Outsourcing your company’s IT requirements often makes a lot of business sense. The trouble is, you’re outsourcing your IT because it’s not a strong in-house skill – so how can you be sure you’re finding a company that’s got your best interests at the heart of what they do?
IT often represents the backbone of your business – even if it’s not your core business focus. As such, it makes sense to know it’s going to be in the hands of a business who knows what they’re doing. Here’s are some of the questions you might want to ask to ensure this is going to be the case.
“What kind of experience do you have working with businesses like ours?”
You’re going to want to know that the company you’re going to be working with is familiar with businesses like yours. Now, that’s not to say that they have to have experience with a company in your industry that’s exactly the same size – but you wouldn’t want to be working with a managed service provider who has only catered for small one-site businesses, when you’re a multi-national corporation.
Your business specifics will dictate a lot about the approach you take to running a business network – so talk to some of the companies that are already working with the provider you’re looking at, and get a feel for whether or not they feel well supported.
“Do you have a plain English approach to communication?”
IT can be a minefield of buzzwords and jargon – but a good managed service provider should be able to talk to you in a way that’s understandable – even if they technology they’re talking about is well above what a layperson can generally get their head around.
Ultimately, an MSP needs to be able to answer the question “What does this mean to our client?”. That might not be a full technical run-down of how an approach or piece of equipment is going to work, instead, it’s probably more likely to be the benefit your business will feel as a result of the work that’s being done.
Don’t be blinded by science. Find a company that can talk to you on your level.
“Are you able to work proactively to anticipate problems?”
For some businesses, an IT network needs to be up and running at all times – whether that’s for customer services reasons, or simply because employees need 24/7 access to systems.
There will always be scheduled maintenance required – but many MSPs can anticipate issues that would normally result in downtime – and step in to intervene before the problem takes hold.
If system uptime is crucial for your core business, talk to the company you’re in discussion with about how they make sure this is always going to be the case. Many MSPs will have employees who monitor networks 24 hours a day – and that can be the difference between getting in on a Monday morning to find an email explaining an issue has been avoided over the weekend – and getting in on a Monday morning to find that none of your users can log-in to their workstations…
“Will you be able to grow as our business does the same?”
Even if it’s not on your immediate to-do list, company growth is something that almost all businesses aspire to – and something that will often dictate how we recruit and build the foundations of our businesses.
The thing is, we often forget to give the same consideration to our business partners – even though their business is going to need to grow with us if we find ourselves heading for the moon (metaphorically of course!)
As such, you’re going to want to talk to the business you’re in conversation with about their growth plans – and whether or not the partnership that you’re going to cultivate now is something that’ll stand the test of growth over time. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere if you don’t think the MSP you’re talking to can keep up with you.
“Are you willing to work alongside our IT team?”
While some companies choose to outsource their IT as a whole, some others will look to keep some element of IT in-house, with perhaps the more complex networking tasks outsourced. Then again, some companies may eventually wish to bring IT support in-house, and do that gradually over a period of years as they grow.
Working with an MSP at this time can either be fantastic – or very hard work – depending on how willing and able they are to communicate with the team you’ve got or are getting in place.
Talk to any potential IT partner about collaborative work – for many, it’s a mainstay of how they work – but if they turn their nose up at it, you might want to look elsewhere.
“How will you formalise our working partnership?”
When you’re working with a company who’s going to be looking after such an important part of your business, you’re going to want to make sure they’re going to deliver what they say they will – and make sure that’s formalised.
Most MSPs will be keen to talk to you about a Service Level Agreement – or SLA. This is a document that maps out exactly how you’ll work together, explaining your commitments and the commitments that MSP will be making. It’s useful to think of this document as a job description of sorts – so you can be sure you’re getting maximum value from the relationship – this is business after all.
“What will our monthly costs look like?”
Most MSPs will work on a maintenance and staffing basis – committing a certain number of hours or outlining their relationship to you based on what you’re paying. There’s usually limits to this – for instance, if you decide you need to grow your network by 50%, this is likely to be a cost on top of your standard monthly cost.
Make sure you have a full understanding of what you’re paying, what that gets you, and what common tasks may be an additional charge. Businesses are built on an understanding of finances – so don’t let your relationship with an MSP provide any nasty surprises.