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Questions to Ask When You’re Evaluating a Managed IT Service Provider

If you’ve been unhappy with your IT support situation and you’re starting the process of checking out Managed IT Service providers to find something better, it can be hard to know if what they’re offering is going to be any different from what you’re getting now. Asking the right questions as you vet different companies will help you to pull out the information that will allow you to make an informed decision.

Uncover the Differences Between Managed Service Providers

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are not all the same and the following questions will help you to uncover the differences that will impact the experience and business results that you can expect to receive.

How long have you been in business?

What you’re looking for with this question is stability. Stability can be found in longevity and in ownership. Being family owned and operated as opposed to ownership by a venture capital group will make a big difference in the company’s service delivery model. If the company you’re evaluating has the next generation of family ownership coming up the ranks, that’s another sign of business stability.

Related: Bigger Isn’t Always Better When Your Managed IT Service Provider is Swallowed Up by An Acquisition

How many technical and administrative employees do you have?

What you’re after here is a picture of what their bench looks like. One of the benefits that you get from working with an MSP is access to comprehensive IT expertise so you should expect to have multiple IT disciplines represented such as network engineers, cybersecurity specialists, central services engineers, help desk technicians, vCIOs (Virtual Chief Information Officers) and Microsoft specialists. Ask about their ratio of administrative to tech positions to get confidence that they have enough technical people to adequately support your business.

Are you SOC 2 Compliant?

SOC stands for Service Organization Control and it’s a regulatory requirement established by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA). It’s relevant not just for accounting companies, but for any company that wants third-party verification that the MSP they’re working with is following security best practices for protecting the confidentiality, integrity and safe storage of data in the cloud.

RELATED: 3 Reasons Why SOC 2 Compliant Managed IT Service Companies Should Be on Your Vendor Shortlist

What’s included in your monthly flat fee?

Make sure that you know exactly what computer equipment will be supported and at what level. You don’t want to be surprised with additional costs because upper tier or onsite support isn’t included. Are smartphones and tablets included? What about printers? How much cyber incident response can be expected? (No one can 100% guarantee that you won’t ever become a victim of a cyber attack.) What’s usually not included in your monthly fee would be technology improvements or new hardware and software.

How will you support our technology?

If you rely on a line-of-business (LOB) software or use Microsoft 365 apps, you’ll want to make sure that the MSP can adequately support you. It might not be a red flag if they haven’t used your specific LOB software but you can ask how they’ll get up to speed and how they’ll work with your vendor. As far as Microsoft 365 goes, ask about the certifications they have and how they’re helping companies optimize their use of Microsoft applications. There’s probably a lot more that you could be doing with Microsoft 365 (like automation) if you work with specialists.

How does your Help Desk work?

One of the benefits you want from an MSP is quick response to your employees’ issues so ask about the company’s Service Level Agreement (SLA). An SLA sets expectations for how long it will take to respond to a phone call or trouble ticket. You can also ask how help requests flow. Is there a triage step or will calls go directly to a technician? What happens if the first level technician can’t solve the problem? You’re looking for follow-through as much as you’re looking for quick response so that issues are fixed and employees are kept in the loop during troubleshooting.

How will you help us use technology to get ahead?

Your conversation to evaluate a new Managed IT Services company shouldn’t be all tech-talk. A prime benefit of working with an MSP is leveraging technology to meet your goals, so they should provide the services of a vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer) to consult with on how you can improve and build on your IT foundation. Ask how you’ll work with your vCIO when you bring ideas to them, and if you can expect them to bring ideas to you.

How will you work to prevent technology problems and downtime?

A true MSP is going to work proactively on your behalf to make your network predictable. They do this through the use of industry best practices and by guiding you along a path of technology improvements. Your role will be to commit to making the investments that will create a solid IT foundation, including updating hardware and software, and adhering to their guidance about the use of tools such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and advanced security tactics to keep your network secure.

What can we expect in our transition to Managed IT Services?

You want an onboarding experience that’s well thought-out from transferring knowledge and documentation from your current team, to teaching employees what to do when they need help. Ask about the steps that the MSP will go through to get to full support. There may be immediate actions needed that have already been identified in your initial assessment (like implement MFA). They may find additional items that need attention right away as they get started, so get a feel for the level of communication that you can expect.

How have you helped other companies?

If you were referred to the MSP by a colleague or friend, you’ve already got one source of credibility that the MSP can do what they say they can do. You can ask about their client retention rate and if they have any published client success stories to share. Of course, requesting references and having a conversation with a couple of current clients will allow you to learn first-hand about their experience.

Related: Bonstra | Haresign ARCHITECTS Switched to XPERTECHS Just in Time for the Remote Work Exodus

The Bottom Line is Confidence and Credibility

What you’re ultimately after in your process of evaluating a Managed IT Service provider, is a picture of what your relationship is going to look like. The relationship is transactional, of course, because they are promising to provide you with the services that you need. But through your interactions you should get confidence that they can provide what they’re promising and that it will be a mutually beneficial relationship.

XperCARE Managed IT Services

Here at XPERTECHS, we’ve been helping companies leverage technology to improve operations and enable success for more than 30 years. We provide Managed IT Services through our XperCARE framework which gives organizations everything they need to build a strong IT foundation, respond to user needs, protect data, and support business goals.

Contact us to find out how you can up your technology game.