Factors to Consider When Choosing a Managed Service Provider

How to Choose a Managed Services Provider

As the IT landscape grows more complex, managing crucial systems, workflows, and vendors can pose significant challenges for businesses. Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) is the order of the day, with 62% of businesses working with one by 2025. But how do you choose the right managed services provider for your business?

It’s crucial to pick one that aligns with your vision and emphasizes your business’s sustained growth and innovation.

So, how do you ensure an MSP aligns perfectly with your business needs? Dive into our guide, and we’ll walk you through the essential questions to ask during MSP discovery.

Having the right partner is not just about managing today’s challenges but anticipating tomorrow’s. At Network Essentials, we believe in forging partnerships that drive growth and foster innovation.”Kyle Elworthy, CEO

8 MSP Qualifying Questions You Need to Ask

1. What experience do you have in my industry?

Every industry has its own set of IT challenges, from regulatory compliance to specific software utilization. An MSP with experience in your sector will be better equipped to anticipate your needs, understand industry-specific software, and address potential hurdles before they become issues.

2. How do you handle data security and compliance?

Data breaches can have devastating consequences, both financially and reputationally. An adept MSP will have robust security protocols in place and will be familiar with industry-specific compliance mandates, whether it’s HIPAA for healthcare or PCI DSS for e-commerce.

3. What’s your response time for IT emergencies?

In the digital age, even a short downtime can translate to significant revenue loss. An MSP with rapid response times ensures that any IT emergencies are addressed promptly, minimizing disruptions and ensuring your business operations resume swiftly.

4. How scalable are your services?

As businesses grow, their IT infrastructure needs to evolve in tandem. An MSP offering scalable solutions can easily accommodate business expansions, whether it’s adding new users, integrating new technologies, or expanding to new locations without the need for a complete IT overhaul.

5. Can you provide references or case studies from similar clients?

First-hand accounts from businesses similar to yours can provide valuable insights into the MSP’s efficacy, problem-solving capabilities, and customer service. It allows you to gauge the real-world impact of their services and set realistic expectations.

6. How do you stay updated with the latest technology trends and innovations?

Technology is a rapidly evolving field. An MSP that invests in continuous learning and training ensures that your business benefits from the latest technological advancements, be it in cybersecurity, cloud solutions, or industry-specific software.

7. What are the terms and conditions of your service-level agreement (SLA)?

The SLA is the bedrock of your partnership with the MSP. It delineates responsibilities, sets performance benchmarks, and defines remedies in case of service lapses. Thoroughly understanding the SLA ensures there are no ambiguities and that both parties are aligned in their expectations.

8. How is your pricing structured, and what does it cover?

Transparent and clear pricing is pivotal for budgeting and avoiding unexpected costs down the line. It’s essential to discern not just the base costs but any potential add-ons, overage charges, or special project fees that might arise in specific scenarios.

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Managed Services Selection Criteria

Selecting the right partner goes beyond merely evaluating their service list. The choice has long-term implications for your business’s operational efficacy, security, and growth trajectory. Here are some nuanced managed services vendor selection criteria to consider:

Depth of Expertise: While many MSPs might boast a broad range of services, it’s the depth of their expertise that truly matters. This is especially crucial for businesses in specialized industries. For instance, a healthcare provider would benefit immensely from an MSP familiar with HIPAA compliance, electronic health records systems, and telemedicine platforms.

Customization and Flexibility: One-size-fits-all rarely works in IT. The ideal MSP should be willing to tailor their services to your specific needs. As your business evolves, you might need to pivot, scale up, or even scale down certain IT functions. The provider should offer the agility to adapt to these changes without locking you into rigid contracts or service bundles.

Proactive Strategy: Reactive IT support, where issues are addressed only after they arise, is an outdated model. Modern MSPs adopt a proactive approach, leveraging tools like predictive analytics, continuous monitoring, and routine audits. This not only prevents potential problems but also optimizes your IT infrastructure for future growth.

