Managed Services can be an asset to any company, big or small. They present a cost-effective solution to IT and add an extra level of security for your business’s data. A Managed Services Provider (MSP) can offer your company a number of digital solutions ranging from unified communication solutions to server security.

Before you start working with an MSP, or any provider for that matter, you should sit down with them to find out what they are really bringing to the table. This week, we are outlining ten basic questions you should ask a potential Managed Services Provider before signing a contract.

1. What happens if/when my infrastructure goes down?

Unfortunately, in today’s cyber-centric world, an IT disaster is practically inevitable. When investing in Managed Services, it is essential that you find a provider that is prepared for disaster. Any MSP worth its salt will be ready to talk to you about a disaster recovery plan (DRP), including the recovery point objections (RPO), and/or recovery time objections (RTO) that you want to set. In laymen’s terms, they will either have a recovery policy in place, or they will be ready to work with you to create a customizable plan. If the Managed Services provider does not have an answer it is time to move on to the next.

2. How will your services help support the growth of our business?

If a Managed Services Provider can’t take of their own infrastructure, they certainly can’t take care of yours. Photo provided by OTELCO.

A large part of any enterprise is growth. When deciding on a Managed Services Provider, you want to choose a company that will make expansion easy. As you evolve, you will naturally accumulate more staff, so you want an MSP that will make it easy and affordable to add new workstations, employee accounts, or locations. Depending on your industry, you may want to look into scalable services as well as, to accommodate increased data. It is better to be prepared for development now than to be held back in the future.

3. Will your services keep us at the forefront of technology, or will they impede us from moving forward?

Technology, like your business, is set to change. That is why questions four and five are closely related because you need a Managed Services Provider that is adaptable to both growth and change. A good MSP should have an affordable plan to ensure your company is as up to date as possible. If they don’t, they stand to be a potential deterrent to you in the future. It isn’t enough for a Managed Services Provider to offer you today’s cutting-edge technology, you need to be sure that they will keep you on that cutting edge.

4. What are your data ownership terms?

If there is anything we learned in 2018 it is that we all need to be more aware of our data. This goes double for professionals, especially those in industries that deal with other people’s personal data. The best way to gauge how a Managed Services Provider is going to handle your data is to ask them “what happens to my data if I leave your company?” If they turn squirmy on you, that should be a big red flag. There should be no uncertain terms about who that data belongs to at the end of the day. That includes metadata.

While on the subject of data, see if your MSP is planning to collect any behavioral data and if so what they plan to do with it. Remember back at the start of 2018 when everyone found out that Facebook had been selling personal information? Well, Facebook isn’t the only company that does that and more likely than not you aren’t going to want an MSP selling behavioral data harvested from your company. On the other hand, a provider may just use that data to improve their services, in which case it may not make a difference to you at all. Either way, your organization’s data is precious and you absolutely have to know what an MSP plans to do with it before you just hand it over to them.

5. What sets you apart from other Managed Services Providers?

It is always tempting to start negotiations with this question, which is fine, it is a good question. It is also something managed service providers are asked a lot so they will have the generic answer they always use ready to go. The benefit of ending with this is that the more substantial questions that you led with will have forced the MSP to put some thought into their answers. You are more likely to receive a genuine answer by saving this question for last.

If you still feel like you are getting a canned response, push a little harder, and force them to dig a little deeper. Why them? What makes them different from the dozen other MSPs you could choose from? If they haven’t provided some already, request some customer testimonials. The best representative for a service is an existing customer.

Choosing the Right Managed Services Provider

The OTELCO Cloud and Managed Services team in their Portland, ME office. Photo provided by OTELCO.

At the end of the day, your institution runs on technology. That infrastructure, and the data within it, are arguably the most important parts of your organization. When sitting down with a potential Managed Services Provider you deserve straightforward, well thought out answers as to why you should be trusting them with such an essential piece of your organization. If at any point you feel like the MSP sitting before you is being overly vague, or worse dodgy, with their answers you should be concerned. Most of all, follow your gut because you know what is right for your business.

At OTELCO, we stand by our Cloud and Managed Services. After years of experience, our team of experts has cultivated a set of offerings that make managing your IT easy, while looking out for the overall health and security of your infrastructure. If you are interested in discovering what OTELCO Cloud and Managed Services can do for your organization, check out OTELCO’s technology guide.

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