What’s IT managed service?
A managed service provider is a company that remotely manages the IT infrastructure of its clients. It does so in a proactive manner and in most cases, the service is supported with a service level agreement (SLA).
The service may include authentication, system management, data backup & recovery, data storage, warehouse & management, network monitoring, management & security, and production, support and maintenance of software.
Nowadays, if the service is provided through the internet so the term cloud service provider may also be used. Such providers are used by small businesses with limited IT budgets to companies from the Fortune 500 lists. Products developed by such a company may service both niche industry such as developing healthcare applications, or it can serve a large audience with more wide-spread requests like broadcasting.
Some of the biggest IT managed service providers are IBM, Accenture and Cognizant who have offices all over the world and turnover in billions.
Why is it important to have such providers? What is the value for the customers?
There are several reasons why a company should partner with an IT managed service provider:
- Efficient and reliable IT operations. This one is crucial for the smooth operation of any business. It’s hard to have enough good experts who can keep up with the best practices in IT infrastructure while a company specialized in this has the people with relevant knowledge. It does not remove the need for an internal IT staff but enhances its ability by having external experts on-demand to implement the newest technologies that will maximize uptime & profitability.
- Focus on the core business. A good IT managed provider can take up control of 100% of your IT infrastructure. The provider can build your infrastructure, deploy the applications and maintain everything. It will free your mind and time to focus on the important aspects of your business – such as sales, marketing, product development and client satisfaction.
- Better security. Nowadays security is a top priority for most companies due to the increased number of hacker attacks and stolen data. An IT managed service provider can help you achieve your goals on that due to its high expertise and know-how.
- Transition to the cloud. Whether it’s a private or a public cloud, the trends are that you will move to it. In order to do it in the right way, on time and on a budget you’ll need experts helping you with this challenge. Your IT managed service provider can definitely help.
- Cost-efficiency. An IT managed service provider helps you focus on your core business, not on the day to day operations. Moreover, you will have access to different IT specialists who are experts in different areas like virtualization, storage, compliance, security, cloud, etc. You don’t have to hire all these people internally and pay the high salaries but you’ll have access to them when needed which saves a lot of money in the long term.
- 24/7 Support. No matter the time or day of the week you will be sure your servers are up and running. The IT managed service company can provide immediate support at any time when there is an issue regarding the smooth operation of your IT infrastructure.
How to select your provider?
The big question is: how to find the right IT managed service company? Based on my experience, the best approach is to select an area where the company must be based in order to meet 2 main criteria: Similar culture to yours and proximity if on-site is needed regularly.
So let’s say that you’re a company based in Germany and Eastern Europe is both closer(1-2 hours flight) and is much more similar culture-wise than any Asian country. The next step is to find the cities with the best technical universities. Once you have your cities seek out 3-4 companies per city that cover the following criteria:
- Disaster recovery planning
- Formal and comprehensive service level agreement (SLA)
- Proactive mindset
- 24-hour support
- Industry experience
- Good references
- On-site visits
Scour their websites and online presence. See whether the website is done in a professional manner. See whether there is any content generated by the company – and if it is knowledgeable and up to date. Check their social media.
If all seems legit, contact them via email and ask for an introductory video call. The call is important to get a feel for the guys on the other end, get more info about the company and ask for referrals. Then contact the referrals and see what they say.
What to look out for in referrals
Are they from the same industry as you, are they similar in size, are they from your region? Moreover, ask the given referrals questions like:
- In what aspects did you look for quality and how did you find it in ….?
- How did …. react in difficult situations? Please give an example?
- Please share a situation where proactivity was necessary and (company name) acted accordingly
- How fast were they able to start offering the needed service?
- Were they available on-site if necessary?
- What is (company name) greatest strengths?
- How is the team/service organized?
- What advice do you have for me in working with (company name)?
A good article on questions to ask from a reference is this one from HubSpot.
If there are no testimonials it should ring a bell. All these steps can be done via an intern as they are time-consuming but are important in order to find the right partner for the long term.
With all the info gathered till now, you can preselect up to 5-6 companies with whom to make a second call where you can test their actual IT skills. Ask them deep questions about their technical, delivery and process expertise. Ask them to show you code and how they have done the things for someone else.
This call may take up to 2 hours but based on that information you can narrow the companies down to 3. Then you should visit all of these 3 companies to feel the vibe in the office and to meet with the potential people you’ll work with. Finally, choose the IT managed service company you feel is the most professional and close to you in culture.
This approach takes time but if you look for a partner with whom to work for the next several years it is definitely worth it. Of course, if you are in a hurry you may skip some steps but then the risk of picking the rotten apple increases. If you want to read more on the topic you can check out the articles here and here.
To sum up
In summary, to find the right IT managed service company you must invest time to do your research. Don’t underestimate it, because having the right partner will allow you to prosper & flourish while the opposite may cost you a lot of time, money and nerves.
References are key – ask them the right questions and feel the mood on the other side – is the person hesitant to answer or really positive on speaking about the vendor. Then visit the office of the potential partner to meet the people and feel the vibe – are they caring as individuals or they just speak about transactional things like how the reports and payments will be done.