How Do You Judge an MSP?

Managed Services Providers (MSPs) have become key parts of many Canadian businesses that look to outsource their IT management to a trusted provider. There are many reasons why MSPs make sense, such as on-demand, 24/7 support, flexible IT services capacity, and expertise in a particular niche. One wonderful side effect of using an MSP is that your internal team is freed from having to deal with technology services on a day-to-day basis. If you’ve made the switch to an MSP a while ago and your IT has been performing at a serviceable level, you might be content to assume that everything is functioning as it should be behind the proverbial IT curtain.

However, just because day-to-day activities seem to be sputtering along doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t occasionally check under the hood to make sure that your outsourced IT engine is still running at peak performance. If you think of your organization, IT as a vehicle, and your MSP as its engine, you’ll understand that it requires some maintenance and monitoring. In a vehicle, engine oil needs to be changed, you have to monitor fluid levels, and those belts sometimes need to be tightened or replaced.

Will your engine still run if you don’t do these things? Sure. Will it run well for a long time? Probably not.

To make sure that your car is performing well, you take it to a mechanic. How can you tell if your MSP is doing everything you require – particularly if you are not an IT expert? If your IT is stalling out regularly, the system (and the provider) you are using is not working. More often than not, consistent noises from under the hood may signal that the MSP you are using needs work. Since we at Dyrand are committed to bringing transparency to the IT industry, we want to share some key things that you should be watching out for.

Level of Support

Oftentimes the need for more support than an internal IT team can provide is one of the main factors driving a switch to an MSP. What you might not realize is that not every MSP offers the same level of support, and that support is not all equal across the industry and even within a particular MSP.

In the best-case scenario, the IT services team at your MSP will be personally familiar with your company, your systems, and your operations. When a member of your team calls them, they will be dealing with someone known to them or someone who knows your system well. In the best of all possible worlds, someone familiar with your team would be available 24/7/365.

In reality, not all MSPs offer 24/7 support, and not all companies require that level of service. If the vast majority of your business is conducted from 9-5, that level of support may not be an expense you need to bear. Likewise, some MSPs outsource their helpdesk and support services outside of normal business hours. Again, if you typically don’t need to reach your IT team at midnight, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if you do need someone on-site during off hours in an emergency, is your MSP able to jump into action?

Keeping Systems Current

Another key reason Canadian companies turn to MSPs is to manage maintenance, so their internal IT experts don’t have to. Countless operations need to be done regularly to ensure that your company’s desktops, laptops, and servers are fully secure and operational. Patching, software updates, hardware management, and more might not seem all that important, yet these tasks must be done regularly to ensure that your company’s networks and systems are hitting on all cylinders.

Managing and executing all these updates so that they are done on time and seamlessly with the systems you have in place to minimize downtime is complicated and time-consuming when done well. Skipping even a single patch can leave the door wide open for cybercriminals or more benign but sometimes equally frustrating system glitches. If you can’t depend on your current MSP to handle these items regularly, your team is falling behind.

Watching Your Doors

Speaking of cybersecurity, a good MSP will always keep your organization’s security in mind. Many Canadian businesses employ MPSs because they have cybersecurity systems and practices in place that small- and medium-sized businesses could not otherwise afford.

One thing to consider is how proactive your MSP is when it comes to cyber threats. Are they training your employees in safety and best practices? Do they continually monitor new threats and adjust their systems accordingly? Do they come to you with proactive solutions to issues you haven’t even thought of yet – or do they primarily react to your inquiries?

Functioning as a True Partner

Outsourcing your IT is more than a transaction; it’s an investment in your company. Therefore, you shouldn’t work with a provider who views your organization as just another client. At Dyrand, we partner with organizations ranging from travel companies in Victoria to law firms in Halifax. One of the things our IT team values most about working here is that they have the opportunity to work with diverse businesses, learn about how they operate and help fulfill their unique needs.

At its core, the relationship between your organization and your MSP should be looked at as a partnership. What is the difference? Rather than simply execute a project, a true IT partner will take the time to teach you about what they are doing and explain why.  Just as importantly, they should also be learning from you. The more they understand your company and its position within your specific industry, the better they will be able to tailor their services to your needs.

Reviews and reporting are critical aspects of your partnership with an MSP. If you find yourself working with a provider that merely drops a bunch of data on your desk without explaining what it all means to you, you should look elsewhere. MSPs that go above and beyond the basics will take the time to explain what this information means and how it is helping you reach your goals – and they will explore what it takes to get you to your next level.

Do you have a vCIO?

Finally, we believe the difference between an adequate MSP and a high-quality partner is that the best MSPs will provide you with a virtual Corporate Information Officer (vCIO) or similar person. This key player will help your organization create a technology roadmap that plans for the seamless replacement of aging hardware, looks ahead to the integration of new software, and then goes beyond the here and now to consider adaptation of policies that allow for full scalability as your business evolves. Budgeting is a critical aspect of this planning, and your vCIO should assist with that to ensure that the business strategy you develop together will meet your goals while staying within your financial parameters.

Your vCIO should serve as your point person for technology-related things. Whether it’s risk management, compliance, or governance, he or she should be the one telling you when federal and provincial regulations change – often on a seemingly daily basis in industries like law and finance.

Ultimately, when you are weighing the pros and cons of your current MSP’s performance, don’t forget to consider the intangibles. This may touch on areas we previously mentioned, like how quickly your employees can get IT assistance when needed. Yet it should go beyond that to consider how well those repairs are done, whether they are disruptive to employees’ daily workloads, and how well things function on a normal, daily basis. If your MSP is truly functioning as a partner, their staff should work as an extension of your own.

If your MSP isn’t measuring up, or if you feel like your technology is sputtering along, give us a call today.