You would be hard-pressed to find a local business owner who wants to hire and run their own, in-house IT staff these days. That’s why managed IT services are more critical than ever, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Technology and networking needs are growing at a pace that takes a dedicated team of specialists to keep up with and manage.
More and more businesses are turning to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to manage their IT services and support. But if technology is so complex you need a dedicated team to deal with it, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to selecting a provider? You should look for these five key signs to find a top-tier MSP.
Laser-focus on data security
In 2021, we increasingly rely on cloud and networked services. Data is moving around constantly, and much of it is sensitive and valuable. MSPs should have as their top priority mitigating risk related to internal and external data breaches and cyber attacks. From procuring your hardware and software, to deploying your systems and network architecture, and to defending them all once they’re live, your MSP should have a rock-solid plan of action for every link in the IT chain. Beyond external security, they should be able to propose and implement a plan for keeping your data safe from internal breaches, too.
The consequences of playing fast and loose with data security are crystal clear. Just this year the cost of a data breach to companies rose to record highs. This front in the battle for IT security is only escalating, and you want your MSP to be on the front lines defending you.
Business continuity and disaster recovery services
Despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions, sometimes things just go sideways. An elite MSP will always have a plan B, plan C… and probably D through Z as well.
When disaster strikes, downtime costs your business money and every second counts against your bottom line. What happens if the network goes down? Business-critical software breaks? The storage that keeps your financial data fails, or worse, is stolen? Someone accidentally deletes important files?
Your IT solutions should have a built-in failsafe ready to keep your business running in the event of a disaster. They can recover hard drives. They can have redundant systems ready to come online when something breaks. Your MSP shouldn’t shy away from “what if…” questions. They should already have the answers.
Attention to detail and professionalism
Everything speaks, and sometimes the little things speak the loudest. MSPs that do great work pride themselves in delivering their services with the care and respect your business deserves and pays for. The precision in which any professional performs, IT included, is reflected in the way they carry out their work. A lack of attention to detail or being lazy about the presentation of their services can belie a deeper-rooted lack of precision that carries over to their other work.
Simply put: If it’s not clean in your server room, it’s not clean in your server.
Not just responsive — proactive
It’s pretty much a given that your IT service needs to be available 24/7/365. Disaster doesn’t work nine to five, and it can strike without warning when you least expect it. Excellent MSPs know this and plan for it. Even the best of the best don’t want to wake up to a 4 AM phone call and jump right into crisis mode.
That’s why they anticipate your needs and establish protocols that mitigate risk related to data breaches, data loss and other infrastructure failures.
You don’t want a help desk that sits around waiting for something you catch on fire; you want the team that’s making sure it never happens in the first place. Ask your potential MSP about their ability to respond to problems. Then, ask them how they implement a plan to prevent issues in the first place.
A reputation for excellence
Promises are only worth something if they are kept. Words mean little unless they’re backed up by action. And as with hiring anybody, some MSPs will say anything to get your business.
That’s why you shouldn’t just listen to what they say, but rather look at what they’ve done. What clients do they have, and what history do they have with them? If you can talk to those clients to hear about their experience with their MSP, all the better. Contracting an MSP is not just hiring a service, but in some ways relationship and partnership as well.
You want to do your research so you know who you’ve chosen a partner you can trust.