You know that queasy feeling when it comes to making decisions? Add Cloud to the mix and it can immobilize you.
This guide can dissolve that anxiety and make it easier for you to choose the best managed service provider for your needs.
But first, you need to know your business goals. Maybe you want to:
- Reduce costs, so you’ll need to plan for growth and scale
- Retain and increase customers, so you’ll need to plan for high availability
- Increase revenues, so you’ll need to plan how to leverage the data you own
- Retain happy employees, so you’ll need to plan for anytime, anywhere work functionality
- Secure all your data and comply with various regulations, so you’ll need to plan for a service provider that has expertise in those areas
Whatever your goals are, it’s essential to find the best managed service provider to meet them.
But where should you start? In North America alone there are enough managed service providers that CRN has produced a list of the top 500.
Can’t I Just Choose #1 on a Top-10 List?
You could, but every enterprise is different and has its own set of goals. Just as every business’ path to the Cloud is different!
Lists like “Top 10 MSPs” and “Top 5 IaaS Providers” pop up every day. But they are of minimal value beyond being a starting point to your own research and comparison process. You need to do your own legwork and ensure that the provider you end up with understands your business and your goals.
Not all managed service providers are equal. They each have different strengths when it comes to reliability, scalability, connectivity, security, support, and cost. And all the different pricing structures and add-ons make it really hard to conduct a direct comparison.
So think again about your goals. If you need some suggestions, here are the top 10 reasons businesses partner with an MSP, according to a report from CompTIA:
- Improve security
- Proactive approach to IT problems
- Better uptime
- Gain access to newer technologies
- Cost savings over in-house IT
- Peace of mind
- Free internal staff for strategic work
- Tap into Cloud solutions
- Lack of internal IT
- Handle remote office IT
Questions to Ask to Help Find the Best Managed Service Provider for You
Again, what matters to you will be how well the MSP’s offerings fit your goals. So, maybe some of the questions below won’t be that applicable to you.
- How long have you been offering managed services?
- What is your core expertise?
- Do you have customers in my line of business?
- Can I contact current customers?
- Who will handle my account and will that change?
- What industry certifications does your staff have?
- How do you stay up-to-date on new tech and trends?
- How is support provided (phone, IMs, email, etc.)?
- Do you have a user forum or other self-service resources?
- Is support available 24/7/365?
- How are issues escalated?
- Is your support staff based in the US (or wherever you want them to be located to minimize language issues)?
- Are on-site hours included in the basic contract?
MSP’s Data Protection and Compliance
- How do you protect our data?
- What do you do proactively to guard against data breaches?
- How familiar are you with the regulatory issues that face my industry?
- How do you handle audit trails?
- Do I still own the data even if it’s hosted at your facility?
- Have you or a customer of yours been hacked?
MSP’s Service Offerings
- Can I add and delete services as needed?
- What sets you apart from your competitors?
- What’s your uptime guarantee and what recourse do I have if you fail that?
- When and how long was your last sustained cloud-wide outage?
- What metrics do you use to evaluate speed, performance, and reliability?
- Do you offer tiers of services (like good, better, and best)?
- Can you diagnose — and fix — problems remotely, with no customer intervention?
- Will my can’t-do-without-software work in the Cloud?
MSP’s Costs and Contracts
- How do you know what my needs will be?
- Can we negotiate on any of the SLA terms?
- What is your fee structure and are there any hidden or unexpected costs?
- What if I want out of my contract?
- Can I pay monthly or is it an annual fee?
- What can I expect to be the cost benefits?
What If You Choose the Wrong Managed Service Provider?
What is the worst that can happen? Let’s look at some worst-case scenarios, so we can dispel the myths and plan an escape route…just in case!
Spoiler alert … the worst-case MSP scenario isn’t actually that bad. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to be better than the worst-case scenarios businesses are already facing with on-premises IT.
3 Potential Cloud Nightmares, and How to Avoid Them
1. You picked the wrong delivery model
The Nightmare: You finally decided on a managed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider that you’re pretty excited about. You make the transition and are ready to get back to business, when you discover you can’t run the complex CRM solution your team heavily relies on. Oops. You should have picked a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider.
Avoid this by finding a provider that doesn’t lock you into contracts. Do some preliminary cloud benchmarking. This will help you pick the provider that has the best services for your needs
2. You get locked into a costly SLA
The Nightmare: You signed a service level agreement (SLA) with a managed service provider. Now you’re a month in and nothing is going well. Performance is unreliable, you can’t reach the support desk after it closes at 5 p.m., and no one will give you a clear answer as to where your data resides. So you try to cancel your service but find you can’t afford to.
Avoid this by amending that evil SLA in your favor. You can:
- Amend termination clauses
- Include exit clauses
- Add breach of trust clauses
- Add addendums to contracts
- Negotiate your way out of a multi-year contract
You may face penalties or a notice period, but once you start your new service with a better provider it will all seem like a bad dream.
In the future, find a provider that doesn’t lock you into contracts. And any agreements you do sign should include uptime and performance guarantees (99.99999% uptime).
3. Your provider goes out of business
The Nightmare: Your managed service provider goes south, and all its customers need to get their data out of there — fast. You scramble to transfer your data back on-premises, or to another MSP, and the original provider offers no help. And that core enterprise app you were running in the Cloud? Yeah, you forgot to set up a live copy somewhere else.
Avoid this by migrating data out of a Cloud by following a certain procedure. Data caching, deduplication, and WAN optimization tools can help you reduce the total amount of data you’re transferring, so it’s easier. You can also get a different Cloud provider to help. Then move your data to a new, stable location. Don’t forget to ask for automatic backups to a second site.
Best Decisions Are Sound Ones
There are plenty of things you can do to make a sound decision when it comes to your enterprise cloud migration, such as:
- Check out cloud benchmarking reports to get an accurate view of different managed service providers’ performance and security track records.
- Research, read reviews, and call up the prospective provider directly to see how they handle your questions (assuming they answer your call or get back to you quickly).
Now is not the time to stress about making the “perfect” choice. A “sound” one is enough! But it is the time to understand your business needs. And to set a target for growth. Then you can choose the Cloud model and services that help you get there.
These are first steps. Six months or later down the road you can change gears. Over time, you’ll achieve an optimal mix of services that hit the performance, security, and savings sweet spot.
It Only Gets Better from Here
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the number of managed service providers to choose from, think of it like this: All this choice puts you in a position of power.
When choosing a managed service provider, use your power to get the full range of services and support you need. The best managed service provider will give you just that. They’ll help you increase conversions through channels that make the most sense for your product. Then you’ll be on the road to meet your goals.
Here’s the bonus! The best managed service provider will help you reduce your IT overhead and downtime — substantially.
So there you have it. Your road map to zoom through the choices and choose the best managed service provider for your organization.