At a time when seasoned tech pros are pricey to hire and difficult to find locally, lots of companies are turning to managed service providers (MSPs) to deal with their everyday IT needs.
If you're reading this post, you probably already know that you should partner with an MSP. But what do you really need to consider before choosing your next MSP?
Working with the right managed service provider offers business owners some incredible advantages. For example, your internal IT team is probably overwhelmed regardless of the size of your organization. An MSP can help to bring much-needed respite. This approach can build loyalty and significantly impact your bottom line.
Furthermore, when businesses partner with an established MSP, they can immediately access new technologies and much-needed technical expertise without recruiting and employing in-house IT professionals. This approach helps in-house IT teams focus on more business-critical tasks, including seamlessly scaling operations.
However, choosing the right managed service provider for your company will depend on different variables like the type of business, geographical location, and much more. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's first define it.
What Is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?
A managed service provider delivers IT services using an ongoing, subscription-based model. In this scenario, business owners can receive active administration and regular remote or on-site support in their MSP's data center (hosting) or even in a third-party’s data center.
According to Grand View Research, the managed services market size was valued at $239.71 billion globally in 2021. It's forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.4% between 2022 and 2030. Key growth drivers include the COVID-19 pandemic, which ushered in an era of significant business automation, and remote work.
An MSP typically manages some or all of an organization's IT business functions:
- Active administration
- Asset management
- Backups and disaster recovery
- Business communications, such as email
- Cloud computing
- Continuous optimization of IT environments using relevant metrics
- Cloud services
- Cybersecurity services, including, but not limited to, antivirus and firewalls
- Data storage
- Device management
- Software licenses
- Software updates and patches
- Staff training
Here are the top 10 tips for choosing the right managed service providers:
1. Do They Specialize in Managed Security Services (MSS)?
Most MSPs offer various specialized services, but many don't provide any cybersecurity services. Some offer basic perimeter or surface-level security, but this approach falls short when it comes to advanced threats in the current threat landscape.
Malicious actors and the attack vectors they rely on are becoming increasingly complex, and an MSP that is ill-equipped to handle them can do more harm than good for your business.
Research suggests that ransomware attacks force as much as 75% of small businesses to close down. Unfortunately, sometimes it's partly due to the fact that they had an IT partner that didn't provide specialized managed security services.
That's why it's crucial to choose a managed IT services provider that provides managed security services. A good MSP can help you close gaps in your protection while providing proactive incident response and sensitive data protection that improves your overall security posture.
2. What Is the MSP's Track Record?
Due diligence is important before committing to an MSP. You can't just go by their website and sales collateral. You first need to look at their customer feedback. You can learn about them by reading their own testimonials, searching online for unbiased reviews, and looking into their industry partnerships.
If your prospective MSP consistently receives positive reviews, it's a good sign that they are dedicated and excellent at customer service and problem-solving.
Before partnering with a managed service provider, make sure to look into their annual retention rates, the current level of partnerships with the likes of Microsoft and other tech giants, and the size of their customer base. Once you do that, check their certifications.
A lack of information suggests that the MSP's service can be unreliable or lead to unexpected costs in the future. This is why it's vital to perform due diligence before selecting an MSP and signing a binding contract.
3. Does the MSP's Offering Align with Requirements?
Most MSPs are not industry specific. They can provide services to any company. However, there are a few who specialize in particular types of industries. These include healthcare, legal, manufacturing, and non-profit organizations.
So, if you work in an industry where one or more of these apply, ask the MSP about their industry specialization. This approach can help you figure out whether they are a good fit for your business.
It will be an added bonus if your prospective MSP also offers compliance services designed for highly regulated industries. Managed service providers usually provide the following regulatory compliance standards:
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA)
- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
- Service Organization Control 2 (SOC 2)
4. Service-Level Agreements (SLAs)
An SLA outlines all the responsibilities of both parties and guarantees certain things. For example, the SLA may include guaranteed response times for open tickets or service uptime.
