Nothing lasts forever, and business relationships need to be revisited regularly, especially when it comes to IT managed services. Technology changes at a rapid rate, and so should the capabilities of your managed services provider (MSP). Unfortunately, too many businesses consider IT support as a “set it and forget it” contract. Even if your relationship with your current MSP is still working, it may be time to take a look at your IT managed services to see if you are getting the support you really need.
Consider the technology changes in the past few years that have a direct impact on MSP services. Cloud computing has become commonplace, and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are adopting cloud technology en masse to simplify operations and gain a competitive advantage. Cloud computing is growing at a CAGR of 19 percent and is expected to increase from $67 billion in sales in 2015 to $162 billion by 2020. In addition, 74 percent of CFOs say cloud computing will have a measurable impact on business in 2017. Your MSP partner needs to be prepared to support you in the cloud.
Think about the growth in cyberattacks. SMBs, in particular, have become targets for cybercriminals, because they tend to be less prepared, making them low-risk to hackers and offering high potential rewards. More than 50 percent of SMBs have been attacked in the last 12 months. How effective is your MSP at providing security and disaster recovery?
As the rules change, so should the qualifications of your IT management team. It’s time to review your MSP’s capabilities and scrutinize those service-level agreements (SLAs). Here are six questions to ask your MSP to assess if it can still deliver the services you need:
- What are the standards for service? Be sure that your SLAs are clearly defined and cover key aspects of your IT operation. Without a well-defined SLA, there is less assurance that your MSP will effectively deal with problems that may fall outside of the terms of the contract. A good MSP will have clearly defined SLAs that state what procedures will be applied and what standards it adheres to. Remember that transparency builds trust.
- Where do engineers fit in the service offering? The engineers provide the first line of defense for system maintenance and problem-solving. What are their specializations? Are they certified? Do you have direct access to the engineering team? If the MSP uses a help desk as an intermediary, then it may take longer to resolve a problem. And does it provide around-the-clock support itself, or does it outsource? You want to make sure that you have access to the right expertise when you need it.
- What is the reporting structure? Every company’s needs change, and your MSP should be prepared to adapt to changing business strategies. How does your IT MSP intend to work with you to effect changes? Does it meet regularly to review organizational needs? Does it suggest pilot programs to test before embarking on a major implementation? Be sure you have a well-defined communications channel in place so that you and the MSP are in sync.
- What do you know about my business? You want to work with IT professionals who understand your business model and can help make operation more efficient. In order to be a true consulting partner, your MSP must be sufficiently familiar with your business and your market to deal with issues such as operational or regulatory requirements. For example, if your business is providing health care, does your MSP understand HIPAA compliance?
- What is your security expertise, and how do you deal with disaster recovery? Understand that a data breach will occur at some point; it’s inevitable. You want to work with an MSP with the right security expertise and protocols to protect your network to keep out the bad guys, and when there is a data breach, you want to be assured that the MSP can get you back online fast.
- Can you give us relevant customer references? You need proof of performance before you sign a contract. Ask for references from customers with a profile similar to that of your organization. Talk to reference customers to satisfy yourself that you can expect a consistent level of performance.
As the saying goes, the only constant is change, and that is true for your MSP’s operation as well as your business. The MSP’s focus and capabilities change, just as your business needs change, so a periodic reassessment is necessary to make sure that the services your MSP offers still match your needs. If you have a good working relationship with your MSP, then reviewing the contract should be routine and painless. If, however, you don’t work that closely with your MSP, it’s time for a comprehensive contract review.