5 Things to Look for in a Managed Service Provider

By Roger Murray | December 14th, 2016

The role of IT in up & coming businesses often becomes an afterthought.  One day, you are a small team with a singular goal, with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, your business begins to thrive; staff assume more and more responsibilities to keep things moving smoothly, before you know it, the office manager is the internal IT expert. Sound familiar?

Perhaps it is time to consider a Managed Service Provider (MSP).  A more inclusive IT solution that allows a growing organization who wants IT to just work… so you can concentrate on your core competencies.

This guide summarizes 5 things you want to ensure you are getting in an MSP…

Talent Pool

Most businesses want someone to establish, monitor, and maintain their network environment to ensure it works all the time.  Any quality MSP will have a wide range of engineers with a variety of talents, skills, and certifications to pull from.  The goal should always be prevention, not a reactionary mentality where work is only being done when something breaks.

Prevention isn’t just smart for maximizing productivity, but it is also cost-effective. Make sure you select an MSP who wants to keep you running, not creating billable hours.

24/7/365 Support

Most MSP’s provide support only during the work day.  Labor laws and overtime are costly, so the assumption for many is that nothing usually can go that wrong after hours.  What businesses want to have is a peace of mind in knowing that even if something goes down in the middle of the night, someone qualified would be available to work on it; not just an after-hours call center only capable of rudimentary step-by-step support.

Ask what the protocol is for after-hours support.  Do they have an engineer with the skills and tools available to help, regardless of the time?  Is the person who answers the phone local, capable of going to your business if necessary, or are they out of town working remotely?  Verify what you are told, call the provider late one night.

System Monitoring & Patching

Establishing proper monitoring configurations take a lot of time.  Many MSP’s just do not have the proper technology or expertise to properly monitor all the clients they are supporting.  Often leading to poor results with a plethora of alerts and notifications that are generally ignored by the provider, allowing for unpredicted downtime to occur.

The best approach should be automation of the monitoring process, with human response and review to ensure the possibility for failure are repaired before you are impacted.  You are paying to have a provider act on your behalf and manage your network, in real time, so ask about their monitoring systems. How are they alerted to a potential failure?   There should be someone looking over the dashboards and creating service tickets if necessary.  Ask to see their control center as well as a demonstration of their monitoring systems.

Maintaining network patches and updates are also critical to ensure that you are running efficiently and securely. Most businesses and MSP’s do not do this.  Consider that some applications receive updates on a weekly basis.

It is a burdensome undertaking that is best left to the experts, so before signing an agreement with an MSP, review what you get, and ask how often these reviews are conducted, if at all.  If they cannot provide a precise answer, find another provider.

Help Desk/Ticketing System

Any professional MSP should have a ticket system in place for your business.  Ticketing systems are an organized way to track issues occurring within your business.  You should be able to see the queue for your tickets at any time, and your MSP should have workflow protocols to ensure no ticket gets lost, delayed, or exceed minimum response time outlined within your agreement.

Most small MSP’s will try to use basic tools or software to manage these tasks, or relying on their own memory to keep track of clients’ service requests.  The consequences are severe delay, or worse, forgotten responses leaving you to spend time following-up, essentially eliminating their intent to minimize your involvement.

You should have a service that allows you to submit tickets or requests right from your desktop, an application, email, phone, or all the above.  The tickets should be prioritized by severity and impact on your business’s operation.  Prioritization should determine the escalation, scheduling, and assignment of an engineer to work on your issue.  Ask to see a demonstration of their ticket system so that you can determine if they meet your needs.

Escalation Protocol

Proper escalation and prioritization are key in the ticket system, but should also be clearly outlined within the agreement. These timeframes should be enforceable so severe issues are escalated to advanced experts immediately and aren’t delayed with tier 1 support who often are incapable of resolving highly technical matters.

Ask what the internal process is, how each ticket severity level is determined, as well as how they ensure their response times are upheld and/or monitored.  Do they maintain their Service Level Objectives (SLO) stated in the agreement, or is it more of a “Best Effort” type situation where there is no guarantee?  The last thing you want are for your issues to be closed prematurely for the sake of their close rates being upheld.

Learn More

To learn how TSI not only meets, but exceeds all of these minimum expectations, Contact Us today!

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