How to Choose a Managed IT Services Provider [Checklist + Questionnaire]

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Your business is at a stage now where it needs a managed IT services provider (MSP) to keep your IT systems running, your data secure, and your staff productive. In other words, your MSP should be a partner that helps drive cost savings and revenue in your organization. However, to achieve that, you need to ensure that your MSP’s checks off on each of your business’ IT requirements. Before signing off, you need to take a close look at each managed service offering:

Checklist & Questionnaire for Choosing a Managed IT Services Provider

1. IT Helpdesk with Fast Service & Response Time

Running into technical hiccups — such as internet downtime, application errors, lost phones, etc. — is understandable, but what counts is how quickly your MSP can resolve those issues. Your MSP’s ability to troubleshoot and fix IT problems depends on several factors, such as the quality of its service agents, processes, and its ITSM (IT service management) platform. For example, you can measure staff quality by looking at their training programs. One metric is to see if their agents have HDI Certification, a customer service standard authorized under ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) – a set of best practices. Likewise, you can assess the MSP’s processes by seeing if they align with ITIL. Moreover, you should ensure that the MSP’s ITSM tools are agnostic and/or compatible with your IT systems.

2. Third-Party Vendor Partnerships

Your IT environment comprises of software, hardware, and services (e.g., cloud) you purchased from vendors, such as Microsoft, Dell, Sophos, and others. Most MSPs maintain partnerships with these vendors, which could result in many benefits for your business, such as discounts on purchases, certified configuration and support services, etc. You should check to see if your MSP has partnerships with your vendors, which will allow you to create cost savings and other efficiencies down the line.

3. Local On-Site Technical Support

In the off-chance you need on-site technical support, your MSP should have a solution in play to bring that support to you. This could include a local office in your vicinity, or a network of IT pros in your region the MSP can dispatch to you in short order.

4. Cyber Security Support

Be it for compliance or to protect your business from cyber criminals, your MSP should place a high priority on cyber security. First, the MSP should help keep your IT assets secure. Typically, it should have programs in play that keep web traffic to and from your business secure (e.g., through firewalls), prevent unauthorized devices/users from accessing your system, and other measures. Second, the MSP itself must be secure. Your MSP must have strong password management and access control practices; otherwise, your data will be at high risk of exposure. Not only is your data at risk of loss, but you will also be at risk of compliance penalties.

5. Compliance Support

A growing number of regulatory frameworks require businesses to implement specific cyber security measures (e.g., GDPR, NIST, etc.). The failure to comply with these rules will result in costly fines and other penalties to your business. It would be a good idea to work with an MSP that will make your IT systems comply with your industry’s and region’s regulations. This will save many headaches on your end, freeing you to focus on your business’ work instead of trying to make sense of dense IT compliance issues. Like with cyber security, you must also ensure that your MSP complies with your regulations as you could be liable for third-party vulnerabilities and incidents.

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6. Network / Data / Application Monitoring

Be it on-premises or cloud-based, your hosted data (e.g., applications, websites, data, etc.) are vital assets to your business. However, the underlying infrastructure and platforms aren’t easy to manage, especially from a cyber security standpoint.

Thus, your MSP should offer around-the-clock monitoring and incident-response services. As we noted earlier, data security ties into a number of compliance frameworks. Gaps in securing your data could sting you in the future through fines, penalties, and potential breaches.

Finally, cloud services aren’t easy to configure, deploy, or maintain. By supporting infrastructure on your own, you might be at risk of overusing your internal IT resources on dealing with downtime instead of revenue-generating tasks, such as development.

Your MSP should offer an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) management that will handle the day-to-day operation of your cloud infrastructure (e.g., responding to downtime, monitoring, security, etc.).

7. Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Support

You can also leverage the cloud to back-up your data and restore it in response to a critical error or cyber breach. However, for this to work, you need secure and redundant data hosting assets.

Your MSP should host your data in secure data centers. Besides adhering to standard security best practices, your industry may require your MSP to follow additional compliance frameworks.

