Alex Lane, growth specialist at zsah, discusses what to look for and avoid when choosing a managed IT provider
Technology and innovation, as ever, marches on – and the demands put on businesses, organisations, and their IT teams have not decreased. However, thanks to the pandemic and working from home, the need for digital adoption has picked up a considerable pace over the last few years. This, in turn, has put new and increased pressures on IT teams.
In these situations, businesses seek the assistance of a managed IT service provider. These highly skilled technology partners specialise in simplifying the process and easing the headache. Ultimately, managed services free your staff from performing time-consuming tasks and allow them to focus on the core business operations instead.
These days, businesses are increasingly outsourcing to dedicated experts – managed IT service providers. These highly skilled technology partners specialise in looking after your IT, so you don’t have to.
Research from Mordor Intelligence shows that the global managed service provider (MSP) market was valued at $152 billion in 2020, and is expected to grow at 11.2% to reach $274.2 billion by 2026. The implication is clear: managed services are here to stay.
However, as with any service business, selecting a provider is subject to certain levels of risk. You must ensure your organisation gets what it needs from its MSP without being led astray by one looking for a quick cash grab.
As with any service industry, particularly one that requires so much integration and knowledge of your vital, fragile IT systems, you need to find one you can trust and who will do you right.
To find such a gem, these are the key factors to consider:
Basing your decision solely on price
Budget and staying within it is, of course, vital – particularly when you’re operating on a shoestring. However, to pick an IT partner based solely on this is not wise. If possible, you need to find someone who can do what you need within the budget, but don’t go for the cheapest; your IT system is far too important.
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Don’t relinquish all control
Working with an IT partner requires some degree of shared responsibility and a lot of cooperation, but do not let go entirely – you are and will remain responsible for whatever happens. After all, it is still your company, your customers and clients, and your name on the legal documents.
Choose an MSP who lets you have complete control over test timing and depth, and make sure they give you complete visibility over everything – communication is critical. Cloud-based monitoring systems can be a great ally here, and any MSP worth their salt will provide one so you can see what’s happening at any time.
Make sure they understand your business and your IT systems
MSPs need to understand how your network functions and its minimum and maximum functions and requirements. Make sure they ask the right questions, as this means they know the level of mutual understanding and cooperation required and are ready to commit resources to learn everything they can.
This will ensure they know how to fix an issue that arises and how to minimise any risk of that happening in the first place. Make sure of this before signing anything.
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Get to grips with the Service Level Agreement (SLA’s)
All packages and services come with an agreement that defines the cost, scope, length of the contract, requirements, etc. Your SLA will also determine what you’re entitled to should any failures, outages, or downtime occur, but it will also set a minimum response time from your new IT partner.
If you’re looking at managed network solutions, ensure “network availability,” or the guaranteed uptime percentage is within the SLA. If unplanned downtime happens because of faulty equipment or poor management of resources, they’ll compensate accordingly. Proactive maintenance is often key to minimising downtime, so make sure this is included in the package.
MSPs are not all the same
They might be similar, but most are not the same, with substantial differences, experiences, and capabilities. Things like customer service and communication between the provider and your business can often be a key point of difference that is make or break.
Lastly, always ask questions and seek industry references as often as possible.