You’re looking for a new solution for your business operations, and surely you want it to be as efficient and effective as possible. How do you know whether to keep these functions in house or partner with a managed service provider?
There are pros and cons to each. And businesses of all shapes and sizes are dedicating significant time to determine whether in-house or outsourced IT services are more valuable.
We’ve found that many businesses are choosing to opt for a managed service provider. And one study of more than 1,650 CIOs from across the globe found that 70% of CIOs focused on growth are planning to move away from in-house operations and partner with managed service providers for their skills and expertise.
Despite the insights from Moving from the back office to the front lines: CIO insights from the Global C-suite Study, there are still many considerations to explore before choosing a Managed Service Provider.
Here are the seven most important characteristics to look for in a partner.
1) Response Time and Availability
This is one of the most crucial aspects of a managed service provider and choosing the right partner for your business. No matter your situation, you need an MSP that’s available 24/7. Your business depends on it.
Ask any potential partner about its response guarantee. Should you expect a response within an hour? Three hours? 24 hours? You need to know, and it should be very fast.
At the minimum, your provider should have someone available to manage an issue within this timeframe. Does your partner outsource their customer service to a call center, or will you actually speak to an in-house expert if you call? If there are experts in-house, there’s a good chance their availability and response time will be faster.
It’s important to ensure that your MSP can scale with your business, no matter how your operations ebb and flow.
Scalability has many forms, however:
- Administrative scalability: The ability for a growing number of stakeholders (and computers) to communicate through a computer network.
- Functional scalability: The ability to add new functionality to a system (with minimal effort).
- Geographic scalability: The ability to maintain usability and performance no matter the change or growth from one local area to a more diverse set of locations.
- Load scalability: The ability of a system to expand its resources to accommodate greater workloads or users. Alternatively, the ease with which a system or component can be modified to accommodate changing load.
No matter the partner you’re considering, you need to know what your options would be should you need more data in the future. How they handle, process, and host large amounts of data is a key characteristic.
3) Current Technology
Regardless of your unique business needs, it’s important to identify what technological suites and advances your managed service provider could provide. Your MSP must be able to offer solutions that support virtual:
- End-user computing
- Application management
And your partner must be able to manage a service-level agreement from the technology stack down to the application layer.
4) A Customer-Centric Approach
Customers are the most important stakeholder of any business. And there shouldn’t be any difference between you and your managed service provider. Make sure that whoever you’re considering prioritizes your success.
Take time to learn what their mindset is, and what their support ecosystem looks like. As we touched on regarding response time, you need readily-available support designed around meeting your needs.
Yet, many MSPs don’t have the technology, knowledge, or resources to adequately monitor your operations and support your business. They’re simply unable to offer swift attention and escalate to other service channels when necessary. And if they’re unable to properly design or implement your system, your needs will likely fall through the cracks.
Emergencies are rare, but they happen. And it’s crucial that you know what measures your partner will take to protect your data and business.
Your MSP must have the flexibility to design infrastructure with security and disaster recovery measures that span all data centers and locations. They should also regularly regular monitor for potential cyber attacks and conduct security tests. They need to ensure that your confidential data will stay confidential.
Here are some key questions to ask your potential partner:
- What are your policies and standards?
- How effective is your physical security, and how frequently do you test controls?
- What experience do you have handling confidential data?
- What mechanisms do you employ to safeguard sensitive data?
- How often and consistently do you conduct automatic data backups? Are these backups to a remote server?
- Do you employ a security manager? Do they have any security qualifications, CISSP, for example?
If your MSP willingly provides answers to these key questions, you should be fairly confident in their ability to protect your business.
6) Disaster Recovery Planning
Should a disaster occur, you need a partner that has a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place. Even with the most formidable security, issues can still occur. And being prepared and able to recover from a disruption is essential.
Talk to your MSP to learn how they’d work with you to create a disaster recovery plan. Together you’ll need to:
- Determine which critical applications need continuity
- Dissect the architecture of your business-critical applications, including how they’re connected to your database is
- Outline the procedures when managing a disaster
7) Vendor Management
Few businesses work with one, sole partner. Thus, your MSP must be able to work with any other technology partners to resolve any potential issues.
Without this single point of accountability and teamwork, your business can suffer the consequences of discord. When situations arise, your business can grind slowly forward until your partners finally (hopefully) create a solution.
Ask your managed service provider about their vendor management program. What skills and strategies do they have working with other vendors? They’ll either take a hands-off approach to troubleshooting or have a single point of authority (SPA). You want a provider with a SPA. They should be ready to bring your vendors together to ensure resolution.