Seven Tips to Select an IT Managed Services Provider

An IT managed services provider delivers solutions to business owners who need high quality IT support but can’t or choose not to invest in dedicated IT staff and equipment to manage and maintain their technology. It’s a smart option that helps businesses stay competitive with their IT infrastructure without excessive investment.

For many businesses, it simply isn’t cost effective to manage the IT support your business needs in house. Even if you could afford to hire a person and invest in infrastructure to manage every aspect of your IT – from help desk staff, equipment management and monitoring, network security support, network monitoring and more – the truth is that each of these areas is an IT specialty in its own right. It’s very rare to find one resource that can manage them all, which puts in-house IT management out of financial reach for most smaller businesses.

That’s why many small and medium size businesses are turning to an IT managed services provider to handle all their IT needs. Instead of hiring a generalist (who would likely still have to outsource complex problems to a specialist) an IT managed services provider is a company that maintains these specialties on staff, ensuring that you get the right solutions for your needs.

So how do you select an IT managed services provider? Here are some tips:

Request References – The best indicator of what an IT managed services provider will do for your business is what they’ve done for others. Ask for references so that you can find out whether they provide the level of service they promise.

Find a Local Partner – Even better than asking for references is to work with a local provider whose reputation is strong. When you work with a hometown business rather than a large national firm, you’re working with a partner who is invested in your business and its success.

Look for Strategic IT Leadership – One major advantage of selecting the right IT managed services provider is that you’re hiring not just technical expertise to fix or prevent problems, but also a strategic resource that knows how IT can help make your business more competitive. Some MSPs offer vCIO or virtual CIO (Chief Information Officer) services that deliver IT strategy to help meet your business objectives.

Verify Security Practices – It’s tempting to outsource your IT needs and assume that your security is in good hands, but this is an area where you must do your due diligence. Security practices are changing rapidly; even some IT managed services providers struggle to keep up, particularly if their systems are older. Find out whether your provider is following good security practices themselves: how often do they upgrade or update their systems, how do they secure their passwords. What technology are they using to keep your systems secure? How long have they been delivering security-related services?

Check for Industry Expertise – Different industries have different security and compliance requirements. Financial services, health care, law and accounting firms, for instance, handle highly sensitive and personal information and as a result, have more stringent requirements than a business handling less sensitive information. An IT managed services provider needs to understand your industry and be experienced in handling its unique requirements.

Look for Remote and On-site Support – A good IT managed services provider can do a lot with a remote connection. They can quickly access your systems remotely when things go wrong and they can often fix them in a few minutes. This means you’ll have minimal downtime and be able to work productively and profitably. However, remote support isn’t always enough to maintain your systems over time. Look for an IT managed services provider that can support you on-site as well.

Continuous Monitoring – Problems with your IT don’t always happen during business hours. Hacking attempts can originate anywhere and can happen at any time. That’s why an IT managed services provider should be able to deliver continuous monitoring of your network, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Continuous monitoring and automated response to network threats ensures that your network and crucial business systems are safe even when you or your MSP aren’t in the office.

At Tolar Systems, we believe that selecting the right IT managed services provider can help your business be more competitive and more profitable. Contact us to learn more about whether IT managed services are right for your business.