By Patrick Dunn • September 7, 2020

Choosing an MSP - The Basics

 Let’s say your boss has decided to explore what’s needed to offload most of your company's IT needs to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).  While you have an idea of what to look for, you’re reluctant because IT is not your main focus and one of the many responsibilities you have. This raises more than a few questions. How quickly will they be able to fix specific issues, how much will it cost? How long will the transition take? 

You know this is a change that needs to happen for several reasons, but what things should you be looking for when searching through the hundreds of MSPs out there? 

Let's dive into what to look for when conducting your search. 

What do I Need my MSP to do? 

One of the most important things to look for when choosing an MSP is to feel that they genuinely understand your business's objectives. What you are trying to achieve, how can I scale my current model, and how can my network give each of my employees the tools they need to fulfill their job function properly? An MSP that is genuinely interested and willing to support your environment will ask questions like "what are the model numbers of your switches, your phones, how old are your servers, and the purpose they serve." If they're coming out the gate trying to sell you products and solutions without first understanding the infrastructure you already have in place, they aren't too concerned with making your tools work better for you. The more they understand about your current environment, the better prepared they can be to recommend beneficial changes to you or better leverage technologies you already have. 

What Should I Offload to an MSP? 

This is a very business-specific point. What parts of your infrastructure do you want to manage yourselves? Are you spending all day resetting passwords, running from site to site doing hardware replacements and updates? Your team could be spending that time innovating and improving your existing network. Leverage your MSP to handle those time-consuming tasks that keep your team from working on those bigger-picture projects. 

What Should I not Offload to an MSP? 

So, you've decided to offload your server infrastructure, network, and day-to-day support. There are some things your MSP should be flexible with you on, primarily your data management. While they can support some of the infrastructures the data resides on, they should also be willing to help you secure that information, so the only people with access are the ones that need it. Financial data, privileged information, and intellectual property are just some examples of such data. 


Good Things to Ask Your Prospective MSP?  

How periodic is your reporting? 

- Making sure that your MSP is prepared to provide you valuable insight into your network analytics and metrics regularly is the kind of transparency that builds trust and a healthy long-term business relationship. Asking what types of reporting will be made available to you and receiving a few examples of reports they have made for other companies can help give you a good idea of what kinds of things the prospective MSP are actually doing. 

Do you provide active dashboards? 

- Active dashboards populate a list of all devices and their status on your network. Having the insight to all the devices connected to your network and physically seeing if a device has gone offline or has a status change can increase your response time and keep you ahead of any issues that arise. 

Can you provide us a runbook? 

- Runbooks contain network topology diagrams, IP addresses, server information, and your company's fundamental aspects. An MSP's ability to provide a highly detailed runbook will show you how well they truly understand your infrastructure. 

What is the average size of your partnered companies? 

- Will the service you get suffer because they have larger clients that require more attention? It's essential to know their partners' average size and make sure you fit into the same category. 

What verticals does your company support? 

- If you are a school and your prospective MSP mainly supports company's in the financial sector, how well equipped do you think they'll be to support your infrastructure? Make sure they have worked within your vertical for quite some time. 

Who's behind the Service Desk? 

- Do they have an in-house engineering department available to you 24/7, and if not in the off hours, who is there to pick up the phone? Companies outsource a lot of desktop support. Make sure your MSP isn't offloading the work to someone else. 

Is your company technology agnostic or technology-specific? 

- There is no one size fits all model with regards to technology. Therefore, every company is different, requiring a different set of technologies to serve them in the long run better. If the company you're choosing leverages only specific technologies, chances are they are running with that one size fits all model. 

Can you provide me some of your client's references? 

- You're beginning to trust the person on the other end of the phone offering to handle your infrastructure. Try taking it to the next level by asking for references so you can dig deeper, giving yourself that peace of mind. 

Are you able to dispatch on-site? 

- A lot of companies can only support you remotely. An MSP's ability to come on-site and help you resolve issues, install new hardware, or provide on-site consultation is a good sign. 

How often will I hear from you after I sign this contract? 

- So, they've sold you on their services; you're now up and running, but nobody calls you for the next two months. Chances are you'd feel pretty upset! An MSP needs to keep the relationship going and care about your company. Even if they call to talk shop, it's an added level of assurance and customer support. 


Arming yourself with the necessary information when choosing an MSP will have beneficial long-term effects for your company. Now that you’re equipped with the important questions, your future partnership will be built around a in depth knowledge of your environment, your business’ needs and objectives, and a fundamental understanding of your company's plan for the future.  

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