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August 18

How to Choose a Managed Service Provider – 10 Questions to Ask Potential IT Consultants

If your company has reached a moment when IT services outsourcing is a necessity, you probably already know that choosing the right managed IT services provider can be a daunting task. With so many businesses offering these services, it is hard to know who to trust.

It’s essential to not just look at the cost of the service, but you want to ensure the overall package is right for your business in the long run. We’ve compiled a list of questions you can ask potential IT providers and some factors you should consider before making a decision.

We hope this guide will help you reach a satisfactory answer to the question, “How do I choose a managed IT service provider that’s right for my business?

Choosing the Right Managed Service Provider for Your Small Business

Choosing the Right MSPEvery business is different from the other and has a different set of needs and challenges. Selecting the suitable managed service provider for your business plays a vital role in affecting the growth of the company.

Consider the following factors while making your choice, and keep them in mind when forming your list of questions to ask potential managed IT service providers:

  • Defined service level agreement: A service level agreement is a contract between the provider and the business. Choose an MSP that offers flexible options and compliance to timely responsiveness. A defined service level agreement sets the expectations from the beginning and benefits both parties.
  • Experience in similar industries: Choose a managed service provider familiar with your business industry. It is essential that the MSP has experience working with a similar industry previously and is aware of the regulations and the requirements of the same. It will ensure that your business is in safe and reliable hands.
  • Committed to growth: Choose an IT provider with a unique approach focused on future goals. Look for a managed service provider with the willingness to grow, expand and take up new technology and challenges.
  • Outstanding customer service: It is essential that your managed service provider has a dedicated team of experts to cater to your needs and especially in situations where something goes wrong. Look for an MSP with a team available 24/7 and willing to go the extra mile.

Without Further ado, Let’s Dive into the 10 Managed IT Support Services-related Questions to Ask Before Making a Decision:

1. “What is your experience with companies like ours?”

Because you have to ensure your potential providers know what they’re doing, find out how they’ve dealt with organizations similar to yours.

Who have they worked with in the past? What can they tell you about those experiences? How did things go? What were some of the challenges?

Although each organization’s needs are unique, make sure that your potential provider has expertise in your industry—you’ll want them to be able to handle your situation efficiently.

Furthermore, experienced companies should be able to provide references on demand.

2. “What is your approach to cybersecurity?”

Cybersecurity approach

Whether you’re a small business just starting out or an established organization with decades of experience, you need cybersecurity measures in place.

That’s where managed IT service providers (MSPs) come in—they can provide various levels of assistance for your network security and other aspects of IT management to focus on doing what you do best.

While many companies hire managed IT service providers without giving much thought to their cybersecurity standards and practices, this is a huge mistake—you need to ensure that any managed IT service provider you consider hiring has solid security measures in place and understands your needs regarding your sensitive data protection.

3. “How do you handle compliance requirements?”

Your company might be subject to HIPAA, PCI DSS, or other industry-specific compliance standards that require specific measures for protecting sensitive data and securing digital transactions.

Each of these compliance requirements has its own stipulations that must be met to avoid heavy fines and legal complications. It’s important to review these guidelines with your vendors and make sure they have the resources necessary to help you meet these guidelines.

A competent managed IT service provider will know about these regulations and will be able to explain how they’ll help you achieve compliance.

4. “What’s your process for keeping my systems up-to-date?”

Systems up-to-dateAn effective managed IT service provider can help reduce the burden on your internal IT staff by handling routine tasks like installing patches and updates. Ask what software management tools they have in place and how they use them.

Does the provider offer a service desk ticketing system where your employees can submit requests for help? Does the support team use mobile devices, so they’re available to you 24/7? This is one of the great leading questions for managed IT service providers.

5. “Do you use any proprietary technology?”

Many providers offer equipment designed to work with their service and their software, creating a closed ecosystem that can be difficult to leave.

Vendors with their proprietary software, hardware, or systems often claim it’s superior to competitors’ offerings.

