For SME business leaders, it is important to keep pace with modern IT-related trends, including big data, digital communication, online customer support, and telecommuting. However, in order to do this effectively, IT infrastructure needs to be carefully set up and your IT systems need to be managed appropriately.
In many cases, SMEs do not have an in-house IT support team, making it necessary to outsource responsibility for this to a managed service provider (MSP). In this article, we take a more in-depth look at this search process and point out some of the key things to look out for when seeking the best MSP for your business.
Key Benefits of a Managed Service Provider
1. Experience in Your Sector
The first thing to look for in an MSP is evidence that they have provided IT support for similar organisations to yours, preferably in the same industry, or a related one. After all, there is no substitute for prior experience, and this will go a long way towards dictating the extent to which they will be equipped to help you.
Different industries can have drastically different IT requirements, regulations, trends and jargon, and an understanding of these can be crucial. When speaking to potential MSPs, you should ask them about the support they have offered within your sector, what they know about the industry itself, and how they can actually assist you.
2. Availability of Local Support
Location is sometimes overlooked by SMEs seeking a managed service provider. After all, theoretically, much of the work can be carried out remotely. However, as Olivia Lindsey states in an article for Gradwell, this idea falls flat as soon as your business requires on-site support and your MSP is unable to provide it.
Before committing to an MSP, you should check that there is local support available and that they can reach you quickly. This will give you additional peace of mind, prevent IT infrastructure issues de-railing entire working days and will also give you confidence that your MSP of choice is familiar with any notable local IT challenges.
3. Understanding of Your Needs
In addition to having an understanding of your wider industry, you also want to know that an MSP understands some of the more specific needs of your enterprise. During the proposal process, the right MSP should give you the clear sense that they understand your business requirements, regardless of what those requirements are.
If you are in the process of an IT office move, see what they have to say about steps you should take to improve your infrastructure. An MSP citing previous experience resolving similar business challenges to your own would be a strong indicator of a good fit, as would an MSP giving clear ideas of how to improve your business.
By contrast, you should avoid an MSP looking to push generic solutions to problems you do not have. As Osprey Strategic Research astutely point out, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for business IT and you want to know that the services you are being offered have been tailored to fit your circumstances.
4. Range of Available Services
Next, you need to explore the range of services that each of your prospective MSPs can actually offer you. Ideally, your chosen partner should be able to cover an IT office move, provide disaster recovery and business continuity services, understand cyber security, and know how to manage business IT infrastructure.
Furthermore, it is sensible to take the time to find out if they provide any training services related to the solutions that they are proposing for you. After all, there is little value in working with an MSP that proposes Office 365 business deployment, but offers nothing in the way of support for actually using it.
5. Awareness of Modern Trends
Finally, from the aforementioned Office 365 business deployment services, through to business strategy solutions, you need evidence that your MSP has an awareness of the most modern IT trends. You should also check that the company employees have continued their own education, so that you are not acquiring outdated support.
Moreover, cyber security should be one of their highest priorities. For this reason, it is vital to check that your chosen MSP has accreditations such as the ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus qualifications, and that they also have an awareness of some of the more industry-specific cyber security threats you face.
It is also critically important for your MSP to deploy state-of-the-art IT solutions, which enable them to protect your data, carry out vulnerability assessments and identify any network security flaws you have.
The Last Word
Managed service providers can be an ideal option for most SMEs, as you may not require constant on-site support, but you will want to know that support is available when you need it. However, with so many MSPs around, it is essential to find the right one for your business, and the steps outlined above should help with this.
When dealing with any MSP, it is also worth carrying out some basic research on the company, such as by checking online reviews. You should also avoid any MSP that seems reluctant to offer client testimonials or case studies, as this can suggest they are trying to cover up a poor track record.