The Game-Changing Advantage of Partnering with an MSP for IT Support
You’re constantly under pressure when you run a business. You need to stay agile, competitive, relevant, and take care of your team, all whilst keeping a close eye on your finances and keeping your customers happy. Managing IT is another significant pressure. You have to keep your infrastructure up and running while dealing with ever-increasing data and security challenges. If you don’t have the IT skills in-house, it can slow you and your business down.
Then, as your business grows, you demand more from your technology – and when something goes wrong, you need it fixed immediately. Many business owners are happy to handle their own IT issues when they first start out, or they might enlist a small, local IT support company, but when you’ve got bigger teams working on larger projects, you simply can’t afford or risk the downtime. That’s where a managed service provider (MSP) can relieve the pressure.
Essentially, an MSP takes care of all your IT support and operational needs remotely. Delivering services, such as network, application, infrastructure and security management.
They are proactive about ensuring your IT systems stay up and running, as it’s their job every day, instead of you or your local technical support who may only have the time to get involved when there’s a problem. When you have no, or limited IT support, IT issues can take a long time to fix and lead to dramatic consequences. Even when things are running well, you probably always have that nagging doubt that something might go wrong. A managed service provider takes care of that burden for you.
As well as Managed Service Providers, you can also utilise managed security service providers (MSSPs) who focus specifically on security operations.
In this blog, we’ll tell you the five steps you need to take to find the right MSP for your business – and start reaping the rewards.
Step 1 – Understanding The Benefits of Partnering with an MSP
Outsourcing your IT support to a professional managed service provider delivers several benefits, including:
- Cost Savings – Most MSPs offer a menu of services, so you only pay for what you need through a predictable monthly subscription. Then, once you’re up and running, you should experience savings through reduced downtime and fewer errors.
- Expertise – No more talking to Microsoft, Bing or Google and trying to solve IT problems yourself. Your MSP’s support team consists of trained professionals who do this every day. If there’s a problem, they’ll solve it. Also, MSPs stay ahead of the latest technological developments and trends, so when your business needs change, they can help you adapt.
- Scalability – Your partnership with your MSP can scale with your business if it grows, and even if it doesn’t. If your team reduces in size it’s likely your subscription will reduce as well, so you only pay for what you need.
- Productivity – When you and your team no longer need to worry about IT, you can spend your time doing what you do best, building your business and delighting your customers.
Step 2 – Evaluating Business IT Needs
So, when do you actually need professional IT support in your business? Many business owners only discover the answer to this question when it’s too late.
A good place to start is by evaluating where you are now, identify any gaps and any areas for improvement.
Step 2.1 – Identifying Key IT Challenges
To ascertain whether you need an MSP on board, think about why you need IT support at the moment and where you might need it in the future. Most businesses experience three common IT challenges.
- Cybersecurity – A survey by Deloitte* found that in 2022, 34.5% of organisations had their financial data targeted by cybercriminals. If a sophisticated cyber adversary targeted your system, would your systems protect you? How fast could you recover if the worst happened? What would be the impact to your business of significant downtime?
- Data – Solid data management is paramount, especially in the age of GDPR. If you have any customer data stored in your system, you need managed IT support to ensure you stay on the right side of some highly complex regulations. (Also see the point above).
- Network infrastructure – What would happen if your business went offline, even briefly? It’s possible that your customers could not buy from you, your suppliers couldn’t contact you, and your people would not be able to communicate with each other. Your network infrastructure needs to be solid – and forward thinking.
Step 2.2 – Assessing IT Infrastructure
What is the state of your IT infrastructure right now? Conduct a thorough audit of your existing systems to see where you are and what could be improved. Here’s how to do it:
- Hardware – Compose an inventory of the physical devices in your company. Including PC’s, endpoint devices, servers, and physical equipment that is live and connected to your network.
- Software – Which solutions do you rely on to run your business? Are they all up to date? Do you have any overlap? Are you paying for applications you no longer use or don’t need?
- Services – What services are you signed up to? Workday, Salesforce, M365, Google Apps? Ironically, services people use everyday can get forgotten about when auditing software and cause the most disruption when they have issues.
- Network – Network includes connectivity in the office, but also the local network and wireless. Does this perform well? Is it reliable and secure? Does it have appropriate security which can block viruses and other threats at the firewall?
- Data – How do you safeguard valuable business and customer data? Are you in compliance with relevant regulations? Have you ensured that sensitive data is password protected and only accessible to authorised users? Have you identified which data is considered “Personally Identifiable Information (PII)”? Which data is the most sensitive and needs extra safeguards?
- People – Who is trained on your systems? What would you do if they left? Do you have a process for onboarding new team members onto your network and systems? What about when people leave your business? Do you have a process for both leavers and joiners? Do you know who should have access to what applications and when? Have you considered fundamental good practice and process – eg security awareness training for individuals “the human firewall”? Or a good business process around setting up new payments, and good password security habits ?
