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Four Places to Find Managed Service Providers

We spend considerable time educating businesses about the value of managed service providers (MSPs). Now it's time to tackle the next logical question: Assuming you're ready to outsource some or all of your IT infrastructure, where can you find a qualified, reliable MSP?

The search for an MSP that fits your business is a bit like finding a doctor: There are thousands of qualified people ready to help you, but ultimately your choice may come down to personality and bedside manner.

In some cases, MSPs may serve as a virtual extension -- or complete replacement -- for your IT department. With that reality in mind, your service providers will need to have corporate cultures that blend well with your own business culture and working style.

Treat your search for an MSP similar to an employee search. Interview the candidates carefully, ask about past successes and failures, and ask for plenty of references that you can contact directly.

Step One: Finding MSP Candidates

I still need to answer the most basic question of all. Where can a small, midsize or large enterprise find qualified MSPs to manage some or all of their IT systems? Here are four potential starting points:

1. Your Existing IT Partners: Chances are, your current IT consulting firms, solutions providers and integrators have launched -- or will soon launch -- managed services practices.

If you already depend on external firms for IT project work, ask those firms if they offer hosted applications, remote monitoring and IT management, and other ongoing, fee-based monthly services.

2. The MSPAlliance: This association has roughly 7,000 member MSPs from across the globe. I'm not suggesting that all of the MSPs are top-notch, but a growing number of them have earned so-called MSPAlliance Accreditation, which means the association has inspected their data centers, network operation centers and business processes. Check in directly with the MSPAlliance to see if they have any member organizations in your areas that offer the IT services you need.

3. MSP Partners: This vendor-driven organization -- originally launched by Cisco Systems, Ingram Micro, Intel, Level Platforms and Microsoft -- educates MSPs across North America. Chances are, they can direct you to qualified MSPs in your region. You'll find MSP Partners contact information here.

4. The MSPmentor 100: The annual MSPmentor 100 list identifies the world's top managed service providers. The research is based on a global MSPmentor reader survey, and it ranks MSPs according to more than a dozen metrics (including annual revenue growth and number of devices remotely managed).

: I'm MSPmentor's founding editor, and even top-ranked MSPs can stumble in a bad economy. But if you check the MSPmentor 100 list, you can search for MSPs in your area.

Let me know how your search for an MSP goes and best wishes for a successful 2009.