Finding the right IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) can be a daunting task for any business. Getting stuck with an IT business agreement that doesn’t address the needs of your company and its employees can hinder your productivity and set the business back. That’s why it’s important to ask the right questions when choosing an IT provider and ensure you’re getting the resources, response time, and guarantees you need to be effective.
1. How many resources are being committed to your business?
how many people and resources are on hand to provide support to your company in the event of an IT issue. The resources assigned by the IT services company should be structured to scale your specific needs. In other words, the more IT support needed by your company, the more resources should be available to you. Ideally, an MSP assigns a specific team to your company that handles all aspects of your ongoing support. By having this dedicated team, a familiarity with the unique setup and environment of your IT systems is formulated, giving the team insight and an effective grasp on what issues may come up and how best to solve them. Beyond this team, your IT company should be able to escalate issues and bring in senior support teams, specialists, and project coordinators as needed.
2. Is the MSP able to offer enough attention to your company?
IT systems require around-the-clock monitoring to ensure they continue to function as they should. Whether it’s your network equipment or your services that go down, your IT services company should have a 24/7 support structure in place, 365 days of the year. That way, if something does happen, your dedicated support team is alerted and can begin working on correcting the issue as quickly as possible. Weather-related problems can strike at any time— it’s critical to have a business continuity plan in place so you can be ready whatever happens.
3. How quickly are IT issues able to be handled?
When an emergency hits, you want to know how long it will take an IT services company to fix the issue. An IT service agreement should outline a commitment by the MSP to respond to an issue within a specific time frame. While the timeframe for the actual solution will vary depending on the specific nature of the issue, clients should at least expect the issue to start being worked on in a reasonable period of time. Whether it’s one hour or longer, knowing that an issue is being worked on as soon as it can goes a long way to ease your mind and the mind of your employees.
4. What is the MSP’s SLA and what guarantees are there?
In this vein, your IT business agreement should contain a Service Level Agreement (SLA). It outlines specifically the service aspect of the contract and defines metrics for the service organization to measure its performance. For an MSP, this may include guarantees on response time to issues depending on their severity. These can be particularly useful for businesses to measure competing MSP’s against one another, and represent a quantifiable measure of how quickly they can be expected to perform should you hire them.
5. What support is available off-hours?
Depending on the nature of your business, you may have different hours of operation than most other companies. This can lead to problems when you need support during off-peak hours. Try to make sure, then, that your IT business agreement contains promises of support from an after-hours or on-call team. These teams provide coverage when you need it, either responding to notifications from the IT system or to requests initiated by your company. Whatever the case, off-hours support guarantees your company doesn’t miss a beat no matter the time of day (or night).
6. How long will the switch over take and how seamless will it be?
When it comes to bringing in a new IT services company, business owners and decision-makers can be wary about the disruption a transition may cause. While this is a valid concern, the length and involvement of the transition varies on a case-by-case basis, as there are several factors to take into consideration. The needs and specifications of the company have a large impact upon the scope of an installation project, while the situation with the current service provider or internal staff also has an influence. With a previous provider, their level of documentation and maintenance can affect, both positively and negatively, any transition to a new provider. Consequently, businesses should know that a switch over can be a bumpy road, but a good IT company should communicate this clearly and establish realistic timelines for a successful transition.
Ultimately, decision-makers within a business must take ownership of ensuring an appropriate service agreement is in place with their MSP. By reading exactly what is outlined within the plan, it will be easier to compare service providers with one another. Also, take note that options such as antivirus, Windows updates, spam filtering, web filtering will not necessarily be included on a proposal from an IT company but nevertheless represent significant value to your business.
Be wary, too, of a managed service provider making a lot of promises that seem too good to be true: they likely are. A good IT support vendor will manage the expectations of the client while keeping them informed and updated on any IT issues. They should, of course, be willing to do whatever it takes to meet your business’s needs, but a sense of realism ensures your expectations are aligned with what their support services are able to provide.
Have you had experience with setting up an IT business agreement with an MSP? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.
If you would like to learn more about what should be included in an IT business agreement or have any other questions about IT as part of a comprehensive IT support strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us today to speak with an IT expert.