Tolar Systems Blog
How to Choose an IT Managed Services Provider
IT managed services is one of the fastest growing areas of IT consulting. Once limited to large companies, small and medium size businesses such as CPA’s, attorneys and medical offices are discovering the benefits of outsourcing their information technology support and maintenance to an IT managed services provider.
We’ve blogged previously (include links) about the benefits of IT managed services outsourcing, as well as some of the risks and how to mitigate them. In this post, we’ll be addressing how to select the right managed services IT outsourcing provider for your company’s needs.
People, Processes and Technology
There’s an old adage in the business world that says any decision an organization makes depends for its success on three elements: people, processes and technology. It makes sense; you need the right people with the right skills doing the right things using the right tools in order to succeed.
Conversely, the failure of any of those elements can spell disaster. That’s why it’s important to be careful when selecting an IT managed services provider to handle your IT support needs. There are a number of factors to consider, but at their core, the factors typically boil down to one of these three elements of success.
Review the Technology First
It’s very important to review your own technology needs prior to hiring an IT managed services outsourcing provider, looking at both what capabilities are currently needed, and what capabilities does your organization need to grow and be more successful.
Once you’ve got a clear understanding of your current and future needs, you’ll be able to ask the right questions to find out how the managed services IT outsourcing firm you are considering fits into that.
Some questions to ask include:
- How can they support the hardware, software and infrastructure needs of your company, both today and tomorrow?
- Do they have a strategy for managing cloud applications and platforms?
- What vendors do they support?
Finding the Right People
When choosing an IT managed services outsourcing provider, you need to look for a company that offers the right level of skills and experience to meet your needs. Ideally, they should have extensive experience supporting the hardware, software and applications required by your business.
You also need to decide what type of IT managed services provider is likely to provide the best level of service for your business needs. Sometimes, people think that if they choose a “Big Five” type of IT firm, they will be getting top quality support. The problem is that firms of this type typically focus their best resources on their largest and most lucrative clients - not only is the cost too high for most small businesses, you may not even have access to the firm’s best resources.
So instead of looking for big brand names, here’s what you should consider when it comes to the people and company that will provide your IT managed services outsourcing.
- Experience - Look for a firm with a team of highly experienced IT resources. Check to see what partner or vendor solutions they offer.
- Innovation - Look for a firm that innovates. The IT world changes quickly, so look for firms that adapt as new skills and services, such as support for cloud applications and platforms – are required.
- Similarity - Look for a firm with experience in your industry and that has worked with similar types of clients in terms of size and technology landscape.
- Focus - Look for a firm that will focus on your needs. For small and midsize businesses, the best fit could be a local or regional firm with offices or resources near you.
- References - Look for a well-established firm with excellent references. Ask to see case studies and speak with current or past clients.
Understand the Processes
For IT managed services outsourcing, seek out companies that provide proactive processes such as 24/7 monitoring and remote support, rather than a break/fix model where you contact the firm when your systems experience problems.
Look for a firm that offers processes and best practices such as:
- Confidentiality and security – What are their processes for keeping your business data secure and confidential?
- Documentation – What processes do they use to document and communicate issues? How are issues communicated to your team?
- Continuous monitoring – On-site visits are sometimes necessary, but a managed services provider should be able to provide 24/7/365 remote monitoring of your systems to identify issues with your equipment before they cause problems.
- Remote or on-site support – A good managed services provider should provide on-site support as needed for large scale problems, and remote support for quick fixes to get you up and running more quickly.
Consider the Contract
Lastly, you need to clearly understand the inner workings of your IT managed services contract. IT managed services contracts are typically “pay for performance,” meaning you pay for a particular service to be performed, but not the manner in which it will be performed. This allows your provider to innovate and improve the services they provide.
In addition, a good managed services provider should outline their services in a service level agreement (SLA) that documents considerations such as guaranteed response time. For instance, the SLA should detail during which hours you should expect a response, how long that response should take, and how long it should take to resolve an issue.
Selecting an IT managed services outsourcing firm means asking the right questions about the people, processes and technology that will ensure your IT systems have the support needed to drive your business forward.
Are you considering switching to managed services outsourcing firm for your IT needs? Let us know about it by leaving a message below.