Ring ring, you just got the call. The company has decided on a new return to office date that’s even sooner than expected. And along with all other day-to-day responsibilities and coordination for return to office, you’ve also been tasked with finding a new IT support provider. The problem is, you aren’t an IT expert. And it doesn’t feel right to ask your current provider for help with this job.

At Xterra, we see the above situation quite often while working with businesses here in San Francisco. We put together this article as a short set of guidelines to help companies navigate the process of identifying and selecting a new IT support provider. After all, this can be a confusing and frustrating process even for those with a technical background.

So exactly what does a Managed Service Provider do?

A managed service provider (MSP) delivers IT services through ongoing and regular support. Services typically include reactive support and proactive management and may also include IT strategy and other services that support their client organizations. There are many different types of managed service providers: Some manage all of IT, including end-user support and IT infrastructure. Others provide more specialized focuses such as managed firewalls, servers, or applications.

What makes a good – or great, Managed Service Provider?

While there are many ways to deliver IT services, the best MSP’s have a common set of traits. The following quote sums it up well: “All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, 1878). Depending on your business, you might need a MSP with additional strength in one particular area. However, the MSP won’t be effective without a baseline competency in all areas:

  • Integrity
  • Security management program
  • Focus & attention on your business
  • Incident & problem management
  • Tech’s familiar with your environment
  • Effective communication / responsiveness
  • Sufficient technical bench strength
  • Proactive management
  • IT Lifecycle Management
  • High customer satisfaction

We wrote an article breaking down each of the above traits and the differences between competent MSP’s and those not up to the task: 10 Signs you Should Fire your Managed Service Provider (MSP)

How do I choose the right service provider for my company?

Choosing the right MSP is about locating the company that best meets your current & near-term needs. We recommend sitting down and documenting what is essential to your organization. For example, if onsite support is an absolute must, you’ll want to find MSPs with a local presence in your geographic area. To help you get started with the process, we have outlined a recommended approach and compiled an initial set of questions below:

Recommended Approach:

  1. Document requirements for your organization
  2. Identify set of potential companies
  3. Consider / Interview candidate MSP’s
  4. Come up with short-list of 2-3 finalists
  5. Call references for all finalists (minimum 2 each)
  6. Make final selection

10 Questions you should ask:

  1. What are your Service Level Agreements (SLA’s)?
  2. How many Managed Services clients do you have in total?
  3. How many endpoints do you currently manage?
  4. How do you help clients save money and lower IT expenses?
  5. How do you help clients identify and mitigate vulnerabilities?
  6. What services are included (and excluded) in your managed service offerings?
  7. Can you provide onsite support in the event an issue can’t be resolved remotely?
  8. What security services do you include in your Managed Services offering?
  9. What’s different or unique about your management approach that leads to higher uptime and lower costs?
  10. How do you ensure that technicians are knowledgeable about each client environment, so clients don’t have to waste time providing background information on every call?

How can Xterra help my business?

Xterra has developed the people, process, and technology to deliver white glove IT services for a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time staff. We are focused on helping San Francisco Bay Area clients accelerate their adoption of technology solutions to create measurable business value. If you are interested in learning more about how Xterra can help your business, schedule a free consultation.