When you’re a small-to-medium business, maintaining your IT can certainly be a challenge.

Here are some questions business owners are asking themselves regarding their IT:

  • “How much time and energy should I devote to IT versus my core business?”
  • “Do I hire an IT staff or do it all by myself?”
  • “What hardware and software do I need to effectively service my business and customers, and how often should I replace these?”
  • “What about network security?”
  • “Backups?”

The constant balancing act between IT and the main thrust of the business can prove to be too much for SMB owners to handle. Thus, more and more owners are looking to managed service providers (MSPs) to ease their IT responsibilities so they can remain laser-focused on their mission.

A study by CompTIA showed almost 50% of businesses using managed services shaved off 25% of their annual IT expenditure.

Here are some things to think about when considering managed services for your business, whether you want the MSP to handle one component of your IT, several aspects of it, or even all of it.

 

1. Open communication is crucial

Procuring the services of an MSP naturally evolves into an intimate business partnership.

Data has become the lifeblood of most businesses, and IT is both guardian and facilitator of data.

Because the MSP you’ve engaged is in charge of one or more aspects of your IT, they hold an extremely vital role in the business partnership. Therefore, it’s prudent to always maintain open communication.

After choosing an MSP, keep up the communication. Having periodic meetings with both the account manager and key team members is important. Everyone needs to be on the same page at all times. You don’t want to assume anything when it comes to your IT and data. In the event of a disruption to your data access, you don’t want to be surprised about anything.

At minimum, you should speak with your account rep at regular intervals. Get insight on the latest about your systems and check up on open service tickets. An MSP’s responsiveness is a key trait that must be measured at all times. In cases of IT emergency, you need the assurance of an IT provider who’s primed to help when needed.

 

2. Agreements and reporting are important

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) should be in place to define the level of service expected from the MSP. An SLA gives the end user benchmarks and guidelines for such things as service reliability, reporting procedures, service exceptions, and consequences for the MSP for not living up to the standards set forth by the SLA.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable values that can help determine the effectiveness of managed services. Thus, these KPIs should be monitored closely on both sides. An agile MSP can utilize a mixture of standard KPIs that work for most operations, as well as custom KPIs that are specifically tailored to a particular business.

 

3. Relevant industry experience: does the MSP have it?

An MSP’s relevant industry experience (or the lack thereof ) can help a business decide if the MSP is a good fit.

Learning how the MSP helped similar businesses achieve efficiency and expected ROI can be very illuminating. Be sure to get sample case studies of businesses that not only have similar business processes as yours but also number of seats. Ask how the MSP custom-fit their managed services and tweaked their processes to provide a more personalized solution for these related businesses.

An MSP should also be cognizant of and have the ability to comply with any applicable compliance regulations for your industry.

 

4. Does the MSP provide network security?

Security is a big topic in IT, and for good reason. Cyberattacks are occurring with ever-increasing vigor and sophistication.

Yes, you may have read about data breaches and ransomware lockdowns happening to big entities (Chipotle, Target, the City of Atlanta). The scary fact is many hackers are setting their sights on the SMB market.

SMB is a prime target for cyberattack

The bigger fish in the world have the requisite budget and personnel to enforce potent security. Though the payoff is greater for hackers, successfully attacking a multinational behemoth can be a Herculean task.

Picking off smaller businesses can be much easier for hackers, since the owners of these businesses usually don’t have the budget, time, and know-how to maintain network defense on the scale of the ones erected by the big companies.

When you consult with an MSP, security should be at the forefront of the discussion.

How will the MSP protect your data? What layers of protection will they use?

In the event of a breach or data loss, how will the MSP ensure you can get back to business before downtime becomes a big problem?

This leads to the next topic.

 

5. How does the MSP handle data backup, business continuity, and disaster recovery?

Since data is essential to your business, you need to have a detailed game plan in place in the event of data loss or disruption.

Hacker attacks, natural disaster, and even human error can lead to costly downtime and loss of data vital to your business’s operation.

Backups can be the ultimate last line of defense against these threats.

You should discuss the types of backups the MSP makes. Are they image-based? Are they replicated off-site?

Two important parameters to look at are Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).

RPO and RTO

RPO specifies the amount of data loss that can be tolerated before unacceptable damage to your operations is incurred. This is expressed in time from the data loss back to the most recent backup. So, RPO affects the frequency of your backups.

RTO specifies the amount of downtime that can be tolerated. What failover measures are in place to ensure speedy recovery?

The MSP should be able to advise you on optimal RTO and RPO based on your business and data, as well as your input.

 

InCare is an industry-recognized MSP

InCare has been recognized by CRN, Channel Futures, and MSPmentor as a premier IT managed service provider.

Our mission is to help businesses and organizations with their IT so they can focus on their own missions.

We value communication, and we welcome visits to our headquarters and offices. Your account rep will act as liaison to the techs and teams working on your systems. We have 24/7/365 support via phone/email/support portal.

We don’t provide cookie-cutter IT packages. Instead, we architect and manage IT solutions customized for your particular business.

We take security very seriously and continually improve our services and product “recipes” in order to effectively protect our clients from the latest threats.

We believe backups are key to any sound IT regimen, and we have honed our InVault Pro into an extremely capable managed backup service.

Ready for total technology management? InCare 360 covers all of your IT for a flat monthly fee.

Contact us today at 205-277-CARE or fill out the form below to schedule your free managed services consultation.

 

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