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Tabush Group's Cloud & Managed IT Blog

Top 6 Questions to Ask a Managed Service Provider | Essential Guide

Businesses rely more heavily on technology today – which means getting it right is more important than ever. You can’t afford ill-timed outages, costly cyber breaches, or inefficient processes if your firm wants to remain competitive and effectively serve your clients. Because IT has become increasingly complex and costly for small and midsize businesses to do on their own, many turn to Managed IT Service Providers (MSPs) to fulfill some or all of their technology needs. Thoroughly vetting a potential IT provider is an essential first step to ensure that your firm's needs are effectively met. Here are 6 key questions to ask MSPs before you commit to a partnership.

What services do you provide?

Many MSPs deliver a wide range of IT management, maintenance, support, and cybersecurity services. These may include network, application, hardware, security, and business continuity/backup services along with help desk, staff training, and more. Find out which services the MSP provides and what its core competencies are, to see how they line up with your firm’s needs. Reviewing the MSP’s certifications and other credentials will give you a good idea of where its strengths lie. Find out if the MSP has provided similar services to companies that are about your size and in your industry.

Do you provide cloud-based solutions?

Adoption of cloud technologies has accelerated in recent years, with more than 90% of businesses now using some form of cloud computing, according to O’Reilly Media. Some MSPs have developed core competencies in providing cloud-based solutions. Cloud solutions such as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) can provide many benefits for a business, from streamlining workflows to facilitating remote access to enhancing scalability. Inquire about the MSP’s cloud-based solutions and how they may benefit your firm.

Who will be my account manager, and what can I expect from this person?

Ask the MSP who will be assigned to manage your account. Inquire about whether you will have an individual that will be your main point of contact. Inquire about this person’s credentials and what his or her role will be. Will they work closely with you and your team to learn about your business, with an eye toward developing innovative solutions to meet your objectives? Will the account manager provide ongoing proactive guidance to empower you to fully leverage your IT, and if so, what will that look like? Will you have regularly scheduled strategy meetings? Be sure to meet with your account manager in advance to make sure you find this individual approachable and aligned with your firm’s vision. 

What are your security practices, and what security services do you provide for your clients?

As cyberattacks grow in both sophistication and frequency, security must be at the forefront of everything the MSP does. Ask about the provider’s cybersecurity practices and how they keep up with the latest advances in this rapidly evolving area. Look for an MSP that takes a holistic approach to cybersecurity and employs multi-layered defensive measures. These measures should include anti-virus, anti-malware, secure DNS, patch management, security audits, 24x7x365 monitoring, strong password policies and multi-factor authentication (MFA), and security education and training for your teams. 

If the MSP provides cloud solutions and data hosting services, ensure its private cloud operates from geographically-dispersed data centers that are enterprise N+1 level facilities with multiple layers of security, including biometric access controls and military-grade encryption. Verify that the cloud provider’s facilities are third-party audited and meet all compliance standards required by your industry. Inquire whether the MSP provides Security Operations Center as a Service (SOCaaS). Previously considered an additional level of security that is “nice to have” but not necessary, SOCaaS is now rapidly emerging as a standard in cybersecurity practices, particularly within industries that handle highly sensitive or confidential data.

What proactive steps do you take to prevent client IT issues?

Ask about the MSP’s approach to proactively preventing system outages and other issues. Look for an MSP that has the infrastructure and expertise to monitor your system 24x7x365 to pinpoint issues and correct them before they cause costly interruptions. Does the MSP provide periodic audits and scheduled maintenance of client infrastructure to ensure everything is in fine working order? Ensure that the provider handles application updates as soon as they become available, which enhances security while ensuring your teams are always working on the most up-to-date version.

How do you handle client IT issues that arise during the workday and after hours, and what are your response times?

Even with state-of-the-art technology, IT issues are sure to arise from time to time. Inquire about the credentials and competencies of the MSP’s technical support team and how you will interface with them. Are they readily available by phone, email, or online chat during business hours? What about after-hours for business-critical issues? What are the average response times and what are their service level agreement (SLA) times? And when necessary, can the MSP provide onsite services at your offices?

Can I talk to your current clients? 

A good MSP will have many happy clients. Ask the provider for a few references you can speak with. Some questions you might want to consider asking the references are:

  • What do you like best and least about working with the MSP?
  • Is the MSP readily accessible and responsive?
  • Is the technical support team able to resolve issues quickly and fully?
  • Are you generally happy with the performance of your IT? What would you change?
  • What were your objectives when partnering with the MSP?, Has the provider helped meet or exceed these goals?
  • Tell me about a time you had a problem and how the MSP resolved it.

These conversations should provide a window into what it’s like to work with the MSP while helping you feel more confident about your choice.

Tabush Group is a leading provider of Managed IT Services and our Desktop as a Service (DaaS) cloud solution. To learn more about how our state-of-the-art IT solutions can make your firm’s operations more efficient and secure, contact us.

Topics: Cybersecurity IT Best Practices Managed IT