As small and medium business owner realize the need to stay flexible and responsive in today’s Information Technology (IT) environment, more are taking a managed services approach. The right managed services provider or MSP can take over IT tasks so you can reduce stress, free up time, and enjoy upgraded technologies that boost your competitive edge. Use these tips to narrow down from the good MSP for small businesses to the best MSP and ultimately select MSP that is right for you.

Selecting MSP starts with research into different managed services providers as well as a high level understanding of what you actually need. Without either, you won’t find the right MSP.

Before you start comparing MSPs, consider your IT needs. Do you have IT staff in house or are you looking to outsource everything? How many hours a month do you need IT services? What resources and skills are paramount to your business?

Once you have a basic understanding of your needs, you can evaluate managed service providers and find the right MSP for your business.

Narrow down your pool of options with these criteria to evaluate the best MSP.

MSP Size and Strength

Small and medium businesses need different IT support than enterprise-level firms. Thus, they are better served by a different MSP – one that specializes in serving the SMB market.

Start your search for the best MSP by looking for those managed IT providers that serve small and medium businesses that offer generalist services.

If you are a mid-market or enterprise player, decide whether you want all-in-one managed services or prefer to contract with a few companies that specialize in one aspect of managed services, i.e. cyber security or database management. If you have existing IT employees, outsourcing some of your IT needs can free up internal time to concentrate on priority tasks.

Breadth of Services

Unless you have technical skills in house and seek an MSP to supplement your existing IT, you will want to find a managed services provider that offers a broad range of services. The best MSP will offer software support and updates, patching, compliance, antivirus, cybersecurity, troubleshooting, maintenance, and disaster recovery services.

When your managed IT services provider offers a wide array of services, you can enjoy an all in one solution rather than cobbling together a patchwork of solutions from different vendors.

Industry Expertise

A managed IT provider needs experience with advanced IT, i.e. those skills beyond software installation, upgrades, and basic maintenance needs.

Database management, security, and virtualization are high-level topics with which the best managed services providers will be familiar. Any MSP you are considering should have significant demonstrated experience with these topics; otherwise, they will not be able to meet your needs in the long term.

Aside from IT experience, your managed services provider must understand the needs of your industry. Medical and finance firms will have regulatory and compliance issues that will not affect a non-profit or restaurant, for instance.

You will enjoy a better fit from an MSP that has other clients in your industry, and won’t have to suffer growing pains of teaching your MSP what companies like yours need. It may even go the other way around, where your managed IT services provider is telling you what other companies in your industry have implemented, helping you to grow by leveraging what works well for peers.

Technical Assistance

Managed IT providers vary in the technical assistance they offer. Some offer tiered levels of support, where you pay extra to get a faster response time when something goes wrong.

At minimum, look for an MSP that offers a 24-hour response time for non-critical issues. If 24 hours would be too long for a critical resource — say, your online shop — then you can pay extra to have a response time of 30 minutes.

Find out how services are priced. Some MSPs offer a flat rate for a set number of hours, then bill extra for services or support above that rate. Others bill you each month for only the hours you need. Either approach can work, but to budget accordingly, you need to know what to expect.

Customer Testimonials

Once you have a short list of MSP candidates, ask for customer testimonials.

The right MSP will be happy to share customer testimonials and references so you can speak directly with their existing clients. Some managed IT providers will have case studies for industries, which show how the MSP made a positive difference.

After you’ve reviewed case studies and references, reach out to customers. While the MSP may present themselves in a certain light, their customers can offer valuable data on what it’s really like to work with the managed services provider. You will want to find out about the working relationship, quality of work, level of follow-through, response time, and other key points.

Take the time to thoroughly investigate any MSP on your short list. Due diligence is well worth it, as it can help you weed through to find the MSP that is right for your current needs – the one that offers the best fit to the variables you identified before you began your search.

AGMN offers managed services for small and medium businesses across the globe. We work in every time zone and support networks of varying complexity, tailoring our services to our client’s objectives. Our core services include managed IT, cyber security assessments, remote desktop, social media marketing solutions, and web development. We have over 20 years of experience provide best in class technology solutions to businesses. To ask a question or learn more about getting started with managed IT, contact us.

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