What to Look for in a Managed Services Provider (MSP)

Before we get even a paragraph into this blog, let’s talk about what a managed
services provider (MSP) is and why you should care. In the world of technology,
a MSP typically provides professional services as they related to the ongoing
maintenance and support of your software and technology. This saves you the
time of learning the ins and outs of administering tens, possibly hundreds, of
different software platforms, and provides you with assurance that you have
professional support should things go wrong.

These days, MSPs have become very common. Particularly with so many people
taking advantage of easy and affordable cloud providers such as Amazon and
Microsoft’s Azure, MSPs have become common place for organizations looking to
make use of these advanced technologies without having to learn these new
platforms. MSPs can provide organizations with a tremendous amount of value –
but only if you know how to find the right one for your organization.

There are several key items that MSPs may offer clients:

-Professional services in the form of answering questions and providing user support

-Custom development work

-Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that guarantee customers how much downtime they will experience

-Architecture, design, and administration services for customers’ environments

It’s important to keep in mind that not all MSPs offer all of these services, and it’s important to know what you are getting when you sign up for services. Questions to ask when you are looking for a MSP might include:

-Are we going to need training for our end users?

-Is it important for us to have guarantees about downtime in the environment, even if this comes at a higher cost?

-What type of staff should our managed services provider have? Do we need to work with developers, cloud architects, or subject matter experts in our field?

-Are we going to be migrating to the cloud? Are we already there? Will the MSP be managing an environment that we built, or that they built? This will affect our ability to get an SLA if we want one, and may affect the MSP’s ability to administer our environment.

Once your organization has decided what is important to look for in a MSP, you will want to ensure that you understand what you are getting from your MSP. Here are some questions that will be helpful for you when interviewing potential MSP candidates:

  1. Are you going to host our technology? If you are, will we be in a multi-tenant environment? Or will we be in a dedicated environment? A multi-tenant environment will come a lower cost, but will mean that you share certain components of the environment with other customers of the MSP. While this is not inherently a security risk, it may cause compliance issues for you and may limit your ability to request changes to global or account-level settings. A dedicated environment will eliminate these risks, but will come at a higher cost.
  2. Do you understand what our technology does? This is an important question, especially for geospatial professionals or anyone else that works with unique software. Your MSP will be able to better serve you if they understand the software and what you are trying to accomplish.
  3. If you do not meet your SLA times, what is the outcome? What do you provide if this type of failure occurs?
  4. What types of software do you deploy on top of our software? For example, will you have remote monitoring software you’re deploying?
  5. How many hours of support do we get each month? If we don’t use it, do we lose it? Or will those hours be usable next month?
  6. Will you be building our environment (if applicable) in a way that is scalable? If we decide to implement advanced technologies in the future, such as a highly available architecture, will you be able to support that? Can you provide the workflow you’d utilize to get us there?
  7. How will I send in support tickets? What is your SLA response time? How will we track progress on issues?
  8. If you are migrating us to the cloud, can you please provide the general migration steps you intend to take?
  9. Why are you recommending the cloud provider that you are recommending?
  10. Why are you recommending the operating system you are recommending?
  11. Can you please provide documentation of our you are architecting our system so that it could easily be run by a different provider? We are trying to avoid vendor lockouts.

While this isn’t a complete list of questions, it covers many of the common stumbling points that organizations encounter when it comes to selecting a managed services provider. If you are interested in knowing more, or in having a conversation, please reach out to us here at Focality! We provide managed services, and also help customers work to select the best managed services provider for them.

Let me know what you think!