employees working on computers with headsets
Outsourcing your IT needs can be a costly investment but will open up time for you to handle other business operations. — Getty Images/Bojan89

Information technology (IT) requires special skills that can come with a big price tag. As a small business, you may not have the budget to hire a skilled employee to manage your IT, and you likely don’t have the time or skill set to handle it yourself.

IT is also constantly evolving to meet new industry needs, address security threats and capitalize on business opportunities. To ensure your business’s security and productivity, you may benefit from outsourcing your IT needs to a managed service provider (MSP).

What does an IT service provider do?

MSPs offer a wide range of services to help small businesses manage virtually every aspect of IT. According to Small Business Trends, here are some services an IT service provider might offer:

  • Managed IT service
  • On-demand IT
  • Network setup
  • Network security
  • Database management
  • Cloud computing
  • Software support
  • Data storage
  • VoIP service
  • Computer repair

The true value of an MSP is the time they give back to your company, so you can focus on your customers and pursue new growth opportunities.

What to look for in an outsourced IT company

In a market saturated with IT service providers, it’s important to find one that can handle all of your business’s specific needs. Furthermore, with the constant threat of corporate data breaches, choosing a vendor to handle your business data must be approached with care and caution.

Before you contact any IT service provider, make a list of everything your business might need. For example, if you manage sensitive customer data, such as addresses, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers, look for an MSP that makes security the highest priority.

Once you have a list of your IT needs, you can start searching for an MSP that checks all the boxes on your list. Information Age recommends looking for MSPs that

  • Are willing to join team meetings;
  • Offer additional services, such as business intelligence, data analytics and advanced application monitoring;
  • Take data security seriously;
  • Adhere to regulatory compliance, such and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); and
  • Have third-party accreditations, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 27001 for quality management systems or information security management systems, respectively.

You can find this information by asking direct, specific questions to potential MSPs, but you can also read their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to see what the company actually provides.

The true value of an MSP is the time they give back to your company, so you can focus on your customers and pursue new growth opportunities.

Here are some questions to ask every potential MSP you are interested in:

  • Who works at your company, and what are their qualifications? Due to the nature of IT, a company that has a diverse team of technicians and engineers is best.
  • What kind of support do you offer? If the MSP is also a small business, it may only offer support during standard business hours. If your company is open on nights and weekends, a company that offers 24/7 support would be more helpful.
  • What is your track record? While a new company can be just as good as an established company, a history of satisfied customers and continual growth is key.
  • What services do you provide? Be sure to get all the details about services, even if you don’t think you need them all at the moment.
  • What are your rates? Understand your MSP’s pricing model, which may include rates per user or per device, monitoring-only services and tiered pricing options. Look for a model that gives you the flexibility to purchase only what you need and stay within budget.

Having secure, functional technology is essential for any company. If you’re not an IT expert, hiring an MSP can help you stay on top of technical issues and keep your business running smoothly.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published June 12, 2019