Quick Reference: Key Criteria for Choosing an MSP

CriteriaWhy It’s ImportantQuestions to Ask
Industry ExperienceAn MSP familiar with your industry will better understand your specific needs.“What experience do you have in my industry?”
Data Security & ComplianceEnsures that the MSP can protect your data and meet industry-specific compliance standards.“How do you handle data security and compliance?”
Response TimeQuick response times are crucial for minimizing disruptions in case of IT emergencies.“What’s your response time for IT emergencies?”
ScalabilityAs your business grows, your MSP should be able to adapt its services accordingly.“How scalable are your services?”
References & Case StudiesProvides insights into the MSP’s real-world performance and customer service.“Can you provide references or case studies from similar clients?”
Technology UpdatesAn MSP should be up-to-date with the latest technology trends to offer you the best solutions.“How do you stay updated with the latest technology trends?”
Service-Level Agreement (SLA)Defines the terms of your partnership with the MSP.“What are the terms and conditions of your SLA?”
Pricing StructureClear pricing is essential for budgeting and avoiding unexpected costs.“How is your pricing structured, and what does it cover?”

Transparent Communication: In today’s complex IT landscape, challenges are inevitable. How an MSP communicates during these times can make all the difference. Regular updates, transparent reporting, and open channels for feedback ensure that you’re never in the dark and that any concerns are addressed promptly.

Cost Efficiency: While cost shouldn’t be the primary determinant, it’s an undeniable factor. However, instead of just looking at the bottom line, consider the value proposition. For example, an MSP might seem expensive, but if they offer integrated cybersecurity solutions that prevent a data breach, the potential savings in fines, lost business, and reputation damage can far outweigh the initial investment.

Cultural Fit: This often-overlooked criterion is pivotal. Your MSP will be a close collaborator, almost an extension of your team. Ensuring they understand and fit into your company culture can lead to a smoother relationship and more aligned decision-making.

It’s vital that you look beyond the price tag to make your decision. The goal should be to unlock the most value from your provider. Don’t focus too much on technical questions to qualify MSPs. Rather, enquire about things that are relevant to your business.

How to Choose Managed Security Services

If you need specialized security services, there are a few more things to consider:

1. Specialized Expertise: An MSSP should possess deep knowledge in cybersecurity. Their team should include experts like Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSP) and Certified Ethical Hackers (CEH) who are trained to anticipate, identify, and respond to various security threats.

2. Advanced Threat Intelligence: MSSPs should not only respond to known threats but also anticipate potential future threats. This involves gathering and analyzing threat intelligence, understanding emerging global cyber threats, and tailoring defenses accordingly.

3. 24/7 Security Monitoring: Unlike general IT services, security requires round-the-clock attention. Ensure that the MSSP offers 24/7 security monitoring to detect and respond to threats in real time, minimizing potential damage.

4. Incident Response and Forensics: In the unfortunate event of a security breach, rapid response is crucial. An MSSP should have a clear incident response plan to contain and mitigate breaches. Additionally, they should provide forensic services to understand the breach’s origin, ensuring such vulnerabilities are addressed.

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5. Regular Security Assessments: Effective security is not static. The MSSP should conduct regular security assessments and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in your systems and recommend appropriate countermeasures.

6. Compliance Management: If your industry is regulated (e.g., healthcare, finance), the MSSP should be well-versed in the relevant standards, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS, ensuring that your security measures comply with regulatory requirements.

7. Integration with Existing Systems: Your business might already have certain security measures or systems in place. The MSSP should seamlessly integrate their solutions with your existing infrastructure, enhancing it rather than replacing or complicating it.

8. Transparent Reporting: Security is as much about trust as it is about technology. Regular, transparent reports on potential threats, security patches, and system health can offer peace of mind and ensure you’re always in the loop.

How to Choose a Managed Services Provider

Let’s Chat…Are We the Right Partner for You?

Finding the right MSP for your business is essential: an IT company is much more than a vendor. The right company can help you maximize your systems and leverage the latest tools for your business. 

With 21 years of experience, Network Essentials is the go-to partner for more than 45 companies. Our clients look to us for strategic IT advice, dependable IT performance, and a shared entrepreneurial vision. 

Ask us the questions to ask an IT MSP and find out if we’re the right partner for you.

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