Managed service providers (MSPs) offer IT support for small and medium-sized businesses, usually on a subscription model. Generally, this is done remotely rather than on site, which helps keep prices down. The advantage of an MSP subscription is that you typically pay a flat rate to cover your IT support needs. Different firms offer different support packages and specialize in diverse aspects of IT, so some research is necessary before choosing a managed services provider who will best meet your needs.

Assess Your Requirements

How much do you currently spend on IT? Where do your priority needs lie? Do you need support for office equipment only or for mobile devices off-site as well? How many users are there in your organization? Do you rely heavily on cloud computing? Are your IT requirements sector-specific? These are all factors that will be relevant when choosing a managed services provider.

Price Plans, Service Level Agreements and Contracts

Cost is usually a key consideration for any organization. Companies may charge for IT support per device, per user or both, with varying cost implications. The most cost-effective option will depend on the specific ways your business operates. You may also have the option of different levels of support (the service level agreement), ranging from basic to premium.

There are clear advantages to an inclusive, flat rate, typically paid monthly. This is usually cheaper than bringing in IT specialists as and when you need help. Charges per transaction or paying an hourly rate can become expensive, especially if a problem turns out to be complicated and time-consuming to resolve.

Make sure the contract clearly spells out what’s included and what’s not. It’s useful to ask which, if any, services the provider contracts out to other firms. Check out contract length options and exit charges, if applicable.

Specialist Expertise

If your computer needs are focused in a particular area then there are managed service providers who offer specialist help. Options include managed security services and support for printing and allied peripherals, while some MSPs have special expertise in data storage or even in business continuity. Some companies are geared towards servicing particular sectors, such as finance, manufacturing and healthcare provision.

Additional Considerations

There’s almost nothing more disruptive to a business than computer downtime and a fast response time is often vital when you need help. A good managed services provider should at least indicate what these are, preferably with some kind of guarantee, and even a penalty scheme if they fail to deliver.

You might also want to ask about the provider’s approach: reactive or proactive? Proactive approaches emphasize prevention and forward-looking maintenance. Reactive approaches focus more on resolving issues as and when they arise.

A lot of the work needed to maintain your IT systems can be done remotely – but not all. There may be times when a site visit is needed to sort out problems (with hardware, rather than software, for example). Will this incur extra charges?

Another thing to think about is your computing model. Cloud computing presents certain challenges for management providers, although some get around this by offering their own cloud facilities.

Choosing a management services provider involves weighing up a number of factors but it can be a useful solution for boosting business efficiency and saving time and money. To schedule a free network consultation, call us at (973) 882-4644.

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