10 Vital Questions to ask your Managed IT Service Provider

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Questions to ask IT service provider
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Without the proper support, your IT has the potential to transform from your most valuable asset into your worst nightmare. Selecting the best managed IT service provider for you and your organization can be facilitated by asking the right questions.

As an IT support company seeking to deliver excellent customer service, we enjoy being asked difficult questions because we are confident in our ability to respond.

What questions should you ask prospective service providers before signing up? This article will reveal everything.

Identifying the right IT Service Provider for your Business

Outsourcing your IT operations offers many benefits. However, it also comes with inherent risks. Organizations today are responsible for sensitive financial information and customer data. It’s essential to evaluate all potential service providers.

RELATED: IT Outsourcing for Small Businesses and Start-ups

IT management is a critical area of concern. This includes security, disaster recovery, business continuity, and supporting mobile workers.

Your IT operations underpin your business. It is simply impossible to afford to hire an IT provider who promises the world but doesn’t deliver or, even worse, doesn’t follow the right practices.

Questions to ask your IT Service Provider

Your IT infrastructure keeps your employees working, lets you deliver services, and communicates and works together well.

Your IT infrastructure consists of many different parts, such as desktop devices, cloud servers, software licenses, and data centers. Keeping track of your IT assets and fixing technical problems is a full-time job, so don’t try to do it all by yourself.

Outsourcing IT Support can help you cut down on IT downtime, boost productivity, cut costs, and help you effectively leverage your IT investment.

Finding the right IT provider to care for your technology estate can be challenging. Next, we list ten questions you should ask your outsourced IT support to ensure you get the best service.

1. What makes your service stand out?

Every IT company will say they have excellent customer service, but finding vendors to back up their claims can be challenging. Before you choose a service provider, take the time to find out if they:

  • Sector Experience: Certain industries will have highly particular requirements. Working with a partner with experience in your industry and understanding your specific difficulties will significantly improve service standards.

For instance, the highly regulated financial services industry will require a partner with the appropriate infrastructure and experience to protect information and respond quickly to IT concerns adequately.

  • Qualifications & Accreditations: It is essential to understand the core competencies of an IT service provider. Finding an IT service provider who understands your industry and your company’s short- and long-term goals is vital.

They should be able to demonstrate their investment in improving productivity, quality, and safety. ISO 27001, the internationally recognized security standard, and ISO 9001, the Quality Management Systems standard, are good indicators that the IT service provider is investing in the above values.

  • High Customer Satisfaction: Request proof of service excellence. A reputable IT support service will conduct periodic client satisfaction surveys and request feedback.
  • Low Employee Turnover: Low staff turnover indicates effective management, a great company culture, and satisfied workers, ultimately providing consistency.

The IT support team will become intimately familiar with your systems and develop strong relationships with your personnel, ultimately improving service.

2. What is and isn’t covered in your support contract (and does it include peripherals such as printers, mobiles, etc.)?

Most IT support companies will cover labor costs for any problems with hardware or specific software. Some will also cover mileage and travel time to and from your location (if an on-site visit is required).

But support for custom software made by another company is unlikely to be included. If a support company says, “we support it all,” be wary.

Also, many support companies charge extra for printers, scanners, mobile phones, and other devices that connect to the main computers.

If, for example, you can’t get emails on your phone or want to set it up so it can access them, will the IT support company help? If so, is that part of the support or an extra?

The list of items not covered in the contract could be very long, but you need to know some examples of things you might be charged for.

For example, if your server breaks and needs to be replaced, will the cost of installing the new one be included in the contract, or will you have to pay extra? You might not get this information if you ask what the support contract includes.

RELATED: IT Support Contracts: What should your IT Support Agreements cover?

3. What types of Support do you offer?

One of the fundamental questions to ask a potential IT Provider is the type of support they offer. Many IT support companies provide service levels to suit different budgets and requirements. These may include:

  • Pay-as-you-go support, where you pay an hourly fee or a fixed amount —is typically the most costly choice over time.
  • Break-fix support is billed hourly and can be paid in advance or after the fact. It is also available on a fixed-price contract, such as an insurance policy.
  • Managed service support, the support business actively manages your systems to minimize possible problems. Typically, this entails signing a yearly contract.

What are your SLA Terms?

An SLA provides expected services and monitoring measures, including penalties for missed metrics. An SLA unifies requirements. Although companies typically give a basic SLA, you must study it to ensure it’s in your best interests.

RELATED: Mastering SLAs: Best Practices for Service Level Agreements

When agreeing IT support SLAs ask the following questions:

  • What is the definition of a high-priority case? Many service providers use the ITIL standard priority matrix, i.e., P1 is a high-impact, high-priority case that is business impacting and needs to be fixed urgently, while P5 is a lower priority
  • What is your average time to respond to a support call?
  • Based on the priority matrix (P1, P2, etc.), what is your fix time?
  • How often do you do these?
  • How can we escalate cases if they aren’t handled quickly enough?

A standard response/fix SLA may look like this:

Questions to ask IT service provider - Priority Matrix

Things can go wrong, and you want to ensure the company you deal with is adequately insured for any eventuality. It should be at least a £1,000,000 professional indemnity package.

RELATED: Cybersecurity Insurance: Who needs Cyber Liability Insurance & What does Cyber Insurance cover?

4. What is the process for logging support calls with you?

It is pretty aggravating when you have an IT problem and cannot reach the person you hired to fix it.

Ensure that your support company has a dedicated number with a person who is constantly accessible to answer it or an online form or email address that leads directly to the support team. Ideally, you should possess each of these three possibilities.

