Finding the right managed services provider is an extremely important business decision. This is the organisation that will keep your critical business support functions going, and be there to help you when you need it most. Look for these qualities when determining to whom to entrust your managed services.
- Proven ability to commit to and meet stringent service levels
- A business model that understands your business
- Adaptability and agility: when it hits the fan, your MSP comes to help
- Having a technically agnostic point of view/support for multivendor environments
- A focus on customer service
- Alignment with industry best practices
- Experience and reputation
- The right tools, resources and processes
Service level agreements (SLAs) are the key method for setting and measuring the performance of the managed service provider (MSP), so make sure these are relevant to your organisation’s key business requirements. For example, if you are an emergency services organisations, an assured high level of system availability and response times from your MSP is essential for continuity of service and community safety.
Some businesses will want a full managed service, with 24 X 7 monitoring and engineering support, with field response and repairs. Other businesses may only require network monitoring with break/fix performed internally, or network management for business hours only. A good MSP should be able to develop a service to meet all those differing needs.
Downtime costs money, so ensure that your set of service levels are clearly defined and measurable, along with appropriate rebates or penalties for poor performance, or maybe even bonuses for good performance. Your MSP should also provide regular reports that keep you informed of their performance against the service levels.
Every business is different, and a good MSP will take the time to understand your business. They should understand your unique requirements, challenges and needs, rather than talking you into a service that suits their bottom line. Check if the MSP knows what you need and why?
This may be complicated when more than one stakeholder is involved, for example, in the case of a multi-agency government service. The skilled MSP listens to all parties and devises a solution that meets the needs of a number of disparate user groups.
The services offered should suit you. Don’t be bamboozled by a long list of inclusions: there is no benefit to you in services you won’t need but are probably paying for!
Things can and do go wrong, and you need to know that your MSP will drop everything to help. A good MSP will arrive on a Saturday when your IT room has been flooded out, roll up their sleeves and start mopping. During bushfires, they’ll step in and fix equipment and supply extra radios and communications capability at short notice. They will go the extra mile.
Today’s infrastructures includes multivendor environments with products and services from a range of providers. Ideally, your MSP forms strong partnerships with other service providers to deliver the required outcomes. And even in the most complex environment, they are the single point of contact, regardless of whether the issues derives from hardware or software, saving you the hassle and time of chasing different vendors.
Innovation means providing more than purely management. It’s innovating for more cost-effective and better solutions, and striving for continual improvement. Monitoring a network for some means a person watching a screen, waiting for the red light to come on and indicate a problem. An innovative organisation implements automated systems that detect and solves issues even before you are aware of the problem.
Don’t settle for a service provider who merely babysits, that is, runs your IT system without innovating and evolving.
A poor MSP sells you the service and moves on as soon as the ink is dry. Instead, the MSP should continually manage and nurture the relationship, constantly listening to your needs and feedback, with a single, local point of contact for all service delivery needs you require.
Assess the level of customer service from the beginning. Do they respond to your enquiries in a timely manner? Are they eager to discuss your needs? Do they offer suggestions on how to tailor the service to meet those needs? How they work with you at the beginning helps indicate how the relationship will progress.
Can they communicate with you clearly and promptly? Their ability to communicate clearly is critical, given that you will be relying on their support.
Industry best practice should be evident in everything your MSP does: security, business continuity, disaster recovery planning, risk management and planning, and service delivery. This means that the MSP will use a common language that minimises misunderstanding. It also ensures a consistency of service delivery, standardised processes that mean efficiency and cost savings for you, and a reduction in risk and associated costs.
Find an MSP whose experts are constantly training and learning, and staying current with new technologies. Certification does not just indicate ability, it also indicates a commitment to excellence.
The longer a company has been in operation, the greater experience they can offer especially if this includes a broad and diverse client base. Check for a good track record which can be an indicator of future performance. If you are a large enterprise, check for experience with a similar sized company. If you are a smaller enterprise, check that the company can still provide a personalised service.
The best MSPs will have a round-the-clock, dedicated, high-quality network operations control centre (NOCC) housing the latest technologies. With the right management and diagnostic tools and access to correct information, your MSP’s experienced staff can resolve a large percentage of IT problems remotely, often before you even notice them. This reduces business impact and the workload for your own staff and provides capabilities and expertise you might not otherwise be able to access.
If your MSP demonstrates all the above qualities, chances are that it will be a great match, leading to a fruitful and productive relationship which takes your business to its fullest potential.