An increasing number of businesses are turning to specialist external IT support providers rather than shouldering the cost of an in-house IT team. While there’s no denying that the financial savings are attractive – passing the support of a crucial part of your infrastructure to another company might feel risky – but what kind of risks are really involved?
The truth is, there are risks – and, as a decision maker in your company, you’ll have to decide whether they’re risks you’re willing to take – or whether you can work together in a way that mitigates those risks.. Crucially, you’ll also need to weigh up whether they’re more attractive that the risks involved with keeping you IT support in-house…
Will an external provider understand my company?
Whether or not your product or service is unique doesn’t matter, you company is – and if you work with a managed IT service provider who takes a one-size-fits-all approach, you’re going to have big problems.
To avoid having an MSP try to shape you to fit their support – you’re simply going to have to get a feel for their introduction process. A good company should want to talk to you about what you do, what your goals are, and how you operate long before they’re trying to close the deal.
If you get a solid ‘yes’ with no questions when you ask if they think they can help you, then you might want to look for a company that’s going to spend a bit more time getting to know you first.
Will they speak my language?
IT is a seriously complex field – and it’s not uncommon to find managed service providers who forget that IT is their business, not yours – and this attitude can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
If you want to be certain you’re going to be talking to a company that speak your language, you’re just going to need to sit down and talk to them. Generally speaking, a good MSP will have a team of people who manage the interaction between engineers and companies. That way, you’re not relying on a engineer being able to appreciate your level of understanding an communicate accordingly.
Generally speaking, business decision makers want to know what impact IT has on their business – from both an immediate and strategic point of view. If you feel like a company understands this from the get-go, then you’re likely to be working with a good partner.
Do they operate with my company’s best interests at heart?
Business can feel like a cut-throat world – and some managed service providers are out to line their own pockets, rather than help you line yours.
To make sure you’re working with a company who understands your business and will help you grow in the right direction, it’s worth talking to some of the provider’s current clients. Testimonials that you have sought yourself are worth their weight in gold – and, while there’s nothing wrong with a business showcasing some happy clients on their site, it’s better to go straight to the source – rather than trust what’s been written on the MSP’s website.
If possible, talk to company that are either in the same kind of industry to you – or, if that’s not possible, are roughly the same size as you. You’re going to want to know what the relationship is like between the company and the provider – and, ideally, you’re going to be looking for an MSP that establishes themselves as a partner, rather than just a supplier.
Will they get ahead of problems?
Without the right kind of systems monitoring, IT support can be reactive – which can lead to extremely costly downtime.
Downtime costs companies tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars when there’s even just a small systems outage. While those figures might seem high to you, you’re taking into consideration that fact that your entire business could ground to a halt – and if that means you lose just one sale or client, the impact could be catastrophic.
Talk to a MSP about what they do to avoid downtime. Ideally, you want to be hearing about insurance backed guarantees – as well as mission critical system’s monitoring – through the night if needs be. Part of the joy of working with a managed service provider is that fact that they’re at their desks when your team wouldn’t be – so don’t settle for a company who are going to report problems – keeping going until you find a company who’ll get ahead of those problems, and prevent them impacting your bottom line.
Where are they when things go wrong?
Downtime guarantees or not, there’s no iron-clad promise anyone can make that you won’t run into system problems when you’re working with an IT service provider – but what happens if they’re slow at fixing those problems?
It’s impossible to understate the financial impact that losing an important system can have on a business – whether that’s as a result of a cyberattack, a natural disaster, or simply human-error. With this in mind, the handling of these situations should be something that a good MSP is willing to discuss with a potential client – and, in many cases, they’ll have their own internal case-studies and learning journals around situations like these.
Talk a potential MSP about their handling of these instances – and remember, no one’s perfect. If a company tells you they’ve never had a problem and they never will, then give them a wide-berth. There’s no IT company in the world that hasn’t had to get their thinking caps on when something goes wrong. The key isn’t pretending it doesn’t happen – instead, it’s about setting some realistic expectations around what happens if it does.
Will you leave them behind?
Finally, you should talk to an MSP about their own growth plans. If you’re hoping to take a business onboard as a partner – you don’t want to leave them floundering if your support needs exceed their capabilities. Once again, talking to other customers is useful here – especially if you can find those whose needs have changed significantly over the past 12-24 months.