Managed service providers provide valuable services and can save your organization time and money, allowing you to focus on more important matters. That said, you probably want to make a good decision. Below are several key factors to consider before making a choice.
Pricing model — How is the service priced? Will you pay a flat rate each month? A retainer plus an hourly price as needed? Hourly pricing is uncertain pricing, and may inherently motivate the provider to take his or her sweet time. In contrast, a fixed fee brings price certainty to the equation. It won’t matter how long it takes the technician to finish the job so long as it is completed to your satisfaction.
Services covered for the cost — It’s important to find out exactly what’s covered by the proposed contract, and what’s not. Make sure to ask for clarification so that there are no surprises.
Areas of expertise — What does the service provider specialize in? Is this a good match for your needs? You might even want to ask what types of clients the company prefers to work with to see if the provider feels you are a good fit for their services. For example, if you run a small business with a handful of computers, will a company that specializes in supporting enterprise organizations be attentive to your needs?
Outsourced services — Find out what, if any, services the service provider would likely outsource to others. Commonly outsourced managed services include monitoring and help desk.
Approach and philosophy — Does the service provider prefer a proactive or reactive approach to information technology? Proactive approaches include emphasizing computer security, monitoring, malware prevention, and preventative maintenance. On the other hand, a service provider with a reactive typically minimizes these services, focusing more heavily on responding after a problem occurs.
Response times — What type of response time does the contract offer? Is this guaranteed? Are there any penalties should the managed services provider fail to respond within a given time period?
Contract length — How long is the contract for? What mechanisms are in place should the service provider fail to deliver as promised? Are there any early termination penalties? Is it possible to start with a shorter contract or a trial of some sort to ensure a good fit before signing up for a longer term?
Insurance — Does the managed services provider have insurance? What type? How much coverage?
What to expect — Ask about the actual process of delivering your services so that you know exactly what to expect. For example, some managed services are likely to be carried out remotely while others will require an onsite visit. Ideally, for remote services, the managed services provider will supply you with detailed reports. For onsite visits, the technician should have a point of contact to interact with before, during, and after the visit.
Each of the above should be given careful consideration before signing up for managed services. Not only will these key considerations help you to find a reliable managed services provider, they will also help you to better understand what you are buying.