Cyber attacks are increasing within organizations all over the world and you've finally decided to take the plunge and get the necessary protection a managed IT services provider can offer. You set out to a search engine and type "managed IT services near me" only to discover that there is an impossibly high volume of choices to consider.
IT firms have saturated the market. Everything from the guy with a pony-tail in his mom's basement, to large firms with thousands of employees and locations. With so many options, though, how do you begin to make the right choice for your business?
Many times, business owners rely on the testimony of a friend or simply select the largest or oldest managed services provider near them. If they are big or have been around for a while, they must be good, right?
I have two words to disprove that theory: cable companies.
Maybe your experience is better, but if there is one thing I have learned, it is that larger and older companies are not synonymous with quality service. Your company's network security can't be left to chance by a business only interested in its bottom-line.
This article will discuss what to look for in a managed IT services provider near you, as well as the differences between different MSP models. Selecting one for your business will be based on the specific needs of your organization.
Note: We made a list of the top managed IT providers in the Atlanta area (no we didn't put ourselves on the list). Feel free to take a look to help you get started!
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How to Choose an MSP Near You
Below is a list of factors to consider when choosing your managed services provider. Some of these factors may contradict the previous sections, but it's important to remember that no single factor should be isolated as more valuable than another in your decision.
Years in Business
No, a company that has been around a long time is not always an indication of quality service. But a company that is only a couple of years old hasn't be around long enough to be placed out of business for poor service.
So, in a way it can be a great starting place.
For instance our company, Standard Office Systems, has been in the office technology industry for over 50 years and the IT industry for over 10 years. We can attest first-hand that there is a significant amount that is learned in the first three years, and then the remaining time is perfecting what you learned while staying current on new trends and network threats.
If an IT company has at least five years of experience, they are most likely seasoned enough to be able to handle most of the challenges associated with your network and keeping your company protected.
Years of Collective Experience
This is the big differentiator between larger and smaller IT firms. And it's an important one.
If you have one IT professional at one firm, and then take the same skillset and multiply it by 10 for another firm, which IT company has the better experience to assist your organization?
The firm with the same person cloned 10 more times, of course.
Obviously, every IT professional is not the same. A smaller company may be filled with rock stars, where as a larger company may outsource a significant portion of their support staff to a firm outside the country (which does happen). In that instance, the smaller firm may be the better option.
There isn't a way to know 100% the level of experience each company has, but you can get a good sense if you ask about the backgrounds of the people who will be working with your business. Specifically, asking if all of their technicians are local and/or work for the IT firm, directly.
Google reviews or reviews through independent, verified online sources like Clutch are great ways to get a sense of an IT firms level of service. Be warry of negative reviews from singular customers or reviews that just leave a rating with little to no detail.
Most companies will have a myriad of testimonials from clients (I know our company does) and they will be overwhelmingly positive. This is by design, and although there is still merit in seeing what positives are said by clients (particularly ones in your market), independent review sources, like Google, often provide more candid responses.
Several variations of IT services exist, but most fit within three different models: hourly/break-fix, a la carte, and all-inclusive. There are advantages and disadvantages to all three.
This is great for when your personal computer is on the fritz and you need someone who is a little more tech savvy to help you. Best Buy's Geek Squad offers similar services to most break-fix IT service companies.
This is not a great option for businesses wishing to have a predictable monthly total or who have a handful of network users.
These services will likely not offer any kind of monthly cyber security support, and are typically only leveraged when something goes wrong.
A la Carte
A la carte models can come in a variety of set-ups. Some IT companies charge per product or service being used or give a set amount of support hours that your company can purchase in advance.
This can be a cost-effective way to do day-to-day IT support, but does pose a challenge when larger issues occur, as rates for support over your allotted monthly are often at a premium.
This is the most expensive option because it includes everything your company would need for proper IT support.
The advantage to this model is that your company is covered, not only for day-to-day activities, but also in the event of a disaster. This makes it much simpler to budget around because you know your costs are fixed, regardless of how much support is needed in a given month.
The final factor critical to choosing your managed IT services provider is also the one you likely already understand. If you are looking up "managed IT services companies near me," then you likely already appreciate the benefits of having a company nearby.
That doesn't mean a larger IT company can't provide quality service to your organization, as many have local branches in your area. It just means that you need to do your homework on each organization.
Be sure to ask questions about their in-house support. Do they outsource any of their helpdesk or other IT services to third party companies.
This is important, because IT service providers who do this are sending your data to separate organizations, not directly managed by them. This means your data can potentially become less secure.
Additionally, many overseas helpdesk providers experience a great deal of turnover, making an unsatisfactory experience more likely.
The Take Away
The IT services provider that manages your network security is one of the most important third party relationships you will have, and getting it right the first time is critical.
Make sure that you ask plenty of service related questions when speaking to a potential managed services provider. When a Sales rep states, “we have the best service in town,” be sure to ask them how they keep track of this.
Don’t be satisfied with “Industry Standard”. There are companies out there that are constantly raising the bar and redefining great service. Just because an MSP is cheaper and bigger, doesn't always mean it's better.
Last, do your research on the company. In many cases, the largest may not be the best option available. Time-in-business matters. The longer the company has been around, the more likely they will be able to provide great service and not be sold to a competitor.
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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.