In today’s fast-paced business landscape, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have emerged as indispensable partners for organizations seeking to offload some of their IT management. By entrusting MSPs with their technology needs, businesses can focus on their core operations while benefiting from expert support and resources. However, not all MSPs are created equal. It’s crucial to recognize the warning signs that could indicate a less-than-ideal partnership. In this article, we’ll delve into the red flags of Managed Service Providers and how to spot them.
What is an MSP?
A Managed Services Provider (MSP) is a company or organization that offers a comprehensive range of IT (Information Technology) services and solutions to businesses. The primary focus of an MSP is to proactively manage and oversee various aspects of a client’s IT infrastructure, operations, security, and technology needs. This allows the client to offload certain IT responsibilities and concentrate on their core business functions.
Why Do Organizations Outsource to an MSP?
Organizations can leverage outsourced technology support using Managed Services Providers (MSPs) instead of hiring full-time staff, saving costs or freeing up an internal IT team to work on critical company initiatives. Internal IT teams and an MSPs working together is called co-managed IT. By outsourcing routine IT tasks, internal teams can prioritize strategic initiatives for business growth changes. MSPs offer business continuity through continuous monitoring, disaster recovery planning, and support coverage during off-hours. Additionally, organizations lacking internal IT resources can rely on MSPs for full service IT management.
IT Provider Red Flags
1. Poor Communication: Effective communication with an MSP is crucial, as inadequate communication can lead to misunderstandings, errors, subpar support experiences, lowered productivity, turbulent projects, and other complications. Staying informed about network changes, breaches, vulnerabilities, and infrastructure updates is paramount. Unauthorized alterations or additions to your network underscore communication issues. Fostering a transparent relationship with your MSP is crucial, which should include candid discussions about satisfaction, required improvements, and overall feedback about their services. Evaluate their responsiveness, articulation of technical matters, and communication during the sales phase to gauge their communication proficiency. If initial sales communication is lacking, it may foreshadow a similar trend in their partnership communication.
2. Insufficient Experience: When selecting an MSP, consider their experience, particularly in your vertical. Inquire about their client base, industry tenure, and proficiency in relevant technologies. Security is crucial; opt for an MSP well-versed in safeguarding your business and staying updated on security protocols. Does your MSP prioritize the right licensing and stay current with advancements? Your MSP manages your IT infrastructure, so ensure they offer updated solutions to avoid productivity loss and cyber threats. Partner with an experienced MSP who can provide security recommendations, scans, and secure your infrastructure management.
3. Excessive Service Costs: Choosing the right managed services provider (MSP) for your business involves considering the range of services they offer to align with your current and future needs. An effective MSP should provide a comprehensive suite of services encompassing monitoring, maintenance, support, security, disaster recovery, and strategic planning. This removes the complexities of dealing with multiple vendors which is particularly advantageous for small and mid-sized businesses. However, it’s crucial to thoroughly assess an MSP’s claimed expertise by inquiring about in-house versus outsourced services and partnerships. The ability to manage costs is a significant advantage of an MSP, ensuring predictable and consistent expenses in exchange for predefined services. If unexpected or inflated bills arise, it’s a clear indicator to seek a different MSP. A dependable partner will acknowledge your IT budget constraints and involve you in budgetary planning and decisions.
4. Inadequate Customer Service & Support: When considering a managed services provider (MSP), prioritize customer service as a crucial factor. A dependable MSP should offer responsive and top-notch support, ensuring your employees have the best possible support experience. If user dissatisfaction arises, direct communication with your account manager should be straightforward, and their actions to address concerns should be visible and communicated. Slow responses to support requests can result in frustration, reduced productivity, and potential reluctance to use the service, ultimately undermining your trust in the MSP. In evaluating an MSP’s customer service, assess their response times, approach, reputation, references, customer satisfaction scores, and other key performance indicators.
5. Turnover and Rigid Contracts: Maintaining a consistent team within your Managed Services Provider (MSP) is vital to ensure uninterrupted support and business continuity. Frequent changes in resources can lead to fluctuations in support quality and accountability. Paired with a lack of communication during resource departures and inadequate tracking of dedicated support personnel can threaten the MSP relationship. Additionally, when choosing an MSP, beware of inflexible lengthy contracts, as extended agreements without adaptability (e.g., 24 to 60 months) can pose issues if service quality falls short. Opting for an MSP offering flexible contracts aligned with evolving business needs is crucial for a successful partnership.
6. Deficient Project Management Abilities: Inadequate project management skills are an indicator of a struggling MSP. For IT projects, effective communication with key stakeholders is crucial, ensuring consistent updates, addressing roadblocks, and highlighting successes. Moreover, a proficient MSP should maintain project momentum and encountering minimal interruptions. While certain delays might arise, your project team should actively managing the project and communicating any delays. Prolonged projects marked by significant unexplained delays and budget overruns are a red flag in the partnership with a MSP.
7. Excessive Dependence on a Few ‘Star’ Employees: When your MSP leverages only a single individual for complicated support issues, it may be a red flag about the collective expertise of the rest of the team. This reliance raises concerns about potential challenges if this individual is absent or departs. Are the rest of the team skilled enough to handle complex issues proficiently? Whether due to planned or unforeseen absence, your MSP’s reliance on select “star” resources can leave your IT support in a precarious position. If these concerns have been communicated to your MSP without resolution, it may be time to reconsider the partnership.
8. You’re not experiencing the proactive support outlined in your agreement: Is your MSP engaging in proactive tasks like maintenance, optimization, and capacity planning, or are they solely reactive when issues impact your operations? This poses a significant challenge for organizations entrusting their complete support operations to an MSP. The expectation is for the MSP to serve as the knowledgeable expert, overseeing the day to day operations of your IT along with planning for future needs. If you find your MSP consistently firefighting or offering temporary solutions without lasting solutions, it might be time to consider a change.
9. You have security concerns about your MSP: Your MSP must effectively handle and mitigate potential risks to your systems while maintaining processes and technology for data privacy and security compliance. Your MSP should uphold the same standards and expectations as your internal team. Red flags arise if your MSP team shares user credentials across multiple resources, stores sensitive data on local machines, or accesses your systems from unauthorized locations. Experiencing instances of phishing or compromised accounts could be attributed to a lack of oversight from your MSP.
How to Know if an MSP is Right for You
The significance of selecting the right Managed Services Provider (MSP) is crucial to the success of technology working to move your business forward instead of being a hinderance. As you navigate the evaluation process, keep an eye out for potential red flags discussed above as each element represents a potential roadblock to effective IT operations and growth. By making informed decisions, you can secure a partnership that not only addresses your immediate needs but also paves the way for sustained success and advancement.
Not Happy with Your Current MSP?
With PSM Partners, we work hand in hand to craft an unparalleled support plan tailored to your company’s needs. Contact us today, and let’s start a conversation about your specific MSP needs. Together, we’ll pave the way for a great partnership that drives your business forward.