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Five things to consider when choosing a MSP

A Bad Choice In a MSP Can Cost You More In the Long Run

Managed Service Providers are a common, and necessary relationship to have in today’s market if you run a small to medium sized business. There is not enough budget to hire a full-time IT department of system administrators, network administrators nor the expertise to manage them.
I have had the great pleasure to work with some of the best, and the nightmares of working with the worst, and everything in-between. As you have heard me say before, technology tends to be a black box in a company and it is hard to vet a vendor that tosses jargon and buzzwords to scare you into thinking you know even less.
There are certainly more things to consider, but make sure you consider the following five points when choosing a Managed Service Provider:
  1. There’s no regulation or certifications. The barriers to opening up shop as a MSP are relatively low, an account representative and a system administrator are all you need to begin. Make sure that your vendor understands how to run enterprise technology, knows strategy, and is not doing it purely for the love of technology.
  2. MSP’s balance a lot of clients. This means they are not as dedicated to your environment and needs as you may be. This is not a negative, but understand that this is not a handoff vendor relationship, make sure that if there are persistent issues or concerns that they are willing to work with you to resolve them. But, know that tiny indicators may not necessarily be picked up by your vendor.
  3. At the end of the day MSP’s are a business. While I have had a very relaxed relationship with my best vendors, I understand that they are going to do what is best for the blend of customer service and the bottom line at the end of the day (just like you do). Make sure to keep them honest, and understand that a request that might not be the most profitable will be a lower priority over their other profitable requests from other clients (see #2).
  4. MSP’s should be impartial. A good MSP will be the guardian of your technological environment, and recommend the best products on the market to fit your needs and budget constraints. As a custodian of your most trusted assets, they should provide you with full access into your environment – they should provide it without you asking. As part of impartiality, steer clear from MSP’s that develop their own products. An MSP that builds products is building a revenue stream off an already confused client. Remember an MSP is there to support and advise, keep core competencies in mind. There is no MSP on the market that can build a product better than what is commercially available to other companies and MSPs.
  5. MSP’s should be aware of emerging trends, and assisting you to get there. Your organization might not be able to afford bleeding or cutting-edge technology, but you should most definitely be current. Do a little research yourself (TechRepublic, CIO, and ZDnet are good places to start), and during your interviews with your MSP bring up some questions. See how they respond and interact, but be careful that they do not try to inundate you with technical speak, but make sure you understand how it affects your business.
At the end of the day, you need an MSP, just make sure to choose one that will set you up for success. There is nothing worse in technology than going down an implementation path, and having to unwind it later for a higher cost and lack of productivity.

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