the lines of “we don’t make mistakes” or “we don’t need insurance,” consider these two words: Next Please.
6: Will Dedicated People Be Assigned To My Account?
Entering into an agreement with an MSP is a lot like getting into a relationship. You will share in technology and business successes and face challenges together. That’s why a healthy and personal organization-MSP relationship remains essential.
Big technology outfits can place small and mid-sized organizations into a pool. When you have an issue or want to discuss critical next steps, the person you’re speaking with doesn’t truly grasp the subtle aspects of your business. It can be like going on 50 first dates.
When selecting a good IT partner, it’s essential to have one or two-point people. One may be an account manager who understands the ebb and flow of your IT needs and costs. This person may also be the one to discuss long-term planning and growth.
You may also want a dedicated engineer or IT technician. This professional usually takes the lead on software updates, Cloud-connectivity and migration, cybersecurity measures, and a host of other items. That person does not necessarily need to be the one conducting software patches or firewall updates. But a dedicated engineer or lead technician understands the state of your IT. As the Kane Brown country music song goes, aren’t you looking for your “last first kiss” when you get hitched to a managed IT services provider.
7: Can You Provide References For Me To Contact?
Professional references are a big deal. They unquestionably represent the quality of an MSP’s previous work. Perhaps even more importantly, they demonstrate the willingness of other clients to go on the record. These are three questions that can paint a clear picture.
- Does the MSP follow through on promises?
- Do they stay under budget, or do you get up-charged?
- Would you hire them again, right now?
The answers to those and the previous question should provide enough information to make informed decisions about working with an MSP that meets your needs today and into the future.