IT service providers can offer many useful solutions to your business needs. Regardless of the size and developmental state of your company there comes a time when...
Having a managed service provider (MSP) take care of your company’s IT operations full time is the gold standard, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses. That’s only true if you’re getting the right level of service, though. Few things are worse than mediocre IT, however, and it’s important to find out if you’re getting the value you need for the annual or monthly fee you pay.
Many IT providers put “set it and forget it” solutions in place, fix problems without telling you what they did or how to prevent it happening again in the future, and never give you any useful advice. If your IT person only ever makes suggestions when there’s a problem, takes days to resolve simple issues, or you never really know what s/he is doing, it’s time to find out.
Here’s how to audit your current managed IT services provider’s performance and discover whether they’re worth their fee.
Review Your Managed Service Provider's Activities
One of the main purposes of having managed IT services is to prevent problems before they happen. If you only ever hear from your IT company when there’s a problem, they probably aren’t being pro-active enough. To benefit properly from working with an MSP, you should have easy access to reports that show they are running regular maintenance. This includes:
- updating your office devices, which is usually done remotely checking the antivirus, malware and spyware protection,
- overseeing the security of your data center to protect you from hacking and other risks,
- reviewing error logs to identify potential problems, and
- checking those cloud-based backups are being created at the agreed times.
They should also provide a level of support services for your staff, request regular virtual or in-person meetings with you or your representative to find out if there are any mission-critical complaints or problems, and ask about ways they can help you achieve your business growth goals.
Evaluate Response Times
A 2014 study by Gartner showed companies lose an average of $5,600 per minute because of downtime, and that figure has likely increased with inflation. For many small businesses, a major reason for signing up with a managed IT services provider is to reduce downtime when things go wrong, but it only works if issues get resolved quickly and efficiently.
Keep a log of the number of times you or your employees have to call on your IT provider, and how long they take to respond. How often do your workers have to follow up to get help, and how long does it take to solve the problems? This will tell you whether your MSP has the resources you need them to have and if they are giving you the priority treatment you require.
Calculate the “Real” Value Your MSP is Providing
It’s important to find out whether you’re getting real value from your agreement with your small business managed service provider. It’s not about what you’re paying them, because anyone can sell you an inexpensive service. It’s about whether you’re getting what you need from them for the amount you’re paying; you want 5-star service. If they have one guy who attends to your company as well as multiple others, chances are you’re not getting the expert support you were promised.
Your audit needs to determine whether you have access to full team support and whether the company has redundancy that will allow someone else to step in if your regular guy is out sick.
It’s also useful to find out what qualifications their technicians hold, and the expertise of the people who handle escalations.
Review Their Documentation
Documentation is critically important in the IT environment, regardless of business size. When you partner with an MSP, one of the benefits you should enjoy is having the paperwork taken off your hands. Your service provider should maintain detailed records of how your IT operations run, the actions they take, problems that occur and their resolutions. If you part ways with your MSP for SMB at any stage, these documents will help you understand their business processes, how they operated, and what they did.
Start Now: Why You Need to Audit Your Managed Service Provider
Performing an audit of your current provider begins with setting objectives for your process. Gather documentation like the original contract, the company’s service level agreement (SLA), MSP and network performance reports and data about the number of incidents, response times, repeat complaints. Poll your employees for qualitative feedback on how they perceive the MSP’s service.
Decide on the time frame for the audit, and see if this matches any clauses in the SLA. List any incidents that occurred during the period, and identify what the causes were for any management security breaches. Assign a weighting to each section of the audit, depending on its overall importance to your satisfaction.
Here's the bottom line: Combine the results of your documentation with the responses from your employees and rate it against your criteria. You can do this as scientifically as you like, from calculating the weighting to get performance percentages to simply reading it over and making a mental assessment.
For owners of small businesses that have only a few employees, the second option is probably more practical. If you’re a medium-sized business that needs to get out of your existing contract, you’ll need a more fact-based approach to support your viewpoint. You might know clearly why you need a managed service provider for your SMB, but if you need to prove why you want to change providers you’ll need to have all your ducks in a row. Take a look at our Tip Sheet: 9 Small Business Network Challenges A Managed Service Provider Would (and Should) Eliminate for your checklist to confirm the value you are or are not currently receiving.