If you were to open up your browser right now and haphazardly search for an MSP (managed service provider) to outsource your IT work to, you’d more than likely be flooded with results and advertisements for fairly local companies. It seems so simple… But it’s not.
MSPs for outsourcing can vary wildly in quality. By no means are they all bad (in fact quite the opposite), but there are hundreds out there that just won’t be exactly what your business needs.
It’s to that end that we’ve put together this quick list of 5 tips in order to help you find the perfect MSP for your business, and aid you in keeping your working relationship strong as you grow together as companies.
1. Make sure your service level agreement is a good fit for both companies
When you start working with an MSP, you’ll have to put in place a Service Level Agreement (SLA), and this will be crucial in whether or not your working relationship will succeed, or crash and burn – finding a mutually beneficial agreement is just that important.
Many companies find starting with a ready-made agreement is useful, and then proceed to tweak the agreement until you come to a perfect fit. Ultimately there’s no one-size-fits-all way of doing it, but don’t let that put you off – putting the effort into finding your agreement is definitely worth it. This agreement is your contract after all, so it’s critical to ensure that both you and the MSP are moving forward in a positive direction based on its contents.
2. Find an MSP willing to work with your IT department
You can never be entirely sure whether or not two teams full of unique people will work together well. That’s not to say that IT departments are full of difficult individuals with problematic personalities – it’s just that when more and more people are added to the equation, there’s bound to be slight disagreements and a crossover of skills.
Fortunately, though, there are ways of minimising this. Generally, you want to be looking for an MSP who is ready and willing to happily work alongside whoever is currently in your IT department, and also a working environment in which everyone’s responsibilities are clearly defined, so people don’t step on each other’s toes.
When you’re trying to decide whether you should take on a project with your in-house department, or through an MSP, there are obviously pros and cons to think about, but these decisions don’t have to be made on a whim – finding a good way of working is crucial for ensuring your business gets the greatest result.
3. Ensure your MSP has past experience working with similar businesses to yours
When looking for another company to work with, finding one who has worked with or provided support for businesses similar to your own is just common sense.
It’s not necessarily all that important that these similar companies need to be the exact same as your company in every way – the same size, stage of their development, same industry – but if you come across a company that can’t tick a single one of these boxes, steering clear of them is probably the best idea. It’s pretty much critical for them to have worked with companies with at least one of these things in common with yours.
Ultimately if they do tick one of those boxes, chances are that they’ll be able to understand your business and where exactly it is. They may need a little to make sense of your particular methods of working, but that tends to not be a problem.
When looking into MSPs, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them what companies they’ve previously worked with and even if you can talk to them, but if you’d rather not, you can always look at social media such as LinkedIn and try and find out for yourself who has employed them in the past. Speaking to others who have worked with your chosen MSP is the best way to tell if they’ll end up being a perfect fit or not.
4. Make certain your MSP is being proactive
It’s always a nightmare to find that problems have arisen whilst you were entirely unaware. No one wants to get to work early in the morning only to find that overnight, your systems failed. With the right MSP, this kind of problem could be nothing but a mention in an email, having been fixed before you had a chance to notice.
It is approximated that for every hour of downtime, businesses can lose over ten thousand dollars. Depending on your MSP however, you can’t be certain that problems will be caught that quickly. Some MSPs are able to monitor your systems with various applications, and can then relay any problems, potential or serious, to your 24-hour staff. However, some MSPs need you to inform them when a problem arises. Not every business needs the first kind of support, especially if they don’t have systems online at all times, but if you do, you’ll want to find a company that, by being proactive, stays ahead of the game.
5. Ensure your MSP can accommodate your growth – and grow with you
As a business, you’re bound to have ambitions to grow – even if current growth isn’t currently your biggest priority. Finding an MSP that understands and can keep pace with any ambition you may have is vital.
This is because, chances are, after several years working with an MSP, they’re likely to be quite intertwined with your company. They might have been by your side, helping with systems and workflow design, helping you relocate or move premises, and could even have been present while discussing and making crucial business decisions. If or when your working relationship ends – it’s likely to be a bit of a bumpy ride.
It’s for this reason that it can be highly advantageous to stick with an MSP when your business experiences growth – particularly because they may well be partially responsible.
It can be useful to discuss with an MSP what their plans for growth are. Compare your 5-year plans with theirs – check whether or not they line up. Make sure they also know what they’d do in the event that something unexpected happens – if you were to land a huge contract or client for instance – they need to be able to work with haste to ensure you’re ready to react as a business.
IT is undoubtedly a crucial aspect to why every super successful business has achieved its dreams. An MSP simply needs to be able to grow alongside you, and if they can’t – don’t be afraid to start the search anew. But make sure to consider that they may be ready and perfectly willing to get down to business and give you the exact kind of support you need, as this is crucial too.