Maybe things were simpler in the old days. If a company needed their computers worked on, they just found a company that was certified by the vendors of their equipment. It was a transactional arrangement: Hire the company to do the work, based upon their certifications. If they did a good job, call them the next time. If not, find another company with similar certifications.
Things have changed a great deal. The new technology support paradigm is to have a mutually beneficial relationship with a Managed Services Provider (MSP for short). What’s the difference?
It’s a very fundamental difference and it makes a huge difference in the value being delivered. The transaction-based “breakfix” paradigm has the client and provider working at cross purposes: The provider needs the client to have problems in order to have work to do. All the risk for the network’s health and performance is on the client’s side. In Managed Services, the MSP assumes some of the risk by charging a fee to keep the network running smoothly, and is motivated to avoid having to fix things.
So how does a company choose their MSP? The vendor certifications alone don’t tell enough – effective network management has a lot to do with process and procedures. How can this be verified? Here are some things to check for when evaluating an MSP.
Modern tools may enable a very small organization to become a Managed Services Provider. Many things that used to require site visits can now be done by remote means. Actuarially speaking, though, at any given time, some percentage of an MSP’s client base is going to require some “hands on” service. Make sure the MSP you choose has enough people to effectively service their client base. What’s the size of their field force? Helpdesk team?
Managing multiple networks takes a very organized operation, with state-of-the-art procedures and tools. There should be a definable, and repeatable process for receiving service requests (whether generated by clients or monitoring tools), evaluating them, prioritizing them and assigning resources to resolve each one. Any good MSP should be able to describe this process clearly and concisely and provide metrics as to how they meet their service level goals.
Managed Services may be the “new” paradigm, but it’s really been around for a number of years. An MSP that’s only now getting into the game is unlikely to be as effective as one that’s been through the growth pains and has deep experience with the procedures and tools that constitute the best practices in this field. Similarly, ask about the MSPs staff – do they have enough experience to be considered experts in Managed Services, too?
If a company decides to rely on an MSP to manage all or part of their Information Technology infrastructure, it doesn’t mean they should be “out of the loop”. The MSP/Client relationship is a partnership, and that means information about the health of the IT infrastructure needs to flow back to the client company on a regular basis, in the form of monthly reports and regular meetings. Similarly, to get the maximum value out of the relationship, the client company should seek to get the MSP involved in strategic planning, to ensure the network will continue to meet the company’s needs as it grows.
All of this takes a lot more effort than picking a technology repair service out of the Yellow Pages. But technology is such an important part of business – it really makes sense to find an MSP that can partner with your company to take on the responsibility of keeping that technology up-to-date and working at optimum levels.
Clare Computer Solutions has been in business since 1990, and been providing Managed Services since 2003. Their employees average 8.8 years with the company, and over 20 in the industry. Learn more at www.clarecomputer.com/ccs-news-CCS-employee-retention