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Things to Consider Prior to Selecting a Managed Services Provider (MSP)

By Richard Arneson

Change is not easy, especially if it involves moving away from an IT environment and infrastructure that your organization has utilized for years. Even though the benefits of moving to a managed services model are widely known–24x7x365 availability, greater scalability, predictable costs, and faster adoption of new technologies–there are several elements that can leave IT personnel shuddering at the thought of losing control and no longer having all IT resources on-site. Each of the following should be carefully considered when vetting out potential Managed Service Providers.

Network Operations Center

Selecting a Managed Service Provider (MSP) that outsources its Network Operations Center (NOC) can introduce several elements into the equation that were not previously considered. It is not uncommon for a provider to utilize a 3rd party NOC, which, in turn, is white labeling NOC services through another vendor. If you are in a heavily regulated industry, such as financial services, legal, or healthcare, ensuring that your Managed Service Provider’s 3rd party NOC is adhering to regulatory mandates adds another important element to consider.

Skillsets

Ensure that the Managed Service Provider employs engineers and solutions architects whose skillsets extend beyond those of your current IT staff. One of the key benefits of using managed services is access to specialists and experts that add value above and beyond what your current team can provide.

Preventative Measures

Sure, it is important that an MSP can resolve issues, but it is just as vital that they prevent issues from occurring in the first place. Ask them about their use of data analytics and root cause analysis to prevent future events from taking place. If you find they focus too much on break-fix, that might be a true reflection of how they see themselves and have built their company. You do not want a Band-Aid approach to managed services, but one that includes a heavy dose of preventative care.

Years of Experience

As companies increasingly adopt managed services, there are more and more vendors that now offer these services. While some of the newer ones might be able to do a terrific job, it is best not to entrust the management of your network to a company that has just entered the field. Ensure that their managed services experience spans several industries, a wide variety of customer sizes, and different infrastructures, technologies and customer sizes.

Service Level Agreements

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in the IT industry are as ubiquitous as Cat5 cable. They simply detail the penalties and remedies, including credits, that the MSP must provide in the event the agreed-upon services are not delivered as outlined in the contract. SLAs should not be “set it and forget it” propositions. Make sure the MSP you are considering allows the SLA to be reviewed on a regular basis and allow for alterations in the event there are changes to your business needs and/or technologies.

Best Practices

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a framework that outlines best practices for the delivery of IT services and outlines the key IT services lifecycle: service strategy and design, the transition and operations of services, and the continuation of services. Ensure that your MSP vetting process includes the question, “Are you ITIL-certified, and, if so, at which level?” If your query is met with a blank stare or a stumbling answer, it is probably time to move on to the next candidate.

Automation

Utilize an MSP that has the experience to automate some of the time-consuming, tedious, and repetitive tasks to allow for more time spent on monitoring, notification, interoperability, management, and reporting.

Scalability

Find out if the MSP can not only accommodate your current needs, but those that might change or evolve in the future. Companies grow and needs change, so ask questions about how they will—and have in the past—executed changes to address these issues. If your company or organization is considering Managed IT Services, give GDT’s ITIL-certified experts a call today. They will be happy to answer any questions you have concerning your current Managed Service Provider, or plans you might have to utilize managed services in the future.]]>

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