CYBER SECURITY | 7 MIN READ
Are you shopping for a managed IT services provider or considering switching from your current one? Read more to learn about some points you should keep in mind when shopping for a managed services provider (MSP).
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1. In-House IT Support
If you already have in-house IT support and are looking for a little external help, your first question should address whether or not an MSP is willing to work with your existing in-house support instead of looking to replace your internal team.
Some MSP's see in-house IT teams as a threat to their business, and therefore will refuse to work with companies who use in-house IT. If you have in-house IT, get this question out of the way first so you don't waste your time with an MSP who won't work with you.
2. Network Operations Center
While a help desk can be beneficial for solving IT issues over the phone, this level of service isn't as tailored as a Network Operations Center, which employs a team of IT professionals from your MSP to assist your business by phone, email, or in person. Sometimes, they are segmented into tiers, with a higher tier corresponding to a more urgent issue.
Tiered centers ensure that crisis situations are dealt with efficiently and swiftly. If there is a help desk you can call into, make sure that it isn't run by a third party or overseas, as this can lead to language barriers or a lower quality of service.
Though Network Operations Centers can cost more, they can resolve issues faster, which increases company productivity and reduces any network downtime. Keep in mind that while your office might only be open from 9-5 Monday-Friday, that doesn't mean that cyber security issues only arise during those hours.
A cyber security crisis can strike at any time, which means that you need a managed services provider with support any time of the week, whether it's on a Thursday evening or Saturday at midnight. Check to see if your MSP has during the workday and after-hours help that lets you call for support when you need it.
3. Fast Support Response
24/7 MSP support sounds great in theory, but if you're left waiting hours just to get a call or email back then there's much left to be desired. Ask follow-up questions to see if your potential managed services provider has fast response times for both on and off-site support.
Additionally, make sure to ask if remote support is available. While having a technician physically visit your company's building can be useful in certain situations, many IT issues can be solved remotely.
Remote support also minimizes network downtime by fixing issues without you having to wait for a technician to drive to your office.
4. Security Management
A basic aspect of a managed service provider contract is that they will install hardware and software that protects your network. Check to see which hardware and software your MSP will install.
While anti-virus software is a great addition to your cyber security infrastructure, a robust amount of scheduled software installations, such as email filtering and ransomware protection, will help keep your network protected.
5. Proactive System Maintenance and Upgrades
While your hardware and software might be brand new when your MSP first installs them, eventually they will become outdated. Be wary of MSP's that aren't vigilant about automatically updating your software as new versions emerge.
Ensure that your services contract allows for hardware upgrades as well as automatic software updates as they become available. Letting your MSP handle software upgrades also takes the burden of remembering to install these updates off of employees, which saves you time.
Along with automatically updating software and installing new hardware, your managed services provider should also proactively monitor your cyber security infrastructure for security flaws and patch any that arise.
6. Infrastructure Visibility
If you're paying for managed services, you should have the ability to "check under the hood" to see what's going on in your network and what changes have been made.
Your MSP should set up reviews to go over changes made in your network such as hardware installations and software updates as well as go over any recent cyber threats.
If an MSP doesn't allow you access to your data that's in their systems, or refuses to show you what's going on behind the scenes in your network, alarm bells should be ringing in your head. Pick a managed IT services provider that is transparent about your network.
7. No Nickel-and-Diming
Each IT company has their own way of billing customers. Contracts can range anywhere from simply break-fix pricing to a la carte pricing to all-inclusive pricing.
All-inclusive pricing models are the best at simplifying budgeting because bills are set up to be flat and steady rates. Models that are more a la carte can seem cheaper up front, but then hidden costs can be introduced later if you make requests that fall outside your service agreement. These costs can quickly add up.
Full-service pricing also puts the pressure of handling multiple third party IT vendors off of you and on your MSP, saving you time.
8. Industry-Specific MSP Plans
Different industries have varying needs in a managed services provider. While the healthcare industry might need an MSP that's HIPAA-compliant, a business that frequently deals with credit cards may need an MSP that can comply with PCI DSS.
Figure out specific needs that your company may require in an MSP and ensure that they can work with you to meet them. For instance, if you wish to restrict who has access to sensitive information, specify those details with your MSP.
9. Disaster Recovery Planning
4,000 businesses are victims of a cyber attack every day, and this number could keep growing in the future. In the event that your company is the victim of a cyber attack, waiting to make an action plan until an attack happens is too late.
Make sure your managed services provider will help you set up a contingency plan from the start of your contract that includes points such as the chain of command in the event of a cyber attack or network crash.
Additionally, on and off-site data backup is another major point that needs to be addressed in a contingency plan.
While a ransomware attack or network crash can cause minimal data loss if data is backed up, ensuring that data is backed up constantly to systems both on and off-site ensures that network downtime is kept to a minimal, which reduces the costs associated with network downtime.
10. Employee Cyber Security Education Programs
While your MSP can ensure that your company has the newest hardware and software on the market, all it takes is one employee who is un-educated about cyber security threats to slip up and let a hacker into your network. This can happen in an instant and can compromise your entire network.
Thankfully, some MSP's offer cyber security training for employees, including mock phishing tests. These tests send fake phishing emails to employees, and send those who click the email's link to a cyber security training course.
Some MSP's can also work with you to develop a password policy for your company, which ensures that, once employees are trained on how to avoid cyber threats, they don't let hackers into your network through the usage of weak passwords.
11. vCIO Services
A virtual Chief Information Officer is responsible for planning and managing your company's network. They can make recommendations to a business' executive team on which technology policies and updates to implement, and what strategies can be taken to further a company's business goals.
While a vCIO isn't physically present on-site every day, they stay in constant contact with a company and visit them periodically if needed. Having a vCIO built into your MSP contract allows your business to have a top-level IT expert to manage crises and strategize how to make your network fit your business' needs.
RELATED: What is a vCIO? [Complete Resource]
12. Business Growth Planning
Is your business planning on expanding or moving locations? Even if you aren't, imagine the planning that goes into an expansion or move. While you would probably consider factors such as the cost of these situations, you might not consider how to plan for your network to grow or move with you.
When shopping for an MSP, see if they have the ability to help strategize and implement a major business development like a move or growth.
13. Out Clause
Imagine being stuck in a contract with no way out, no matter how bad the service is. This slimy tactic is used time and time again by companies who only care to make a quick buck without considering how these business tactics affect their customers.
When reading over an MSP contract, make sure there's some form of a termination clause that lets you out of your services agreement if the MSP doesn't deliver on what they promised.
If you are a business based in Georgia, consider and MSP like us. We guarantee that we can meet the points listed above and more. Choose a managed services provider that understands the intricacies of your industry and can align technology with your business goals.
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.