Is a Managed Service right for you and how to chose the provider

Author: Aaron Green LLB CIPD, Operations Manager.

The term “outsourcing” can have negative connotations of moving complete departments to other countries leading to job losses and poor service for clients. In real terms though, outsourcing just means giving some of your business operations to a third party to manage on your behalf. We generally term these businesses Managed Service Providers as we manage your services for you. The key difference between an Outsourced Provider and a Managed Service Provider is how the partner works with you. An Outsourced Provider will take a specific task or function and complete it on your behalf often leaving you with little say on how the function is completed, whereas a Managed Service Provider will work more holistically and strategically with you to determine how you want your business to function and then support you in a long-term relationship.

There is a place for both Outsourced Providers and Managed Service Providers. If you just need calls receiving and logging for another department to deal with then an outsourced provision may be the best and most cost-effective way forward, however, if you are going to require support, advice, expertise and a company that is looking after your best interests then the Managed Service Provision is the right avenue.

There can be many reasons why a company is considering working with a Managed Service Provider:

  • Costs – the cost of recruiting in-house IT can often outweigh the costs of Managed Service – especially when holiday and absence cover is considered.
  • Expertise – As your business grows, your infrastructure and applications will become more diverse and complex and your existing team (or yourself!) might not have the expertise to expand with the company, or you have a particular complexity that requires a particular expertise.
  • Coverage – if you work outside normal business hours or have a geographical spread of sites you might not have the resource to support all areas.
  • Resource – As a business grows there will be more support required and you might just not have enough resource to cope leading to long fix times and a reduction in productivity.
  • Performance – your current team, or your current provider, might not be performing to the level you require.
  • Security – Having in-house teams or under-performing suppliers having access to the keys to your business is not ideal for confidentiality or data security.
  • Business Continuity – having a provider who is not based in the same office as you can assist with disaster recovery / business continuity.

The decision whether to use a Managed Service for all or part of your infrastructure is a complex one and one that has to be made at the top level of the business as it will impact on every department within the organisation. For those that are new or worried about outsourcing then using a pay-as-you-go or ad hoc support service or having contract trials is a good way of determining whether it is right for you before you take the full plunge; as is outsourcing part of your infrastructure to begin with and gradually adding other services helps to manage the change for those in the business.

When looking for a Managed Service Provider the following tips will help you to ensure your pick the provider that is right for you and your business for now and for the future.

  1. Certifications & Compliance.

For many businesses, this is an important area and a must-have to even consider working with the Managed Service Provider. Security and process are critical and if the IT provider does not hold certain certifications then how can you trust them with your IT environment and data? The key certifications to look for are:

ISO 9001 is defined as the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organisations use the standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.

ISO 27001 is a specification for an Information Security Management System (ISMS). An ISMS is a framework of policies and procedures that includes all legal, physical and technical controls involved in an organisation’s information risk management processes.

Cyber Essentials helps to guard against the most common cyber threats and demonstrate your commitment to cybersecurity. It reassures customers that the business is working to secure IT against cyber-attack.

G-Cloud is a digital marketplace to allow authorised businesses to sell cloud hosting, software and support to the public sector. If your operation is public sector and the provider is not registered with G-Cloud you should not be taking services.

The Data Protection Act (DPA 2018) and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are a legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information from individuals who live in the UK. There is no certificate but all organisations must follow the regulations. If the provider’s data centre is outside of Europe this will make DPA/ GDPR compliance more difficult with additional control measures needed to satisfy the regulations so a UK/European data centre means much less red tape. Partnerships across the UK and wider world can help keep consistency across your whole organisation.

  1. Research the business

How long have they been trading? It’s best to work with an established business that’s been trading for a while as it would suggest they are stable and their process and polices would be tried and tested.

It is also worth running a credit check. Do they have any CCJs, have they filed accounts on time, do they have a good credit limit, are they rated A or lower? This simple check may save you ending up with a poor partner.

What do others say about them? Check out what other people say about the support that the company give. Testimonials on the website are one way of doing this but these will be handpicked. Check out Google reviews, FEEFO and other review sites.

  1. Where are they based?

With the latest support tools at hand, it is possible to remotely support users in any location, but there are considerations such as time zones and language barriers. It makes sense to have your support team in the same country and ideally in the same region. Whilst the majority of support is completed remotely, there will be times an onsite presence is required – maybe a new desktop setup or an emergency visit as the network is down. Travel time can make all the difference in a Disaster Recovery Scenario and every minute your business is down it is losing you revenue and possibly customers. So, you must ask the question of how quickly can they attend site in an emergency. If it’s not within a few hours then best look elsewhere.

  1. How do you get hold of them?

An automated ticket system or raising tickets with a non-technical colleague is not only massively frustrating but adds time on to the resolution of the issue. Being able to speak, email or otherwise contact a support engineer is a must to get issues resolved quickly and in the manner that suits you best. If the business only works on a ticketing system you may want to shop around. There are providers that offer direct access to engineers so you can get your issue dealt with promptly.

  1. What are their SLAs and how do they guarantee them?

If a company can’t tell you what their SLAs are or how often they achieve them, then SLAs are not important to them. A company that is proud of its SLAs will shout about them from the rooftop. The key SLA with be for critical outages when your entire network is down. Are you going to be waiting for minutes or hours for them to help?

  1. Does their size match yours?

Well, we all know that size isn’t everything but getting the right size company is important. Too small and they will struggle to provide support or scale alongside the growth of your company. Too big and they can be more expensive and impersonal you become just a number. Like Goldilocks, it has to be just right.

  1. What contracts do they offer and what is included?

Having a variety of options means that you can pick the right contract to suit your needs. You may want remote only or require a regular site visit. There are many different contract options to choose from and if you don’t see what you want a bespoke package is normally available.

  1. What are the contract periods?

Be mindful of salespeople promising the world to get you to sign on the dotted line. Any company that can truly deliver what they say will let you try before you fully commit. Ask for an early exit clause with the contract so that if you are unhappy with service you can walk away with no issue. Be wary of being tied into a long contract before you know the company. If they are unwilling to add the clause you’re better off finding another provider that will.

  1. Do they have any value-added services?

While you don’t want a Jack of all Trades, an IT Company that can provide value-added services can be worth their weight in gold. Advice and guidance from a 3rd party that you can trust can be a great help in wider business areas. Make sure your IT Company doesn’t rest on their laurels and works with you to find out what’s important for your business and develop a strategic roadmap.

  1. What is their USP?

Some companies push on their ethics, some push on their client relations, some push on their price. Find out what the USP is for the companies you are looking at and make sure they match your own values.

  1. What happens if things go wrong?

How a company puts things right when things go wrong can turn a complaint into a customer for life, but when things go really wrong is the company insured to make sure that you don’t lose out financially!

At Giotech, we know that taking the plunge in to working with a Managed Service Provider can be a big step for an organisation. That’s why we are there to support you every step of the way – from the initial conversations determining whether it is right for you, to a comprehensive on-boarding process through to working with you to determine your short and long-term IT strategy, we become a partner to your business and an extension to any in-house team.

To discuss whether a Managed Service Provider is right for you contact us to speak to one of our expert team:

Email: hello@giotech.co.uk

Tel: 0207 183 2494