Hiring a managed IT services provider (MSP) is a little different than contracting with other types of new vendors in your business. In fact, it’s not unlike determining whether a prospective new permanent employee will be a good fit for your business’s culture and priorities.
Why should you spend more time vetting potential IT partners than, say, a new office supplies vendor?
Your computer systems and network are the lifeblood of your operations, as they store invaluable data about your customers, operations, and more. These resources are also vulnerable to external threats and could potentially damage your business if disaster strikes.
Now, we’re not telling you this to scare you—it’s just that contracting with an IT services partner involves forming a collaborative relationship built on a certain degree of trust. You need to make sure that your network will receive capable, professional care.
To accomplish this, you need to ask any MSP you’re considering illuminating questions like these.
What is your onboarding approach?
Onboarding may seem like a business buzzword, but the term actually describes something very valuable—how you begin a relationship with a new partner. And, it’s certainly a two-way street. You should have an onboarding process for your vendors, but these vendors should also have an effective method for bringing new client accounts onto their rosters.
One of the first questions you should ask potential MSP partners is how they ensure the business relationship gets off on the right foot.
- Do they visit your offices and physically take a look at your servers and network setup? They should.
- Do they review any documentation you already have in place for your tech assets and then produce their own to share with you? This learning and information sharing process can be critical to understanding the little things that make your network unique.
Here at EZComputer Solutions, we include an initial site survey and network documentation as part of onboarding with all of our service plans. We also take time to confer with you on your specific concerns and pain points. The goal of managed IT services is to “make everything just work,” so you can focus on running your business. A solid onboarding process is the first step down that path.
What kind of response times can I expect?
When you’re suffering from work disrupting computer problems, it can feel like an eternity between the time you place a call for help and when your IT resource actually responds. And, if you rely on a fully remote partner in a distant city or—worse yet—don’t currently have a dedicated IT services team on your side and are stuck calling a tech support hotline yourself, it might actually be days until you receive the attention you deserve.
This is why we prefer to work with businesses that are located within an hour’s drive of our EZComputer Solutions headquarters—and why you should consider working only with MSPs in your local community. Even in today’s increasingly remote access world, working with a partner who is just a short drive away can mean the difference between a minor disruption and much more significant—and costly—downtime.
What is included in my service, and what will I pay extra for?
One of the major benefits of working with a contracted MSP versus traditional “break/fix” IT resources is the predictable pricing structure.
With MSPs, you will pay one fixed and budget-friendly monthly rate to keep everything running smoothly instead of a per-call service fee. That said, most MSPs offer a menu of plan options that allow you to bundle just the services you need so you’re not paying for things you don’t. Always ask what features are included with different plans, and then question whether other businesses like yours tend to need additional services regularly.
For instance, perhaps you don’t feel that you need round-the-clock network monitoring. But what if a hacker infiltrates your network overnight? If you have a problem after hours, you don’t want to wait until the next business day for your IT partner to take action. Ask your vendor about monitoring and support after hours, and if any additional charges will be incurred.
Do you provide any value-added training opportunities or educational resources?
Something that separates good MSPs from great ones is a willingness to help your employees become more tech savvy. This can be done in a number of active and passive ways.
Ask prospective MSP partners is they offer their customers access to educational resources like webinars and other training events and support. Do they keep a blog or send newsletters with helpful tips and alerts about tech news that all users should know about?
These may sound like unimportant little things, but they tend to demonstrate the company’s understanding that IT is just as much about customer service as it is about taking care of computer equipment.
How will you keep my network safe from cybercrime?
As we talked about in an earlier blog post, many tech experts believe that the United States is embroiled in an ongoing cyberwar. While that may sound extreme, cybercrime against both large and small businesses alike is a common problem that is only getting worse.
And, this means that IT service providers must be proactive and vigilant about keeping hackers away from your network and systems. Always ask prospective MSPs about their approach to cybersecurity tactics and strategies—including data backup protocols—as well as how they stay up to date on the latest threats.
Can I talk to some of your current customers?
Reading website testimonials and Google My Business reviews is one thing—actually picking up the phone and chatting with your prospective new IT partner’s current clients is another.
Think of it this way—you wouldn’t hire a new employee without at least performing a phone screen or checking their references. You should dedicate the same energy to hiring an MSP. After all, this resource will have access to your company’s most sensitive systems and data.
Do your due diligence and get the inside story on your prospective IT partner’s service and capabilities from those who know best—their customers. Note, too, how this request is answered. If the MSP in question balks or is reluctant to give you references, that is a red flag.
EZComputer Solutions is Ready to Answer All of Your IT Questions
For businesses in Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Dauphin, and Berks counties in Southcentral, PA, we are your small business’s proactive partner for IT services. We invite you to get in touch and ask us all of the questions in today’s post—and more!
You’ll also want to download our helpful ebook featuring “21 Revealing Questions You Should Ask Any Computer Consultant Before Giving Them Access to Your Company’s Network.”