Top 5 Things to Look for in a Managed IT Service Provider
Information Technology, often abbreviated as just IT, is the backbone of almost all organizations in the digital business world. Whether you are running a grocery store or an accounting firm, you need computers for core business needs, such as payment processing, market analysis, supply chain, database management, and more. And perhaps more important than the computers themselves are the tech professionals behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly.
However, most small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the resources to maintain a full-fledged in-house IT team. Without skilled tech pros keeping a close eye on your systems, your business infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches.
The good news is you don’t need a massive budget to keep your technology infrastructure up to par anymore. Hiring a managed IT services provider (MSP) gives you the resources of an in-house team – without all the overhead.
In fact, going the MSP route is a rapidly growing trend across many industries. According to a recent report, the global managed services market size is projected to grow from $178.5 billion in 2019 to $309.4 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 9.6% over the forecast period.
While a competent MSP will help your business thrive, an incompetent one will have the opposite effect. Finding a reliable partner to take the reins of your business technology infrastructure is not always an easy task – but it’s not impossible.
In this post, we’ve outline five key factors that indicate you’ve found a solid MSP.
1. Technical Experience
Obviously, you shouldn’t hand over the keys to your business infrastructure to just any IT company. You need to be completely sure they don’t just have technical experience – but experience that matches your business needs.
The IT needs of a business will depend on several different factors, including (but not limited to):
- Client demographics
- Size of the company
- Current IT strength and skills of in-house employees.
Talk with the MSP to understand if they have worked with businesses similar to yours or the ones in your niche.
An MSP should understand what technologies are best in your industry, the common risks, and have the ability to foresee potential IT issues to offer proactive/reactive solutions. As an MSP providing IT support in Orlando, we specialize in helping law firms manage their business technology. We know exactly what firms need to thrive, the threats they face, and how they can use technology to grow their practice.
Additionally, be sure to ask the MSP to share references from their current and ex-clients. Talking to their clients will help you understand exactly how the MSP has proven to be helpful. When you speak with their clients about technical experience, here are some questions to ask:
- How long have you been working with this MSP?
- How have they improved your business operations?
- What issues have they solved for you?
- Have you experienced an IT crisis?
- If so, how did they resolve it – and how quickly?
2. Service Response Time
When your IT infrastructure goes down, every second is costing you revenue.
The most important benefit of working with an MSP is they are on-call around the clock to solve problems and provide prompt IT support. Your MSP should respond quickly to your service requests and take immediate action to mitigate your losses (if any).
Response times will depend on a variety of factors, including your location, communication process, and availability of the technical personnel or engineers.
The location factor can be especially critical for on-site IT support – as technicians have to navigate traffic to reach your office, assess the problem, and devise a response plan quickly and thoroughly. Be sure to ask your MSP how quickly they respond to a typical IT issue, what their response action plan is, and the ballpark time requirement for on-site support.
A good MSP prides itself on lightning fast response times – and will have no problem showcasing them to you.
Additionally, ask about Service Level Objectives or SLOs. SLOs can help you define and measure the processes and timeframes required for raising and escalating various service requests. A professional IT company will be willing to share detailed SLOs with specific timeframes.
3. Ability to Grow with Your Needs
As your business matures, your technology infrastructure needs to be driving the growth.
In the realm of IT maintenance, security, and networking, you should always plan for the future. Right now, you may need IT support in one city. But if you plan to open new branches at multiple locations, you will need an MSP capable of catering to your growing needs.
The MSP should not only be able to offer fast support, but also be able to handle your growing cloud and remote server infrastructure. In other words, the MSP should have an adequate number of skilled experts and necessary equipment to set you up for long term success.
Furthermore, the MSP should be able to provide you with customized solutions based on the latest IT and cloud computing technology on the market. Make sure to look into the growth rate of the IT company. A service provider with an excellent growth record will most likely have the ability to grow with your IT needs.
4. Security and Disaster Recovery Solutions
The frequency of a data breach is increasing by the day, with cybercriminals shifting their attention to small and medium-sized businesses – as they are usually easy targets.
According to the Verizon Business 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (2020 DBIR), 28% of data breaches in 2020 involved small businesses. Nearly one of every three data breaches targeted a small business.
That’s why security is THE MOST critical factor to consider when searching for a managed IT services provider. Your MSP should be aware of the latest cybersecurity solutions, including state-of-the-art firewall protection, antimalware, antivirus, and network monitoring applications.
Many MSPs are using Machine Learning and AI-based solutions to pinpoint potential network glitches and security threats – before they turn into disasters. Find out which advanced security solutions your IT company offers.
In addition to the latest cybersecurity measures, your MSP should provide you with a robust data backup and disaster recovery plan.
Daily backups to a secure, off-site location is the best way to keep your data safe. With a disaster recovery plan, your business will be prepared for any issues – whether it be cybercrime, a natural disaster, or a simple user error.
5. Proactive Maintenance
Last (but certainly not least), a big factor to look for in a managed IT services provider is their proactive maintenance solutions. When it comes to IT, being proactive involves keeping your software and hardware up-to-date, consistently monitoring for weaknesses, educating your employees on the best practices, etc.
The primary purpose of proactive IT maintenance is to avoid unexpected downtime. Additionally, it helps you to prevent cybercriminals from exploiting vulnerabilities in your system as it gets updated regularly. This, in turn, allows you to focus on your core business activities, without living in fear.
Make sure your MSP can handle regular software and hardware updates for your IT infrastructure. Check the list of services in your contract to ensure proactive maintenance is a part of it.
Running a successful business without a proper IT infrastructure is impossible in today’s tech-driven world.
An experienced and skilled managed IT services provider plays a critical role in keeping your business infrastructure secure, competent, and functional.
Keeping these five factors in mind will help you find an IT company to become your technology partner for the long haul. With the right IT support, your business will thrive quickly and effortlessly.
Mike Della Pia is the President of LAN Masters, Inc., an Orlando IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business the past 15 years. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn.