If you’ve ever Googled ‘managed service provider’, it might seem like finding the perfect MSP for your company is a straightforward process – however, it can be tricky to parse out the high quality providers from those who have just invested a lot in marketing.
Inevitably, some providers are better than others, and there are definitely some that will be better suited to your business and industry than others. But how do you go about finding the best one for you and building a solid relationship with them?
That’s why we’re here to advise you on how to scout out the best provider for you, from the initial shopping around to the big meetings and future growth.
Finding A Provider With The Right Experience
As you would when hiring any in-house employee, it’s good practice to ensure that the provider you’re choosing to hire has prior experience with businesses that are similar to your own.
Obviously, it isn’t reasonable to expect that an MSP has worked with a company exactly the same as yours, but if you can find one that’s worked with businesses at a similar age, in the same industry, or of the same size, then you’ll likely find that they have a much more thorough understanding of the driving forces and attitude of your business. They might still need to do some work to truly get the nuances of your company, but this experience can lay a strong foundation.
To achieve this, you can directly ask any potential MSP what companies they’ve worked for in the past – or you could even find them on a site like LinkedIn and look at their connections from their, looking out for businesses like your own and maybe even messaging them to get a first hand testimony of the MSP’s services.
Knowing Your Provider Can Get Along With Your Team
It is unlikely that your IT department will be particularly high maintenance or dramatic, but you still can’t assume that your current team will mesh well with anybody else that you bring in, particularly if it isn’t clear which team is responsible for what duties.
Therefore, you’ll need to make sure that any MSP you hire will be ready and willing to work with any existing IT staff, and that they can establish with these other employees early on who will be responsible for what tasks.
You’ll probably find that different tasks are better suited to different teams – you might find that general network maintenance is better handled by the MSP, for instance – but whatever the case, you need to make sure that both teams are aware of the division of labour to avoid any messiness later on.
Drafting a Mutually Beneficial SLA
Once you’ve settled on a suitable MSP, you’ll need to meet with them and discuss the details of your service level agreement (or SLA), a document that outlines all of the services the MSP will be providing you with and how much they’ll be charging.
You might find that choosing an off-the-rack solution and altering it from there makes the most sense – every business is unique, though, so you’ll need to know that whatever you settle on is what’s best for your company specifically. Try not to settle for the easiest option – you really need to make sure that the solution you opt for covers your needs specifically.
Of course, there’s no one way of putting together an SLA, but as a legally binding document, you need to make sure that it meets all of your IT needs. At the end of the day, you’re hiring them, and you need to know that you’re both headed in the right direction together.
Ensuring You’ll Be Receiving Proactive Support
Here’s a nightmare scenario for you: you leave the office on Friday night, only to find on Monday morning that your systems have been down all weekend and that you had no idea.
If you want to avoid a situation like this (and who wouldn’t?), then you can discuss the possibility of 24/7 support with your MSP, a service offered by a large number of providers. They use system monitoring applications that alert 24 hour staff of any issues that have arisen, meaning the problem can often be fixed before you’re even aware of it.
With downtime costing companies tens of thousands of dollars, you might be saving money – even your business – in the long run with this extra investment.
Growing Alongside Your Provider
You might not be planning to grow your business exponentially in the near future, but you likely have ambitions beyond where you currently stand, and you need to make sure that any MSP you bring on can keep up with you.
You may not realise this right now, but an MSP will become extremely entangled with your business once you hire them. From attending important meetings to designing entirely new IT infrastructure solutions, you’ll have established a relationship with them in a short time that can’t simply be cut off at a moment’s notice.
Therefore, you don’t want to have to leave them behind if their ambitions don’t match up to your own. To ensure that your growth plans align, you should ask them about their five year plan and see how it matches up with your own. You could even enquire about hypothetical scenarios – what would they do if you landed a multi-million dollar contract, for example?
Every corporation has begun life as a much smaller business, and these days, IT will have been a significant part of their journey. If an MSP doesn’t have the drive or capability to grow with you, it’s certainly worth finding one that does. Once you’ve done that, then you may have found a powerful ally who can see you through some of the biggest milestones in your company’s history.