Hiring a managed IT services provider is not at all like visiting your local computer repair shop for a quick fix. It’s more like starting a long-term relationship.
Managing your company’s computing needs is, dare we say, an intimate thing. Your managed services provider (MSP) will dig deep inside your technology, and have access to your critical data and systems.
When it comes to your technology, your MSP will be your partner, an extension of your organization. Someone to protect you from cybercriminals, save your data, and keep your computers up and running. Someone you rely on 24/7.
So you need to ask a lot of questions before deciding who is worthy of such a vital role in your company’s life. You hope to be with them a long time.
You’ll certainly come up with questions of your own beyond the ones on this list. But pretty much everyone agrees these are the questions you must ask an IT services provider you’re thinking about hiring.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself First
Before you start interviewing prospective MSPs, you need to get clear on a couple things within yourself first.
What do you expect your MSP to do? Do you need someone just to respond to problems as they arise? Or do you want a proactive MSP to help you plan for growth and future technology? Knowing this will help you manage expectations and clarify who is responsible for what.
Which services do you need? Managed IT covers a wide variety of services, from hardware upgrades to cloud computing to mobile workforce solutions. Decide which services you really need, which you may want, and which would be nice but aren’t essential.
What kind of relationship do you want? Frequent personal visits, or just a help desk to call? How deeply do you want to integrate your MSP into your strategic plans and processes? Whether your relationship is close or more formal, you’ll want to feel comfortable in it.
Write down your answers so you’re prepared for these questions from the MSP, who’s wondering the same things.
The 12 Most Important Questions to Ask an IT Services Provider
As with anyone you hire, there are countless things you could ask. And you’ll have impromptu follow-up questions during the interview.
All the same, write down a list of specific questions in advance. That way you’ll remember to ask every candidate the same thing. And it will help you compare notes later. Don’t forget to ask about services particular to your industry, like support for regulatory compliance.
Whatever your specific needs, everyone agrees there’s some things you really do need to know about an MSP. Here are the top 12 questions on everybody’s mind:
1) How reliable are the MSP’s systems? How current is their own software? Are they audited annually by an outside auditor for system security and integrity? How many ISP connections do they have to ensure their availability in a crisis?
2) Are they cybersecure? Any MSP should offer cybersecurity as a core service. But do they ensure their own cybersecurity before presuming to manage yours? Do they have a disaster recovery plan for their own business? Natural disasters could affect them too.
3) What are their core competencies? Managed services cover a wide range (e.g. cloud computing, mobile workforce solutions) and MSPs specialize in different things. Ask which compliance certifications they have (e.g. HIPAA, GDPR). Are they strictly a tech shop, or do they provide other services like strategic planning?
4) Do they use automated monitoring? Any MSP worth its salt should be monitoring your systems, handling routine tasks, and getting alerts automatically. That saves staff time for when people are really needed.
5) Who owns your data? You or the provider? Can they resell it? Where are the data servers physically located?
6) Will they keep your company at the forefront of technology? Does the MSP have the knowledge and capacity to give you a competitive edge not just now, but in the future?
7) Who exactly will you be working with? Meet the team. Find out specifically who will be your account manager and engineers. Do you feel a rapport with them? Ask what level of access to your data they’ll have. How does the MSP qualify and hire their engineers and customer service reps? They should be willing to share that with you.
8) Do they have references? You ask for your babysitter’s references. An IT services provider should be able to provide references too. (If they can’t, run.)
9) When will you hear from them? How (and how often) does the MSP stay in touch or report back? Or do you just want to call them when you have a problem? They may have their usual practices but you should feel that you’re getting the information and responses you need.
10) Where is the MSP’s help desk located? This is a big one. Is the help desk in-house or outsourced? Is it open 24/7 or just business hours? And in which time zone? How quickly will they respond to your emails and voicemails?
11) Can they support the growth of your business? How will outsourcing your IT management reduce your costs and workload? Isn’t this the whole point of doing it?
12) What are their growth plans? As your business grows, can the MSP scale to handle your larger IT needs? Maybe not, so ask how the MSP would transition out of your relationship in such a case. An exit strategy is a wise thing to include in your SLA.
The Real Question
In the end, the only question you need answered is whether a particular managed services provider is the right partner for you. Like dating, you’ll know when it feels right.
But first you need answers. Ask the questions above, plus whatever else is important to you. A decision like this needs to be based on information.
After all, your head may be in the cloud, and your heart in your mouth, but your feet need to stay on the ground.
If you have any questions now — about managed IT in general or PC Professional in particular — we’ll be happy to answer them. Just drop us a line through our contact form.