Choosing a Managed Service Provider: 10 Questions to Ask

July 8, 2016

The decision has been made. You’re going to outsource all or part of your IT functions to a Managed Service Provider. You’ve approached several vendors, looked at their site, maybe even had a short conversation with a sales rep. Now it’s time to narrow down the options. But that can be a time consuming and confusing task. You’re about to invest in a business-critical function, but you aren’t sure 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 very important 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 potentials vendors is to be prepared to ask questions. Great companies will be happy to answer any and every question you have – even the tough ones.

Here are 10 of the tough questions Managed Service Providers hope you won’t ask (but you should anyway).

  1. What does one hour of downtime cost your business?

Not what you were expecting? Good – they won’t expect it either. This question is intended to make sure downtime is at the forefront of their minds. If they have no idea what one hour of downtime will cost them, they won’t know what it will cost you when you become a customer. When finding a Managed Service Provider, you want to make sure one of their top priorities is to prevent downtime for your business. Downtime can ruin small businesses by costing more than you can stand to lose. Ask this question and talk about how they would avoid downtime with routine maintenance and backup.

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

If you are worried about a Managed Service Provider outsourcing their help desk to a foreign country, this is the question to ask. This isn’t usually the case for Managed Service Providers who serve small to medium sized businesses, however. Their “outsourced IT” is typically locally outsourced. This means the IT professionals are not in-house for you, but they live in the same communities that you do. They are not a dreaded foreign call center.

Making sure it is a 24/7 Help Desk is huge because you need a Managed Service Provider who understands that the success of your business relies on your technology and your technology is being used outside of the traditional 9-5 business hours. 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 often is often enough to review firewall and security logs?

Don’t settle for a vague answer for this question. Answers like, “often” or “it depends on the tech” aren’t sufficient. Although you might not feel comfortable with your own knowledge on the subject, this will give you a window into the preventative maintenance they do for their customers. A good answer to this question would be very detailed and give you insights into the automation that is possible through this MSP.

  1. What happens to my data if everything goes down? How long to recover my infrastructure?

Natural disasters can happen. A virus can also infect your server if preventative maintenance isn’t in place. The bottom line is, it is possible to lose everything. If your server goes down, you need to know your data is safe and just how long it will take to get everything up and running again. Your data is essential to your business so make sure you know exactly how this kind of situation would be handled. A good Managed Service Provider will be able to assure you of their procedures to getting you up and running again.

  1. When you hire an IT person, what trick do you use to know if they are good or not?

A Managed Service Provider who fully stands behind their staff will be able to tell you about their hiring process and why is it so important in the Managed Services space. There are lots of tech geeks out there but not everyone is cut out to work in the MSP industry. The technology industry quickly found out they must be picky when it comes to their new hires because no one wants to deal with a rude or incompetent IT person. It hurts their business and it is plain frustrating for the customer. Understanding a little more about the type of person this Manage Service Provider looks for to fill their frontline positions will give you insights into the types of interactions you can expect when you call in.

  1. How much experience do you have with (your most used application)?

Make sure they know how to manage the applications you use most. If your staff is comfortable with Outlook and this Managed Service Provider doesn’t have any experience, you might want to look elsewhere. You need support for your business critical applications so don’t just assume they know how to support every application you have, especially those applications that are industry specific.

  1. How will you help support growth in our company?

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

  1. What frequently used services are included in the contract? What lies outside of it that we would be charged extra for?

Avoid any hidden fees that might come up with this question. It is possible that your Managed Service Providers will have different levels of service, or an ala carte style when it comes to services. Figure out exactly what that looks like before you jump in. You don’t want to be hit with extra fees every time you make a service desk call. But 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. Are you able to take on projects outside of the contract?

When you first start with a Managed Service Provider, you will probably need to get a few things updated. In the interest of efficiency, streamlining your technology, and solving problems with technology, it’s a good idea to go ahead and do them. This will be project work and it will be outside of that 24/7 Help Desk. Your Managed Service Provider should have the availability to make these updates and care to make sure you get off on the right foot.

  1. What sets you apart from the competition?

This is a question you should always ask a vendor. No matter what industry you are in or what service they provide, ask this question. Why do Managed Service Providers hate it? Well, they hear it a lot. It is likely they will 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 a bit. You have shown that you know what you’re talking about and you mean business. Not all Managed Service Providers are created equally and this is an answer you really want to connect with when they give it to you.

Additional Things to Look for When Choosing a Managed Service Provider

Testimonials from clients are important to back up all the promises this provider just made to you. If you can find raving testimonials from a company that you know, you’re going to feel pretty confident in your decision. You can find testimonials on websites sometimes, Google reviews are another good place to take a look, and you can look on social media for reviews, as well.

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

Price structures vary from provider to provider. Many 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 are getting the most bang for your buck.

Just like any big purchase, take your time. You’ll want to understand the ins and outs of the different providers you are interviewing before you make a decision. Your technology should just work. With the right provider, it will, while you can focus on your daily tasks without a thought about your IT.

Want to know more about outsourcing your technology? Contact GadellNet today!