So, you’ve had the same Managed Service Provider for years. Today, after looking at your year-to-date expenditures, you begin to wonder if you are really getting what you pay for. Is it time to break off the partnership? Is the cost of moving to a new provider worth the effort?
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) use comprehensive monitoring systems and sophisticated incident databases to detect and resolve problems before they disrupt your business. When an issue happens, a good MSP has the documentation and systems in place to fix it and an efficient process for resolving the issue if it occurs again.
If you seem to experience the same problems over and over, you may need to find a new provider. Repeated problems indicate they don’t track issues correctly, or they just put duck-tape over problems and hope they go away. Failed backups, low memory, and PC or server crashes are all examples of problems your MSP should know about before you do. A good MSP should prevent issues from happening and explain what steps should be taken to ensure they don’t happen again.
Are you waiting longer and longer to hear back after you submit an issue? Are you the one notifying your MSP of high-priority issues such as internet outages or a server crash? Do you need to check-in on the status of issues because you haven’t heard from your MSP in days or weeks?
There are a number of reasons this could be happening. Perhaps they haven’t invested in the technology necessary to properly monitor and track your systems. Maybe they are short-staffed.
Regardless, your MSP should communicate with you frequently. If you email in a support request, you should get a confirmation that it was received. In addition, a technician should be responding within an hour or two (depending on the issue) with an update. If they are unable to resolve it right away, they should give you some indication of when you can expect a resolution. The key factor here is the response.
What You Should Know About Response Times
Most MSPs have a system to help them categorize requests for support. Typical categories are: Critical, High, Medium, and Low. Each category depends on two factors: 1) level of impact, and 2) severity, or the number of people affected.
If your MSP is constantly trying to sell you new products or services, without considering what your firm actually needs, it may be time to switch.
A good MSP consults with clients on how technology can make their organization more efficient. Be wary of companies selling services that are unnecessary. Any recommendations should justify the costs, through increased efficiency, security, or long term savings. They should also be able to support their recommendations with data and reporting. For example, if your MSP recommends a new backup server, they should be able to prove that your current server is insufficient by providing analytics that show failed jobs or storage consumption statistics. If they’re unable to justify the purchase, they may not have your best interests in mind.
Consulting and recommending additional products or services are not necessarily a bad thing. The key here is that your MSP should be proactive. Frequently reviewing your services and recommending changes or additions that will help you operate more efficiently and securely. Many businesses are not aware of how a simple firewall or vulnerability scan can prevent a major catastrophe. This is the type of “sale” that makes sense.
You sign up with an MSP in an effort to stabilize your IT spending, yet nearly every invoice is higher than what you expected. There are a few reasons this could be happening:
Your MSP should be able to communicate at any given point, how much time you’re accruing and what your open issues are. Sophisticated ticket systems make it easy to track the status of every issue going on at your firm. If your MSP isn’t being completely transparent with the services they’re providing, or if you find that they are not explaining lengthy time charges in enough detail – then move on, you deserve better.
Every business has its share of employee turnover, but if it is difficult to reach someone that is knowledgeable about your business, your network, and your people, it may be time to move on. A good MSP should provide you with a team of dedicated support representatives that are familiar with your business’ needs and workflow.
This is not to say that every issue should be handled by the IT manager with whom you share many years of experience. Requesting the Director of Technology to help get your Yahoo! email account setup on your new mobile phone may be a waste of his or her talent and time. It’s important to allow less experienced technicians to become familiar with your systems, with the knowledge that the Director of Technology is still looking out for your best interests!
A knowledgeable MSP recommends improvements beyond hardware. They provide direction for improved workflow, training, and software systems. They have invaluable industry-specific insights into what can work well and what might not be right for your business. For example, the legal industry is inundated with industry specific systems – your MSP should know the ins and outs of systems tailored to your industry.
A key benefit of working with a MSP is knowing that all of your IT resources are being monitored and managed by a single company. They should be able to work with outside vendors, such as an internet service provider or the support team for your industry specific software. A good MSP will have a pulse on the other IT services connected to your account, and take some responsibility when things go wrong, even if it’s not their fault. For example, an MSP does not provide internet access, but should alert you if you have insufficient bandwidth BEFORE something goes wrong. They should be an advocate on your behalf and not just another provider you have to “deal with.”
Is your MSP emailing you login passwords? Did you just find out that your new intern has access to your firm’s HR records? Are they confirming with management that it’s okay to unblock www.bejeweled.com for the receptionist? Make sure your MSP is practicing what they preach in terms of security.
If you use a Managed Service Provider, it’s likely you’re not a huge multinational corporation. Smaller businesses need service providers that are flexible and able to adapt to their changing needs. If your MSP is unable to work with you in terms of services provided, pricing, or contract terms, you may need to look elsewhere.