Technology is one of the most essential facets of every business. If your network goes down, productivity grinds to a halt, taking revenue generation with it.
This is why so many companies choose to partner with managed service providers (MSPs), to outsource all or some of their IT departments.
MSPs provide a method to expand and contract your IT staff alongside your business, without the hassle of hiring for the right expertise and managing additional headcount. MSPs offer services to manage your entire IT infrastructure and keep it operating, while also guarding against security concerns.
MSPs are the perfect solution for businesses that need to perform at peak efficiency -- which is every single one of us -- but do not have the resources to manage a large on-site IT staff.
Because your company’s IT relationship is one of the most important partnerships of your business, determining the best partner -- in the most genuine sense of the word -- is crucial to setting yourself up for profitable growth.
With more than 40,000 MSPs in the U.S. marketplace, how do you choose which is best for your business? Start with interviewing potential candidates and assessing what’s the most important to you and your team.
From our perspective, here are our top seven tips for finding an MSP that’s the right fit, with the right fit being one that will treat your company’s technology and team members like their own.
1. Proactive vs. Reactive service
A forward-thinking MSP consultant will conduct a routine battery of well-checks and identify problems before they even occur. This type of partner may not be interested in one-off or “band-aid” projects that will allow your infrastructure to hobble along.
Instead, the right consultant will provide you with a holistic approach to IT that considers your long and short-term goals, growth plans, employee requirements and product expansions.
Proactive planning improves efficiency by keeping your technology up-to-date, from both a hardware and software standpoint. Planning will also help you avoid costly disasters like stand-stills and repairs, as equipment will be replaced before catastrophe strikes.
A holistic approach provides power to your planning and budgeting process as well, as it minimizes surprise bills and protects your bottom line.
2. strategic consulting and planning
Oftentimes MSP consultants may recommend only the technologies they are most familiar with. But true IT leadership means understanding what’s on the horizon and consistently embracing new products and services.
Finding an MSP that can truly guide your business to success requires C-level enterprise experience and right-sized recommendations.
Virtual CIO and CISO services allow executive-level planning for MSP clients without the trouble of hiring, and without the expense of retaining C-level IT staff.
Strategic suggestions should be made by high-level partners who oversee a staff of specialists that will enable your company’s IT plans. IT solutions should also proactively align with business initiatives and goals.
Ask a potential MSP partner about their cadence of virtual CIO sessions and how their staff learns about new technologies. Also ask for references or, at minimum, the names of a few similar clients in your industry.
‘How many clients like us do you support’ is a great question to use in interviewing potential MSP partners.
3. cybersecurity and compliance services
Digital security is one of the most important pieces of your IT footprint. The financial costs of a data breach are shocking, but the costs of permanent data loss and reputational damage are also immense.
Inc. Magazine, citing data from the National Cyber Security Alliance, asserts that 60 percent of companies that experience a breach will go under in less than six months.
Compliance as a requirement is critical to business success, whether that’s NIST, HIPAA, CIS or the like.
But a comprehensive cybersecurity solution soars past the minimum requirements for compliance, and helps you protect your data from intruder attacks from cybercriminals or opportunists inside your company.
Key inquiries to make when vetting a potential MSP should include risk management, managed detection and response, endpoint detection and response (EDR), penetration testing, security assessments and third-party risk analysis.
Social engineering, a test where MSPs try to infiltrate a network by fooling employees, is also a worthwhile, essential piece of a complete employee cybersecurity training.
Cyberthreats become more sophisticated constantly. Make sure your security service provider keeps your systems protected and guarded at all times.
4. employee education and awareness
Employee well-being will continue to be one of the prime focuses of every organization, especially in a post-quarantine environment where workspaces will continue to evolve. When lockdown started a year ago, employee empowerment became a significant need of the hour.
If your employees are battling their technology, they can’t get their jobs done and morale takes a hit alongside productivity. Part of the advantage of partnering with an MSP is allowing multiple employees to receive IT help simultaneously. Make sure you vet the service desk arrangements, user reviews, hours and software programs supported as part of your pre-contract discussions.
An MSP should provide employee education around new software implementations and -- perhaps most critically -- around cybersecurity. Employees are the most important first line of defense against costly and distracting digital attacks.
5. fixed costs
Look for an MSP with an all-you-can-eat approach to service, as opposed to a cafeteria-style plan where you pay for what you choose.
A robust, full-service agreement will allow you peace of mind each time your MSP is contacted, instead of dreading a surprise monthly bill. Every piece of your company’s IT infrastructure should be included in your agreement, along with patches, updates, testing and training as part of a standard monthly budgeted line item.
Discuss budgeting and get a clear picture of what any add-on items may be, as part of your vetting process. Many MSP groups offer bundled services that are reasonably priced and allow clients to add on additional proactive service offerings as needed.
Speaking of fixed cost, looking at cloud hosting will further your journey toward fixed IT expenses by eliminating the need for costly hardware replacements.
6. open communication and trust
A reputable, reliable MSP should be able to share their communication plan with you. Look for consistency, transparency, practical solutions and the elimination of confusing acronyms.
Each interaction with your MSP should provide value and serve as a collaboration, never feeling like a sales call. Also, hold your MSP accountable to these expectations with short-term contracts, leaving yourself the opportunity to make a change if needed.
If you invest your time to check references, ask about communication and whether an MSP is meeting expectations or has to be chased down for resolutions.
7. industry experience
Ensure an MSP has experience with successful clients in your industry. Although technology is a big factor in running every business, different industries have nuances and compliance details that are required to run efficiently.
As you're interviewing prospective new IT managed services partners, ask to speak with clients in your industry who have a similar headcount and business practices. Inquire about an MSP’s familiarity with your industry’s common line-of-business applications.
Visit a potential partner’s office (if possible) and try to discern if they can relate to your organization and the intricacies of your business. Ask to speak with the staff members that your team will be interacting with on a daily basis to be sure there's a strong cultural fit, too.
Experts agree that companies and individuals that don't keep up with major tech trends run the risk of becoming obsolete. Key trends include the application of artificial intelligence, 5G data networks and extended reality. Understanding recent industry inclinations and how they can affect your competing businesses is critical to staying ahead of the curve and finding your own competitive edge.
Discover the best partner for your business
Cortrucent Technologies helps companies grow with smarter technological solutions. Our team has extensive experience and will perform a comprehensive deep dive into your operation to offer the most solid IT advice. Our goal is to handle your technology and operational needs, so you can focus on growing your business.
The Cortrucent Technologies team has extensive experience and knowledge in many industries, and we understand how industry-specific technology solutions help your company grow. Our team has more than 25 years of experience, with a specialty in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, distribution, construction and non-profit groups.
We offer short-term contracts, giving our potential clients peace of mind and flexibility. And we have a robust suite of services that cover every aspect of your technological footprint.
Our New Jersey-based team takes pride in doing what’s best for our clients -- period.