The decision to move your IT management and operations to a managed services provider (“MSP”) can offer your organization a multitude of benefits and opportunities to grow your business. The right managed services partner can help you manage a complicated, every-changing internal technology network (without blowing through your IT budget) and allow you focus on making dynamic business decisions that move your company forward.

However, the increasing range of expertise, technology and management models can make choosing an MSP a difficult task. MSP relationships can be as varied as working with a partner who takes full operational control of your IT operations, to a smaller-scale arrangement where an existing IT staff relies on an MSP to augment existing skill sets and provide backup support where needed. Choosing the right provider is essential for successfully migrating your network to an outsourced network operations center. Making sure to do your “due diligence” and take the time necessary to select the right MSP partner can help you avoid making a rushed, uninformed decision that can lead to costly and time-consuming mistakes.

Knowing what to look for, and what to expect, from a managed services partnership is critical in getting the most out of the relationship; we have put together a list of 7 critical items to consider when selecting and working with your managed services provider.

  1. When opting for an MSP, think about your requirements first. Numerous MSPs offer various services so choosing the right one can be confusing. Are you looking to address specific functions like storage, desktop management or help desk services? Do you need cloud computing services, server maintenance and backup/disaster recovery support? Having a clear idea of your specific requirements first helps you decide which MSP package best suits your needs.
  2. Choose your MSP carefully. Once you’re done evaluating your own IT requirements and what you would need from your MSP, take the time to evaluate multiple MSPs before choosing one. Do not rest on comparing cost either. Most MSPs will try to lure you using rock-bottom deals but be sure to check on them. Do research on their business model. How stable they are? How long they have been in the business? You could also ask for case studies or talk to their existing clients to get a better idea of what they offer.
  3. Resist the urge to bargain shop. See above! While it might be tempting to select the least expensive option you will be missing out on the partnership value an MSP can offer your business. Beware of cookie-cutter service agreements and look for an MSP partner that speaks more to your business needs, rather than a direct focus on the technology itself. Your managed services provider should be able to speak to your business objectives, and how technology can support them, rather than the other way around.
  4. Build a relationship with your MSP. What’s the point of evolving from an older break-fix IT template, only to fall into the trap again? Make sure you meet with your MSP partner on a regular basis — monthly or quarterly — to review the overall state of your IT operations and issues that came up in the preceding period, looking at how many tickets came through, the time of resolution, etc. The value in your MSP shouldn’t just be delivering service but also reporting on that service and working with you to enhance the maturity and functionality of your network.
  5. Work out a clear data backup and disaster recovery strategy with your MSP. If you ever wonder if you need a data backup strategy, the answer is simple, you do! No matter how advanced your security systems are, how encrypted your files are or how secure your storage space is, at some point or another, your data will be at risk. The reasons could be anything from a human error, a machine error, a virus attack, a hacker or even a natural disaster like a hurricane. Considering how important your data is to your enterprise, you would be well advised to guard against it. Work with your MSP and put together a smart data backup plan along with a disaster recovery strategy. Go through it step-by-step and be sure to test the backup process and do a sample restore.
  6. Take full advantage of the benefits that were discussed when your partnership with the MSP first started. Follow up to ensure that the services and value adds that were slated to be delivered actually were implemented by your organization. MSPs frequently have the capacity to serve as a virtual CIO — not just fixing equipment but also taking your business to another level. Are you engaged in dialog to address the bigger picture? You’ll also want to take seriously what the MSP provides in terms of strategic advice, including helping you plan future IT projects and upgrades. Most MSPs proactively evaluate your network, systems, workstations, etc., in order to present a case on outdated workstations or a trending problem on the help desk, along with a solution, what it would cost to implement it and the efficiencies that would result.
  7. And last but not least; remember, if you’ve outgrown your MSP, don’t be afraid to move on. Much like most things in life, your business model needs to be continually adaptable. Maybe the MSP that once served you well, isn’t capable of doing so anymore. This often happens when a company outgrows their MSP establishment. If you find yourself with recurring problems or issues from your service provider, don’t be afraid to change. A great MSP is not a repairman but a partner who adds real value to your organization and ensures that your IT is aligned with your business strategy.

You need to invest time and resources into the relationship with your MSP to make sure it’s doing more than just putting out fires. And don’t wait until 60 to 90 days before the MSP’s contract renews to engage. Taking an active role in the partnership with your MSP will pay big dividends by creating a more effective, cost-efficient IT operation within your business.

Simplify your search for your next MSP with our free 10 Absolute Must-Haves To Look For In Your Next Managed Services Provider Checklist.