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The Top Things To Look For In Your Managed Services Provider

Are you constantly putting out fires and struggling to manage the IT environment?

You can count yourself among a throng of other businesses facing a similar situation. These woes are the byproduct of business organizations evolving together with technology needs and risks.

And the thing is, not everyone can afford to hire on-site IT staff. The good news though is managed services provider is an alternative way to keep everything (apps, servers, computers, etc.) running smoothly.

The outsourced company can iron out technical issues, security vulnerabilities, and performance hiccups. Essentially, you have a remote IT department to offload your solutions and tasks.

There’s only one obstacle— assessing someone’s credibility and trustworthiness. Since we have a lot of ground to cover, we should get down to business. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the decision-making labyrinth and make the most out of the partnership.

Superior Monitoring Capability

All managed services providers perform health monitoring and maintenance of web assets.

But, they’re far from created equal, meaning you have to do your homework.  The first order of business is evaluating a provider’s ability to monitor your systems/networks.

This ability hinges on manpower, technology, and expertise. These three different components tell you if somebody is capable of setting up monitoring properly or not.

Perhaps the most crucial monitoring facet is the one related to identifying and addressing alerts. These processes lead to early failure detection and fixing. In general, a control center that combines automated processes and human responsiveness is the most effective solution.

Patches and Updates

There are various services that make a huge impact on your IT performance. 

Website patching, for instance, is a challenging and resource-intensive process. That’s precisely why many providers don’t include it in their service package. Alas, lack of patches and updates could hamper your ability to operate at peak efficiency.

On the other hand, if you do see patching on offer, it’s a very positive sign.

It signals the provider is willing to go the extra mile and add real value to your organization. After all, regular patching and updating enable your site to be fast and secure. As for optimal frequency, it depends on the applications you have in place.

Spectrum of Choice

Reputable providers don’t act as mere repair service.

They are more than that, your IT advisors and consultants. They also collaborate with you on the selection of the most optimal solutions. In the ideal scenario, these solutions are varied and industry-specific.

This is to say they meet your unique business requirements.

If you operate in the healthcare sector, for example, you probably need HIPPA, EHRs, and practice management tools.

And the general rule is that customized technology always beats the generic one. Keep that in mind when pondering hosted cloud services, CIO services, wireless services, VoIP business phones, etc.

Robust Talent Pool

To supercharge your IT environment, you have to secure a virtual helpdesk teeming with talent and expertise.

So, find out how many technicians the company you outsource to employs. Inspect their certifications and gauge field experience. This due diligence lets you figure out the technicians’ real skill level.

Preferably, a provider boats a broad range of seasoned specialists, who are versed in specific technologies you employ.

Bear in mind it’s never a good idea to have only one person capable of managing your systems. What happens if that person falls ill, resigns, or goes on a lengthy vacation? Well, your business would slow down or come to a standstill even.

Explicit Service Level Objectives (SLO)

Furthermore, take your time to examine the nuts of bolts of the provider’s internal processes.

In particular, look for Service Level Objectives (SLO) in your service-level agreement (SLA). They outline service responses, targets, and processes with specific timeframes. What is more, they demonstrate service providers’ commitment to design forethought.

You can think of SLO as a formalized set of promises made to you as a client. They can relate to various important metrics, such as server uptime. Thus, with this clause included, you can rest assured that even advanced IT issues will be taken care of.

Ongoing Communication and Support

The next key aspect is related to support and communication.

First off, check out communication channels and work hours to confirm you’re comfortable with them. See who will be in charge of keeping in touch with you. We would advise you to accept nothing less than 24/7 support.

Gambling on the worst-case scenario never materializing is a risky business. Sooner or later, an app stops working and you want to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

Therefore, confirm you’ll be able to count on designated support staff at all times. It’s even better if the provider has a Network Operations Center. Conversely, a call center is a subpar solution that involves tedious waiting and headaches galore.  

IT and Budget Planning

As time rolls by, your technology needs and requirements change.

To stay on top of them, you need to engage in effective strategic planning. While this tends to be a daunting endeavor, there are some providers willing to assist you in it.

This is a chance to carry out annual planning together and remove the guesswork from the equation. Such a collaborative effort should enable you to sustain tech efficiency and improve it over time.

At the same time, notice sound planning also has to involve budgeting. A service provider that has your best financial interests in mind is transparent when it comes to payment terms. It helps you steer clear of overspending and respects your bottom line.

Single Point of Accountability (SPA)

Most providers aren’t too keen on doing troubleshooting.

If they can get away with it, they will blame somebody else or a malfunctioning technology for failure. This can be a real problem when working with multiple technology providers. They could carry out ill-planned app revisions and then deny responsibility.

A vendor management concept called a single point of accountability (SPA) leads you out of the woods. In our opinion, it’s way better than relying on any hands-on methods.

That’s because the SPA prevents anyone from muddying the waters of accountability and pointing fingers.  Services providers aren’t able to dodge you when crashes occur on their watch.

A Fleshed-Out Ticketing System

Along similar lines, it’s preferable to stick to providers with working ticketing systems.

They facilitate tracking of various web issues and reduce the risk of helpdesk tickets getting lost. As a result, the risk of human errors and delays is reduced. Moreover, your needs are always put front and center.

You may even be able to access the queue and see the state of IT affairs for yourself.

Furthermore, note that great service providers leverage high-grade tools and software platforms to maintain their ticketing systems. Automated workflow sorts out prioritization, triage, escalation, and scheduling. This high-tech approach is light years ahead of having the staff memorize tickets.

Security Testing and Monitoring

Modern cybercriminals are hell-bent on exploiting weak spots in our IT parameters.

Every business that operates online is potentially exposed to a slew of attacks. The list is long and encapsulates malware, spam emails, Denial of Service (DOS), hacking, and ransomware.

Therefore, it’s imperative your service provider offers extensive protection against threats. Apart from regular monitoring, seek security testing and monitoring of networks and systems.

Security activities and measures come in many shapes and forms. For instance, the providers may engage in penetration testing, incident response, and vulnerability scanning.

These are all ways to fill the gaps in your defenses and stay on the safe side.

Disaster Recovery Planning and Management

When running a business, you want to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

When we say worst, we mean natural disasters, power outages, and other unforeseen events. They can lay waste to your precious assets, including data. This is where disaster recovery planning comes into play.

This best practice includes a set of measures and agreements between you and your provider. For instance, it specifies how you can recover your information after a sudden blackout. Here, common solutions are daily backups and cloud platforms.

This is just one illustration of how disaster recovery mitigates the impact of disruptive forces and gets you back on tracks quickly. It’s a surefire way to minimize the cost of downtime and ensure business continuity.

Onward and Upward With a Managed Services Provider

Auditing and selecting a managed services provider can be tricky.

To gain peace of mind, you have to cover all the support and maintenance bases. Start by getting your priorities straight and doing the research. Develop a deeper understanding of how exactly a company goes about monitoring and maintaining your site.

Go over the agreement/contract with a magnifying glass. Pay special attention to around-the-clock availability, internal processes, security, responsiveness, and talent credentials.

Know exactly what you’re getting for your money and avoid breaking the bank.  

Try to find a provider able to tackle alerts, failures, and other problems head-on. Establish a mutually-beneficial IT partnership, which saves both time and money down the road.

Feel free to check out a list of our services to see if we are a good match for you. It’s time to take your IT game to the next level.

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