How to maximize the benefits of an IT managed services provider

IT-managed services are attractive to many businesses today, but it's important to make full use of the deal to get the most out of your Managed Service Provider (MSP). This arrangement can range from an MSP taking full operational control of your IT operations to increase the existing IT staff who focuses on specialized software and systems. An IT manager or CIO can also manage the MSP as if these contract employees were "staff".

"For a number of reasons, such as efficiency and profitability, more companies, especially those of medium size, want to transfer at least some, or all, of their IT operations to a third-party vendor," explains Paul Tuttle, Senior Technology Consultant at Warwick Communications Inc. Smart Business spoke with Tuttle about the benefits of managed IT services and tips to get the most out of this relationship.

What are the benefits of managed services?

There is a revolving door when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified IT professionals. There is a lot of turnover in the industry, and most business leaders do not have the expertise to evaluate hires and make sure they get a quality employee. Once you have brought this person, it can be difficult to support the training and continuing education required to stay at the top of the IT industry.

An MSP not only has the resources and the ability to find the right people and keep them abreast of industry trends, but it also has an integrated bench capability ready to be plugged in as needed. You do not have to worry about what happens when your computer scientist goes on vacation, has a sick day or finds a better paying job.

An external provider deals with dozens of customers. It is exposed to best practices across industries and the latest techniques that can help you make decisions about how you use technology. With the help of an expert in software, hardware, and configurations, the pain points can be resolved quickly.

Security is another problem. So many business operations are computer-related that if a relationship deteriorates, what prevents a person from doing damage or blocking things when they leave? And there is a risk even if the relationship is not bad, because your organization depends on one or a few people. With an IT Managed Service Provider, you spread the risk and protect your business from being at the mercy of one person.


How would you recommend an organization to get the most out of its MSP?

Take full advantages of outsourcing IT benefits that were discussed when your partnership with the MSP began. Follow up to ensure that the services and value additions that were to be delivered were actually implemented by your organization. MSPs often have the ability to serve as a virtual CIO - not just to repair equipment, but to move your business to another level. Are you engaged in a dialogue to address the bigger picture?

Make sure to meet regularly with your MSP partner - monthly or quarterly - to review the overall status of your IT operations and issues that occurred during the previous period, the number of tickets received, the time of resolution etc. The value of your MSP should not only be providing services but also reporting on that service and working with you to improve the maturity and functionality of your network.

You will also want to take seriously what the MSP provides in terms of strategic advice, including helping you plan future IT projects and upgrades. Most MSPs proactively evaluate your network, your systems, your workstations, etc., to present a case on obsolete workstations or a service desk trend issue, with a solution, which would cost to implement and efficiencies.

Take the time to work with your MSP provider on a clear backup and disaster recovery strategy, including a step-by-step plan for specific assignments. Then, make sure that the MSP is testing the backup process and performing an example restore.

You need to invest time and resources in the relationship with your MSP to make sure it does not just turn off the fires. And do not wait 60 to 90 days before the MSP contract is renewed to commit. Participate actively in the partnership.

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