10 Questions You Must Ask Any Prospective Managed IT Services Provider

Every business owner or manager knows that the key to business growth is outsourcing tasks that don’t make financial sense to do yourself.

As your business grows from sole trader to a small or medium-sized business, you need to take on new staff to manage administrative and operational tasks, leaving you free for strategic planning.

In some cases, it’s a smarter decision to outsource tasks to a specialist agency or provider than hiring someone to carry out these duties in-house.

IT is one area where outsourcing to a managed service provider is often the best option for the business – both financially and operationally.

Managed IT service providers offer not only the skills and expertise, but also resources in terms of hardware, software, and technical support. If you try to handle all your IT needs in-house, not only do you have the expenses of hiring a team of full-time staff, but you also need to invest significant capital on a regular basis to ensure that your systems and equipment are up to date.

Using the services of a professional IT consultant or technical support is not only more cost-effective but also means that help is always there when you need it, 24/7. This leaves you free to concentrate on the core aspects of your business.

However, when you do decide to seek external help for this vital part of your operational needs, it’s important to choose the right service provider.

Inappropriate IT solutions or system downtime can be devastating for your business, so it’s vital to thoroughly research potential providers to make sure that they’ll provide a high-quality service and are also a great fit for your business.

Here are ten questions you should ask any managed IT services provider that you’re considering. Their answers to these questions should help you to make the final decision about who to work with.

1. How will you customise your service and solutions to meet the needs of my company?

Remember, you’re opting for a managed IT service provider to make your life easier, not harder. They should do all they can to work around you, not the other way around.

This means that if a provider you’re considering doesn’t offer the types of services you need, and won’t adapt their packages to fit your requirements, you should strike them off your list. Don’t waste your time with a provider that’s not prepared to work for you.

For example, at Productiv we understand that every business has different IT needs. This is why we offer services that can be completely customised to your needs. Whether you just need basic reporting or help organising internet connections, or you want managed ICT support, we’ll make sure you get exactly what you need.

This customisation to your needs means there’s no need to fill the gaps with additional service providers, and you’re not paying for services you don’t need either.

2. What’s your support process?

What do you do when you have an IT problem that needs fixing? Do you send an email or call, or is there a formal ticketing procedure? Do people actually pick up the phone? For example, at Productiv, customer site contacts typically have the Service Delivery Manager or another staff member’s phone number to contact directly in the event of a major incident or if the support desk is busy taking other phone calls.  In addition, any phone calls to the support desk that are not answered go to voicemail, which is then emailed to the support desk with the Service Delivery Manager cc’d in. This ensures that your issue will be addressed, with the added assurance that the Service Delivery Manager is across all of your IT concerns.

All of these are important questions when it comes to figuring out if a particular service provider is actually going to be there when you need help the most.

Providing routine maintenance and making sure your digital infrastructure is ticking over is all very well and good, but when your systems go down and business grinds to a halt – that’s when you really need your IT service provider to step up.

It’s important that you understand the level of service and support provided and how you can access that support.

Productiv can customise our service agreements to allow for a variety of Managed IT Services as required. This customisation process helps to keep your operational expenditure to a minimum whilst ensuring the maximum level of support.

Not sure which option is right for you? Give us a call on 1300 136 677 to discuss.

3. What is your cybersecurity protocol?

Cybersecurity is a growing concern for Australian businesses, and the number of serious cyber attacks doubled in 2018.

Keeping your data and digital assets safe and secure should be a priority for a business of any size, so it’s important that you choose a service provider who places as much importance on security as you do.

IT service providers need to have privileged access to systems, so it’s vital that they have secure processes in place for accessing these systems, especially when they’re managing them remotely.

Reputable managed service providers should be following the ACSC guidelines for secure administration and have a clear action plan in place to prepare for and respond to any cybersecurity incidents.

4. What sort of systems monitoring do you provide?

Cyber attacks don’t always come from outside. In fact, a significant number of data breaches can be traced back to someone internal to the organisation – either maliciously or as the result of a genuine mistake.

According to the latest OAIC notable data breaches report, 37% of data breaches reported by Australian businesses were caused by human error and a further 6% were due to system faults.

For this reason, it’s vital that both you, the business owner or manager, and your IT service provider should have good visibility of activity on file systems, databases, email, data transfer, and other digital systems.

