Outsourcing part or all of IT support provides small and medium businesses with a deep bench of technology specialists who can manage every aspect of their network and systems. But searching for a managed services provider (MSP) can be confusing. Unlike other professional service industries, managed IT is not regulated, which means anyone can claim to be an expert in IT. So, unless a business owner is technical and understands exactly what solutions are needed to move the business forward, it’s hard to tell if a provider is qualified to offer any service beyond reactive support.
MSPs come in all shapes and sizes, and they are not created equally, making it difficult to compare. When vetting MSPs, four main areas must be examined carefully.
Reactive services are what most people think of when they hear the term IT support. It includes remote help desk services and onsite services for things like regular hardware maintenance. This is the team that responds when technology issues – such as inability to login to a system, password resets, profile issues – pop up. Reactive service team members are the “face” of the MSP. They are the ones end users interact with most, that’s why help desk technicians must be responsive, friendly, knowledgeable and speak clearly so callers can understand the problem and the solution.
Reactive Services is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to IT support. Several behind-the-scenes teams work around the clock to ensure your systems remain up and running. Proactive Services include network monitoring, regularly scheduled maintenance, security patching, data backups and verification of backups of company assets. Proactive IT prevents issues from occurring in the first place and drastically reduces future problems and costly downtime. Proactive Services is crucial to ensure all components of your network are functioning properly.
Professional services include projects, office moves, migrations, upgrades and new technology installs. These types of services often require a more advanced skill set and fall outside of the scope of regular IT services. The IT provider’s projects team seeks to understand the impact to the business that a project will have, clearly defines the scope, timeline and benchmarks of the project, and communicates regularly with the client on progress. Good project management is important for staying within budget, better results and happier employees.
Technology Alignment is driven by an assigned Client Alignment Manager (CAM) who serves as a liaison between the client and the other departments within the IT company. The CAM works closely with the client to understand business objectives and then develops and manages an IT roadmap to ensure those objectives are being met. A good CAM will make the client aware of new technologies, such as advanced security solutions, that can help drive growth and improve productivity and security. Healthy engagement with a CAM will keep an organization’s technology, people and processes optimized, aligned, secure and efficient.
Not all MSPs have the knowledge, expertise or resources to adequately provide anything beyond Reactive Services and limited Proactive Services. It can be a challenge to tell if an IT provider is qualified if you're not sure what to look for.
On the other hand, operationally mature IT providers have proven processes that address all four buckets of IT management. If an IT vendor cannot articulate how they handle all four areas with distinct teams, that’s a clue that they handle everything as a reactive support ticket. Reactive support is more expensive in the long run as problems leading to downtime tend to be more frequent.
At MIS, we have dedicated teams to focus on the four buckets of IT management. We understand that it is critical to address all areas in order to keep clients’ systems secure and functioning smoothly. If you’d like more information about how we can help you run a better business with the right technology, contact us HERE.
For additional information on things to consider, read How to Choose a Third-Party IT Provider Specializing in Small Business by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.