We could talk all day about the value of IT Outsourcing, and have done just that on a number of occasions. But there is another question that is spoken about far less often: How to choose a managed service provider.
There are plenty of providers out there, after all, and finding one that not only meets, but exceeds your expectations can be an overwhelming process. Every provider will tell you that they are the best one to go with, and Solid Systems is no exception. But can they truly provide you with the support, expertise and guidance that you need, and will they be available when you need them most?
Let’s look at 10 things to look for in a managed service provider for your company:
10 Considerations When Choosing a Managed Service Provider
One of the main reasons that companies turn to external providers is because they don’t have the in-house experience that they need to manage their systems efficiently and effectively.
This is why it’s important to think about how much experience your service provider has themselves. And we’re not necessarily talking about how long the company itself has been operating – new businesses could have a complement of staff with vast experience that should be taken into consideration.
Ask the service providers that you’re considering about the technical experience that they’re able to offer. They’ll be more than happy to tell you about the years their team members, and the business itself, have under their belts, and the areas that they’re particularly experienced in.
The last person a business needs to manage their technology is a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. This may be a very handy person to have as part of an internal team, able to tinker around in a number of areas. But when you are dealing with a managed service provider, what you really want are experts in their fields, who specialise in specific areas of expertise.
What you need is a managed service provider who has these experts across a wide range of fields. This way, you’re not dealing with a Jack-of-all-trades, but with an entire team of IT pros, so that you’ll always have an IT consultant available who is vastly experienced in exactly what you need.
It’s such a fundamental part of IT – ensuring that your business’ data, apps, networks and servers are secure. So why would you choose a managed service provider without first looking into their own security. If you are trusting a provider with your data, you will want to ensure that you are partnering with a company that not only understands top security practices, but enforces them both within their own business, and for their clients.
Whether it’s a Disaster Recovery plan, a compliance audit, or a roadmap for future technology implementation, you want to ensure that you find the right partner to work with you during the planning process. But how to choose a managed service provider that does just that?
Many service providers have so much experience, that they think they have found a formula that works for every company that they come across.
The right service provider doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. They will work alongside you to learn exactly what your goals are, where your company is heading, and help you put together the perfect plan to help you meet and exceed your aspirations, and see you not just succeed, but thrive.
Every good service provider will have technologies that they specialise in, and you’ll want to find one that specialises in the types of technology that you need.
You wouldn’t approach a Mac specialist to help you with your Microsoft problems. As a Microsoft user, you would want to work with a company that knows everything there is to know about Windows and Microsoft products, and can help you not just to install a set of programs, but get the most out of all your solutions.
Wouldn’t you prefer to work with a qualified Microsoft Gold Partner, whose teams are constantly upskilling themselves with Microsoft qualifications, instead of a service provider who only just knows how to get Windows 10 to work?
But this question goes beyond your operating system and the apps that you choose to use. You want to make sure that your service provider has experience with the technologies that are used across your industry as well, and that they can guide you in the right direction and find the right technologies to meet your needs.
A managed service provider needs to be there for you whenever you might need them. If your systems fall over at midnight on Friday, finding out about the problem, or only being able to get hold of someone to help, on Monday morning is too late. Irreparable damage could have been caused to your infrastructure, your data and your reputation in the meantime.
You need to find a provider who is available 24/7, 365. If disaster strikes, you want to know that your service provider is prepared no matter what the day or time to get you back up and running as quickly as possible. If they can do so without you even knowing about the problem, or can stop an issue before it has the chance to occur, even better!
- Turn-Around Time:
A service provider being available when you need them is one matter, but how long it takes them to address your needs is another critical area that needs to be considered when finding the right provider to partner with.
This is where experience, planning and availability converge. You want to make sure that your issues will be addressed by the right people with the necessary expertise as quickly as possible. You also want to assure that you’ll be kept up to date on progress and informed along the way. So, how to choose a managed service provider who will meet the turn-around time that you need?
The right provider will have a Service Level Agreement, or SLA, that details how you can expect them to respond to incidents, emails and requests, and the kind of communication that you can expect from them throughout the process.
An SLA is the foundation of your partnership. It sets the expectations that the provider needs to meet, and explains what they need from your business in order to meet and exceed those expectations. When choosing the right partner for your business, make sure that you review all candidates’ SLAs to make sure that your expectations are aligned with the guarantees they are able to offer.
- Flexibility & Scalability:
Business needs are often fluid. When you’re starting out, you might find yourself needing minimal resources, but as your company grows, your needs will expand as well. At the same time, every business will also have lulls in their growth, where they need to reduce expenditure to match their declining customer interest and to meet their reduced requirements.
Finding a service provider who can offer you the flexibility and scalability that you need is essential. But how to choose a managed service provider that does just that? While many managed service providers work on a contract basis, tying you into specific services for extended periods of time, the right provider will offer month-to-month services that can see you upgrading and downgrading your resources and your support as your business needs change.
You think that you’ve found the perfect provider. They have the vast experience beyond your needs, with expert consultants in every possible IT area. Their security is Fort Knox and they specialise in every technology under the sun, including what your business needs. They have unlimited availability and a turn-around time that is out of this world. They even offer month-to-month services. And then you look at their quote and almost fall off your chair.
When trying to run a profitable business, you need to find a provider who is able to work within your budget. While there are many fantastic service providers out there, there are many whose abilities far exceed your needs, and come with price tags to match their premium services. This is why finding a small provider who specialises in what you need, rather than a huge provider who covers every possible base, is often more affordable and better for your business.
- Clientele (and their experiences):
One of the best questions to ask yourself when looking at how to choose a managed service provider is who their existing customers are, and what they think of the service they get.
You want to find a provider who works with other businesses in your industry. This way, you know that they have a great foundation for understanding of your needs. But you also want to find a provider who is raved about, who goes the extra mile, and whose customers cannot recommend them highly enough.
Find reviews for potential providers online through platforms like Google Reviews and social media, and see how their customers truly feel about them.
There are may factors to consider when looking at how to choose a managed service provider, and each of them will carry varying weight for your business and its priorities. But the most important factor is finding a provider who will work with you, guiding your business and helping you meet and exceed your goals. Solid Systems believes in helping businesses to step confidently into the future through exceptional Managed IT services and outstanding customer service. When you’re looking for the perfect managed service provider for your business, put SOLID at the top of your list.