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You’ve made the decision. You will outsource all or part of your IT functions to a Managed Service Provider (MSP). You’ve approached several vendors, looked at their website, and maybe even talked briefly with a sales rep. Now it’s time to narrow down the options.  

That can be a time-consuming and confusing task.  

You’re about to invest in a business-critical service, but you need to figure out who is full of potential and who is just full of it. Finding a Managed Service Provider who is the right fit for your company is significant, and you want to make sure you get this choice right the first time. The best piece of advice out there for sorting through the sea of potential vendors is this: be prepared to ask questions. Great MSPs will happily answer any question – even the tough ones. 

Here are ten tough questions Managed Service Providers hope you won’t ask (but you should anyway). 

  1. What does one hour of downtime cost the MSP? 

Not what you were expecting? Good – they won’t expect it, either. This question intends to ensure downtime and the effect it can have is at the forefront of this provider’s mind. If the MSP isn’t sure what one hour of downtime will cost them, they won’t know what it will cost your organization when you become a customer. When finding a Managed Service Provider, you want to ensure that one of their top priorities is preventing downtime for your business. Downtime can ruin organizations by costing more than an organization can stand to lose. Ask this question and discuss how they avoid downtime with routine maintenance and backup. 

  1. Where is the Help Desk located? Is it open 24/7? 

If you are worried about a Managed Service Provider outsourcing their help desk to another country, this is the question to ask. Please note that this is only sometimes the case for Managed Service Providers who serve small to medium-sized businesses. Their “outsourced IT” is typically locally outsourced. The IT professionals are not in-house for you, but they live in the same communities you do.  

Making sure it is a 24/7 Help Desk is essential. It would be best if you had an MSP who understands that the success of your business relies on your technology. Most organizations use their technology outside traditional 9-5 business hours, especially in the past several years. If your email crashes and you can’t call in, efficiency can come to a screeching halt, and no night owl wants that. 

  1. How do will the MSP protect your organization in the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape? 

According to Forbes, 34.5% of executives polled report that their organizations’ accounting and finance data have been targeted, with 12.5% experiencing more than one incident in the past 12 months. There are many components to a strong cybersecurity posture.  

  • Vulnerable infrastructures are a top issue for organizations in 2023. 
  • More and more industries are implementing regulatory compliance requirements (see GLBA, CMMC).  

Put all of this together, and cybersecurity can feel daunting. Ensure the MSP you partner with has the resources, including the tools and the team, to keep your data and your organization safe. 

  1. Does the MSP know what would happen to your data if everything went down? How long will it take to recover your organization’s infrastructure? 

Natural disasters can happen. A virus could infect your server if preventative maintenance isn’t in place. The bottom line is that it is possible to lose everything. If this happens, you need to know your data is safe and how long it will take to get everything up and running again. You need to know exactly how these situations are handled. A good Managed Service Provider will be able to assure you of their procedures to get you up and running again. 

  1. How would the MSP determine if a new hire will be a good fit for your clients? 

A Managed Service Provider who stands fully behind their staff will be able to tell you about their hiring process and why it is an essential part of the Managed Services space. Many tech-savvy individuals are out there, but not all are cut out to work in the MSP industry. The technology industry quickly learned they must be picky regarding new hires because our clients want to work with an IT service member with a great attitude and who is appropriately skilled for the role.  Understanding the type of tech talent each Manage Service Provider looks for to fill their frontline positions will give you insights into the interactions you can expect when you call in. 

  1. How much experience does the MSP have with (your most used application)? 

The intent of this question is to gauge a provider’s experience with the applications that impact your organization the most. For example, if your staff is familiar and comfortable with video meetings through Microsoft Teams and this MSP lacks experience, you may want to look elsewhere. It is best to have support for your business-critical applications, so don’t assume they know how to support every application you have, especially those industry-specific applications. 

  1. How will the MSP help support growth in our company? 

As you grow, you want a Managed Service Provider who can support you seamlessly. From deploying new devices as you add employees to increased security measures to protect your organization from cyber threats, a preferred Managed Service Provider will grow with you. Aside from this, technology can also help you succeed and meet your unique goals. A Managed Service Provider who aids in creating a technology strategy for your organization is in it for the long haul. 

  1. What services does the MSP include in the standard contract? What lies outside of it that your organization would be charged extra for? 

Avoid hidden fees with this question. Your Managed Service Provider may have different service levels or an a la carte style when it comes to services. Figure out exactly what that looks like with a particular emphasis on support models, technical areas of offering, and customer service, before you jump in. You want to avoid being hit with extra fees every time you make a service desk call after 5:00 pm to find your Managed Service Provider isn’t like insurance – only there when you need it. Your Managed Service Provider should have a wealth of preventative maintenance they are doing to avoid any extra services. 

  1. Is the MSP able to take on projects outside of the contract? 

When you start with a Managed Service Provider, your organization will likely need to update a few things (think projects). In the interest of efficiency, streamlining your technology, and solving problems using technology, it’s a good idea to do them.  At the very least, create a roadmap and budget/plan for their completion.  This will be project work, and it will be outside of the scope of the 24/7 Help Desk. Your Managed Service Provider should be available to make these updates and ensure you get off on the right foot. 

  1. What sets this MSP apart from the competition? 

This is a question you should always ask a vendor. Ask this question no matter what industry you are in or what service they provide. Why do Managed Service Providers hate it? Well, they hear it a lot. They will likely have a prepared answer for this question, and that’s ok. Let them give you that elevator pitch. However, if you have saved this question for last, your previous and insightful questions might change their answer slightly. You have demonstrated that you know what you’re talking about, and you mean business. Not all Managed Service Providers are created equally; this is an answer you want to connect with when they give it to you. 

Additional Considerations for a New Managed Service Provider 

Testimonials from clients are essential to back up all the promises this provider just made to you. You will feel confident in your decision if you can find raving testimonials from a company. You can sometimes find testimonials on company websites and always check Google reviews.  Finally, you can look on social media for reviews and comments, just be discerning. 

Response times will impact your experience with your new managed service partner in a big way. How quickly will different types of issues be resolved? What is the average wait time when a client calls the help desk? Asking for some data around response times will give you a window into what your experience may be. 

Price structures vary from provider to provider. Many providers charge monthly for coverage of your choosing (could include cybersecurity, help desk, and cloud backup, for instance), and some items could fall outside of that monthly rate. Understand the ins and outs (including contract length) to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. 

Just like any big purchase, take your time. You’ll want to understand many day-to-day aspects of the provider’s service offering before deciding. Your technology should just work. With the right provider, you can focus on your daily tasks without considering your IT. 

Want to know more about how the right provider could impact your business?

Contact or a consultant for more information.

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