Switching IT managed service providers (MSPs) can deliver significant long-term benefits. But many businesses avoid switching because they’re concerned the transition will have a negative impact on operations in the near term. While a certain amount of risk aversion is appropriate, too much can hold an enterprise back.
To help confirm whether switching MSPs will have a meaningful ROI, ask each potential new provider about the advantages of working with them over your current provider—and how they will make the transition as seamless as possible.
So, what should you watch out for in their responses? Other than filling in the gaps where your current MSP falls short, these ten factors are non-negotiable.
1. Detailed SLA
Service-level agreements (SLAs) highlight the biggest differences among MSPs by documenting the scope of services of the contract. SLAs hold MSPs accountable and carry weight in courts of law.
Only agree to an SLA if it includes:
- uptime commitment
- performance standards with measurements and metrics
- help desk hours
- response and repair times with clear urgency level differentiators
- credits or reimbursements for downtime
- notification and reporting requirements
- your termination rights
If you don’t see any line items with exclusions, provisions for third-party disruptions or details about the provider’s insurance policy, ask for this information in writing.
2. Scheduled communications
You want to be aware of what your MSP is doing with your network at all times, or at least be able to find out in seconds. Chances are, they want you to be involved too, because the relationship should be a trusted partnership. You and your MSP should communicate, even collaborate, on a regular basis. This can include written and verbal reports, in-person and telephone meetings and access to administrative portals and management controls, as appropriate. The standard process should reflect whether you want them to consult with you about every concern, only certain issues or if they should handle everything in the background.
3. Scalable services
You need to pivot on a dime to stay competitive, take advantage of time-limited opportunities and scale to accommodate fluctuating conditions. And your MSP needs to evolve with you, making it easy and cost-effective to add and remove locations, access points and bandwidth swiftly, without excessive cost or resources. So, find out exactly how scalable their services are before signing on the dotted line.
4. Future-thinking and forecasting
With new technologies becoming available at rapid-fire pace, your MSP must be a team of lifelong, nonstop learners. They should be passionate about their industry, living and breathing it to stay on top of IT innovations and best practices about everything from servers to databases, cybersecurity solutions to AI, able to use what they learn to keep your organization productive, efficient, competitive—and cutting-edge.
5. Remote monitoring
Remote monitoring and maintenance have revolutionized the IT industry, saving time and money every day—and even entire organizations from disaster. Because your MSP’s technicians can detect and resolve issues without making onsite visits, they catch them early, before they cause downtime or become expensive problems. Remote, proactive monitoring can also detect impending threats like cyberattacks and viruses, stopping them before they materialize.
6. Personalized business continuity planning
Most MSPs offer disaster recovery services, but not all personalize a business continuity plan to your organization. That’s important because you need to ensure your mission-critical equipment and processes remain operational and your data stays accessible during an emergency. Your MSP should create a plan that includes securely backing up your data in offsite locations, rerouting traffic to alternate sites and giving pre-authorized employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders access to your cloud applications from anywhere.
7. Always-available accessibility
The managed service provider advising your disaster recovery and business continuity plan should have its own plan in place. And if not, red flag. Because what happens if they are down and you need support? Or if your network is compromised while there is a lapse in your provider’s proactive monitoring service? Your uptime depends on their uptime, so demand to know how they will function in a catastrophe.
And from the get-go, your provider should assign a dedicated account manager and alternate contact for your business—and an alternate for the alternate. Additionally, you should expect 24/7/365 access to help desk support staffed by expert technicians. As discussed above, your provider and its help desk must have a business continuity plan to ensure operators can take calls during an emergency.
8. Data ownership agreement
With managed services you put a certain amount of trust in your provider, but your SLA should clearly state who owns your data: your business. And what happens to it if you part ways. And how they handle your data to ensure it stays with you if they have staff turnover on your account.
9. Rationale for “why them”
Can the MSP tell you why they are the right partner to manage your network? If it sounds like they are giving you the same dog-and-pony show they give everyone, press them to tell you what differentiates them from the competition and makes them a good fit for your business. They should be able to provide references, case studies and testimonials that show how they’ve excelled working with organizations like yours—either by industry, size or network structure.
10. Good listeners you can count on
Your MSP is a business partner and extension of your team. You need to trust them. Be able to communicate easily with them. And count on them to listen carefully and provide customized support and guidance. It helps to like them and their company culture too, because good chemistry makes for a better, more productive working relationship—and a team who will go the extra mile for you.
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