October 20, 2023
If you already know that managed IT could be the secret to helping you solve recruiting and talent retention issues, maintain your cybersecurity, and move away from a break/fix model of IT, your next job is to find the best provider.
Of course, every single provider is probably going to say that they’re “the best.” But when it comes to managed IT, what does that even mean? How are you supposed to know what to look out for — and what to watch out for — without becoming an expert yourself?
In this guide, I’ll provide everything you need to know to make a smart decision.
Overall Qualities To Look for in a Managed Service Provider (MSP)
A managed service provider is a third-party provider that can provide one or more critical components of your business’s infrastructure — like your print environment, payroll, HR, or your IT systems. As this vendor is going to be literally all up in your business, it’ll be important that they get to know how you work and what your organization’s goals are so they can work as seamlessly as possible.
Choose Your Relationship With Care
In addition to being highly competent in their area of expertise, their approach to partnership is going to be very important to the success of this long-term relationship. For example, would you prefer a partner who just did what you told them to or one who will learn to think and act in your best interests and show you how you could be doing even better? Would you prefer to work with a provider who considers themselves to be more of a servant or one who considers themselves to be a partner — or even a mentor?
These roles aren’t the same. If you want a mentor but get a servant, or vice versa, you’ll probably be unhappy over time, regardless of how “good” your MSP is.
Consider All of Their Service Offerings
Today’s technology is designed to work together. Managed IT is already a comprehensive offering, but as you grow or your needs change, it would be ideal to find a vendor that can continue to meet those needs.
In five years, might you need a second location in another state, an entirely different set of tools, or a heavier focus on physical security? Maybe not. But keep in mind your long-term goals when you choose a provider.
Get Details on Their Technical Expertise
Ideally, you’d get the best of both worlds when it comes to your provider’s size. They’d be responsive enough to act like a small, agile company that is able to get to know your organization well. They’d also have the time and resources — and the deep benches — to make sure their experts could acquaint themselves with emerging technology and any changing regulatory requirements.
One of the best parts about having managed IT is that you aren’t the last to know when your business is now required to make a significant IT investment, when your software is no longer supported, or when a new cybersecurity threat has emerged.
It’s a challenge to keep up with these things, so I’d recommend asking them how they do it.
Understand Their Experience With Organizations Like Yours
Ever wish you had insider information on everything successful businesses in your industry are already doing to work smarter and faster? Now’s your chance to get it!
If a provider has a lot of experience working within your industry and with organizations of a similar size, they’ll be in a better position to tell you what investments will really give you the most ROI and what just looks good on paper.
Investigate Their Cybersecurity Awareness
Any vendor you work with can be a potential security risk, and you’ll want to do your due diligence. But a managed IT provider needs to be security-focused in this day and age. That’s non-negotiable. And the same cybersecurity posture that was working in 2017 doesn’t cut it anymore.
Say the Magic Words: SOC Report
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to tell if your provider understands cybersecurity best practices and is basically doing everything they say they are. Ask them about their SOC report. Every managed service provider should have a SOC 2 Type 2, which means a third-party auditor has verified that they can be trusted to safeguard your data.
Get To Know Their Support Model
When someone in your staff submits a repair ticket or calls their support desk, what will happen? What if something happens outside of normal business hours? When should you expect them to respond, and what does resolution look like?
No company is perfect 100% of the time, including managed IT service providers. However, the basic answers to these questions should be spelled out in your provider’s service level agreement (SLA). Ask to read theirs before you sign anything, and keep in mind that these agreements are often negotiable. Also, look for a section that spells out what happens if and when a provider doesn’t meet these expectations.
Look Beyond 24/7 Help Desk and Support
24/7 support is great. But when does that mean your issue will actually be resolved?
For example, at Marco, our US-based staff of over 650 certified systems engineers and technical representatives offers 24/7, live support, with a 98% live-call answer rate AND a 98% first-call resolution rate. That last number is perhaps just as important, if not more so, than the 24/7 one.
Compare Outsourced IT Pricing
Pricing models for managed IT vary by provider, and which model they use might mean you’re paying a lot more — or a lot less — for the same thing. You might also watch out for organizations that tend to make more money when things go wrong. No one likes to pay for more than they need, but if your provider really rakes it in when you have an emergency, they might not be properly incentivized to prevent them.
Our IT services are priced by user. We like that model because it scales along with your business, avoids unpleasant surprises, allows us to be very affordable for small to midsize businesses, and is more accommodating for remote and hybrid work. Our pricing model means we also do better when we help our clients do better, so it’s our way of prioritizing long-term relationships over short-term profits.
Additional Help Comparing MSPs
If the above criteria didn’t help you narrow down your search to one clear winner, here’s another easy one that you don’t often see in blogs like these.
Take a look at their vendor partnerships. If your provider has enough time and resources to invest in keeping on top of emerging cybersecurity threats, new regulations, and new solutions, you should be able to ask them for any special certifications they’ve received from software developers and top manufacturers that are relevant to your organization.
For example, if you use a lot of Microsoft solutions, wouldn’t it be great if a potential provider could prove to you that Microsoft itself has found it to be highly skilled in being able to provide world-class support for its solutions? How about Webex by Cisco? Wouldn’t that be nice?
It IS nice, so if you can’t find this information easily on their website, ask them!
At Marco, our evolving list of professional certifications is right here! We are always adding to our strategic partnerships as well, so while we’re providing top service, we can also offer highly competitive prices.
Curious about how affordable our managed IT services might be for your organization? Get a quick estimate with our online tool below!