Right now, some of the most commonly hired IT professionals are managed service providers. These managed services are especially popular and useful for small to medium sized businesses that may not want to dedicate a full-time salary to someone who on staff who only works on IT, but the company’s network is too complicated for a “hobbyist” IT person—someone whose main job is not IT– to keep up with. A good, although perhaps complicated thing about choosing a managed service is that there are options so each business can choose the right managed IT provider for their particular needs.
Who Talks to You?
When you interview and screen managed care companies, don’t choose a company that doesn’t ask you questions. If an IT provider just wants to collect a check without finding out what your specific needs are, what your goals are, and what systems you’re already using—they are not for you. Some companies may just answer your questions about their skills. You want a company that wants to learn about you and your goals.
Talk to Them
Ensure that the managed company is available around the clock, every day. Your network is important to you and your employees, and it is especially important to generate business and revenue. If something happens, you need someone who can access the network in the middle of the night if necessary. You don’t want a provider that says they’ll get around to it at 9am the next morning.
Make certain that these people you want to hire have experience with the operating system, and at least generally the hardware and software you run. Make certain that they have some idea about what you do and what your needs will be. Someone who has no idea what not-for-profits do should probably not provide IT services to a not-for-profit. Tell them what your expansion goals are. Good managed companies will be excited when you talk about expansion and will have their own ideas. That proves they care about their customers and will view your future success as their future success.
Talk to Them About How to Fix Problems
Ask managed service providers how they would solve a specific problem. The wrong answer will deal only with how to fix a problem when it happens. The right answer involves an emphasis on their approach to preventing the problem in the first place. They should have an idea about the right diagnostics to run to notice problems before they occur. If they only focus on fixing what is broken rather than preventing things from breaking, you could spend time offline waiting for them to get you back online.
Performance-Based Service Agreements
One of the great things about using managed service providers is the ability to include wording for penalties if your network goes offline more than an agreed on percent. It’s hard to find an internal IT person who will be willing to work for $40,000—unless you spend more than one hour a year offline, then it will be $30,000. Managed service companies should have the knowledge and skill to offer insurances that you will be online, and with those insurances they should be willing to allow that to be part of the contract.
Gain an Understanding about Future Costs
Most businesses hope to expand. If a business doesn’t want to expand it wants to be more efficient—to bet better at what it does– which often means adding more technology. Just because you’re adding technology does not mean you want to double the price to your managed IT provider. Find out how much the increase will be as you add more technology, and find out how much they will charge for those increased services. It could be a onetime installation increase, or it could create more work for them on a regular basis and therefore more money monthly or yearly.
Look for a Company Willing to Serve as CIO
Just because you are hiring a vendor and not a fulltime, onsite employee doesn’t mean you cannot turn to them for advice. Find out if a company will offer that advice about improving cyber security; about improving the network; about improving hardware and software. You should have a sense that the company will be there to offer help and assistance not only when asked, but also willing to make suggestions without making it feel like a hard-cell. You’re hiring a managed service company because you don’t know everything tech, you want someone you can count on to look after you. As you thrive, they thrive.
Managed IT services is becoming a more and more common enterprise. Determine what you need an IT provider to do, and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t give you what you want. There’s a lot riding on their ability to keep you up and running.