Whether you’re just starting out in business – or you’re reasonably well established – there’s a good chance that IT has already thrown a few questions in your direction.
For almost all modern businesses, IT is a non-negotiable – and, as businesses grow, the emphasis on IT grows too – with more sophisticated networks often required. While the ticket price of the actual devices you need might not be too intimidating – the costs of keeping them running effectively and safely often is – so looking for IT support is crucial.
A quick search for an IT support provider is likely to throw back millions of possibilities – so, how can you be sure you’re finding a company that’s going to work well around your specific needs and business culture?
We’ve posed a few questions that will help. Although these won’t end up directing you to any one specific provider – they will give you a good set of considerations to work from when you’re talking to potential managed service providers…
Have you worked with similar companies to us?
Like taking on an employee, taking on a managed service provider has the potential to add a huge range of experience to your IT support – but, it’s important to make sure that your chosen MSP has and does come up against those kinds of problems before.
On that basis, it’s useful to know what kind of companies they work with – and whether or not their on-going best practice could benefit you. Now, it’s not to say that you have to work with a company that’s working exclusively with businesses in your industry – but it would be good to know they work with similar size companies – and can at least appreciate some of the problems you could come up against.
From an IT point of view, your processes and size are more likely to shape your requirements than the particular service you deliver – so, if they can anticipate what you might be coming up against from a systems point of view, they’re likely to be able to be proactive with their support.
Don’t be afraid to talk to potential MSP’s current clients though – the world of business networking makes it easy enough to find companies they work with and discuss their performance directly.
What would your SLA include?
The service level agreement that you eventually confirm with your MSP will form the basis of your relationship with the company – so it’s important that it’s comprehensive and tailored to your need.
Don’t worry if you’ve been offered a particular package – not every SLA needs to be created from scratch to fit your needs – experienced MSPs will be able to create packages that fit the bill for companies of different size and requirements.
Think of an SLA as a contract – and don’t forget – you’re the client, so that contract should fit your needs. A good service provider will be keen to reflect this exactly, so, don’t be afraid to keep searching until you find one that is.
Which accreditations do you hold?
There are some instances where even the best managed service provider won’t be able to help you if they’re not familiar with the systems you’ve got in place. An MSP should be able to prove that they have the credentials needed to work on your network and applications – so, once again, if they don’t – keep moving until you find someone who does.
Could you grow with us?
Whether or not you’re considering growing your business considerably right now, growth is always a possibility – so you’ll want to make sure you don’t outgrow your MSP if that time comes.
A good managed service provider will be able to handle everything that an expanding business requires – whether that’s growing your network, or making sure you’ve got an telecommunications system that’s facilitates the most efficient way to carry increasing amounts of business data.
It’s never a bad idea to consider where your company could grow to in your wildest dreams – after all, every billion-dollar business starts somewhere – and you’ll often only get there with the right people and services around you.
Can you provide proactive support?
One of the benefits of an MSP vs. an in-house IT team is that MSP’s ability to keep eyes (and possibly hands) on your system at all times – rather than popping up solely to react to problems.
Talk to your potential service provider about how they’d offer this service – and whether or not it could be included in your SLA. As a business decision maker, you’ll understand that there’s an enormous difference between walking into your office to discover a problem – rather than walking into your office to discover that a problem has been averted – and that the business is going forward positively as a result.
Of course, since you’re unlikely to be the only company who requires some round the clock monitoring of systems, it’s unlikely to carry a price tag that’s anything like that of an in-house IT team that’s going to have eyes on your network through the night…
Do you hold the insurance we need from you?
Talking about insurance against bad practice with a potential service provider is a little like talking about a prenuptial agreement on a first date – but, if you want to make sure your business is protected, it’s important to get down to the nitty-gritty.
Data loss, cyber-attacks, and downtime are all things that can cost your company dearly, so making sure you have protection in place should the worst occur means not sleepless nights hoping for the best. Human error can occur – so making sure your MSP has a solution if it does is really important.
How much will your service cost?
While the out and out cost of support will generally be documented in your service level agreement, it’s worth talking about any extras or additions that might add to that price.
There’s likely to be things that you need help with that fall outside of your normal agreement – so it’s important to get a feel for a price that’s associated with those things before you commit to any unknown costs.