- Disaster Recovery Plan – Who do you call when things go wrong? How well (and quickly) do they fix the problem? A disaster recovery plan (DR or DRP) can support you, by providing detailed instructions on how to react and respond to cyber attacks, power outages and other unforeseen events.
Like most businesses, you’ve likely found several areas from the list above where you could benefit from expert guidance and support. This could be a good time to find an MSP to take the burden off your shoulders so you can make the right IT decisions to support your business now and in the future.
Step 3 – Finding the Right MSP
A quick google will reveal that there is no shortage of MSPs to choose from. In the UK alone, there are more than 4,000**. So, how do you know which one is the best partner for your business?
Forbes*** identifies the best MSP as someone who:
- Boosts your bottom line
- Inspires co-innovation
- Meets compliance and regulatory standards
- Delivers amazing customer experiences
But how do you know who can do all that before you try them?
Here is some criteria you can use to judge an MSP:
- Experience – How long have they been in business? The longer, the better
- Client List – Who do they currently work with? Do they service businesses like yours?
- Reputation – Are their customers satisfied with the service they receive?
- Service Offerings – Do they offer the services your business needs, now and in the future?
- Pricing – Will your partnership deliver ROI at the current price point?
- Strategic Planning – Is the MSP forward thinking and offering an idea of how they approach a strategic roadmap? Can they give examples of this from their current customers including times when they have updated systems, processes and technology and how they did it without causing service disruptions?
So, let’s get started.
3.1 Researching Potential MSPs
You can’t feasibly contact and evaluate every managed service provider out there. Create a research plan to draw up a shortlist of potential partners. What’s important to you? Location? 24/7 support? Industry specialisms? Cyber security capabilities?
You could also consult your network to find out what MSPs they use and their experience of working with them. If a colleague you trust is happy to recommend an MSP to you, they’re probably a safe bet.
3.2 Assessing MSP Credentials
You need your MSP to be reliable and trustworthy, as well as being great at IT support. Helpfully, there are ways to assess whether an MSP is as good as they say they are.
Several certifications exist to help you evaluate an MSP’s credibility. They are issued by tech providers as a seal of approval that they are product experts. Certifications must be renewed regularly to stay current, while some certifications focus on specific areas such as IT support. Tech giants like Cisco, Microsoft and AWS all offer certifications to MSPs. Look for the certification that matches your existing infrastructure.
For example, at Doherty Associates, we’re a Microsoft Solutions Partner for Modern Work, Infrastructure Azure, Digital & App Innovation Azure and for Data & AI Azure. Additionally, we’re a Tier 1 Cloud Solution Provider, recognised for our proficiency across the suite of Microsoft technologies. We have already supported over 50,000 users through their transition to the cloud.
Once you’ve found the right MSP for you, it’s time to start working together.
Step 4 – Establishing a Partnership
Forging a partnership with your chosen managed service provider is a mix of the personal and technical. From a personal standpoint it’s important to build a solid relationship where both sides know where they stand, but there’s also a potentially complex technical side.
From the technical side, your MSP needs the same level of access to your system as someone in your in-house IT team would have. As part of their onboarding process, your MSP will ask you for remote access to your IT infrastructure.
4. 1 Defining Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Next, from a business standpoint, you need to know what to expect from your MSP. A service level agreement (SLA) sets this out as a binding contract. Parts of your SLA may include:
- Performance Metrics – Your SLA will say exactly how to measure and monitor your MSP’s services.
- Response Time – When you log an IT support issue with your MSP, how long will it take them to acknowledge it and log it?
- Issue Resolution – How long will it take them to fix the problem?
4.2 Communicating Expectations
Strong communication is at the heart of any great business relationship – and an MSP/customer relationship is no different.
Be open and transparent with your MSP. Tell them about the challenges you face and your goals for the future. Be clear about what you expect from your MSP over and above your service level agreement.
Furthermore, when things change in your business (new people, products or tech), inform your MSP. Schedule regular check-ins where you can talk about how your relationship is working. When you do this, you’ll build a long-term partnership that delivers benefits for years to come.
Choosing the right managed service provider can change the trajectory of your business. We’ve seen it so many times with the clients we work with.
Ready to get started?
The benefits of working with a managed service provider for your IT support are clear. With reduced costs, higher productivity and more time for your team and your business, you’ll see the rewards reflected on your bottom line in no time.
Follow our steps to select the right MSP for long-term success and reap the benefits.
To find out more about Doherty Associates, visit our Services page.
- * – Source: Deloitte Center for Controllership
- ** – Source: Cloudtango
- *** – Source: Forbes, 4 Hallmarks of a Great Managed Service Provider