Constant monitoring of systems can help to detect and prevent cyber attacks. It’s also helpful to prevent and reduce downtime, and evaluate performance statistics so that hardware can be upgraded if necessary, before risking a failure.

5. How will you keep us informed and involved?

Good IT service providers keep in regular communications with the organisations they work with. This is important to ensure that changing business needs are being met, and also to keep you in the loop of any issues that might need resolving, or opportunities that may arise.

You want to outsource the hard work of managing your IT systems, but this doesn’t mean turning them into a black box, so you have no idea of what’s going on.

Productiv understands that the businesses we work with want to be aware of any IT issues that are occurring and how we’re responding to them. This is one of the reasons why all our clients have access to an online portal which provides detailed information about ticket reporting, backup status, orders, network use, system uptime, and more.

We also have regular on-site meetings and enjoy getting to know our clients. When you choose to work with us, you’ll be given a dedicated primary and secondary contact, so you always know who to talk to if you have any general issues or want to discuss expansions and upgrades.

6. What are the terms of your service level agreement (SLA)?

Every managed service provider should provide you with an SLA that details acceptable downtime, how fast they respond to service tickets, and define anything that is out of the scope of the service plan.

This agreement is important for ensuring that your service provider will meet your needs and understanding exactly what you’re paying for when you enter a contract with them.

It’s vital that you opt for a provider that will keep system downtime to a minimum. One high-profile case of IT problems causing massive operational issues was when the hardware systems behind the Australian Taxation Office crashed in 2016, losing over a million gigabytes of data and taking days before the offices were back up and running as normal.

Think about how long your company could keep running if your systems were down or you had no access to vital data – and make sure that your SLA keeps you well within these limits.

7. Do you provide your own cloud solutions or are they outsourced to another provider?

More and more businesses are migrating services and data to the Cloud as it’s a cost-effective and efficient way of scaling up as the organisation grows without the associated expense and operational issues.

However, cloud solutions also come with challenges, particularly when it comes to data security and integration.

To fully understand the impact of these challenges on your business, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re dealing with – does your service provider use their own proprietary cloud systems, or do they partner with a third-party cloud provider like AWS or Microsoft Azure?

Many providers outsource with one of these well-known cloud platforms due to the premium security and the flexibility of storage and data management solutions they offer. These large and established cloud platforms are built on global data centers and proven architecture, and are highly scalable.

On the other hand, some managed service providers offer their own bespoke cloud services. One is not necessarily better than the other — it depends on your specific requirements which solution is right for your business. However, it’s important to understand exactly who may have access to your data, and who is responsible if there’s a system failure or data breach.

8. How do innovation and adopting new technologies fit into your service plan?

Information technology is a rapidly changing industry, and it’s not enough to simply stick with your existing systems and technology without being proactive and looking to the future.

To keep up with the growing needs of your business and stay competitive, you need to make regular upgrades and consider where investing in new technologies will provide dividends in the future.

A managed service plan should not be static, but instead, it should change and adapt to the latest trends and take advantage of new technology as well as scaling with your business as it grows.

9. Who is your ideal client?

It’s not always a case of one provider being better than another, but more of which provider is a better fit for your organisation.

Some managed IT service providers work exclusively with large enterprises, while others focus on small and medium-sized businesses.

To help you to assess if you’re a good fit for each other, try asking prospective providers about their current clients. This will give you a good idea of their experience working in different industries and business sizes and help you to decide if you can build a beneficial partnership together that will last well into the future.

10. How will you help us to grow our business?

Remember that the ultimate goal of working with a managed service provider is to enable you to meet your business goals and grow your organisation.

A good provider will not only provide the minimum level of service to meet their agreement with you, but will also work with you to see how their services align with your goals and how they can help you to achieve them.

They should also be able to demonstrate how the cost of their service package will be offset with increased operational efficiency, resulting in overall gains for you.

Ready to ask these questions?

If you’re ready to choose a managed service provider, or you’re still at the early stages of considering your options, we’re ready and waiting to talk with you.

Here at Productiv, we offer results-driven and transparent IT solutions, with service packages ranging from simple databases to full customised service and cloud migration.

Our clients value our proactive approach to preventing issues, and our friendly and personal company culture with qualified staff who are technical experts – not salespeople!

To find out more, give us a call on 1300 136 677 and have a chat to discuss more about your business and needs. We’re confident we can help you find the right solution to improve your productivity and grow your business.

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