MSP Problems: How To Tell If Your Provider Isn't Right For You

Many businesses have already discovered the benefits of working with a Managed Service Provider (MSP); those being fully-managed network health and security, infrastructure maintenance, access to insider knowledge via a vCIO, user training, specialized Helpdesk support, and much more.

But how do you know that your MSP (also referred to as a Managed IT Service, or MITS for short) is a good fit for your company’s needs?

There is a very simple litmus test:

If you were asked a technical question, would you be confident in how to go about finding the answer to it?

Communication is the key to any successful relationship, whether personal or professional. While we could talk about (and we will, below) the services expected from a good MSP partnership, the most important aspect of that partnership is how comfortable you are with the state of communication between your business and your MSP.

If you have a question about your business’ network, would you be confident in your ability to communicate the question to your MSP? Would you know how to articulate the question? Would you know when to ask the question?

A MSP may manage your business’ IT needs, but that doesn’t mean it should leave you in the dark.

EDUCATION AS A SERVICE

The hallmark of a good MSP is one that educates your business about its current environment, the predictions of that environment, the risks to that environment, and how to use the environment to its full potential.

MSPs should offer hands-on training, give the option for help desk support, and provide quarterly business reviews with their vCIO.

A vCIO is the perfect indicator of a good MSP — a vCIOs primary role is to educate your business about the technology available to you, how they think your business’ operations could be improved via the integration of that technology, and what your business can expect in the future.

While most quarterly business reviews will include numbers on units sold and market share, a review with your vCIO will give you indications about the health of your business’ network. During these meetings you should receive updates about the condition of your hardware, if your backups are running properly and have been tested recently, if there were any attempts to break into your network, and if there are any options available to increase security, or decrease cost by getting rid of unneeded applications.

In short, when your manager asks you “are the backups secure?”, you should be able to answer that confidently.

SOLUTIONS AS A SERVICE

A good MSP won’t just provide you with a solution — they’ll manage that solution. While this means that your business won’t have to worry about managing firewalls and antivirus software, it also means that your MSP should be analyzing the workflows that are paired with your various solutions.

Simply put, if your MSP is providing your business with a software solution like Microsoft Office365, are they analyzing how that software interacts with other applications in your network? Are they paying attention to how documents are managed, and the processes that happen on the network?

A MSP should always be on the lookout for ways to increase the efficiency of your network, and by extension, your business practices in general. If the help desk provided by your MSP is noticing many employees are having trouble with a particular application, or even step in the process of using that application, they should analyze the situation in order to determine if there is a problem with the implementation of the application, or if re-training needs to be done.

Just as many digital services are able to find patterns (and act upon those patterns) from collected customer data, a MSP has a treasure trove of employee and operational data available to them — a good MSP will use this to their advantage, and identify patterns in order to increase efficiency and productivity.

TRUST IS A MUST

Speaking of treasure troves of data, make no mistake — a partnership with a MSP should never be taken lightly. They are handling the intricacies of your business’ data and network, and are responsible for the security of not just your business, but your employees, and your clients and customers.

If your business is hacked, for instance, it’s not just the data breach you’ll have to worry about — your brand reputation will also be damaged, requiring you to spend significant time and energy repairing relationships with clients.

If you have doubts about your MSPs ability to protect your business’ network, start asking them questions — they might be on top of the health of your network, but not on top of communication. If communication doesn’t get better, however, it may be time for a new MSP.

Jeff Blount
Jeff Blount is a vCIO for Cobb Technologies with over 14 years of experience in the tech industry, and before Cobb, worked in AEC and eCommerce. With Cobb since 2011, Jeff helps our Managed IT partners manage and grow their digital systems. When not finding solutions for SMB and enterprise level businesses, Jeff can be found out on the soccer field with his family.