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Managed Services Providers, or MSPs, have innumerable benefits for organizations needing support with system, network, application, and e-management services. As a small business owner, the advantages of hiring an MSP compound in that you get to free up your time and focus on what’s truly important for your business.

While you’re certainly aware that the processes you need help with are back-end ones, you can’t deny the fact that they need to be handled carefully. Needless to say, you can’t trust just about any service provider with your data and systems!

If you’ve made up your mind to opt for managed services, here are 16 questions to ask potential partners and select the best provider for your small business.

1. For How Long Have You Been in Business?

An MSP that has just launched itself is unlikely to have a broad range of experience. Your small business could encounter various issues and problems over time, and you don’t want to partner with a provider that isn’t experienced enough to provide timely solutions.

2. Do You Have Industry Expertise?

IT systems are complex, so your MSP needs to have a wide range of experience to handle all facets of your organization’s systems. No two businesses have the same needs, so ensure the MSP you select can cater to your particular vertical. Note that a provider specializing in logistics or manufacturing might not be useful in a healthcare organization.

3. Can I Have Referrals?

Client referrals and testimonials help you gauge how good or bad your partnership with the MSP could turn out to be. Don’t rely on them completely, but do check out online reviews and feedback and see how the MSP handled the negatives. Also ask how many clients they currently have, and how many they have served over the course of their business.

4. What Services Do You Offer?

The MSP you select will become an extension of your firm, and you’ll be counting on them not only for operational tasks, but also for quite a few general administrative tasks, Internet security, hosting, and more. Make sure the MSP you zero in on offers a complete solution, and note which services are offered remotely and which are offered on-site.

5. What Lies inside and outside the Contract?

Service providers offer different levels of bundled services, but you can also purchase a la carte. Get a thorough understanding of what day-to-day services will be offered, what services fall under preventative maintenance, and what extras fall outside your contract.

6. Are Your Plans Customizable?

As mentioned, no two businesses are alike, so if an MSP offers the same solution to all their clients, it’s probably not the right partner for you. You need to work with a service provider that can offer support with customizable plans and unique solutions tailored to your evolving needs as your business grows and expands.

7. What Is the Billing Model?

Ask your provider if they charge hourly or have a fixed fee for services. A fixed price plan can be the better option for most services, but if your provider charges based on time and materials for certain services, you need to know this beforehand so you can budget well for your small business.

8. What Is the Fine Print?

If plans are advertised as all-inclusive, do check with your provider to ensure there’s no fine print. Most importantly, double check if the quotes for the first month of service are introductory prices. You don’t want to get a rude shock when prices are increased thereafter!

9. What about Qualifications and Certifications?

Ask your MSP if they are on the MSPmentor 501 List. This is an annual list of the top managed services providers around the world. Also inquire if they have won any awards or industry recognition for their services. Further to this, you need to be aware of how experienced their technicians are. Look for a service provider with support staff trained in specific areas.

10. Do Your Technicians Undergo Training?

When it comes to IT services, simply being qualified isn’t enough, support staff also need to undergo regular training and maintain current vendor certifications. You need to know if the MSP you choose invests in their staff so that employees remain trained and certified, thereby offering you the best service.

11. How Will You Prioritize Issues?

You don’t want to partner with a service provider that gives uniform responses to varied issues. Having a ticketing system in place can help an MSP map critical systems that require more attention, contributing to the smooth functioning of your organization.

12. Is There a Guaranteed Response Time?

It’s essential to know by when you can expect a response from the support staff and when you can expect your IT issues to be resolved so that you can plan around downtime, if any. So don’t forget to ask this crucial question to your service provider. Ideally, you can expect response time to be anything between 24-48 hours. Resolving issues can take more time depending on the problem.

13. What about Issues Arising in Non-Business Hours?

A good Northeast Ohio managed IT services for small business will be able to provide your business support and maintenance 24/7. Ask your service provider if they have a network operations center and let them detail their remote monitoring capabilities. If they offer round-the-clock support, you can be assured that issues will be resolved in a timely manner.

14. Do You Offer Proactive Maintenance?

A managed services provider that proactively maintains your systems is far more advantageous than one that is only putting out fires all the time. Proactive maintenance involves keeping systems updated and scheduling patches with proper planning to prevent security attacks and other disruptions. Do ask your provider how frequently they run updates, but don’t take ‘regularly’ or ‘often’ for an answer. Get into the details so there’s no confusion later on!

15. Where Will My Data Reside?

It’s essential to know this as it will help you find the right managed services provider for your business. Bear in mind that you can store all your data on your premises. Alternatively, you can pick an MSP that hosts data in their own datacenter. A number of providers offer a hybrid combination of on-site storage and cloud storage.

16. What about Backup and Disaster Recovery?

Make an effort to understand how secure your service provider’s data and network operation centers are. A good MSP will have a Plan B for all circumstances and every piece of equipment, right from backup servers to power sources! Remember to ask your provider if they test their backup versions regularly.

Conclusion

The smoother things are for you and your managed services provider, the more you’ll be able to strengthen your partnership and grow your business in the years to come. Of course, the trick lies in choosing a service provider that’s right for you!

Armed with this list of questions, we’re sure you’ll be able to take the best decision for your company!

(Image Credit: Pixabay)