LUTZ BUSINESS INSIGHTS
Questions to Ask When Shopping for an Outsourced IT Company
ALEX LUTZ, LUTZ TECH MANAGER
As companies increasingly rely on technology, having a dedicated IT professional or department plays an important role in maintaining performance and stability. But not every company can accommodate an internal IT department, so many choose to outsource that need instead.
If you’re in the market for a Managed Service Provider (MSP), you’ll want to ask the following questions to ensure you find a company that fits your business needs.
How many people does the Managed Service Provider have on staff?
One of the biggest advantages of going with outsourced IT provider over an internal person is the ability to leverage the expertise of a larger group. As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” An established MSP with specialized engineers is able to provide more value to your business than a single IT professional would. A jack of all trades can be a powerful resource but it helps when you have access to the experts too.
What is their approach to support?
One of the most important considerations when searching for an MSP is the type of support they provide. There are a few common support models that each have their own pros and cons, so you can find a company that fits your needs. Here are three of the more common support models you will find while shopping for an outsourced IT provider.
- Dispatch: With the dispatch model, you will call and speak with a dispatcher whenever you have a technical support request. They’ll take down a record of your issues and assign an engineer to call you back after a designated amount of time. This is often ends up being a more affordable option at the cost of response times.
- Helpdesk Model: Helpdesk support a more direct approach than a dispatch model. With this model, your call will go directly to an engineer who will address your issue. This leads to much quicker response times and more personalized service, but it’s often more expensive.
- Dedicated Engineer: Some MSPs will assign a single person to your account, so it’s a bit like having an internal IT person who works off site. This has some of the same pitfalls an internal IT person would, though with less leverage of expertise. Typically to reduce costs a dedicated engineer will be assigned to multiple accounts so your time may be split among other clients.
What is the billing arrangement?
You most certainly know that you’ll need to discuss the billing arrangement when searching for an MSP, but it is important to know the difference between common billing arrangements in the industry. Take a look at some of the common methods of billing to discover which will best serve your interests.
- All You Can Eat: One monthly payment that includes every service your company needs. With this billing arrangement, MSPs have additional incentive to make sure everything works properly since they don’t necessarily want you calling all of the time. With this arrangement, everything is included with no additional fees.
- Time and Materials: Paying for time consumed on an hourly basis. With this arrangement, there’s less incentive for an MSP to fix issues permanently since they’re only paid when you call.
- Block Time: Pay for a block of hours and use them whenever you need. If you need additional help, you’ll have to pay for another block. This arrangement has some of the same pitfalls of the time and materials arrangements, but it can work for some companies that are looking to save money.
- Hybrid Agreements: Many providers will mix and match the above billing arrangements depending on what services a potential client wants to opt in to. This can make it difficult to compare agreements apples to apples as a customer it’s easy to feel “nickel and dimed”.
What is included in the agreement?
There are many types of support agreements, including variations of the ones mentioned earlier, so you’ll want to ask what is included in your agreement. You’ll want your IT vendor to include as much as possible in your agreement so you don’t end up getting charged separately for certain services, like trip visits. It can be difficult to compare MSPs due to differences in what’s included. Here are some important services you may want to have included in your agreement:
- vCIO Services
- Managed Security
- Spam Filtering
- After Hours Support
- Hardware Monitoring
- Environmental Monitoring
What is the term of the agreement?
The difference between a month-to-month agreement and a long-term agreement is extremely important. Month-to-month contracts require the MSP to earn your business every single month, meaning that you can hold them to a higher standard of service and leave at any time. With contracts that lock you into longer terms, there are often fees built in to penalize you from leaving early, so you’re less able to hold them accountable for poor service.
What are the additional fees?
Are there any onboarding fees? Most outsourced IT providers will have an onboarding process of some sort to get to know the environment of your office and how to access servers and machines. It’s important to consider how much that will cost. To cover these expenses, many MSPs will have onboarding fees, but don’t get caught paying too much. A general rule of thumb is that it shouldn’t cost more than your first monthly payment. At any rate, it’s another thing to consider when comparing providers.
Can they provide any references?
It is highly recommended that you look for referrals from other companies in your industry. If you can’t get any valuable referrals on your own, you can also ask your potential provider to provide references from other companies in your industry. While it’s not necessarily a deal breaker if they can’t provide references from companies within your industry, a provider reluctant to provided references at all would be a red flag.
What does “proactive” service mean to an MSP?
Many managed service providers use tools to provide “Proactive Support” to their clients. Monitoring, anti-virus and other services help detect any technology problems before they arise, which is better for both you and your IT provider.
What kind of “after hours” agreement does your company need?
Not every MSP provides after-hours support in their base service package, so it’s important to assess your companies after hours tech support needs. If you anticipate the need for after-hours support, look for a provider who will include that in their standard package so you don’t have to pay any additional fees for afterhours support.
What does an MSP require of your internal contact?
Do they want calls filtered through a single contact, or are they prepared to take calls from anyone on staff? If a single person is placing all of the calls to the managed service provider, the costs of that person’s time should be factored into your consideration. If an MSP is okay with anyone calling them at any time, it can be an additional value for your company.
Experience the Lutz Difference
Our goal as a technology provider is to take the burden of technology off of your plate and give you the peace of mind that we have it handled. Our partners know they are only a few seconds away from having a knowledgeable engineer on the phone and ready to address their technology woes. We pride ourselves on not being your typical IT person. Our “Techs who can Talk” approach to technical support shows that the client experience is always at the forefront of our minds. When you choose Lutz Tech, you don’t just get an IT professional – you get a technology partner.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ALEX LUTZ + SERVICE MANAGER
Alex Lutz is a Service Manager for Lutz Tech’s managed services team. He is responsible for service and technical escalations, as well as building processes and procedures to improve the quality of service on the MSP helpdesk.
AREAS OF FOCUS
- Lutz Tech Helpdesk
- Service and Technical Escalations
AFFILIATIONS AND CREDENTIALS
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
- Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCITP)
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