9 tips for choosing your MSP

Updated: Jan 26

Not all managed service providers are created equal.



Technology never stops evolving. While the advancement of software, hardware and connectivity can deliver efficiencies and opportunities that we couldn’t have dreamed of even a decade ago, that rapid evolution presents a real challenge to business owners. Whether you've only recently ventured out on your own or oversee a well-established small- or mid-sized business, how you manage your data, networks, computers and other technology can define the success of your organization.


What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic threw companies worldwide into entirely new workplace paradigms. With little time to prepare, many businesses had no choice but to jump into the deep end of remote work environments for the safety of their employees, customers and communities. The ongoing challenge of maintaining secure systems for organizational collaboration while preserving productivity –not to mention hackers hungry to exploit new vulnerabilities for their own profit—have significantly intensified the complexity of managing your business technology.


Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) to handle your business IT gives you the freedom to focus on your business instead of struggling to keep your IT infrastructure operational, compliant and secure. The average salary of an IT specialist in South Dakota is around $45,000, not to mention additional costs of employee benefits like healthcare and retirement plans. MSPs offer a third option beyond trying to juggle your IT demands on your own or hiring additional IT staff members.


Even if you do have your own team of talented full-time IT guys or gals budgeted, they may not always have the expertise needed to fully vet every aspect of your business tech. IT challenges are multiplying faster than one person or even one small team can handle on their own. Keeping abreast of cybersecurity risks and knowing how to mitigate them is a full-time job in itself, let alone on top of all the day-to-day tasks running and maintaining your systems and networks. That’s where outsourcing to a managed service provider comes in.


But not all MSPs are created equal. Choosing the right MSP to entrust with the full scope of your organization's information technology shouldn't be undertaken lightly. Before you choose a managed IT services provider, it's important that you take time to weigh some key considerations.


How to find the right managed service provider for your business IT


  1. Look for someone who understands your business and wants to learn more. Your MSP should understand the needs of both your wider industry and your unique organization. An MSP can't develop appropriate strategies for your business to grow and thrive unless it fully understands your organization and is nimble and experienced enough to work with any specialized software and regulatory compliance that may apply to your business. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in IT. Even companies with the same number of employees in the same industry can have completely different IT needs.

  2. Request references and use them. Current clients can help you determine if an MSP has experience in your industry or (at minimum) with businesses similar in size to your own. A company should be able to provide you with references, testimonials, and endorsement. Look for a provider who has been around for a while and has a solid reputation. You'll have greater peace of mind knowing that your network will be properly managed and that your MSP will work hard to preserve their good name. They are more likely to view you as a partner, because their success relies in part on yours.

  3. Ask a potential MSP if they offer anything beyond managed IT services. Ask a potential MSP if they offer anything beyond managed IT services. If they do, the scope of their business is not laser-focused on being a top-tier MSP, and they cannot deliver the concentrated attention and dedication your enterprise deserves. As the saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

  4. Don't be the only one asking questions. The most effective managed services provider is one who probes for more information about your company, your needs, your challenges and your goals. That process is key to formulating the right IT strategy for your business. To successfully oversee your technology and grow your business, an MSP needs to know where you are and where you want to go.

  5. Seek an MSP with a proactive approach that goes beyond break-fix services. Forward-thinking MSPs utilize proactive remote monitoring so they can spot and prevent problems before a crisis situation causes downtime, data loss or other disruptions. Fully realized disaster recovery plans that include regular on-site and off-site backups are crucial.

  6. Ask any MSP you're considering if they outsource any part of their support. If you can't look their technicians in the eye, they won't regularly be available to come to your place of business. If this is the case, that provider isn't worth your money. While remote monitoring and service is great for many problems, there are times where you’ll need your IT provider to come on-site for a fix or audit. Make sure these situations will be accounted for in your plan.

  7. Be certain that provider accountability is written into any service level agreement. You have the right to expect that the MSP you choose will be held accountable if they don't meet the level of network performance they promise. Ask how the service provider will make good on any failures.

  8. Avoid providers who strictly bill by the hour. One of the biggest benefits of partnering with an MSP is that your IT spending is controlled and predictable. Providers who charge flat fees for defined services benefit themselves by doing work right the first time—and by preventing problems from happening in the first place.

  9. Recognize that the up-front cost of managing your network should not be the only deciding factor in choosing your MSP. The financial benefits of reliable security, regulatory compliance, minimized downtime, and averting spendy network disasters should lead you to carefully weigh all of the considerations listed here.

  10. BONUS TIP: Look for experience managing remote-work, work from home, and hybrid work environments as well traditional office workplaces. There’s a lot more to setting an employee up to work reliably outside the office than just giving them a computer and having them plug into their home network. Given the paradigm shift brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital that the managed service provider you partner with have deep knowledge about the special challenges that remote work presents—especially when it comes to additional cybersecurity risks—and have a history of providing solid remote work and hybrid solutions.

With a trusted MSP partner keeping things humming behind the scenes, you can concentrate on building your organization's productivity, resilience, and bottom line. To find out how ELBO Computing Resources managed IT services can deliver that peace of mind for your company, call 605-361-3720 or contact us online.

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