The cybersecurity risks facing businesses today should give any organization a reason to prioritize IT security. Technology can be a driver of competitive advantage, but without the proper protections in place, it can become a liability. More organizations are engaging a managed services provider (MSP) to increase expertise, improve knowledge about threats, and strengthen their overall security posture.
In every business, efficiency and productivity are essential when it comes to streamlining operations. For the IT department, the sentiment is the same. Leveraging IT and help desk support from an MSP can allow internal IT leaders the ability to take a more holistic approach for implementing strategic IT initiatives that can go well beyond day-to-day management of systems. Outsourcing IT and help desk can be a driver for these organizations to fulfill these business goals.
There are countless companies that offer outsourced or managed IT services, such as networking, help desk, workstation management, and patching. It can be a challenge choosing the best MSP partner, but there are ways you can make the best choice for your business. Here, we provide a guide about what to consider:
Referrals are a strong indication of how a firm operates and serves its clients. Most service-based companies can provide a list of current and/or former clients who can offer insight into the level of service delivered, expertise, or answer questions about day-to-day functions. Additionally, checking for advanced certifications and partnerships with major companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Citrix, and VMware, can be a great way to determine an MSP’s capabilities and reputation.
There’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for,” and for IT support services that’s especially true. Cheaper doesn’t necessarily equal the best value and it can mean inferior protection. When considering engaging with an MSP, price should not be the deciding factor, particularly for a company that relies on information technology in its daily business activity (which is almost every business).
MSPs have different pricing models. As you think about price, consider what’s included at various levels, considering hourly charges for onsite or after-hours support, as well as monthly prices. You should also look at whether there’s a set timeframe for your contract that might locks you into a long-term contract or prevents you from making much-needed changes to your service agreement.
Additionally, the overall value from outsourced IT support can be derived from the ability of internal IT departments to shift their focus from day-to-day “break/fix” operations to more strategic initiatives that help move the needle for the organization. For example, spending time researching and implementing business intelligence applications to better serve the organization’s operational roadmap. From this perspective, the support that an external IT partner can add is in helping the business move away from IT being a cost center toward IT being the catalyst for positioning technology as a competitive advantage.
Service Level Agreement
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an important consideration when choosing an IT partner. Ensure the MSP you choose is available when you need them. For example, fresh produce companies are often shipping long before 9 a.m. and often after 5 p.m. A 9-5 SLA won’t cut it in 24/7/365 “always-on” environments.
SLAs help ensures that the delivery of services meets the expectations of the client as it relates to services that build the ongoing relationship and partnership. The focus for MSPs and their associated SLAs dictate the level of availability, what’s included in day-to-day service. This can vary greatly depending on the organization and their needs, so it’s important to outline availability through the SLA. SLAs come in many forms, and it’s important you confirm that your requirements align with the service provider’s help desk availability.
Engaging best practices
As part of your search for an external IT and help desk support provider, it’s important to ask questions about the organization’s best practices for managing network security. To start, they can include the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) and an emphasis on end-user training to protect your business from cybercrime. But you should consider an IT security company that standardizes best practices to protect themselves and your business as it relates to:
As part of a basic agreement for managed services, server patching and OS updates are part of the ultimate goal of keeping a network safe. Ensuring that software updates are monitored and executed regularly is one of the most effective ways that you can protect your business and look for an external IT support partner that can deliver on this promise is critical.
An effective log monitoring exercise involves scrutinizing logs for anomalies such as attempts to increase user privileges. This practice assists in the detection of threat patterns and helps the company to block the cybersecurity gaps, but it can be labor intensive for internal IT teams to conduct. Using an MSP to help offload this task can free internal IT leaders up to work toward implementing technology that streamlines business operations.
Vulnerability monitoring and management
MSPs must participate in regular monitoring of vulnerabilities, regularly scanning and testing the environment to identify areas that require updates. This kind of partnership allows the MSP to make recommendations for addressing issues that when implemented, can better protect the business and its network. For example, ensuring that default passwords aren’t used on devices connected to the network or ensuring the proper configuration protocols are used. The value in engaging with an external provider is the knowledge they bring to the table.
Choosing a quality MSP
Making the decision to outsource IT and help desk support can result in a significant return on investment for your business, shifting the focus toward:
When you choose an MSP, you task the company with keeping your technical infrastructure intact and freeing up your internal IT pros with more strategic initiatives and programs. MSPs should be chosen based on the quality of service they provide that aims to help your internal IT teams identify ways to be more efficient and effective for the organization’s bottom line.
Any unexpected downtime significantly impacts a business. When a disaster hits and your systems are down, adjustments have to be made to how your teams communicate, how they’re able to serve customers, and whether or not they can access critical systems to keep the business going. Downtime can result in a significant loss of productivity across the organization – as well as loss of revenue. Having an MSP in place that works hard to keep systems up to date and can provide your organization with a disaster recovery plan and incident response allows you to focus on running the business successfully.
What are the next steps?
As threats become more complex – and technology becomes more advance in response – businesses should look at ways to help implement strategies that address risk, build business continuity, and provide peace-of-mind to customers. Engaging in an IT support company or MSP can ensure your organization is ready for what comes next.
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