Part 4: Assessing MSP Performance For the Business Leader

The Business Leader’s Guide to Assessing MSP Performance and Knowledge

Technology is an integral part of any successful modern business, however, it is also ever-changing. This is where the need for a third-party managed service provider (MSP) arises. The right MSP can help secure your organization’s IT functions and deliver solid yet flexible IT solutions tailored to your business. But how do you know if you have  the right MSP?

One of the best ways to objectively evaluate a managed service provider (MSP) is through the use of metrics. MSP metrics may originate from data stored in the provider’s data monitoring platform or from external monitoring sources. Any reputable MSP is able to produce metrics that speak to the effectiveness of their service, but what other, more detailed measures can be taken to assess MSP performance and knowledge? 

Aside from high-ranking metrics, the right MSP will proactively address all of your tech issues, ensure you have a solid understanding of the types of IT services being provided and offer 24/7 fast, reliable support for all of your IT needs. How can gaps in these types of service offerings be identified?

Identify Performance and Knowledge Gaps With Your MSP

Assessing MSP performance and knowledge is important for the security and productivity of your business. If you find that the services of your existing managed service provider are lacking, it may be time to consider interviewing new providers.

Here are key areas to help you identify gaps in MSP performance and knowledge:

  1. Scalability

As your business grows and changes in size and scale, the services provided by your MSP should grow and change as well. Is your existing MSP taking the time to understand your business’s operations and recommending solutions that are flexible and complementary to future goals and growth?

Review the following with your MSP: 

  • IT consultation and planning strategy
  • Digital roadmapping (present and future growth)
  • Flexible add-on services
  1. Support and Response Times

In the IT services industry, there is a need for fast response times or quick turnaround. Whether it’s in response to cyber security threats like malware or phishing, user error or disaster recovery, you need a nimble and agile IT solutions team to support your business.

Review the following with your MSP: 

  • 24/7/365 chat or call support 
  • A dedicated technical account manager
  • Clearly defined service level agreements (SLAs) for IT issue responses and system uptime/availability
  • Problem resolution and real-time reporting
  • Comprehensive backup and disaster recovery (DR) services
  • Client testimonials for response time and extensive support
  • Accessible knowledge base system
  1. Proactive and Preventative Solutions

The right MSP is focused on the long-term success of your business. They don’t just operate with a “you break it, we fix it” mentality, but instead take a proactive, evaluative and preventative approach. 

Review  the following with your MSP:

  • 24/7 IT environment/systems monitoring
  • Operating system, security patching and updates
  • Common application security patching and updates
  • Consultation and advice on strategic IT initiatives
  • Technology review meetings, especially security
  • Dedicated technical consultation experts and issue response
  • Centralized IT solutions and services
  • Live help desk availability
  1. Data Monitoring and Reporting

How can a system improve if it’s not monitored? This is one of the most important areas to check for when assessing MSP performance. Make sure you review their proactive measures for data monitoring, analytics and reporting. These steps are necessary to prevent any network issues month-to-month before your business is negatively impacted by a reduction in productivity and security.  

Review the following with your MSP:

  • Performance reporting
  • Process documentation
  • Automated patch management 
  • Regular server and network monitoring
  1. Experience

When you work with a managed service provider, you’re trusting them to support your livelihood. A well-established, reputable MSP will understand the core competencies needed to successfully drive your small business or enterprise. 

Review the following with your MSP:

  • Certifications and/or proven experience
  • Standard operating procedures (SOP)s
  • Industry partnerships (eg., Microsoft, Cisco, HP, etc.)
  • A full support team with tenure
  • Informative blog posts
  • Downloadable resources
  • Professional solution offerings and defined service level agreements
  1. Security

Your MSP should be concerned with your security, but do they concern themselves with their own security?  In recent years, MSPs have been the target of massive cyber breaches that compromised their business, as well as those owned by their clients.  The attacks were so prevalent and widespread that the U.S. Secret Service sent out a memo directly referencing compromised managed service providers.

