What does your organization need to know about hiring a managed services provider to support its IT needs?

March 25, 2024

What does your organization need to know about hiring a managed services provider to support its IT needs?

March 25, 2024

person working in IT managed support in an office setting

You may be considering hiring a managed services provider (MSP) to support the IT needs of your business. However, MSPs offer a wide variety of services — and you may not be sure how to determine which one best fits your business needs.

MNP Digital’s John McLaughlin is a pioneer in the Canadian MSP industry, helping to build the foundation that guides many MSP business models today. We sat down with him to discuss what business leaders should look for when hiring an MSP, his experiences, and exciting developments in the industry.

John is an MNP Partner and a pioneer in managed services in Canada. John places emphasis on understanding his clients’ current and future business needs and recommends solutions and support in alignment with those needs.

What is your experience in the MSP industry?

I started an MSP company in 2003. We were one of the first to come up with the business model of maintaining and managing IT environments for a monthly fee. We also were one of the first companies in Canada to use ConnectWise, which has now become one of the standards for our industry.

It was a tough sell out of the gate because a lot of people didn’t really see the need to pay a company on a monthly basis to take care of their environment, and it probably took a year for the idea to really take off. Later, I became the Canadian Chair of Tech Select, now called Community Solv, which is an organization of MSPs across Canada. I was the Chair there for five years, and it was a great opportunity to support the growth of MSPs nationally.

What should businesses look for when hiring an MSP?

You should approach hiring an MSP the same way that you would if you were hiring someone to run a part of your organization. Outside of their services — because many offer similar packages — look at their values and culture and ask yourself if they align with the culture and values of your organization. Your MSP will work closely with your organization and so it’s important to make sure your priorities match.

Ask for references and consider other factors such as the size of the organization and whether they are a local or remote provider. This can help you determine whether they will meet your unique business needs.

What are some important questions to ask an MSP?

Some important questions to ask include:

  • What’s included in this monthly fee? Each MSP offers different services, such as cloud management, data backup and recovery, or cyber security solutions. Ask for a copy of their contract to determine what services are included.
  • Where do you store data? Your organization may operate under regulations that require its data to remain in Canada. Ask which cloud services your MSP provides and whether they have configured the data to be stored in Canada. Additionally, each MSP has different preferences for backup storage — and it is important to confirm whether your backup data will be stored onsite or in an offsite location.
  • How many team members do you have? An MSP may have a team of five employees — or a team so large that your employees talk to a different person every time they call. Consider which option best fits your needs and preferences.
  • What is your turnover rate? Consider how long the average employee remains in the MSP and the length of the longest tenure. This may affect how much experience the MSP has to handle your business challenges and offer insight into whether the culture is a good fit for your organization.
  • Can I buy hardware and software from you? Some MSPs procure hardware and software at competitive prices. Confirm not only if your MSP offers this opportunity, but if they also offer ongoing support for these products.
  • How will you solve my pain points? Include your specific pain points in your interview with an MSP and ask how they would minimize or solve them for your business.

What are your thoughts on integrating new technologies such as AI and automation into MSP offerings?

Every business operates in complex and diverse environments — and you need to be careful when you introduce new technologies into these systems. For example, many businesses move to the cloud and encounter cloud sprawl, where client data is spread across cloud providers and requires different passwords to access. This lack of a central location makes it extremely complicated to navigate.

Look for an MSP that has a comprehensive understanding of these new technologies and how they integrate with the solutions in your business to prevent future challenges. It is important to ensure that technologies like AI are adding value to your business instead of complexity.

What trends are you excited about in the marketplace today?

There’s a lot of great tools entering the marketplace, like AI predictive analytics, advanced cyber security tools, and AI customer service chatbots. There are now even AI customers, which can help organizations choose a product or service provider.

It will become more important to consider the long-term implications for your business as more technology enters the marketplace. These technologies may work well today — but no longer be around in three years. Ask yourself what would be the most valuable to have in your organization from a technology standpoint and whether these benefits outweigh the costs.

Another big trend in the MSP industry today is mergers and acquisitions. We’re seeing many small local companies get acquired or merge with large international organizations. It will be interesting to see what that looks like and how that impacts our industry in the future.

Do MSPs help protect businesses against cyber security concerns?

MSPs can provide cyber security support and proactive maintenance — such as patching or updating software on a regular basis to protect against vulnerabilities. It’s our job to keep a client environment as up to date as possible and offer best-in-class cyber security tools as they emerge. An MSP should also communicate regularly with your organization to keep everyone informed and empower leaders to make business decisions in the best interest of the organization.

Many MSPs can also assist with general cyber security awareness and training. You could have the best infrastructure and firewalls — but if an employee clicks on a scam email, your organization could still be compromised. An MSP can help keep the people on your team knowledgeable and aware of cyber threats.

How can organizations measure the success of an MSP?

Most businesses bring in an MSP when they are struggling with technology, and an MSP will help stabilize and optimize that environment. I think most organizations would define that as success.

I would propose that what defines success needs to be taken one step further. A truly successful MSP will look at all the pieces of your organization and consider how it can be transformed by technology to improve profits, productivity, or provide a better customer experience. These insights will help business leaders make informed decisions for their organization and contribute to its overall success.

What advice or key takeaways do you think organizations should know about MSPs?

An MSP really helps ensure there is a strong technology foundation in place for your organization to build on.  Many businesses were just looking for someone they could call when they needed help with their IT environments when I first started my MSP company. However, technology is constantly evolving, and businesses now need support and guidance with cyber security, data and analytics, and business intelligence to name a few technologies.

These technologies are necessary to make informed decisions. While integrating these technologies in your business is a need — or even a necessity in many cases — it can’t be done without a strong foundation. For that reason, it is important to consider the services your MSP offers today and how they can not only support your current needs, but also your needs in the future.

Take the next steps

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