Managed IT Services

How to Align Your IT Ducks Before Choosing Your MSP

Post by
Net Friends
How to align your IT ducks before choosing your MSP thumbnail with techs at server

Are you ready to have someone else worry about your IT infrastructure? An IT partner can free you to focus on what you do best – running your business. But before you jump into the search for the perfect Managed Service Provider (MSP), there are some key steps you can take to prepare yourself and your team for a successful partnership. Because if we are honest, the wrong partnership is a headache too.

How to Prepare for IT Support

Are your IT ducks in a row infographic
Are Your IT Ducks in a Row?

1. Assess Your Technology Needs

The first step is understanding your current IT setup. Take inventory of your technology. As you interview potential MSPs, they will want to learn about your IT environment so they can determine how to best support you. While you do not need all the answers prior to starting the process, gather as much of this information ahead of time as possible:

  • How many employees do you have?  
  • What devices do your team members use – desktops, laptops, tablets?
  • What are the makes and models of your typical workstations (e.g., Lenovo ThinkPad)?
  • What software does your team use regularly? Categorize each program by importance – critical, non-critical, optional.  
  • Do you utilize any specialized software that is common in your industry?
  • Where is your data stored – on local machines, in the cloud, etc.? Try to estimate the total amount of stored data if possible.
  • If you have an office, how many wireless access points are there?
  • Do you have industry regulations or compliance concerns?

Also consider what role you envision the MSP playing in your business. What are your biggest IT frustrations, and where do you need the most support? As you speak with various MSP candidates, your needs will become clearer. But it is helpful to start with an understanding of your IT priorities.

2. IT Budget Considerations

MSP pricing range depends on factors like company size and service offerings. Before you start your search, have an idea of what you can realistically afford to spend.

Just like you would not bother test driving a luxury sports car if your budget is modest, do not waste time evaluating MSPs that are out of your price range. While cost is critical, keep in mind that the right MSP can save you money overall by preventing issues like downtime, data breaches, and inefficiencies. Consider the potential expenses – lost productivity, security incidents, data loss, etc. – if your IT needs go unaddressed. Weigh these risks against the cost of partnering with an MSP.

3. Planning for a Smooth Transition

Consider when you would like your new MSP to take over support responsibilities. We typically recommend a 90-day period from initiating the search to receiving your first day of service from the new MSP.

If you have an existing MSP, identify your contract end date and the required notice period for termination. Ideally, there should be a 30-day overlap between the beginning of services with your new MSP and the conclusion of services with your old MSP to ensure a seamless transition.

4. Setting Service Level Expectations

Before starting your search, clearly define expectations around areas like:

  • Responsiveness: Do you require 24/7 support or is 8x5 sufficient? Factor in your typical business hours and any unique off-hour needs. For example, if your team works evenings/weekends, extended MSP availability may be essential.
  • Onsite vs. Remote Support: Consider whether issues typically require in-person troubleshooting or if remote assistance is adequate. Many problems can be managed remotely.
  • Cybersecurity: Do you have significant security concerns related to sensitive data, compliance considerations, etc.?
  • Regulatory Requirements: Are there specific regulations or mandates relevant to your industry that an MSP would need to accommodate?  

Keep in mind that with an MSP you are supported by a team, not just a single IT person. This often allows for faster response times and consistent coverage.

5. Reflect on Past Challenges

Take some time to recall recent IT problems – how long they took to resolve, the business impact, etc. If you have worked with an IT provider previously, reflect on what worked well and what could have been better. These insights will help you choose an MSP well-aligned to your needs and preferences.

6. Anticipate Future Needs

Consider your goals for the future and how they might influence IT requirements down the road. Are you planning to expand in a way that would impact technology needs? Do you hope to maintain the status quo or implement new systems? Ensure prospective MSPs understand your objectives and are prepared to evolve along with your business.

7. Achieve Consensus

Before selecting an MSP, ensure key stakeholders are on the same page. Discuss any concerns transparently and define key performance indicators (KPIs) so all parties share expectations around success metrics.

Reflection Question: Are you ready to partner with an MSP graphic header
Are you ready to partner with an MSP?

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

A thoughtful and detailed preparation process allows you to seek out an MSP that fully aligns with the unique needs and priorities of your business. With all your ducks in a row leading up to selecting an MSP, you can confidently let go of technical burdens and free yourself up for accelerated business growth and maximum productivity. The time invested upfront to carefully evaluate and address your specific requirements ensures an effective and lasting MSP partnership that fully equips you for the future.

If you are ready to start talking to an MSP, Net Friends would be thrilled to be included on your list. Our team has over 25 years of experience securely managing the IT needs of small businesses, and we are excited to tailor an approach specifically for your unique requirements.

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