No matter what your technology needs are, there’s a managed IT services provider who can help simplify the process.
Instead of going to the expense of recruiting, hiring and training new IT staff, you can partner with a managed IT services provider (MSP) and reap the rewards of their expertise. You’ll have a dedicated third-party expert who can provide you with 24/7 security, support and hardware monitoring and help you strategize your next steps. All of this for a contractually stable monthly fee you agree to when signing your IT services agreement.
What To Expect with an IT Services Agreement
In a nutshell, an IT services agreement is a mutually agreed upon contract that lets both the client and the IT services provider know what each expects and owes to the other. As with any contract, it’s advisable to have your lawyer review it before signing, but if you choose not to, read it carefully to make sure no t’s have been left uncrossed and no i’s undotted.
Inclusions and Responsibilities
Also known as a service level agreement or SLA, the IT services agreement will include crucial details such as which parts of your infrastructure are supported as well as any exclusions. It will also outline what both parties are responsible for.
For example, your responsibilities can include providing an environment in which all servers and PCs are running on current operating systems and are protected by updated antivirus software at the time of signing the agreement. In return, the MSP will support the specified hardware and systems, provide ongoing monitoring and security, and should any viruses be detected, attempt to remove and recover affected data.
Response and Resolution Process
You should expect the SLA to cover the procedure to be followed when you call in to report a problem. It should include details such as how much time you can expect to lapse between your call, the time a help ticket is created, and the dispatch of a technician. It should also detail which issues will be covered by a remote help desk call and which will warrant an onsite visit. Response times should be listed to distinguish between what is considered regular operating hours and what constitutes an emergency response.
Other Commonly Listed Details
- Limitations of liability
- Confidentiality agreements
- Fee schedules
- Warranty information
- Minimum standards
- Renewal/termination procedures
Get Started by Vetting Your Next MSP
You wouldn’t buy the first house a real estate agent shows you, would you? Well, you should also give equal time to exploring the terrain when it comes to selecting a managed service provider. After all, you will be entrusting them with the infrastructure that keeps your company running.
Get a Clear Idea of What You’re Looking For
Back to the home-buying process for a second. You have to know what type of home you’re looking for. How many rooms? House or condo? And so on. It’s the same when it comes to searching for the best MSP for your business.
You can’t determine whether they have the expertise to monitor a business like yours if you don’t have a clear idea of what your business needs. So first, take stock of all your current equipment and devices. Decide which are out of date and need replacing or at least updating. Can any be scrapped in favor of software as a service or migrated to the cloud?
And don’t shoulder the burden alone. If you have a small in-house tech team or an employee who serves as your go-to tech person, ask them for their ideas.
The next step is also a preliminary one. Since there are many IT services providers in your area, winnow them down to the ones that will provide what you know you need. Perhaps you can ask fellow business owners or entrepreneurs who run businesses in your sector for recommendations.
Now it’s time to arrange a meeting with those who seem the most likely candidates.
Time to Interview
Prepare a list of questions to ask potential MSP candidates just as you would with anyone you’re interviewing for a job. Because when you get down to it, that’s what vetting an MSP is – a job interview. Questions might include.
How Much Experience Do You Have In Serving My Sector?
Unless an MSP understands your industry, they can’t adequately serve and anticipate the needs of your business.
What Type of Monitoring Do You Provide?
You want an MSP who can be proactive and spot problems as they arise or, better yet, when they are still a possibility as periodic onsite inspections only go so far. You want someone who can provide remote monitoring. If an MSP doesn’t, cross it off your list.
What Happens If You Can’t Fix It?
You want to make sure a provider will make good on failures. In other words, you want to hold them accountable should they fail to meet the level of performance you expect and that they promise. Therefore, make sure the SLA spells out the terms of provider accountability and liability.
Is Providing IT Services the Sole Focus of Your Business?
If the answer is no, cross them off. You want a provider who will focus on the type of problems most likely to arise in any given day rather than jumping from this to that.
How Many Companies in My Industry Do You Serve?
Suppose an MSP technician serves companies in your industry. In that case, they will be familiar with the kind of infrastructure and software you have and better understand the problems most likely to arise and how to approach them. For this same reason, you want to make sure the MSP never resorts to outsourcing and only sends its technicians.
Hopefully, your first round of interviews will yield the right MSP. But if not, try and try again. There’s an optimal MSP for every business; it just takes asking the right questions.
So whether you have a dedicated IT staff or rely on a go-to tech-savvy guy or gal, things will only get better if you entrust your IT needs to a capable and proven managed IT services provider. If you’d like to learn more about how On Demand can help your Houston business, contact us today to speak with one of our sales specialists.