Choosing a managed service provider is like choosing a new best friend – it’s someone you can trust and rely on, someone who understands your needs, someone who works with you to solve problems, and someone you naturally connect with. But let’s face it – best friends can be hard to come by – and as an IT professional you don’t have enough recess time to find your new BF on the playground.

So how are you supposed to choose the right MSP? By asking the right questions. Here are nine things you should ask potential MSPs to fast-track finding your new best friend and business partner.

1. Do you follow industry standards and best practices?

While there’s no definitive managed service provider handbook to measure an MSP against, they should be able to answer this question with confidence and provide examples. Do they follow industry news, attend partner conferences, or keep up with best practices on Spiceworks? Ask for insight into how they handle sensitive business information, how they structure their scope of work or how they stay up-to-date with the latest technology advancements.

2. Are your technicians certified in the solutions and services you provide?

Say you’re looking for an MSP who offers antivirus management. Ask the MSP who they partner with to provide those IT services and what their partnership standing is with them. The higher the partnership level means the more certifications your managed service provider has, and the more expertise they can bring to your relationship.

3. Do you have experience serving other clients in our industry and of the same business size?

Ask to see case studies or current customer references who you can call and ask about their experience with their MSP partner. The MSP should be more than willing to provide these resources if they have great relationships with their clients.

4. Do you have enough resources to serve us effectively and in a timely manner?

This generally comes down to manpower. Ask them how many employees they have dedicated to their managed IT services. What happens if they have an unusually busy day? Has their company shown significant growth in recent years? Your MSP should be available when they say they will and should be able to meet your needs as your company grows.

5. What are your normal business hours and what is your availability outside of those hours?

This is not a question you want to ask when email is down, the network isn’t connecting and downtime is growing. Find out what hours the managed service provider is available for support and if they offer 24×7 support for emergencies. Ask them what their response time is during both business and non-business hours.

6. Do you only provide remote services or is onsite a different rate?

Not all MSPs include onsite IT services in your Service Level Agreement (SLA). If they do not, find out if it’s something they can provide for you if needed and what it costs. If you’re working with a local company, it’s great to know you can have them onsite to help you deploy a new solution. If they’re not local, ask if they have connections to provide someone in your area.    

7. What qualifies as “out of scope” work and what does it cost?

With any SLA, you should have clear definitions about what is included in your managed IT services and what is out of scope. Be sure you have a full understanding of what typical out of scope work you could encounter and what the rate for that work would be. In order to save your business time and money, you want to find an MSP who you can rely on for all types of services without cutting into next quarter’s IT budget.

8. Do you properly document work so that you have accurate and complete records?

Documentation provides visibility into your relationship, eradicating conflict before it happens. It not only keeps you aware of what work is being completed, but it also ensures that you maintain control over your environment with insight on how the managed service provider is accessing your information. Documentation also gives you the ability to trace problems back to the source.

9. Are you based in the United States or overseas?

We’ve all been there – 30 minutes on the phone to reach support only to find out you can’t understand the person trying to help you. It can elevate an already vexing situation. If understandability is a concern for you and your end users, ask the MSP if their level 1 help desk is in North America. It might not be a deal breaker, but it’s good to know ahead of time.

One Final Question to Consider

There’s one more question you need to ask yourself: Do you trust them?
Is this a managed service provider you can work with? What is their mission? Will they be invested in your company’s needs and goals? Can they be a lifelong business partner? If they answer all nine questions right, but you aren’t quite confident with their dedication to partnering with you or if they are compatible with your company culture, you might want to keep looking. Yes, business is business and your MSP might not be your #1 BF 4ever, but you can find and choose the right MSP who is truly invested in helping you succeed and that you enjoy working with.

Start your search with CCB’s Managed IT Services.

With our proven and comprehensive methodology, we work alongside you to execute key IT strategies and give you the freedom you need, taking the weight off of your shoulders. Now it’s time to use those 9 key questions. Ask away!