Most IT service companies claim to be Managed Service Providers (MSP) but beware….not all vendors really “walk the walk”. When it comes down to it, there is significant variation from one MSP to the next. For many, the only determinant is whether or not there is a monthly fee associated with service delivery. The old saying “buyer beware” is appropriate when shopping for an MSP as what is included in the monthly fee can be hard to determine. Comparing apples-to-apples with MSPs is an exercise worth doing as it can save you a lot of money and unhappiness down the road.
The primary motivation driving businesses toward managed service arrangements is frustration with the traditional break/fix operational model. This reactive approach assures the vendor is most profitable on your worst day (like the day of a significant failure like a server crash). This results in a misalignment of interests between the services provider and the business. Businesses are now so dependent on technology that they need better, more predictable service that truly aligns with their business interests.
Make sure that your vendor is accepting adequate risk and looking out for your best interests.
To determine if an MSP’s approach is truly aligned with your interests, look for the following features:
Begins with a Quality Assessment
An MSP that is shouldering risk and promising uptime for a fixed price must thoroughly assess your network before taking over its management. This is where they will identify obsolete and out-of-warranty equipment, unnecessary applications slowing productivity and other network deficiencies that must be remediated. If a vendor skips this step or offers it for free, that is a clear indication that their model is pay-as-you-go rather than fixed price. This kind of agreement may seem like a great deal on paper but the results will likely be more downtime and additional invoices.
Fair Fixed Monthly Cost
Your monthly cost should be the same every month and inclusive of the features you regularly consume. If you often pay extra bills for afterhours support or for trouble shooting “out of scope” issues that support model is likely outdated.
Paying for Uptime
Your technology partner should take a proactive approach to managing your network. This approach should include well-conceived processes designed to optimize productivity and to prevent a system failure from ever happening in the first place. This is accomplished by:
- consistently applying patches and updates (preferably automated)
- tuning the network monitoring to ensure that negative developments are quickly discovered and remediated
- fixing issues at the root cause so that these same problems do not reappear
If your vendor is constantly asking you to accept “work arounds” to solve issues, they are not motivated to get to the root cause because they are not shouldering enough of the risk.
Recovery of a Failed Device is Included
A great way to determine if your MSP has adopted a proactive mentality is whether or not you are expected to pay additionally for them to fix broken devices. If they are billing you extra to replace hard drives to get the server running again, there is no motivation for them to keep it running well in the first place.
No Limits on Labor
If an MSP is selling uptime and productivity, it doesn’t matter to the client how many hours it takes to get the work done. It is incumbent on the MSP to make their processes more efficient so that they can deliver on their promises. If the vendor reserves the right to bill additionally for after-hours support or for hours in excess of a pre-determined bundle, then they are not accepting adequate risk and not looking out for your best interests.
If your MSP will be relied upon to recover lost files or even complete servers, you will want them to be intimate with your data backup and recovery process. Better yet, however, is if they offer their own backup and recovery service. This ensures that when problems occur they can be relied upon to recover your data quickly.
Many businesses fear the disruption that comes with switching to a new provider. In reality, though, an experienced MSP has migrated companies to their platform dozens of times and is adept at minimizing any short-term disruptions caused by switching. Companies that are afraid of upsetting the status quo are usually the ones that are the most pleased at how much better technology behaves with a True Managed Service Partnership!