However, the fact that you don’t know how it works (and therefore can’t understand the risks involved) is a huge red flag. Make sure your vendor’s technology isn’t just a marketing ploy and that you know what you’re getting into.

If you’re unfamiliar with the technology being used for your managed IT service provider’s products and services, ask about compatibility with other technologies and how it will impact your existing infrastructure.

6. “What is your typical response time?”

This will set the scope of their service’s responsiveness and how quickly you can expect a fix to be implemented. If a critical server is down, every second counts, and you need to know that the people in charge of your IT are paying attention.

Even if they are able to respond quickly in the case of an emergency, it’s still important to know how long routine maintenance tasks take, so you can plan for when you may experience an outage.

7. “Do you offer IT consultation services?”

IT consultation services

Managed service providers often come with the added benefit of providing IT consulting services simultaneously. This can be a huge help for businesses that aren’t familiar with their IT infrastructure.

Many companies are willing to pay extra for this, but when it comes to managed service providers, they’re often included in the services offered.

In any case, a reputable managed IT service provider will offer at least an initial free IT consultation call to understand the ins and outs of your business and provide you with bespoke solutions.

Understanding how to choose the right managed IT consultants is essential, as they can point you in the right direction and help you make the best decisions.

8. “What certifications do you have?”

It’s important to know whether the technicians you outsource your IT services to have certifications. Some of the most prestigious certifications are CompTIA, Microsoft, and Cisco.

They indicate the technician has taken courses in their field of work and passed an exam proving their knowledge and skills.

9. “Are you able to protect my IT infrastructure and data in worst-case scenarios?”

Protect IT infrastructure

When you work with an outsourced managed IT service provider, they need to have the proper infrastructure in place to keep your systems up and running at all times.

They should be able to protect your data in any situation—whether backing up data on-site or off-site, having appropriate disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, or working with you to determine how to prepare for potential disasters.

Predicting the future is impossible, but if you are not ready for the worst-case scenario, you could lose a lot of time and money trying to bounce back from an attack or disaster.

Spotting a reliable managed IT service provider starts with asking them how they can help protect your systems in the event of a natural disaster (floods, earthquakes, wildfires), cyberattacks (ransomware, financially motivated attacks), and other critical incidents.

A good provider should be able to tell you about their current disaster recovery solutions and how far their capabilities reach.

10. “What is your pricing model?”

IT PriceThis is a no-brainer, but it’s an important conversation to have prior to signing a contract. Some companies will charge a flat rate per month, while others might provide different price points depending on their services.

Still, others may base their pricing on how many devices they manage. All of these are valid options, but knowing what they are upfront will help you choose the one that works best for your business.

The bottom line

While there is no simple way to determine if a specific managed IT service provider is a good fit for you, there are certainly some guiding questions you can follow along the way.

The above ten questions are a great starting point for assessing an managed IT service provider’s value in terms of services provided, reliability, track record, pricing, and forward-thinking.

We hope this article brought more clarity on how to choose between managed IT service providers and how to choose the right managed IT consultants for your specific requirements.

Asking these questions (and more) will ensure that you find a managed IT provider for your company.

So get out there, talk with potential companies, determine your needs and wants, and choose wisely. There is no secret formula on how to choose a managed IT service provider.

The Expert Computer Solutions approach

Expert Computer SolutionsAt Expert Computer Solutions (ECS), we believe that when you choose to outsource your IT services, you should benefit from a reliable partner.

We value each customer and strive to deliver the best experience possible from start to finish by delivering a flawless formula of technical aptitude, affordability, and transparency.

If you choose Expert Computer Solutions, you do not only benefit from expert Houston IT support services but also from unparalleled advice to maximize the efficiency of your IT infrastructure.

We count 17+ years of experience working with customers across all major business verticals: from healthcare, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and real estate to education, finance, oil & gas, legal, and engineering.

Schedule your complimentary Free IT Consultation here.


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About the author

CEO of Expert Computer Solutions

Peter Robert

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