How To Maximize Your MSP Relationship


If you were born before 1980, you probably remember the commercials that implored students to become the “indispensable cog” in their company’s IT infrastructure by enrolling in an IT network training program.

Those days are long gone, as most companies have outsourced the management of their network resources to a Managed Services Provider (MSP).

employees discussing managed service provider relationshipsAs uncomfortable as it may have been in the past to think that a single IT person could hold the keys to your company’s IT access, security and effectiveness, many business leaders find it even more uncomfortable that a third party ‘vendor’ now holds those keys.

The fact of the matter is that for many companies today, in an age where technology effectiveness is often critical to growth and competitive differentiation, and a major IT or cyber breach can often lead to significant operational or financial ruin, a good MSP really can be a significant (no one element is indispensable) cog in the engine that makes it all work.

But how can a business leader know whether or not their MSP is the right fit for their unique business needs? How much should managed IT services cost? And how can a business leader truly be sure that their MSP is doing what the agreement says they should be doing?

In the Baltimore-Washington market, we’re lucky to have a number of high-quality, reliable MSPs that serve our local businesses. That said, not all MSPs are created equally or can provide the same level of service.

MSPs vary greatly in the monitoring technology they employ, the seniority of their engineering team, their service desk approaches, and how they price their services.

Their terms of service vary greatly as well. As MSPs tend to require longer term contracts, it’s important that business leaders understand the services they’re signing up for at the start, and are able to answer the following questions:

  • What are your rights with respect to terminating the agreement?
  • How do you know whether the MSP is properly safeguarding your (and your customers’) data?

CEO researching managed services providerThis last comment is especially true if a company is regulated by a data privacy standard such as PCI (payment card industry), GDPR, NIST or HIPAA. For example, a health industry services company likely had to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) certifying that they are compliant with patient privacy standards. By definition, those safeguarding that company’s data should be held to the same standards. Business leaders need to ask themselves whether they’ve asked their MSP to sign a BAA and if they’ve audited or reviewed their data privacy standards to ensure requirements are properly enforced.

So how can businesses know which MSP is the right fit? Or whether the same company that provided service in the past is the right choice going forward? If it’s time to make a change, what’s the best way to go about making that change?

An MSP can significantly enhance the performance, security and scalability of your technology operations. However, the decision regarding which firm is the right one isn’t an easy one and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Finding the right fit, then conducting a periodic review to ensure that the relationship is still as strong today (and will be tomorrow) as it was the day you initiated it, can be critical (dare I say indispensable?) to smooth business operations.

As the region’s only completely independent technology leadership and advisory firm, Hartman Executive Advisors is uniquely suited to assist growing and mid-market firms in evaluating their MSP relationship and assisting in selecting a new MSP when appropriate. Please call us for assistance with this or any aspect of your IT strategy and vendor selection decisions.


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