7 Questions to Ask a Managed Service Provider

Every business, from small to large, should have a managed service provider (MSP). The benefits that come from partnering with an MSP and the headaches that are avoided make the investment well worth it. You’ll be able to scale to meet demand, receive cloud computing expertise, have the proper technology to meet your needs, and benefit from the right privacy and security regulations, among many other perks, according to this article on the benefits of partnering with an MSP.

 

But how do you know which MSP is right for you and your company? We’ve compiled a list of seven important questions you need to ask when you’re looking to partner with a managed service provider.

 

How do you deliver and charge for managed services?

This question is basic, but you need to make sure you fully understand how the service will be delivered and what you’re paying for. The gold standard for MSPs is usually a flat rate that never changes, unless you add a new project or new services. Be careful of MSPs that wiggle around this question, or say it will change from month to month. You may end up paying a lot more than you expected, and no one likes unexpected charges at the end of the month.

 

What is your recommendation regarding hardware and software?

A legitimate MSP will come take a look at your existing hardware and software and lay out a plan for anything that needs replaced, fixed, or updated. The goal of an MSP should be to work with what you have and act as a true business partner, not try to nickel and dime you to death. If you have a couple computers that need replaced in order for the MSP to successfully support your network, that’s normal. If an MSP comes in and wants to replace everything, from printers to routers to software, without first auditing the infrastructure you DO have, steer clear.

 

What accreditation and certifications does your company have as an MSP?

It’s always smart to vet your options when it comes to partnering with a new company. You don’t want to sign an agreement with an MSP that isn’t certified in some of the basics, such as CompTIA’s A+, Network+, and Security+; various Microsoft certifications, like MTA and MCSA; and server infrastructure certifications like MCSE.

 

What is your business data security policy?

The number of U.S. data breach incidents tracked in 2017 hit a new record high of 1,579 breaches, according to the 2017 Data Breach Year-End Review released by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout. The review indicates a drastic upturn of 44.7 percent increase over the record high figures reported for 2016.

 

In this day and age, you HAVE to make sure your company’s data is protected. With hackers seeking financial gain by holding your information ransom, you’ve got to ensure the MSP you partner with has a solid data security policy. Ask how they’ve tested their security plan and how they monitor risks for your company. If you sense any type of hesitation or confusion, move on. Risking your data for an inexperienced MSP isn’t worth it.

 

What happens if the engineer assigned to you leaves the MSP?

This one should have a clear answer. Engineers at legitimate MSPs should be cross-trained, meaning that even if the technician you’ve been dealing with moves away, you’re still being supported 24/7 by experienced staff members. There shouldn’t be any lapse of service or lack of monitoring because one technician leaves the MSP. Ask how many technicians the MSP has on payroll, if there are plans to hire more, and what the strategy is if one leaves unexpectedly.

 

Do you have experience working within our industry and with our size of company?

You need to make sure the MSP you chose has ample experience with your industry and the size of your business. If you’re a one-man-shop and the MSP you chose only works with enterprise-sized companies, you can bet that all of their solutions and experience will not apply to you or your company. You need to feel confident that your MSP understands what kind of challenges you face on a daily basis, and will be there to support you 100%.

 

What processes do you deploy to ensure our organization is compliant?

Compliance challenges are common in the workplace, especially as the laws change and develop. Protection of the customer’s privacy is a hotbed issue, and if you operate any kind of business that deals with health records or credit cards, you must be compliant or face fines and penalties. For example, HIPAA violations are expensive. The penalties for noncompliance are based on the level of negligence and can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record), with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year for violations of an identical provision. Violations can also carry criminal charges that can result in jail time, according to True Vault. Make sure you ask what steps your MSP will take to assist you in meeting compliance laws, whether it’s HIPAA, PCI, or whatever other compliance law you need to meet.

 

As you can see, asking the right questions will pair you with the best MSP for you and your business. As CIO says in their article on how to get the most from a managed IT services provider, companies should resist the urge to go with the lowest-cost provider in favor of partners that understand your business and can help you achieve strategic goals. So take these questions and make the right decision for yourself and your company. You’ll be glad you did.

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