10 Technical questions to ask a managed IT services provider

January 9th, 2019
10 Technical questions to ask a managed IT services provider

Hiring a managed IT services provider (MSP) has become commonplace among growing businesses that want to scale their IT support. Beyond scalability, MSPs save you money, improve IT efficiency, secure your IT infrastructure, and let you focus on your company’s core functions.

However, not all MSPs are created equal. Some are more trustworthy and efficient, while others offer cookie-cutter solutions. Because managed services are akin to IT outsourcing, you must pick a team that prioritizes your data security and profitability. Their tasks include keeping your files safe, ensuring your employees are as productive as possible, and your IT is always in tip-top shape.

So how would you know if an MSP is worth your time and money? Here are some questions you need to ask an MSP before deciding to partner with them.

#1 How can your managed services keep us ahead of the competition?

Since small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have a limited number of employees, they tend to make current employees — often those without any IT background — take on additional IT responsibilities. This will split their focus between keeping equipment operational and performing their primary functions.

When you hire an MSP to manage your IT, your employees can focus on what they were hired to do in the first place. You can also get ahead of IT troubles and work on proactive maintenance with access to certified technicians and strategic consultants.

#2 How will you assist us in adopting the latest technologies more quickly?

MSPs must remain on the cutting edge of technology to retain their clients. Look for a provider who has been in the business for a long time and can refer to happy customers with specific examples of advanced IT services that helped them grow.

However, the most advanced technology isn’t always the best option. Forum Info-Tech (FIT) can help you decide what’s a fad and what’s worthwhile, so you don’t waste money and time on unnecessary apps or upgrades.

#3 What can you do to make us more mobile and cloud-friendly?

A reliable MSP such as FIT specializes in specific cloud systems, i.e., LevelCloud, instead of just supporting a bunch of different generic apps. By specializing in a specific solution, we can offer customized solutions for SMBs in competitive and compliance-driven industries. For example, LevelCloud is often tailored for legal firms and CPAs that want to improve communication and collaboration with clients.

#4 How will you solve problems and update us on IT issues without becoming a distraction?

FIT signs a service level agreement (SLA) with terms that define the scope of their work to clients. An SLA defines the level of service expected from the company and what services the customer will receive, such as the frequency of routine network maintenance, cybersecurity protections, uptime guarantees, etc. It also sets measurable expectations for how responsive the MSP will be to support calls and emergency requests.

With an SLA, you can decide how problems will be reported. You’ll also be well informed about who can be contacted, what the procedure for escalation is, and what steps are taken to resolve the problem. An inflexible SLA is one of the earliest signs that an MSP will be a bad match.

#5 How will your managed service promote innovation and collaboration within our enterprise?

Cloud computing means that your team can access apps, files, and other computing resources at all hours of the day from anywhere with an internet connection. Even consumer-level cloud solutions enhance team communication, but for true innovation, you need a team of well-rounded experts.

FIT doesn’t just install solutions; they also train employees and conduct regular seminars for them so you can get the most out of your solution. MSPs have a number of certified, experienced IT experts reporting round-the-clock. And they can train on rotation, so there will always be someone to look after your business.

Remember that MSPs aren’t just sitting around waiting for something to break: they proactively improve your systems. They will manage your IT system 24/7 to minimize downtime and maximize productivity. They can advise you on what solutions to procure based on your needs, and if certain problems persist, they can resolve them.

#6 How will your managed services identify and repair problems with our IT infrastructure?

SMBs are more prone to cyberattacks than bigger companies because the latter is perceived to be better protected. With our state-of-the-art security tools, FIT can protect your private data from cyberattacks, ensure that your files are regularly backed up, and quickly recover your data in case of disaster.

We have a team of engineers to proactively monitor your entire network, making sure that your servers and workstations are in tip-top shape, updated, and properly backed up. Our Helpdesk and Network Operations Center also work nonstop to resolve issues remotely as we receive alerts. All these will ensure that your business runs smoothly 24/7/365.

#7 What’s the cost of your contributions to our overall innovation and efficiency?

Without flat-fee managed services, the cost of technology is unpredictable because you won’t know when you’ll be needing new computers, servers, or software. Costs will unexpectedly skyrocket in the wake of natural disasters or cyberattacks. With FIT, you’ll only pay a monthly fee, so you can manage your budget better. And you’ll be dealing with just one point of contact, rather than asking your in-house team to juggle a dozen different IT vendors. In the long run, the cost of technology will be reduced because your systems will have guaranteed uptime with a simple service delivery model.

#8 How will your managed services prepare us for the next big disruptive technology?

New IT solutions like the cloud and mobile devices revolutionized how business gets done. The only way you can get ahead of the next technology explosion is to get control of your current systems. When resolutions to your IT problems are measured in minutes (a guarantee in most MSP SLAs) instead of hours, you'll have plenty of capacity to evaluate and integrate new technologies.

Alexis Arroyo, vice president of Arrotin Plastics Materials, Inc., can vouch that FIT’s assistance in moving their two manufacturing plants in Indiana and Southern California to a customized private cloud increased their efficiency and scalability to a level that few in their industry have accomplished.

#9 In what ways will your partnership with us grow over time, rather than being another business transaction?

As long as an MSP takes the time to learn about the needs of its clients and adapt accordingly, the number of support calls will decrease over time. That's a win-win situation for MSPs and their clients. We care about our clients, and that’s why we solve problems proactively. This leads to a partnership whereby clients have reliable IT systems and technicians have more time for strategic upgrades and projects.

Another way to learn about how effective a managed services partnership will be is by how requests are handled. Technicians should be available on your terms, ready to answer questions via phone calls, website portals, or emails. For example, FIT provides a full ticketing system to track and inform you every step of the way while working on a specific issue.

#10 How rapidly does your managed services program adopt and adapt to the latest and most important market trends?

Technology solutions and best practices evolve at breakneck paces. Any MSP that you partner with should be regularly sending its staff to conferences, and training events, and enrolling them in certification programs to ensure that the service you receive is in line with current trends. If you work in healthcare or another regulated industry, this is especially important.

This question will be especially valuable if you’re evaluating multiple MSPs, since their answers will give you a good indication of how advanced their services are. However you phrase it, make sure that their interests lie in keeping you current rather than keeping you complacent.

If you’re still unsure whether to hire an MSP, contact us and learn how else we can improve your business. FIT has provided managed IT services in Orange County, Riverside, Los Angeles, and Corona since 2005. Call us today!

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