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Top questions to ask a Managed Service Provider

You can’t just swipe right or left when looking for a managed service provider match. Identifying the IT partner that will be best for your business takes time. This guide shares 14 questions you can ask potential MSP partners to find the right fit. These include:

  • What are your areas of expertise?
  • What kind of response time can we expect for critical services?
  • How will you reduce our costs?
  • What training will you offer our employees?
  • What is outside of the scope of our engagement?
  • What business continuity/disaster recovery do you have in place?
  • What kind of pricing plans do you offer?

Here we explore each of these question in more depth:

How long have you been in business?

This is not to say that a new company can’t be a good one, but there is something to say for experience. Knowing they work with businesses like yours or on similar systems boosts credibility.

Also, you might ask how many people are on their staff. A small shop can do the job, but if you expect to have heavy needs, you don’t want to worry that the one person you work with will get ill. Then, you’d need to train up a brand-new backup person.

What are your area’s of expertise?

Most MSPs will share certain skills. Still, find out what specific competencies a particular MSP offers. They may have certifications related to healthcare cybersecurity or focus on financial services. If certain things are important to you, you’ll need a provider with the tools to address that.

As a follow-up, it can also help to ask how their IT experts remain current with the latest technology. After all, this is a rapidly evolving environment, and you don’t want a partner whose people are content with what they learned six years ago. You need support that stays up to date and can keep your infrastructure current, too.

How will you provide I.T support?

A typical MSP delivers ongoing network, application, infrastructure, and security services. They may do this via remote administration, on your premises, or through a hybrid of both. They may have their own data center, or they could be relying on a third-party data center.

You might partner with an MSP that provides technical support with a break-fix focus, or align with an MSP that helps you avoid issues with consistent maintenance, security, monitoring, reporting, and more.

What kind of response time can we expect?

Every moment you are down can be costly to your business. Downtime can damage employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty. You’ll want to get an idea from each MSP of what kind of critical service response time to expect.

What will you do to improve our processes?

Partnering with an MSP is more than setting up a relationship with a break-fix repair shop. A good MSP will get to know your business and find ways to help your people do their daily work better. They may also work to anticipate short- and long-term needs, and to secure your business to avoid unexpected downtime. You may even partner with an MSP that wants to help you build an IT business strategy.

How will you reduce our costs?

The answer to this can depend on how much you want to turn over to the MSP. For instance, you might decide to let them take over your IT help desk. Or you’ll have them take on your full system maintenance and security monitoring. These could lead to cost savings.

Ultimately, you want the cost of an MSP contract to be offset by the return on investment you get.

What training will you offer our employees?

Your people are going to be hands-on with the technology every day. You don’t want to partner with an MSP that suggests new software and hardware and then leaves you to learn it on your own.

You may want an MSP partner that provides recommendations and trains your employees. This can help ease the deployment of new tools and reduce friction when you make changes.

What will you handle?

This is your business tech, so you’ll want to be clear about what services the MSP will handle in-house. They may contract with other vendors for some services, whereas other things they may automate. You want to know what areas are which.

Keep in mind that an MSP outsourcing some services isn’t always a bad thing. Automation isn’t terrible either: both can free IT experts to focus on essential tasks and ensure you get the best quality of services.

What is outside the scope of service?

Especially when you are paying a flat rate, you’ll need to know what they will and won’t do for you. It’s helpful to get all the services they do provide listed out in the service-level agreement. You can see who handles things such as network monitoring, server upgrades, software patching, hardware installation, and more.

Some services may be available to you also as an add-on. You’ll need to know what you need to effectively evaluate these terms in the agreement.

Additionally, there may be contractors dealing with your critical data, so you’ll want to know what security measures are in place.

What business continuity plan do you have?

They should speak to you about data backup, business continuity, and disaster recovery. Yet this question targets what they are doing themselves. They should have plans to ensure consistent services in the event of issues.

You don’t want your MSP to go down for an extended period because of a breach or natural disaster. They won’t be able to help you recover if they’re struggling to get back online themselves.

What kind of pricing plans do you offer?

Just as there are many MSPs available, you’ll encounter different pricing models. You might pay a flat-fee, all-inclusive rate. Other options include a custom plan, where you pick services à la carte, or you might have to select from certain minimum blocks of service.

Your business may be able to fit into a pre-existing box for what a particular MSP offers. Or you might need a partner who can be flexible to meet your specific needs.

What do you include in the pricing?

Once you know how the company bills, also ask what that bill includes. Get an itemized list of what’s included in your all-inclusive plan or whichever type of model you select. This can vary across providers.

How often will the contract renew

Many MSPs offer contracts on one- or three-year terms. A longer contract can be more cost-effective, but it also means you’ll be stuck with that MSP longer if you’re unhappy. Be sure to negotiate a cause-for-termination clause in the three-year contract if you take that route.

Most MSPs will want to auto-renew. Schedule a calendar reminder to review your MSP services halfway through your contract. That way, you’ll have time to find a new provider if that’s what you decide you want to do.

Can you provide referrals?

There’s a reason word of mouth means so much to potential buyers. An MSP can tell you whatever it wants, but an actual customer is more likely to provide a true picture. Talking to current partners allows you to learn more about how the MSP delivers its services and whether it keeps its promises. If the MSP can’t provide references or provides contacts for customers that are impossible to reach, that’s not a good sign. Yes, it adds a step to your buying process, but getting that business to talk about their firsthand experience with the MSP could provide essential insights.

Knowing the right questions to ask is a great starting point. As an MSP, we’d be happy to discuss all these issues with you and more. Reach out to our experts today to see if we are the right fit for your business IT needs. Reach out to our friendly team here at Ultra IT to ask these questions specifically of us.