If you run a business, you’ve likely come across a wide range of service providers that you can outsource many different responsibilities to: from cleaning and waste collection – to accountancy and HR – the possibilities are virtually endless. You may have even considered outsourcing your IT requirements instead of having them dealt with in-house – however, this is a decision that needs to be carefully considered.
Nowadays, the day to day running of your business likely relies heavily on your IT systems. Many business owners even feel that an IT failure could severely impact their ability to trade, with even a brief amount of downtime massively affecting sales and revenue numbers.
This means you’ll need to make sure a high-quality IT service provider has your back to prevent potential downtime and lost business. But how do you go about choosing one when there are so many options?
In this article, we’ve gathered together a few different things to look out for if you’re planning on bringing a managed service provider on board.
You might not want to get straight into finances when you’re speaking to a potential managed IT service provider, but this is still something you need to know so that you can plan accordingly down the road.
Your payment plan will almost definitely be set out through an SLA – a service level agreement – that essentially serves as the contract that both you and the provider will agree to the terms of. It will detail the different services they will provide you and the amount you’ll pay for them.
Like with any other binding contract, you’ll need to go through the SLA with a fine-tooth comb and ensure that the provider is entirely clear about what you’ll get and the price you’ll have to pay. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you expect more than the provider has agreed to give you – if they’ve vaguely stated that you can call them at any time, you’ll want to make sure that this means any time if it matters to your business. You want to establish these things early on so that you aren’t facing miscommunication and disaster later.
As well as making sure you’re both crystal clear on the services they’ll be providing you, you also want to make sure that there aren’t any hidden costs or unexpectedly high prices. If you’re going to expand or restructure your IT network, for example, you’ll need to see how much their support will cost through this process and whether this works with the IT budget you have in mind.
24/7 System Monitoring
When you’re walking into the office in the morning, the last thing you want is to find that your IT systems have failed overnight, resulting in hours, maybe even days of downtime, that has to be sorted during business hours.
Alternatively, with 24/7 support from your IT service provider of choice, you could walk into the office, turn on your computer, and discover an email stating that a problem was found and fixed hours before you started your commute, without you even needing to be made aware. Your mission-critical programs have remained active, and the potential knock-on effect on your sales and productivity that downtime would have impacted is absent.
As you know, IT systems have become vital to the running of many businesses, so if you’re one of them, it’s essential to make sure that any managed service provider you choose can provide constant support like this to stop system failures before they become business-wide issues.
Conversation and Collaboration
If you aren’t familiar with IT systems, you might find that talking to a specialist is like trying to understand a foreign language, even if they’re trying to explain to the best of their abilities.
Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that any managed service provider you work with can communicate well with your team, mostly remotely through messages and over the phone, as much of their work will be done from a distance. This is especially useful if you find yourself in a position where specific IT jobs can be managed in-house or outsourced – it can be a tricky decision to make, but one that’s infinitely easier with solid collaboration and communication skills.
A sign of the right IT service provider is their ability to meet your needs and find and fix issues that you describe even if you aren’t quite sure what you’re talking about or what you require. You might not know how to cook a gourmet meal, but you know what you like and when it tastes good if you go to a professional chef – IT providers work much the same way, making sure you get the best service even when you aren’t quite sure of the details.
You’ll likely be able to establish your compatibility with service from talks you have with them early on – if they can make their services clear to you and allow you the time you need to explain your requirements without demanding specific jargon, you’ll know that working with them will likely be a smooth process.
Background and Experience
If you want to know what a particular managed service provider can do for you, there isn’t a better metric than hearing an account from another business similar to yours in size or sector.
Speaking with your provider about their other clients and the issues they’ve helped them solve is a brilliant way of knowing whether they’ll similarly help you. Even if they can’t reveal too much about who they work with, getting an idea of their experience can be very useful when you’re deciding whether to do with them yourself.
You can even reach out to the companies you know that they’ve worked with for a first-hand account of their experiences. If they can provide clarity on some of the essential services to you, whether that’s 24/7 service, a clear price list, good communication, or all of the above, you could end up dodging a bullet finding the best provider for you.