With over 70% of companies now utilizing a Managed Service Provider in some form, the question is not whether you should. It is what form and in what complement to your current and future structure.

As "bigs" like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google continue to provide more attractive solutions to traditional IT – especially in cloud-based solutions; defining what your structure should be when in comes to IT is evolving literally each day.

So, another Top 10 List? Well, yes and no. I made this one eleven. I’m putting #11 first as I think it (and the Hokey Pokey) are what it’s all about.

11.) Trust It sounds cliché, but the best business partnerships are built on trust. With security assurance and expertise the highest currency in IT services, having a true partner that you trust is paramount. The MSP should have a proven track record of success. Their clients should speak glowingly of them in good times and bad. Their leaders should be embedded in the community and very accessible. You or a member of your leadership team should have a direct connection to them.

While many companies in industries like digital imaging and telephony are migrating into the MSP space out of necessity, their learning curve and commodity-based history should be compared to tried and true technology leaders in IT services. It is not about the sizzle if the steak is gristle.

You should be guaranteed that you’ll only pay for what you need when you need it, sometimes less when you don’t, and never a penny more. Like a great auto repair shop, you should be able to pull in, toss your keys, and have the piece of mind that you are getting the best work done at a fair price.

Many MSPs are rushing to grow via M&As. While that may be a solid internal plan for shareholder equity, there is the pitfall of going from serving filet mignon to ground chuck in quality as they “franchise”. In our area, just look at Culver’s reputation versus McDonald’s.

Choosing a MSP that puts your productivity in equal weight to their profit is a matter of trust. Check references – more than they give you. Ask around at Chamber and networking functions. Pose the question on LinkedIn. Beware of the ones that solicit with a hard sell. A good MSP should be gaining the most business via word of mouth and advising you as an honest broker no matter if you select them or not.

And now, the other 10 (in no particular order):

1.   Delivers Highest Level Compliance & Security None of this really matters if your data is not safe and your network is not secure. MSPs specialize in 24/7 security to keep you safe and up and running.

2.   Improves Workplace Productivity The right equipment, applications, access, and training should boost your team’s performance and should be an expectation if you are partnering with the MSP for ongoing service.

3.   Accessible Expert Advice Having access to experts you trust to answer your questions and give advice in a timely manner is critical. The MSP works for you, not the other way around. They should have a style of listening and educating rather than a busy and dismissive “IT Guy” reputation. A good MSP may not always tell you what you want to hear, but it should be the right advice when you need it after they carefully assess what you are saying.

4.   Handle Remote Office IT R-Managed IT service should be mastered by the MSP. You should feel as if you are talking to someone internally at another one of your locations. It should not be “20 Questions” of your history or take hours for you to get a call back. If you are truly going to profit more from outsourcing, then the service should be swift and efficient.

5.   Tap Into Cloud Solutions MSPs have made a lot of money in the past off of equipment, servers, and maintenance. And while those needs still exist, they have evolved. A good MSP should be on the cutting edge of future possibilities to enhance your outcomes while minimizing your costs. They will sacrifice the old margins on old ways to serve more clients with the best cloud-based solutions.

6.   Keep You Focused On Your Business Getting distracted by complex IT issues is the last thing you need. A good MSP should help you be even more focused on what you do best taking as little of your time and attention as possible. Beware of the “large project” and “need for training” that will enhance their bottom line with ongoing hours billed while lowering yours.

7.   Level or Tilt the Playing Field in You Favor Every business has strengths, weaknesses, and competition. A good MSP should at a minimum be putting you on equal footing with even the largest competitors. And the best will tilt the playing field in your favor with expert consulting on how to better attract, grow, and serve your customers. You should specifically ask this question in the selection process. A good MSP will do an assessment of your current network and efforts and come to you with better solutions.

8.   Reduce Labor Costs Housing a traditional IT staff can be very expensive. And, not just in salary and benefits, but cost time of hiring and training. Outsourcing lets you focus HR where you need it the most.

9.   Predictable Monthly Budget A good MSP should provide a free assessment of your needs and desires, and offer a plan or program for you to properly budget with no surprises. If they do see larger expenditures on the horizon, they should provide you with reasons why and several quarters if not a year to prepare for large expenses.

10. Peace of Mind When you have #11, you should have this. Setting a vision and driving an organization toward it is more than a full-time job. “Managing IT” internally is one of the easiest ways for a leader to get knocked off their horse each day. When this burden is relieved, your costs are reduced, your data is secure, your productivity is increasing, and your network is running smoothly; you should have the peace of mind that comes with making the best choice in selecting the right MSP for your business.



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