10 Things That Make a Good Managed Services Provider
Starting a search for a new managed services provider can be a daunting and time-consuming task. How can any one firm meet all your security and network maintenance needs? It is possible, but as with any decision that will impact nearly every facet of your business, it pays to do research.
SUCCESS has created a 10-point checklist to help you navigate the process and thoroughly evaluate potential providers, making sure you have all your bases covered. These are the key points you should cover with any firms you are thinking of partnering with.
1.) Security First
How do you know you’re protected? Too many managed services providers don’t understand that security needs to go beyond patching, firewalls, and antivirus software. They’re not sure how to help you beyond the basics. Ask a potential provider detailed questions about their security strategies. What tools do they use? How big is their security team? Do they outsource key security functions? Lastly, how do they protect their own business? After all, they will hold all of your network credentials and data, and you want to make sure they can defend themselves before you hand those over.
How many times have you called for support, only to feel like your issue isn’t a priority? Almost all managed services providers operate on an efficiency model. This means they have only enough staff to handle their existing clients. So, if you choose them, they’re now short-staffed. How can they help you in an emergency if they don’t have the personnel? SUCCESS, on the other hand, operates on a “Murphy’s Law” philosophy. Ask about capacity in all areas of a prospective provider’s business, but especially as it relates to your needs as a potential client.
3.) Prompt, professional service
When you call for support, you should be able to talk to someone who can help you right away. You shouldn’t have to wait for days for someone to show up, or have to be on the schedule of your managed services provider. Will they have everything they need without having to make a return trip? You need a firm that has enough dedicated resources to get your projects done on time and on budget.
4.) Technical Expertise
To effectively meet your needs, a managed services provider needs both depth and breadth of technical expertise. From on-premise to hybrid and cloud, you need a firm whose staff complement one another with their respective areas of focus and expertise. Some firms are able to provide a lower cost, but if that firm has limited staff, will they have the expertise required to support you? They likely have only one or two people on staff with real depth, which significantly limits their ability to support you.
5.) Proactive support and maintenance
Managed services providers must excel at being proactive. Believe it or not, something as simple as keeping up-to-date with Microsoft patches is still one of the biggest red flags we see in potential client networks. When not properly and proactively maintained, your network can’t perform the way you expect. Being proactive means having dedicated people and tools to ensure your network is operating optimally. Your exposure to these issues is significantly reduced when done right. In fact, an indicator of the best managed services providers is the ratio of proactive to reactive tickets.
6.) Dedicated onsite support
Most businesses don’t get onsite support unless there’s an emergency. Usually, if they do, there is a high turnover in the provider’s technicians. This means that they never get to know your business and your security systems. When a managed services provider can dedicate a resource to you, it creates a synergy between their support and your business. That person can get to know your business and employees, understand how your company operates, and contribute to the advancement of technology by aligning technology with your business goals.
7.) Consistent account management
Having a dedicated point-person managing your account is critical to your company’s IT function. A quarterly review or monthly reports won’t cut it. The account management role should report to you like any other direct report, with regular one-on-ones to provide feedback. These meetings are also an opportunity for presenting an up-to-date budget, formal planning, and new ideas on how to improve the function of your IT.
8.) Backup, disaster recovery planning, and incident response
Security can’t exist without a good backup and a healthy recovery plan tested regularly. You need a reliable provider in the event that your business suffers an outage or gets compromised. Make sure you know what products they sell and do your research about those products. If an event does occur, find out how long it takes for your network to be back online. Keep this mental checklist handy, as all of these things should be checked for you to be confident that your managed services provider can get you back on your feet after an incident.
Where do you go to learn about what’s going on in technology? A website? LinkedIn? YouTube? Consider providers that have relevant, up-to-date information on their social channels, blogs, and website. The best providers host regular learning events, conduct training, and help you educate your staff about helping to prevent security breaches.
It’s important to consider not only the tenure of a potential partner but what others say about them, too. Ask for references not only from current clients but from former clients as well. Get to know the employees at firms you’re evaluating to get a feel for their workload and the company culture. It’s a salesperson’s job to paint the prettiest picture they can; it’s your job to go beyond a sales meeting and really get to know this firm. In a way, this is no different from evaluating any job candidate. Put your own hiring best practices to work to evaluate each potential managed services provider accordingly.
SUCCESS Computer Consulting goes above and beyond typical managed services provider standards. We don’t follow the efficiency model and we have experts that are dedicated to your challenges and can help you now. We pride ourselves in the networks we manage and the relationships that we forge. Contact us at 763-593-3000 today to learn more about how we operate as a managed services provider.