by Scott Jack Content Contributor, E-N Computers 7+ years experience in healthcare IT and tech support.
When businesses grow, their IT infrastructure demands more time and attention. In the past, small and medium businesses addressed this need by hiring a jack-of-all-trades to manage it all. This is changing as regulatory requirements, security threats, and worker specialization transform the IT industry. As a result, many organizations now rely on a managed service provider for their IT operations.
Choosing an MSP is a big decision; you will be entrusting mission-critical systems to a third-party company. The right partner can help your business thrive, while the wrong one may hinder your growth. In this article, we’ll address seven factors you should consider when researching potential candidates as well as explain how E-N Computers stacks up.
How do I choose a managed IT service provider?
Not all MSPs are the same, so take time to learn about the helpdesk response, on-site support, backups and disaster recovery, vendor partnerships, industry expertise, consulting and strategy, and pricing model of each. The best MSPs are true partners that take a proactive approach to support, maintenance, and building an IT strategy that aligns with your business goals.
Like a multipoint inspection that a mechanic performs on a vehicle to find potential pain points and ensure reliability, this seven point inspection can help you determine whether a particular MSP will fit your needs. The essential factors to look at are helpdesk response, on-site support, backups and disaster recovery, vendor partnerships, industry expertise, consulting and strategy, and pricing model. Let’s start with helpdesk response.
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Helpdesk Response Time
When you contact an MSP for support, it will go through their helpdesk first. You will want to know if both routine and emergency incidents are handled, how you can request support, how long it takes for a request to be acknowledged, and how requests are triaged. This is often called the “service level agreement”, or SLA. Take our helpdesk as an example.
E-N Computers receives support requests via email, online form, PC agent, or phone. We endeavor to acknowledge all routine requests within 12 minutes. We prioritize requests according to urgency (number of users affected) and impact (extent of business operations affected), then assign a technician. If it is an emergency, we will follow up within 30 minutes. We also offer on-call service for after-hours emergencies. In addition to helpdesk support, we also provide on-site services.
Helpdesk support is well complemented by on-site support. With on-site support, you are able to talk with a technician face-to-face which helps with building a stronger working relationship. It also allows the technician to physically investigate an issue, gather accurate information, and become more familiar with your technology and business processes. Many low-cost MSPs do not offer this service, while nation-wide providers focus their resources on remote support and project-based work.
E-N Computers believes that regular on-site support is essential to the long-term success of our clients. We assign one of our technicians to visit your site each week. During their visits, they provide support and training, address problems, and build a good rapport with your team. These visits also help us make sure that your systems are continually aligned with your business goals.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
Every business needs a backup and disaster recovery plan to limit disruptions and unexpected downtime. You’ll want to find out what backup and restore services are included in their regular services, if any, and how they fit into your business continuity plans. If your industry has retention requirements, you’ll want to find out how they can help you meet those as well.
As part of our flat-rate managed IT services, E-N Computers will configure on-site and off-site backups of your last 30 days of working files and test them by performing partial restores on a regular basis. We’ll also advise you on spare equipment you should keep available for faster turnaround in the event of a disaster. At additional cost, we can implement more advanced backup and disaster recovery plans.
Third-Party Vendor Partnerships
Managed service providers often partner with particular vendors and will list these on their website. Compare this with the technology brands your office uses. You should also ask the MSP what experience they have with the technology brands you use.
Some MSPs may charge an extra fee or have limitations around the scope of support provided for non-preferred vendors and technologies. You want to make sure that they are ready, willing, and able to support the IT infrastructure you rely on.
You can find a complete list of our technology-focused partners here. We use Microsoft 365 for hosted software and cloud services like email, team chat, intranet, and office applications. For network appliances we primarily support Meraki products. And for servers and workstations we partner with Dell. However, we can support a wide variety of industry-standard brands and technologies, and we will work with the vendors you have to make sure you get the best support possible.
Because IT needs vary by industry, we recommend looking for an MSP that has the knowledge and skills to support the unique needs of your industry. This is especially true if you are affected by government regulations, industry association standards, or contractual obligations from a major customer.
Though E-N Computers has served businesses in nearly every industry, our specialty is supporting organizations in regulated and sensitive industries like healthcare, finance, and defense contracting. We have the expertise necessary for anyone who requires compliance with regulations like CMMC, PCI-DSS, and HIPAA, or needs to meet ISO 27001specifications. With our experienced team at your side, maintaining a secure and compliant computer network will no longer be a burden.
Consulting, Strategy, and Budget
Something that can really set an MSP apart is whether they work with you to develop an IT strategy that streamlines processes, increases efficiencies, and promotes business growth. This approach may be one of the more challenging features to find among potential candidates.
Unfortunately, many MSPs are stuck in a reactive mode of fixing things as they break, rather than providing consultative solutions to business challenges. However, improvements to technology-driven processes and alignment with best practices can result in significant gains in efficiency by avoiding downtime and cybersecurity incidents.
We prefer to take a proactive approach by including consulting, strategy, and budgeting as part of our managed IT services. We arrange regular strategy meetings to ensure that your infrastructure remains aligned with your business goals. We offer assistance with IT budgeting so that equipment is replaced on a schedule that maintains security and performance. And we provide you with a virtual CIO that keeps an eye on the big picture and can guide you through strategic IT decisions that may affect your entire organization.
There are a number of pricing models offered by MSPs. They may charge per user, per device, per service provided, tiered rates based on service complexity, or even be an hourly break-fix shop. Per user is easy to calculate and provides flexibility if your employees use more than one managed device (e.g. a desktop and a laptop). When priced by device, there are usually higher fees for servers than for workstations. Per service, or a la carte, pricing is designed for organizations who are augmenting their internal IT staff. Lastly, some MSPs just offer support as-needed on an hourly basis.
E-N Computers offers a straightforward pricing model designed for businesses of 10 or more employees. We provide three tiers of service, priced per user per month: 1) support for your internal IT staff, 2) fully managed IT, and 3) high-security managed IT. We don’t lock you into a long contract. All our plans are designed to give a strategic, holistic approach to IT service without hidden costs. Our pricing chart and an easy-to-use pricing calculator are available here.
Your IT partner can do more than fix things. They can build a comprehensive IT strategy that supports your organizational success. E-N Computers is dedicated to building strong relationships with our clients based on this proactive approach. If we sound like the right IT partner for your business, please contact us. We look forward to working with you.
DOWNLOAD: MSP Seven Point Inspection Quick Reference
A fully effective IT department can be surprisingly expensive. Our webinar Do I Need an MSP, Outsourced IT, or an IT Director? addresses why hiring an MSP can be a more cost effective, holistic approach to support and strategy. It also provides some insight into the benefits of a fixed rate plan versus a retainer with hourly fees.
Does your business have the right partnerships to achieve IT success? Is your MSP meeting your strategy needs? Find out by taking our IT maturity assessment.
You’ll get personalized action items that you can use to make improvements right away. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to book a FREE IT strategy session to get even more insights into your IT needs.