IT issues require varying levels of support. The helpdesk is your first line of defense and can handle password resets, information requests, device reboots, and poor internet connections. Depending on the issue’s complexity and severity, it will be escalated to second and third teams.

A well-established IT support provider will be able to remediate problems remotely. Still, it is also essential to have some on-site support for more severe incidents.

5. Will you support our existing systems?

A partner who invests the time to comprehend your organization and adopt your methods of operation will be more suited to support your IT environment.

Although the familiarity with your systems and software is preferable, it is not always possible for your chosen provider to have experience with all of them. Here are a few considerations:

You will likely utilize legacy systems or software applications with which your IT provider lacks familiarity. Even if the Managed Service Provider (MSP) is unfamiliar with the equipment, it does not necessarily need to be replaced.

A reliable outsourced IT company should be willing to accept and work within your existing systems. This may necessitate more training to upskill their workforce or additional integration tools, but it does not necessitate replacing what you already have.

A Managed IT Service Provider should be willing to address concerns with your third-party providers on your behalf. In addition, they will be accountable for examining and renewing licenses.

6. How will our data be secured?

Cybersecurity is a significant priority for all businesses, and understanding how your data will be protected can be gauged by asking potential a potential IT Providers some key questions.

Many IT providers will include security components in their basic service package. For instance, firewall configuration, incident response, backup solutions, and vulnerability patching are required to safeguard hardware and data.

You may need more advanced security services depending on your industry and business style. A provider of IT services that operates a Security Operation Center (SOC) will be able to offer advanced monitoring, alerting, and remediation to assist you in protecting your organization’s defenses and responding to threats.

Numerous service providers will also implement solutions and documents to assure GDPR compliance.

Are your cloud services private or outsourced to third parties?

Nearly every IT service provider offers some cloud solution. However, it is essential to know whether the cloud services provided by a provider are owned or outsourced to other cloud computing providers. Any provider that outsources cloud services is subject to security concerns.

While your IT service provider might have stated that they will adhere to the highest security standards possible, what security practices does the third-party vendor use? What if there is a security breach? Who also owns the data?

Although your IT service provider might have said they would destroy your data if you parted ways, will the third-party vendor do this? Your data could be stolen even if you aren’t working together anymore.

RELATED: Data Destruction: Why you must ensure the secure and complete destruction of your data

7. Are our users able to provide feedback?

Customer input is vital for guiding innovation and assisting firms in service development.

Your vendor of choice should provide several opportunities to deliver an open and honest assessment, such as a questionnaire and Account Management meetings. Once a case has been resolved, most Managed Service Providers will also request feedback, allowing you to share your opinion on how successful events were handled.

However, gathering feedback data is ineffective if your IT provider does not act on it. Determine how your supplier handles positive and negative feedback. Are adverse remarks escalated to the line management? Are they carefully researched and used to influence account decisions?

8. Besides IT Support will you help with IT strategy and project delivery?

Businesses that don’t modernize legacy systems risk inefficiency and competitive disadvantage. Your outsourced IT supplier supports your IT infrastructure and guides future IT investments. As IT becomes increasingly strategic, companies must connect technology spending with business goals and increase ROI.

An emergency service provider should give more. They should assist you in establishing an IT strategy that guides your IT investments and helps you to innovate quickly. They should also be able to aid with cloud migrations, network settings, cyber security initiatives, and analytical work.

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9. Do you offer 24-hour Support? How does it work?

Globalization and on-demand services necessitate IT systems entirely operating 365 days a year.

24/7 IT support guarantees that your IT infrastructure is monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (including on national holidays), mitigating the risk of IT downtime and ensuring business continuity and a prompt resolution of IT issues.

To provide real 24/7 IT support, the service provider must guarantee it has sufficient resources to cover three different 8-hour shifts, people to cover multiple time zones, and ample overflow to manage peak periods.

Do you staff your own helpdesk or outsource it to a third party?

Service providers that provide on-site help desk support are the best. The on-site support providers can train and maintain their technicians to the highest standards. This can lead to a better customer experience.

Help desk support providers won’t usually inform you of this. So make sure to inquire. If you choose to partner with a provider who outsources help desk support, you will likely be speaking with technicians from overseas that are unfamiliar with your business and preferred processes.

IT outages and data loss can cause severe damage. IT issues are costly, and you can’t afford to be down. It is essential to inquire about the availability of potential IT service providers and how they will ensure uninterrupted operations in the event of a failure.

RELATED: Achieving Digital Resilience: 7 Steps to Building a Digitally Resilient Business

What kind of automated monitoring can you offer?

You should have remote and automated monitoring available 24/7 from any IT service provider you consider. This is an essential feature. Providers can spend much time checking systems and determining what caused the failure without automated monitoring.

This is downtime that you cannot afford. Ask service providers about their remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution.

RMMs monitor critical infrastructure to detect potential problems before they become expensive problems. It’s a red alert if they don’t use an RMM.

10. Tell me about your partnership with other technology companies?

The best IT support companies will focus on IT infrastructure maintenance and support. They know what they’re good at and stick to it.

To provide the best support, they will take the time to build professional, trustworthy relationships with other IT companies that work in related fields like cabling, telecoms, web design, etc. They aren’t afraid to hire a subcontractor or send you to a trusted third party who can do a better job.

Most good IT support companies will also handle your relationships with your current providers. Asking IT service providers whether a “total” support service is provided is sensible, and be wary of any business that says “That’s not what we do” or “We do everything ourselves,” as both can be risky.

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