6 min read

What to Look for in a Managed Service Provider

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Managed service providers (MSPs) provide critical technology services to companies of all sizes and industries. From managing cloud servers, to running software updates, identifying methods of streamlining IT assets, and creating custom software solutions for addressing specific business issues, MSPs provide a wide range of services to meet your IT needs.

Why do companies hire MSPs? How do MSPs help with your IT spending? What are the potential pitfalls of using the wrong managed service? Most importantly, what should you look for in an MSP?

Reasons to Hire an MSP                                                                   

Managed service providers can be a major boon to your overall information technology (IT) strategy. Some of the benefits of investing in managed IT include:

1. Improving Productivity with IT Solutions

MSPs may have access to tools and resources that can help you improve productivity in your organization’s key processes. They often have extensive experience in change management to help minimize the impacts of a major shift in your enterprise applications and workflows.

2. Making Your IT Portfolio Management Proactive

Obsolete, insufficient, or failing IT assets can create numerous problems for your organization. For example, if there aren’t enough IT resources to go around, certain processes could become bottlenecked—slowing down productivity. Or, if a critical system fails, work can be brought to a halt completely.

MSPs can help project your IT needs and identify obsolescent or damaged assets on your network. Then, they can create a plan to make your IT portfolio management more proactive so issues are fixed before they negatively impact your business.

3. Improving IT ROI

Being able to establish the ROI for any initiative is vital for getting leadership buy-in. IT management is no different. However, many organizations struggle to establish and measure the ROI from their IT investments.

Managed service providers can often help improve a company’s IT ROI simply by establishing means of tracking it—such as by identifying key performance metrics that an IT asset might affect and tracking the metric before and after the asset is implemented.

By measuring results and tracking IT budget spend, MSPs could help to improve your IT strategy to increase ROI steadily over time.

4. Providing Easy Access to IT Expertise

IT expertise isn’t cheap or easy to find. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of an IT engineer is about $101,962 per year (as of May 2021). While this figure can shift depending on the specific skills and experience of the engineer in question, it’s clear that building a complete team of full-time IT experts is going to be a very costly proposition.

IT engineers know what they’re worth and that there’s high demand for their skills. So, they often get proposals from numerous employers and make them compete to provide the best offer—driving up costs and making recruiting processes longer as engineers shop around for the best offers.

Hiring an MSP to provide services allows you to skip the recruitment process and gain instant access to a full team of IT engineers with varied skills—often for just a portion of the cost of hiring a similarly large and skilled team.

Common Pitfalls of Using the Wrong MSP

Not every managed service provider will be right for your organization’s needs. Since we’ve discussed some of the reasons to hire an MSP, what are some of the potential pitfalls of hiring the wrong MSP?

  • Poor Communication and Coordination. An MSP needs to be there to help you meet your organization’s IT goals. However, communication can be a challenge for some MSPs—especially ones that operate overseas and have language or time zone barriers between their team and yours. This, in turn, can lead to poor or delayed communication that makes your managed services less responsive than they should be.
  • Unplanned Charges for Services. Different MSPs may have different billing models. Does your MSP have a flat monthly rate for meeting specific service level agreements (SLAs), or do they charge by the hour? If a major issue pops up that they need to fix, is it part of their regular services or is it an upcharge for an unplanned project? If your contract isn’t clear, you could be on the hook for unplanned charges.
  • Getting Shoehorned into “Vendor Locked” Technology Solutions. Some MSPs might have agreements with specific technology solution providers to promote their services above others. While tech partnerships aren’t always a bad thing—partnerships with tech vendors can provide cost savings, improved training resources, and other benefits—the inability to work with other technologies can be an issue. It could leave you forced to use the one technology the MSP knows and make it difficult to make changes later on if you need to shift to a new solution.
  • Long Delays on IT Projects. Delays happen even to the best-managed service providers. For example, there may be some unexpected issue or priority shift that puts a project on the “back burner” for a while. However, when an MSP stretches their resources too thin or lacks the right expertise for a project, it can create consistent delays on nearly any IT project they handle.

What to Look for in a Managed Service Provider

So, how can you avoid hiring the wrong MSP? The first step is knowing what to look for in a managed service provider. Some key things to check before hiring an MSP include:

1. Their Managed Services Contract

It never hurts to carefully review any contract you’re presented with before signing it. In the service contract, it’s important to look for things like:

  • What SLAs the service provider is committing to (such as frequency of communication, how quickly they’ll respond to requests, service uptime for IT assets they manage, etc.).
  • How many working hours the MSP is committing to each month.
  • What services are actually covered under the contract.
  • Duration of the contract (this should be verbally confirmed prior to contract signing, but it’s important to double-check).
  • Termination clauses and penalties for ending the MSP’s services early.

Knowing what’s in the contract can be key for avoiding unpleasant surprises later on in the working relationship.

2. Their Other Customers (Past and Present)

Want to get a good indication of how well an MSP will work with your organization? Reach out to their other customers, both past and present!

Getting feedback about the MSP through online reviews or directly from the companies that they’ve worked with in the past can be a great way to gauge their overall service quality. If the majority of reviews are positive, odds are that the MSP provides pretty solid service.

3. Specific IT Expertise and Knowledge

How familiar is the MSP with the IT solutions your company uses? While there will always be exceptions (such as for legacy systems that aren’t widely available anymore), your ideal MSP partner should be knowledgeable about your enterprise’s IT assets—or at least willing to learn them!

Checking an MSP’s existing certifications can give you a general idea of how well equipped they are to work with your company’s IT resources. If you want to take things even further, you can vet their expertise by giving them a quiz on a specific item—such as a coding language your company uses, a specific security standard you need to meet, or how to use a particular software application.

4. How the MSP Handles Communication

How will the MSP communicate with you and your team? Do they have scheduled weekly reports and calls? Do they simply reach out whenever they start or complete an initiative? Do they have offices in or near your area with staff who speak the same language as you?

These are kind of important questions to have answers to prior to hiring the MSP. Efficient communication makes it easier to keep up with the IT initiatives your MSP is helping you with. It also makes initiating “course corrections” easier if you or your MSP discovers an issue that needs to be dealt with.

Do you need an experienced and reliable managed service provider to help you get more out of your IT initiatives? Reach out to Systems X today!

We make the IT partnership easy with clear-cut services—no guessing games about which services you’ll get. We will help you assess your IT needs and provide an easy-to-understand roadmap for achieving those goals.

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