If you’ve been working with a Managed IT Service provider (MSP), it’s easy to assume you’re receiving honest advice, and that all necessary steps are being taken to capitalise on the latest opportunities, and ensure your network infrastructure is always built to best-serve your business. After all, they’re the ones with the expert knowledge!
But how do you truly know this is the case? For a multitude of reasons, a business might outgrow its current external information technology partner, and decide it’s time for a change.
We’ve compiled a few examples of major red flags, which should help you decide whether your current MSP is working with your best interests in mind, or whether the relationship is no longer fit-for-purpose.
Reactive vs proactive
Is your current service provider seemingly happy to ‘make do’ with your existing solution? They may be counting on the fact you’re too busy to shop around for a better solution, or your lack of IT expertise (whether or not you have an in-house IT team) making you blissfully unaware they are not doing everything they’re supposed to be doing.
While 24/7 technical support from a team of experts and a commitment to quickly resolving immediate IT headaches is important, your MSP should be doing so much more than this.
A forward-looking roadmap
Any external IT partner worth their fee will advocate for the importance of having a forward-looking technology roadmap. This should consider the immediate, medium and long-term needs of your business, based on your anticipated future goals.
Equally, this roadmap shouldn’t be a case of ‘set and forget’. Instead, it should be regularly reviewed and adapted as both your business and the IT landscape evolves.
Your technology roadmap should always remain a flexible work-in-progress. As such, it is the responsibility of your MSP to make sure they keep an eye out for any weak links within your technology environment, and make regular recommendations for improvements to things like your servers, networks and backups, or your use of cloud computing.
When disaster strikes
Let’s consider a worst-case-scenario. Disaster strikes, and you fall victim to a serious cyber security breach. The hackers cause a debilitating impact across your network, and the lack of effective regular data back-ups makes a speedy disaster recovery incredibly problematic.
If at this stage your provider suggests preventative steps that could have been taken, you can be confident you are not receiving the forward-looking, proactive support service you should automatically expect.
Beyond this, problems (large or small) should never continue to recur. Recurring issues should be identified and the underlying cause dealt with wherever possible. This is usually a win-win for the IT partner and your business, and it is a big red flag if this path is not being pro-actively pursued!
What else to look out for
Other questions you should be asking yourself include whether your external IT partner is coming to you with suggestions for reduced network costs, and new platforms they believe would better serve your team and customers by boosting performance.
How well has your MSP supported you during the pandemic?
There has never been a more appropriate time to re-think your approach to IT than during the past eighteen months. The global pandemic has changed the way we work, potentially forever.
Changes are therefore needed to equip your increasingly dispersed team with convenient, uninterrupted, secure access to all company applications they need to do their jobs, wherever they are, and whatever computer, tablet or mobile device they are using.
At the top of the list of issues your MSP should have discussed with you during this period is security – once considered an afterthought or a ‘nice to have’, any modern MSP will insist on robust security measures as standard.
If this is not the case with your IT partner, there would likely be a pretty concerning gap in your service. They should be acutely aware that network security is a bigger deal now than ever before, and be taking proactive steps to ensure you are protected from new and emerging risks.
Equally, a remote workforce will likely need the support of new types of platforms to enable them to collaborate as effectively as a team as if they were all working from the same location.
Microsoft 365 is one great example of a platform that has provided an invaluable lifeline to businesses in recent times, by supporting mobility and collaboration through secure access to business information from any device or location. Extra features including live document editing, virtual meetings and instant messaging have also played an important role in enabling business continuity.
Has your MSP approached you with suggestions of the most appropriate platforms for you during this time? With their deep understanding of your unique business requirements, and the very latest innovations in the IT space, this should have been one of their major priorities since COVID-19 disrupted the way we do business.
If none of the above has happened, or you’ve had to chase your partner for a solution, you should take it as a sign that your current service may well be broken.
A healthy, trusting, long-lasting relationship
Just starting out?
If you’ve recently engaged a new MSP (or are outsourcing your IT needs for the first time) your new external expert should be asking you a lot of questions.
You can spot an effective IT partner by their enthusiasm for developing a thorough understanding of the nature of your business, current network infrastructure, organisational culture, needs, future goals, and areas where your set-up is letting you down.
It is only when armed with a comprehensive understanding of who you are, what you do, and what you need, that your IT partner can make the most effective recommendations for solutions that will drive the success of your business, today and into the future.
If the above does not seem to be happening, particularly at such a crucial stage in the relationship-building process, you should probably question whether this is the right partner for you.
Already in a long-term relationship with your MSP?
At the other extreme, you may have been with your current MSP for a long time, but circumstances may have led to a loss of confidence or trust.
Perhaps they have dropped the ball and failed to protect your business from a preventable threat.
Or perhaps they appear to have lost enthusiasm, and are not discussing recommendations for upgrades with you as regularly as they used to.
This is concerning, as by this stage, they should essentially have become a valued extension of your team. In our opinion, the longer the relationship with your MSP, the more it should be demonstrating its commitment to offering recommendations for technology improvements. And not forgetting exemplary levels of customer service, including following up for feedback, actively chasing updates, and always remaining available whenever you need them.
Going above and beyond
Even if you approach your MSP with an issue or question outside of their usual scope, they should pull out all the stops to recommend the appropriate expert or solution from their trusted network of contacts.
Trust is everything
And then there’s the trust factor. You should always feel you are being given impartial, dependable advice. For instance, it would be easy for an MSP to take advantage of their superior IT knowledge and convince you to invest in expensive solutions you don’t really need, simply for financial gain or due to laziness on their part to identify the right solution.
If you don’t feel 100% confident you are being recommended solutions that completely align with your needs – or worse, that add no value at all – you need to ask yourself whether this is the right partner for you.
The best partnerships between a business and their MSP are long-lasting, developed over the long-term, and built on trust.
Whatever stage you’re at in the relationship, you should be able to expect excellent levels of customer service from a dedicated team, remote support whenever you need it, a familiarity with your business and infrastructure that makes service desk troubleshooting easy, and ultimate confidence of their genuine investment in playing a vital role in your future success.
If any of the above has set alarm bells ringing and made you consider revisiting your approach to the IT needs of your business, Lanter Technologies is always happy to talk. We can answer any questions, advise on any concerns, and let you know exactly what you should be able to expect from your MSP.
This will arm you with the knowledge needed to either fix the issues with your existing partner, or select a new provider that can better cater to your requirements.