Able-One Blog

Evaluating Managed Services Providers: 9 Questions to Ask

questions-to-askKeeping up with the pace of change and growing your small or medium-sized business can be a big challenge in 2015.

There are many things to worry about including finding new customers, hiring the right people, financing your business, and ensuring that your technology and infrastructure can support your business. Increasingly, SMB’s are looking for managed services providers to support their organizations’ IT needs while they focus on their core business. 

The challenge then becomes selecting the right partner to help support and manage your environment. Working with a managed services provider can help your business save money while giving you access to expert specialized capabilities that you may not have been able to leverage with an in-house team.

This post will outline some of the factors to consider when you’re thinking of using a managed services provider.

1. Do they have experience with your environment?

Your partner should have experience with the technology that you are utilizing. Furthermore, they should understand your industry and business, and how the utilization of technology affects its many stakeholders.

2. Who are their key partners? 

If the provider supports certain types of hardware and software, do they have established vendor relationships? For example, if your key technology vendor is IBM, are they an IBM Premier Partner? The more formalized the partnership, the more likely the provider is proactive with training and skilled in supporting the solutions.

3. What processes and tools do they leverage?

An experienced managed services provider will detect problems before they become apparent to your users or customers.  The processes and tools they use to support your environment are essential. Take the time to understand how they will proactively support your organization.

4. Are they large enough to scale?

Your provider should have a large enough team to maintain consistent operations and service levels despite employee vacations and unexpected time off, as well as have the ability to meet resource requirements for large projects. Smaller providers may not be able to meet all of their SLA commitments with their current team.

5. How long have they been in business?

It is fairly easy to set-up a managed services business, but it is difficult to be successful at it for a number of years. Look for experience and references in your provider.

6. Can you talk to the support team?

Talk to the support team, not just the sales people, when you’re evaluating providers. Ensure that you can comfortably communicate and work with the engineers that will be supporting your users and managing your environment. This will help validate their capabilities and experience.  If the provider does not want you to speak with the technical team, that could be a red flag.

7. What are their SLAs? 

Do their service level commitments exceed the requirements to support your business? It is essential that the SLAs align with your business operations and that the effects of unplanned downtime on the business are thoroughly understood.

8. Is their pricing competitive?

You don’t want to choose the least expensive managed services provider if it means that they may not meet the SLAs you require to effectively run your business. It also does not make sense to select a vendor that has included a level of service and SLA’s in their proposal and pricing that far exceed your business needs.

9. What if you need strategic help? 

Many organizations cannot justify hiring a full time CIO. It is one thing to manage an existing environment, but how do you evaluate and implement strategic IT investments that position your business for future growth and cost savings? You may want to ask if your provider has Virtual CIO capabilities to assist in designing and executing the strategy when needed.

 If the right managed services provider is selected, the cost savings and operational benefits can be significant.

Going into our 27th year of business, Able-One has been providing managed services for nearly a decade. If you would like additional information, please contact me directly at grant.sojnocki@ableone.com or at 800-461-2253 ext. 7330.

 

Topics: Managed Services

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