Make sure to demand round-the-clock IT support, including remote assistance, in your SLA. It's important as your business can't risk potential downtime because your managed services partner was unavailable.
A cloud service provider might guarantee 99.9% uptime, meaning that they would pay out if there was less than 0.1% downtime. SLAs are also important as they are at the heart of ensuring business continuity.
5. What Service Structures Does the MSP Offer?
Most managed service providers offer a wide range of services. Does the MSP provide different service tiers that can be added and subtracted as needed? Do they take a proactive approach, or do they still follow the break/fix model?
It's vital to ensure that they can provide everything you need without outsourcing some tasks. After all, you don't want to find out that your MSP was getting a third-party provider to handle cybersecurity after a data breach.
It would help if you also had a managed services partner who could grow with you. As your business evolves and operations scale, the company will require new technologies to meet market demands. As such, it's essential to understand if they can seamlessly scale their services over the months and years ahead.
The MSP's offering should also be flexible. No two businesses are exactly the same, so why should anyone go with a rigidly structured managed services package? Whenever an MSP provides enhanced flexibility and customization, you can then ensure that you only pay for what you need.
Some services in customized service packages include:
- Backup and disaster recovery (BDR)
- Co-managed IT
- Helpdesk services
- IT Infrastructure services
- Managed IT services
- Managed print services
- Managed security services
- vCISO services
While flexibility is important, it's also critical to understand that pricing will change as you scale your operation up or down. For example, the more devices and users connect to your network, the more you will have to pay for the service.
Transparency is key to a successful partnership. Your MSP should show you exactly what they have been doing for you and what they plan to do for you in the future.
When a managed IT services provider is always open and transparent, it also helps improve your data security protocols and long-term planning. MSPs must also be transparent with their approach, culture, tools, processes, and methods, as this ensures visibility, collaboration, and trust.
7. What Type of Staff Do They Have?
Does your prospective MSP manage everything with staff in-house, or do they outsource some of the work? Regardless, make sure that all IT staff, whether outsourced, internal, or both, are vetted and experienced.
Employees should also boast a variety of (or at least some) specializations within their organizations. In general, the more experienced the staff, the better. For example, if your industry is highly regulated, choosing an MSP with senior security and compliance staff with an excellent track record would be a good idea.
You won't find all this information at a glance, so take the time to research and talk to your prospective managed services provider.
8. Can They Work with Your Managed Service Budget?
Businesses often need to spend more money to ensure that they receive high-quality products or services. But at the same time, enterprises need to balance their MSP budget with their overall budget.
So, if you plan to allocate more money to managed IT service providers, you must give up some other expenses. As we have plenty of options, the quickest way to sort through MSPs is to remove those that are clearly outside your budget. But first, you have to decide on your budget.
When selecting an MSP, be sure to compare their pricing models before making a decision. It may seem obvious, but comparing the prices of several providers could help you choose one that provides better services at a lower cost.
9. Where Are They Located?
Where your MSP is located can be important for a number of reasons. For example, if a managed services vendor is based in the same city or county, it will be much easier to coordinate on-site support.
The MSP's location can also have an impact on costs, speed, and the quality of service. If your MSP is located in a different country, you might encounter some cultural differences and language barriers. Data privacy laws in that country will probably be different, which can add an extra layer of complexity.
10. Does Your MSP Stay Up to Date?
It's important for an MSP to keep up with the latest trends in information technology and IT systems. As technology evolves at breakneck speed, staying current will help ensure privacy and security and provide a competitive advantage.
So, make sure that the MSP you partner with is investing resources into cutting-edge training technologies and investing time into training staff to use these new technologies and manage them effectively. They should also have a robust disaster recovery plan.
The perfect MSP will align with your IT needs and scale seamlessly as you grow.
They will also stay current with the latest technology trends and ensure robust security and compliance.
Your managed services provider will also be available around the clock to address your needs effectively.
Outsourcing your daily IT operations to the right MSP will let your in-house staff focus on your business goals. As such, you can say that it's an investment that will grow with you. Partnering with a managed IT service provider can boost productivity, cut costs, and improve security.