• Mohammed Yusuf

How to Select a Managed Service Provider

In my previous articles, I talked about the reasons for needing a Managed Services Provider (MSP). Organizations lacking are time to focus on business, have overbearing costs of IT, different technologies and a lack of technical expertise. An MSP is an IT guardian, facilitator and proficient all rolled into one – the provider of IT services carefully designed to help your business operate more efficiently while bringing predictability to your IT support cost structure.

Are MSP’s all the same? They all generally provide Help Desk support, infrastructure management, network health monitoring, remote and on-site support, virus protection and keeping data safe 24/7. It all sounds relatively easy, however, if all MSP’s offer the same thing, how do you choose the right one? What is the Unique Selection Point (USP) of each MSP? Below are some of my thoughts on how to select the right MSP for your organization. Remember one size does not fit all in this situation.

Longevity in the Space and Technology area – An MSP with longevity will serve to increase the likelihood of a fruitful partnership. A partner with years of experience in the field will serve you well, and you want a partnership with a firm that has been around for over 10+ years. Look for an organization with a healthy financial track record and ample experience working in their field. Don’t be afraid to ask an organization about their future to see if it aligns with yours.

This firm will serve as your end to end Solution Provider and your IT department, so if they lack knowledge and experience in the space with which you operate, then there will be a disconnect between expected service and service provided. Should your industry have compliance requirements, it is imperative that the MSP understand this and consider it during the engagement.

When choosing an MSP ask them for:

  • Customer references (Industry specific)

  • Bio/resumes of team members

Virtual CIO – A vCIO is an outsourced IT service that can manage every aspect of your company’s technology needs, for a fraction of the price of hiring an on-site CIO. The MSP selected must be able to provide this type of resource, to accomplish the following:

  • Set strategic direction

  • Develop Policies and Processes

  • Disaster Recovery Planning

  • Integration and Migration Planning

  • Data Security planning

  • Budget Planning

Your MSP should provide someone with strong communication skills, a technology background and the ability to investigate the future of technology as it pertains your business. The level of the vCIO often hinges on how much the MSP values the position. A strong vCIO can serve as a USP (Unique Selection Point) when choosing the correct MSP for your company.

Domestic 24 x 7 x 365 Remote Monitoring and Onsite Support – Proactivity should be one of the significant criteria’s when selecting an MSP. An organization with a prominent practice will have strong Remote Monitor Management (RMM) capabilities that provide 24x7x365 monitoring. A true MSP will have invested in a Network Operations Center (NOC) , which utilizes monitoring systems that identify problems before they affect a client's network. It is vital that your MSP speaks the language of proactivity, and is a champion at system monitoring, alert monitoring for all devices within your organization regardless of location.

Your MSP should also have the capability to provide onsite support in the event of Break/Fix work, or development of best practices to ensure stability in your environment. There truly is no replacement for face-to-face time with your IT professional. Their visits could be monthly, Bi-monthly or quarterly; the frequency is not the key. Onsite visits are essential to ensuring equipment is running correctly. Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance for your devices will help further the longevity of your technology and bring more value to the remote capabilities.

Domestic Support is valid evaluation criteria when selecting an MSP, as the potential of avoiding such issues and time zone differences and the language barrier is reduced when utilizing domestic support. Often the stigma with domestic support is the cost, however, when selecting an MSP, communication is an important point and a domestic support team reduces the communication barrier that could exist.

IT Lifecycle Approach – The lifecycle approach of your MSP is a vital part of how successful the MSP will be in the engagement and in supporting you. Organizations often utilize service fragmentation, which involves utilizing multiple Managed Service Providers to meet the various needs. This is a logical strategy with illogical results, such as high implementation costs, complex environments and a slow down in process. The best route is to select one partner that is well versed across the IT spectrum from initial planning to onboarding and continuous service improvement. This will ensure the likelihood of a greater understanding of your business and specific IT environment.

The above mentioned are just a few of the requirements needed to select an MSP. Communication, depth of engineering, strong security practice and trust are also requirements for consideration. Regardless of the MSP chosen, the goal is to “get ahead” of any issues that may arise within your environment. If your prospective MSP checks of all these items, then the road to an exceptional partnership is has been built. Don’t be afraid to use this list as a guideline, while adding whatever else you deem necessary.