The MSP should also have a failover mechanism wherein if one data center fails (e.g., due to a natural disaster), your data will rollover to another data center in a different location.

In terms of business continuity, your MSP should help restore your daily operations (following a disaster) as quickly as possible. This support can involve planning and implementation support.

8. Contract Flexibility

Your MSP shouldn’t lock you into long-term contracts nor force you into signing onto additional services you don’t need. Your MSP should be flexible enough to cater to your specific needs.

For example, if you need patching services but don’t want to commit to a 3-year contract, your MSP can provide the service as a project. This project could be a timed engagement built on a project methodology (e.g., PMI) with a scope of work and milestones.

The benefit of this approach is that you don’t need to sign onto every MSP service to improve your IT. If you require only specific improvements or support, you can buy select services on an a la carte-like basis.

9. Skills & Certifications

Be it the service desk agents, developers, or IT professionals, your MSP should have a deep roster of certified IT experts, especially in technologies and issues relevant to your business.

For example, businesses are having difficulty hiring experienced cyber security professionals (Deloitte). However, hiring challenges won’t change the fact that businesses must comply with rigorous cyber security regulations or protect their assets from increasingly complex threats.

The Challenges Businesses are Having with Hiring Cyber Security Staff

how to choose a managed it service provider
(Source: Deloitte)

MSPs with strong rosters in cyber security and other IT fields enable business leaders to remove or avoid bottlenecks in quickly implementing their IT programs.

10. System / Infrastructure Compatibility

Your MSP should have familiarity with your business’ applications, IT infrastructure, and other IT assets so that it can properly manage your day-to-day operations.

In many situations, you need the MSP to serve as an expert on those systems, especially when it comes to configuration and working through breaches or errors.

The second aspect of compatibility is whether your MSP has the tools and systems that allow it to operate in your IT environment. For example, if the MSP offers automation services, is it able to run those services through your systems, or will it have to operate in a separate environment?

11. Uptime / Issue Response Guarantee

Your MSP should provide uptime and issue response time guarantees in your service level agreement (SLA). The SLA will enable you to measure your MSP’s performance and hold it accountable. Some MSPs will also provide reports showing you how they’ve complied with the SLA, e.g., number of tickets closed, time to solving tickets, etc.

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Next Steps: Managed IT Services Questionnaire

To help with your search for an MSP, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask when assessing your options. 

  • Does the MSP offer an IT helpdesk? What’s their issue response time? How long does it take to solve tickets? How many tickets does it solve on the first call?
  • Does the MSP have partnerships with third-party IT vendors? Are these the same vendors your business relies on for its IT hardware, software, and services?
  • Does the MSP offer local on-site technical support? How long does it take for your MSP to send someone to your location? What issues can its local offices support?
  • Does the MSP support your cyber security requirements? Does it comply with your industry’s compliance requirements? Is the MSP internally secure?
  • What compliance frameworks does your MSP support? What services does your MSP offer that will help you avoid regulatory fines and penalties?
  • Network/Data/Application Monitoring | Does the MSP provide 24/7 monitoring, configuration, management, and incident response services?
  • Does the MSP offer secure data centers for hosting your data? Do these data centers benefit from failover? Do these data centers comply with your industry’s regulations?
  • Flexible Terms | Does the MSP offer short-term contracts or project-based services?
  • Certified IT Staff | Does the MSP have IT professionals certified in the technologies, platforms, and tools your business uses?
  • System/Infrastructure Compatibility | Does the MSP know how to manage your applications, IT infrastructure, and other IT assets? Can the MSP’s tools work in your IT environment?
  • Does the MSP guarantee uptime, ticket-resolution rates, and issue response times in its SLA? Does the MSP also provide reporting so that you can measure its performance?

At Buchanan Technologies, we remove IT bottlenecks from your workflow through end-to-end IT services, freeing you to devote more resources to generating revenue. Contact us today to get started.

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