Small Business

Separating the Best MSPs from the Rest: An SMB Checklist

EpsonMarch 1, 2019

While tech solutions elevate the competitiveness of many small and mid-sized businesses, they also demand attention, maintenance, and budget. That’s why so many SMBs eventually turn to a managed service provider for IT support. MSPs will account for 24% of all SMB, medium and large company IT spending by 2021.

These outsourced IT partners alleviate the stress of maintaining networks, software solutions, and related hardware, and provide a more strategic approach to your technology needs—not to mention save your company money. But how do you determine which provider is right for your company?

Selecting an MSP is big decision, and there can be a lot of factors that come into play. Ask these questions of your MSP prospects to find a managed IT services firm that saves your organization headaches—instead of causing them.

  • Does the MSP understand your business?

    As an SMB leader, you don’t implement tech simply for the sake of tech. You invest in solutions such as smart printer networks, handheld POS devices, and cloud-based software because it helps you achieve broader business goals. Your managed service provider needs to not only understand this, but also prioritize your business objectives within their strategy. As you evaluate potential MSPs, look for those that ask about your industry, current goals, and future plans, and connect the dots between your IT efforts and the company’s success.

  • Does the managed service provider have experience specific to your industry?

    In the same vein, a managed service provider that works with other clients in your industry can provide some added value beyond technical expertise. For instance, MSPs with financial service expertise tend to encounter a lot of compliance-related regulations when it comes to their use of technology and customer information. Same goes for healthcare providers, and companies handling patient data or insurance claims. While an MSP that has more generic experience can still provide quality service, one familiar with your industry can make targeted suggestions for how to optimize the current technology, avoid common pitfalls, and determine what tech to invest in next.

  • What’s the MSP’s client track record?

    As with any purchase or hire, taking the time to talk with companies that have worked with the MSP before can uncover useful information. Reviews and case studies play a big role in B2B decisions; 65% and 47% of company leaders respectively said they’re very important variables. Go a step beyond, and ask your MSP candidates for references that you can speak with. Then call at least two and learn more about the provider’s response time, expertise, any unexpected issues, and overall performance.

  • How are the IT provider’s fees structured?

    Managed service providers set up their fee structures in a variety of ways, from hourly rates to annual contracts to project-based flat fees. For small to mid-sized businesses, cost is going to be a determining factor. But that doesn’t mean that the cheapest provider should win. Instead, look at your reasons for hiring an MSP in the first place. If more predictable IT-related expenses is a driving force, then consider a flat fee or annual contract approach that provides a range of services for one price. Hourly rates can work for emergency “fix it” situations, but if you’re wanting to develop a more long-term relationship, then a contract may make more sense.

  • Does the MSP customize its contracts?

    Your IT needs are as unique as your business, and your managed service provider contract should be, too. Be wary of providers who propose generic SLAs without taking the time to customize components of their fees, scope of work, or service to your company. Look for an agreement that digs into the details such as how available the MSP will be, what types of services incur additional charges, and how often the MSP will back up your data. Also look to see if the agreement outlines how the communication will work between your company and the MSP, including how to reach the firm in an emergency and what you can expect for a response.

  • What’s the firm’s availability?

    One of primary reasons to partner with a managed service provider is to have 24/7/365 IT coverage. This should include monitoring your networks for security threats at all times, and outlining a plan for what to do if a breach happens or your system goes down. Talk to potential providers about how they handle holidays, weekends, and IT trouble outside of business hours.

  • Does the managed service provider take a proactive approach?

    It’s helpful to have someone to address technical issues and fix things when they go wrong. But a great MSP is also thinking about your future. Your MSP should be focused on identifying your company’s IT challenges, preventing problems, and finding ways to improve your technology and processes over time. This includes mitigating risks with a proactive approach to network security, and keeping your tech stack up-to-date.

  • Is the MSP comfortable supporting multiple vendors?

    Small and mid-sized businesses use an average of 18 SaaS products across their organization. These subscriptions apply to everything from customer support to marketing and sales to finance. The best MSPs will have no problem understanding and supporting multiple SaaS products as well as any hardware and network services you may use. What’s more: Look for MSPs that have experience with the tech you already use, and relationships with those vendors. That way if there’s ever an issue, your IT partner can be one step ahead.

Outsourcing your IT to a managed service provider levels up your IT support and strategy. Find the right partner and you’ll get more out of you overall technology investment, and end up making smarter, more strategic IT decisions for your company’s future.

Find other opportunities for your business to streamline your work—check out some of the latest areas for SaaS adoption in SMBs.

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