How to Choose a Managed Services Provider

As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, organizations have found themselves investing more into its implementation and maintenance. 

The result is climbing productivity and improved operational efficiency. And yet, as every business owner knows, it’s a process that quickly becomes as time-consuming as it is expensive.

That’s why many companies have turned to managed services providers (MSP) for help. Outsourcing your company’s tech needs to a competent third-party offers many benefits, from reduced costs to improved IT performance.

But even with so many advantages, making the switch can feel daunting. What are the right best methods of how to choose a managed services provider? Which qualities are most important and why? 

In this article, we explain what you need to know about choosing the right MSP for your business, in addition to some important questions to ask during the MSP discovery process.

Top 5 Managed Services Vendor Selection Criteria

Let’s explore the five most important criteria to be aware of when shopping for an MSP. While our list of managed services selection criteria isn’t exhaustive, it does cover the most fundamental elements to consider.

1. Availability

In the context of an MSP, availability refers to a provider’s operational status at any given time. With this in mind, you should opt for an MSP that offers round-the-clock availability – that is, 24/7 network monitoring.

Even though your business may not run 24/7, your IT systems certainly do. By keeping trained eyes on your critical IT systems and infrastructure when they’re at their most vulnerable, you can minimize the risk or severity of a cyberattack, data breach, or system failure.

Though round-the-clock off-site availability is a must, what about on-site availability? If you suspect that your business will require in-person remediation or frequent on-site visits, ask the MSP how feasible this would be, especially in an emergency.

 

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2. Qualifications, Certifications, and Expertise

Not all MSPs are created equally. One MSP may boast a host of IT solutions, from 24/7 monitoring to strategic IT planning, while only offering the basic surface-level cyber security. For a business that handles sensitive data, this should be an instant pass.

The point is not to get swept away by a “one-stop-shop” sales pitch or a series of well-designed white papers. Instead, take the time to decide which IT services are most critical to your business operations and pursue those.

Dig past the marketing claims: Find a list of the accreditations and certifications an MSP possesses. This will create a clearer picture as to their level of expertise and whether they’re a suitable candidate to handle your IT needs.

3. Reputation and References

Just because an MSP has a great 30-second elevator pitch, doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for your business. Look beyond the standard list of MSP services and accreditations to understand the user experience you can expect. The best way to do this is by searching for ratings, reviews, and referrals.

As you go through the process of investigating an MSP’s credibility, dependability, and trustworthiness, you’ll notice two varieties of review: outstanding or lack of responsiveness. That’s because organizations are more likely to express their opinion when it falls at either extreme. Although this is a valuable tool, take it with a grain of salt.

4. Clear, Concise, and Fair SLAs

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an agreement between your organization and an MSP. It can either be a legally binding written contract or an informal verbal agreement.

In any SLA, however, it is the MSP who must outline their roles and responsibilities towards you, the client. In clear and explicit terms, a service offering SLA should include:

  • Pricing and packaging options
  • Procedures
  • Availability
  • Scope
  • Liabilities
  • Duties
  • Policies (for things like termination, renewal, and so on)
  • Any other criteria relevant to your partnership

A high-quality managed service provider will use simple language and make clear commitments. Steer clear of SLAs muddled in murky and impenetrable legalese.

How to Choose a Managed Services Provider

 

5. Security Posture

Since the pandemic, incidents of cybercrime have spiked by a huge margin. Between a largely distributed workforce, the adoption of IoT devices, 5G networks, and cloud service technologies, it’s little wonder that cybercriminals are hard at work.

That’s why managed security services should be at the forefront of your IT requirements. To safeguard your organization, partner with an MSP that can double as a managed security service provider (MSSP). An MSSP offers a complete security solution, including:

  • 24/7 Security Operations Center (SOC) Monitoring
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery (DR)
  • Incident Response
  • Business Continuity Planning (BCP)
  • Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)
  • Secured Remote Desktop Protocol
  • WiFi Security
  • Managed Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Services

It’s also worth inquiring whether the MSP/MSSP has a security operations center (SOC), otherwise known as an information security operations center (ISOC). 

A SOC is a dedicated, centralized space where IT professionals can monitor, detect, analyze, and remediate cyber security threats and incidents.

If you’re wondering how to choose managed security services, check out this helpful guide on vetting cybersecurity vendors.

10 Questions to Ask an MSP Before Working Together

Before wrapping up, let’s review some common questions to ask IT MSP. These questions, known as MSP qualifying questions, will shed light on the most pertinent elements of your future partnership.

  • What kind of billing structure do you use?
  • What kind of package and pricing options do you offer?
  • Do you offer co-management?
  • What are your internal security policies for protecting my data?
  • What is your onboarding process like?
  • What hardware and software recommendations would you make?
  • How does contract renewal work?
  • What are your qualifications, certifications, and accreditations?
  • Can I speak to some of your current clients?
  • How in-depth is your discovery process?

Asking technical questions to qualifying MSP or MSSPs is another valuable strategy. That said, you’ll want to consult with your in-house IT personnel or an independent IT professional in order to ask the right questions.

Meanwhile, an MSP will have their own set of questions to ask during MSP discovery phase. A discovery checklist helps the MSP to determine whether your company would make a good fit for them

It also ensures that no pertinent information about you, the client, gets lost during onboarding. This prevents confusion and delays down the line.

 

Interested in learning more about managed IT services? Check out these blogs:

 

Partner With an MSP That Understands Your Business Needs

Now that you understand how to choose a managed services provider (MSP) and how to choose managed security services providers (MSSP), you are ready to begin your search. Luckily, you needn’t look far.

At powersolution.com, we’ve got more than 26 years of IT experience coupled with a customer satisfaction score of 98%. If your New Jersey organization is in need of expertly managed IT services, don’t hesitate to contact us today for more information.

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