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Questions to Ask a Managed Service Provider

The benefits of outsourcing make a simple and strong case, and more organizations are choosing to do so. As a natural result, more and more companies are entering the managed services provider (MSP) market.

According to Matt Cowall at Appia Communications, some of them are well-qualified; others are simply trying to take advantage of a market opportunity. Price is important, but it's not the only consideration, and the benefits of using an MSP can quickly evaporate if you choose the wrong one.

Matt recommends five key questions to ask before selecting an MSP. We'll discuss three of them today.

How long has an MSP been in business?
As in any business, there's an art and science to offering managed services. One obvious way to separate the experienced MSPs from the wannabes is to ask how long they've been in business.

If they've been operational for some time, they probably will have already addressed any service delivery issues they may have experienced in the beginning. Length of time in business is also an indicator of financial stability and client satisfaction.

What kind of support does the MSP offer?
One of the reasons you choose managed services is to turn your headaches over to someone else. If the MSP's support is weak, then you'll need to manage both the MSP and the problems you thought you were outsourcing.

Does the MSP have a support center that is staffed 24/7/365 (as opposed to being on call)? Does it have formal ticketing and escalation procedures? And does it monitor your services for you, or are you expected to bring problems to its attention?

What kind of redundancy does the MSP offer?
As you shop for an MSP, you'll learn about the infrastructure they use. Don't forget to ask if that infrastructure is redundant. Redundancy is the duplication or repetition of critical components in a system to provide alternative functionality in case of a failure. Even the best equipment fails from time to time, so it's essential that there are sound backups in place to ensure service isn't interrupted.

This is part one of a two-part blog post. In part two, Matt will share his thoughts on questions that managed service buyers should ask about provider quality and flexibility.