As your business begins transforming digitally, your technology needs will evolve and change. To keep up with chaotic market forces and constant innovations in the digital world, you need to keep integrating new devices, systems, and applications.
And yet, to properly upkeep current infrastructure and stay on top of these changes, you need continuous monitoring and maintenance. If you don’t have an IT department and manage your own technology, you could benefit from hiring a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Even if you have an in-house IT department, businesses find that they save time and money (and often increase efficiency and effectiveness) by contracting with an MSP to augment their existing IT staff.
Collectively, an MSP will take care of your network, servers, computers, and all of your related enterprise technology needs. In fact, some MSPs will also provide infrastructure support in areas such as hardware selection and management as well as cabling and phone systems.
A survey conducted by sherweb.com indicated that 39% of small business owners partner with MSPs as their primary IT service provider, and nearly 75% outsource at least some IT issues or projects to an MSP several times a year.
What is a Managed Service Provider?
MSPs are professional service companies that specialize in bringing together the best aspects of previously disparate aspects of IT management. An MSP can provide a single source for network operations management, software and systems infrastructure, network security, data security, user support, and application uptime protection. They are in charge of ensuring both proactive securities and they can also provide strategic answers when things do go wrong. The role of MSPs has also evolved as they have had to keep pace with the ever-changing world of IT by continually adding new skills and services to their portfolio.
What are the critical features of Managed Service Provider offerings?
MSPs focus on their particular skill sets by hiring the right staff and developing tools and automating solutions, which are their forte. They provide cloud services, infrastructure security, business continuity, and remote and local access. An MSP gives businesses and overworked internal IT staff accessible server and computer support, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, and technology evaluation and planning. Most importantly, MSPs provide 24/7 monitoring, an absolute ‘must’ in today’s global and hybrid in-office and work-from-home environment, where the ordinary 9-to-5 model is no longer ordinary.
What separates ‘okay’ MSPs from outstanding ones?
In addition to recognizing the overall value of selecting an MSP for your business IT needs, the other question is how to identify some of the key attributes that separate a world-class MSP partner from a run-of-the-mill firm that offers MSP services. The following are some key priorities to consider:
1. World-class MSPs must always be available.
You don’t work 24 hours a day, but your computer network does, and your IT provider needs to also. When choosing an MSP, you must make sure your provider is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And when we say this, we don’t just mean that they have a policy of providing emergency support – we mean that they proactively deliver real-time monitoring. You don’t want to have your network go down during the third shift and then call your MSP; you want to have your MSP identify a network outage risk before anything happens and make adjustments to the system topology so that an outage never even happens.
2. They must be able to provide high-quality and in-depth references.
You always want to use the MSP with the best reputation. MSPs handle an extremely sensitive and vital function for any business. Before entrusting your company’s IT functions to a third party, you should ensure they are coming in with good references. And those references should be precise and specific – i.e. executives and companies from within your industry sector and insights that demonstrate the client’s understanding of what the MSP is truly providing to them.
3. They must be focused on being an MSP
Some companies are combining a relatively random set of capabilities together as they seek to enter and profit from the MSP industry’s growth potential. For example, copier companies have for years worked to transition into being more digitally focused electronic document management (EDM) providers, but this in no way prepares them to be a high-quality MSP. Just because a device connects to a network, does not mean that the people who work with that device are qualified to become network professionals. Look for an MSP whose team and management come from a robust and deep bench of direct experience managing complex IT systems and infrastructure.
4. They must be experienced.
It’s always best if your MSP has actual, proven, and in-depth experience working in your particular industry. If you run a retail business, then an IT expert with retail industry experience will be able to serve you much better than one who has primarily worked with law firms. Industry experience ensures your MSP will be able to foresee potential problems and also anticipate your operational needs. In addition, different industries have fundamentally different points of risk when it comes to IT. For example, a manufacturing company may need to interconnect industrial internet-of-things (IIoT) technology with their office systems, whereas a multi-location medical or allied health practice will need to ensure that multiple locations communicate in real-time and with secure backup.
5. They must provide outstanding security.
Ensuring high-grade security can be costly, so you must look for a service provider that does not just monitor your IT infrastructure but can offer strategic security plans. With airtight IT security, you can ensure that all your data remains safe and secure. Reliable MSPs assure this by securing all your endpoints. With this, you can guarantee that you can minimize the risks of cybersecurity threats from infecting your IT infrastructure.
6. They must be scalable and able to grow with you
When you select an MSP, business growth is the goal, and so they must be able to move with you. Your business concerns now may not be the same as those which may be top-of-mind in a few months. That is why it is crucial to choose a service provider that understands your ever-changing business needs. Reliable MSPs are those that offer scalable services. This means that their IT services will adapt to all the technical and business requirements of your IT network. Through this, you can ensure that your IT infrastructure will keep up with your growing business demands.
How to search and select the right MSP for your business.
Naturally, you want a great MSP that is available, reputable, experienced, and secure, but before you settle on the MSP for you, there are some questions to ask yourself:
• Do they provide end-to-end service that can not only handle the management of your IT but assist you in particular projects like cloud migration, and are they looking after you if there is a problem?
• Can they provide continuous updates to ensure your organization is continually evolving?
• Do they have a global network to increase capacity and manage cloud networks across the globe if needed?
Your MSP must work with your in-house IT department seamlessly to give you full end-to-end coverage, they must have the latest technology and information to keep you ahead of the competition, and they need to have a global presence.
If you believe that would benefit from a partnership with an MSP, download our free checklist of traits to look for in a perfect MSP for you.
Credit picture: @creativecommon