MANAGED IT SERVICES | 5 MIN READ
A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is an investment that puts your company on the path towards a more secure network. Because this investment is so integral to your business, it needs to be made carefully. Read more to learn some of the top mistakes businesses make when choosing an MSP so you know how to avoid them.
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Choose the Cheapest Option
Sometimes, the cheapest option can be viable. For instance, some off-brand grocery store snacks taste just as good as the more expensive brand. Off-brand drugstore medicine can work just as well as the name brand.
However, when it comes to managed IT services, the cheapest option is usually not the best fit for your company. When you hire managed services, you are making an investment to protect your company's livelihood.
Your livelihood shouldn't be reduced to the cheapest option because you risk compromising the safety of your network and you usually end up settling for a lower customer service quality.
Cheaper managed service packages tend to have a bare-bones approach to cyber security. They may include hardware/software installations as well as basic network monitoring, but there might not be as comprehensive of a cyber security effort.
For instance, some providers may only offer support during the workday, which leaves you at a disadvantage for after-hours emergencies. Others may not have automatic network upgrades included in your contract, which leaves you on the hook for any new software you want moving forward.
A bare-bones approach to cyber security can potentially leave your network at risk. If your MSP has slow response times outside of normal business hours, or doesn't diligently monitor and upgrade your network, your company leaves wiggle room for hackers.
With more expensive MSP packages, you can get additional services such as 24/7 customer support, a virtual Chief Information Officer, and even a dedicated Network Operations Center (NOC). These services provide extra layers of security to your network.
Pick A La Carte Packages
A la carte MSP packages promise your business the freedom of choosing which features you want without having to keep those you don't. While these plans can be cheaper and can make you feel like you have more individual choice, they can potentially put your network at risk.
Securing your network isn't as simple as adding a few different strategically placed parameters. Everything in your network is interconnected like a spider web, and securing your network requires the collaboration of many different pieces. Without a fully automated and collaborative system, you risk exposing security gaps to hackers.
For instance, if you choose an a la carte plan that only provides for basic antivirus, anti-ransomware, and automatic data backups, you're missing out on many other moving parts that go into a strong cyber security infrastructure, such as email filtering.
In this scenario, if you left your email platform unsecured, you create a security gap that hackers can use to carry out a phishing attack, which in turn renders all the security measures currently in place useless.
When you have the freedom to choose which services you want and don't want, it's easy to turn down services as non-essential, especially when they seem to have little importance to your business. However, this can leave your network susceptible to cyber attacks, which your MSP will then extensively bill you to mitigate.
All-inclusive MSP packages install the full range of cyber security parameters that are available, which leaves no wiggle room for hackers.
Since your MSP installs and manages all your cyber security parameters, they can view your network from a bird's eye view, which allows them to easily analyze all the moving parts cohesively to identify any weaknesses or threats that pop up.
Having all-inclusive MSP packages can keep your network better-protected, saving you the money that you would have been billed in the event of a cyber attack with an a la carte plan.
Don't Read the Contract Carefully Enough
Some MSP's love to sneak hidden costs and vague terminology into their contracts so they come out ahead in an agreement. Make sure to carefully go over your contract with a fine-tooth comb to ensure there won't be any surprises.
Service Level Agreements (SLA'S), which form the basis of your contract, let your company have, in black-and-white terms, the specifics of the quality of service that your MSP promises to deliver.
Many SLA's cover the basics such as the normal response time for customer support tickets, or how often you can get customer support. However, some businesses gloss over this section of the contract with their MSP. When reading over your SLA, pay attention to a few crucial details.
First, look at the level of customer service that you're paying for. If you're paying for 9-5 support, see how much you'll be charged for calls outside normal business hours. While you might think you're saving money with 9-5 support, calls outside these hours are typically charged at an astronomical rate.
If you're paying for 24/7 support, see what the service is like during business hours versus outside of that. For instance, do you get phone and remote support from a full-service help desk from 9-5, and then only emergency phone support outside of those hours?
Next, examine the costs to add additional users or devices to your network. While you may have been charged a reasonable amount for the number of users or devices that you currently have, what if your company experiences explosive growth? Your MSP may charge you heftily to add new users and devices to your network once your contract period has started.
Depending on the type of MSP package you buy, your provider can find ways to sneak extra fees into your contract. Be diligent about reading your contract to assess for hidden costs.
If you are looking for an all-inclusive package, make sure that you're mainly paying a flat monthly rate and that there aren't extra hidden fees buried in the contract.
Hidden fees could include extra charges for after-hours onsite support, after-hours remote support, or trip expenses for onsite support.
Tiered and a la carte packages tend to sneak in even more hidden costs. While these types of MSP's keep your base monthly bill low, they turn a profit by nickel-and-diming for anything outside of what has been agreed upon.
You can be charged, for instance, every time there's an onsite visit or extra users are added to your network. Some a la carte MSP's charge monthly fees to rent hardware and software. In the event that your network goes down, a la carte MSP's could even charge for high priority/rapid response or simply to recover your data.
RELATED: Managed IT Services Pricing Guide
Don't Plan for the Future
When companies sign a managed services contract, they tend to focus on the short-term. They think about how their MSP will make their network more secure and how they'll have support whenever they have network issues.
However, many businesses don't realize how an MSP can help them in the long-term. A managed service provider should do more than just secure your network.
They should always be thinking ahead, upgrading your network to keep up with the threats of tomorrow. This could mean upgrading your firewall to the latest version, or running dark web scans to find exposed company data.
Additionally, your MSP should be able to help your office plan for a growth or move. If your company experiences explosive growth, for instance an expansion to a new office, your MSP should work with you to plan how to expand your network.
They can establish a budget for all the equipment you'll need to get your network up and running, as well as plan a timeline for the installations.
Additionally, if your office decides to transition to a remote environment, your MSP should be able to set up the proper parameters to ensure a smooth transition.
Before you consider signing with an MSP, think about where your company could be in the next few years, and ask your MSP what they can do to get your network there.
How to Pick the Right MSP
Avoiding all of the above mistakes will help prevent you from signing a contract with a Managed Service Provider that is the wrong fit for your business.
When evaluating an MSP to see if it's right for you, make a list of all your wants and needs. Think past the obvious factors like cost and really dive deep.
While some companies that work remotely may really value an MSP that has advanced email encryption capabilities, others may not care as much. Some companies may really value a Network Operations Center over a help desk, while others may have no preference.
Figure out what features you desire in an MSP and see which ones can accommodate your needs. So many MSP's can be in a market that distinguishing one from the next can become difficult. Figuring out what's right for your business will help you narrow down the search and separate the good MSP's from the best ones.
Managed services is an investment in your company's security, livelihood, and future. Use this article as a jumping off point to conduct further research so you can find the perfect MSP.
Posted by Kevin Kendall
Kevin Kendall is the VP of Services for Standard Office Systems and has built a career of assisting businesses with their office technology needs. He has decades of experience with products and services like copiers, business phone systems, and managed IT services. Mr. Kendall is driven to see others succeed and help them develop to achieve results beyond ordinary expectations.