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In view of the challenges involved in setting up and running your own IT support desk, many business owners are reaping the benefits of engaging managed IT services from external companies. These benefits can include increases in productivity, efficiency and cost savings, but also on-demand service elasticity for those experiencing rapid growth, freedom to focus on core business activities and the ability to access the expertise of otherwise costly professionals who may be out of reach for many small to medium-sized enterprises.

Once you’ve made the decision to outsource your IT department, however, you face the not inconsiderable task of hiring the right IT MSP provider for your business. So, what to do?

Before you go looking for something, it’s always a good idea to check to know what you are looking for. Creating a specification for the IT services required by your company is the starting point. If you already have a support service desk you should be aware of the common tasks and technologies it currently handles, and also those that it can’t – those reasons why you are currently considering hiring an MSP. Make a list of your requirements for the moment and those expected in the future.  Include information about the level of service you require: do you need support 24/7, what is the response rate envisaged, and do you want onsite support?

Searching for candidates to service your business without referral will be quickly resolved by a search engine. You will find that there are plenty of candidates available. Look for those which are well-established and have invested in a well-presented website like 360ict.co.uk which makes what they do clear to you. The best of these will include references and case studies: identify whether their previous clients are a match for your company in terms of scale and technologies. You could also consider contacting those clients for a friendly heads-up. Seek referrals from your local business community if you can: tried, tested and recommended is the best method of selection.

Once you’ve drawn up a short-list, it’s time to get talking. When interviewing Account Managers make sure you communicate your business objectives and processes effectively. Provide scenarios that have confronted your support team and find out how the MSP would handle them in detail. Use your IT services specification to evaluate its experience in each of the areas that you have defined.

Ask if you can meet the team so that you can get a feel for staff rapport and knowledgeability.  If you have niche technology, make sure they have representatives who are equipped and experienced in that niche. Find out if they have proactive methods such as random surveys in place for evaluating customer satisfaction beyond simply meeting SLA targets.

The Service Level Agreement is typically defined by the MSP. This, the information you’ve gathered, your service specification and the service cost must be used to make your final choice. You need to establish a rating system based on your service specification to help the decision-making process. Provide a score for each aspect of the spec and compare the overall rating with the financial figures.

Hopefully, your final decision will be a good one, and you’ll soon be enjoying the many rewards of outsourcing your IT support desk, free to focus your full attention on your core business objectives.