What should your IT service provider have in place to ensure they do not inadvertently cause your organization to become compromised?  Remember that it is not uncommon for the cobbler’s wife to have no shoes.  Make sure your cobbler (MSP) has their house in order before you trust them to manage yours!

Review the following with your MSP:

  • Multi-factor authentication enabled for administrative access to your systems
  • Multi-factor authentication enabled for all third party software suites such as
    • Cloud managed antivirus
    • Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM)
    • Remote access agents (Connectwise Control, Splashtop, Team Viewer, etc.)
    • Knowledge base systems (in-house, third party hosted, and cloud)
  • A documented patch management process in place for all management software used by the MSP both internally and installed on client machines
  • Utilize change management systems
  • Utilize a professional services automation (PSA) tool to track all service requests, work logs, and resolution
  • Completed SOC2 Type 1 or higher certifications
  • If in DoD space completed CMMC RP for technicians and RPO for the company
  • If in HIPAA compliant space organization should have thorough understanding of HIPAA regulation and how to implement, monitor, and adjust to meet regulation and organizational requirements

Identify The Needs of Your Business

Not all businesses have the same needs.  As an MSP, we would love to believe that every organization needs our top notch, highly skilled and professional services but in truth, not everyone does.  How do you know what your business needs?  That depends on how much technology issues hurt your business. What might some of those issues look like?

  1. If your computer systems go offline for an hour the cost to your business will be immensely painful.
  2. If you lost all of your electronic data, software and configurations, your business would fail or require days, months, weeks, or even years to fully recover.
  3. If your data was stolen by a malicious threat actor and they released the data to the public it can ruin your business.
  4. If your data was stolen by a malicious threat actor and they held it ransom for $1,000,000.00 you would be forced to pay or lose your data.
  5. If your email account was compromised and a threat actor successfully used your email to request funds from your vendor or worse – your client.
  6. Being the victim of a natural disaster and not having insurance to cover the damage

Make The Decision to Choose a New MSP

After an in-depth review with your existing managed service provider, it’s time to evaluate whether your needs are being met. If you’re unable to check all the boxes on your MSP performance checklist, a new MSP may be necessary. In addition to scalability, around-the-clock support, preventative solutions, proactive monitoring and proven experience, it’s also important to look into how much knowledge your prospective MSP has about you and your business.

Here are a few ways to assess a prospective managed service provider from the very first appointment:

  1. How well does the MSP know the industry?

It is important that your MSP truly understands the industry-specific IT challenges you face so they can help you overcome those challenges effectively. For example, do you have a commonly used software program or any governmental or regulatory mandates to which your business must adhere? How knowledgeable is your prospective MSP on this front?

  1. How well does the MSP know you and your values?

Has your new MSP invested time in learning a bit about you from outside sources, such as your website or press releases? Do they understand your mission, vision and values? This is important because you and your MSP have to work as a team to make it easier to build a mutually trusting, lasting relationship.

  1. How well does the MSP speak your language?

Instead of trying to impress you with IT jargon and relative terminology, your MSP should be speaking a language you understand. It should be their priority to identify with you on your level and let rapport and conversation build organically, not by means of confusion. If that doesn’t happen, they may not be the right fit for you.

There are many factors that go into making the MSP/client relationship a success and these are just a few that can be assessed during your very first meeting. Consider these your prerequisites that must be fulfilled before deciding on a second meeting.

Assess Your Needs With the IT Experts

Are you on the hunt for an IT services provider? Or maybe you have a provider you’re not happy with? IT touches every part of your organization and deeply impacts your ability to adapt to market changes and fuel growth. Not to mention boosting efficiency, productivity, profitability and morale. Finding the right IT partner is critical. Contacting the experts at ArcLight is a good place to start. Book a meeting with us today to land on the best IT solutions partner for your needs today.

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Brian Largent

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