12 questions to ask before you hire a managed IT services provider.Hiring a managed IT services provider seems like hiring any other kind of vendor, right? The thing is, it’s not. Your IT MSP will have access to your IT infrastructure and should be able to help you strategically leverage that IT. For most companies, that requires a significant level of trust. It’s not a relationship to begin on a whim.

As you’re traversing the path of selecting the right MSP, there will be many conversations with potential providers. You should have a list of questions prepared beforehand so you gather as much information as possible. To help with that, we’ve put together a list of questions you should ask when hiring a managed IT service provider along with explanations of why those questions are important.

Question the Relationship

Don’t wait until the service level agreement (SLA) is sitting on the table to find out that your chosen MSP isn’t the company you expected. Ask these questions to get to the heart of what to expect from your relationship with your managed IT services provider:

  1. What does the onboarding process look like? Getting started with a new IT services provider isn’t an overnight affair. Find out what you can expect in the first 30, 60, or 90 days of the relationship.
  2. What’s your hiring process for IT personnel? Understanding how your chosen MSP brings new IT talent into the fold will tell you a lot about the MSP. For example, a longer, more involved hiring process means your service provider pays attention to detail and wants to match the best talent to their customers’ needs.
  3. What areas are your specialties? Good managed IT services providers are not jacks of all trades. The best ones usually develop a specialized knowledge of a small handful of industries, which means they can anticipate your needs and guide around the major pitfalls.
  4. What will I pay extra for? Everyone hates the money questions, but you have to ask. Most MSPs have a set of monthly services that are a standard package, but then if you need hardware, consulting, or other efforts, they’ll charge extra. The difficulty for most SMBs is in not knowing what to expect. Ask up front about the products and services that will cost you extra.

Question the Services

A relationship with a managed IT services provider should make your processes more efficient and more effective. However, some SMBs find that once the SLA is signed, the service is different than expected. These questions are designed to help you determine exactly what to expect:

  1. Will I have a designated service person or service team? You will have questions about your IT infrastructure. You may even experience difficulties or downtime. You need to have someone to turn to when that happens, and any MSP you’re considering should be more than willing to tell you exactly what to expect if you need service.
  2. What services do you outsource? Some MSPs outsource some of the services they offer and you need to know so you’ll know what to expect if there is a problem with something that’s outsourced. How long will it take to resolve the issue? What repercussions do you have if a third-party puts your customers at risk?
  3. What response time do you guarantee? Beware of companies that are vague on this answer. Any MSP that you choose should be able to give you a guaranteed service time.
  4. What can I customize? This question isn’t geared toward customizing specific features or benefits, but rather customizing things like timing. For example, do you have control over when patching takes place, or does the MSP dictate a schedule and you’re expected to live with it?
  5. How do you anticipate and avoid issues that could put my company at risk? Security matters. And in today’s environment, you’re responsible for your customer data, even if a vendor you contract put that’s data at risk. Be sure you understand exactly what your managed IT services provider does to mitigate any security issues that might come up.

Question Responsibilities

To be sure that your relationship with an MSP works, it’s necessary to know who manages what so there are no misunderstandings. These questions help you determine exactly where responsibility falls:

  1. How often do you review my IT infrastructure, and how do you report your findings? Don’t assume you’ll have a quarterly or monthly review. Find out from your MSP exactly what to expect in terms of reviews and reports.
  2. Who is responsible for what? A straightforward question is often the best way to uncover confusion about where responsibility falls. If you ask a managed IT services provider this question and they don’t want to answer or they give a vague response, you should find another provider.

One last question, because regardless of all else, a valuable MSP that is positioned to help you leverage your IT infrastructure as a strategic differentiator will be able to answer it in a satisfying way:

  1. How are you different from every other MSP out there that’s trying to sell me their services?