It’s that time of year again when March Madness seizes the country. It seems that talk of bubble teams, brackets and buzzer beaters is everywhere and sports and non-sports enthusiasts alike are enthralled with basketball – specifically the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s and women’s basketball single elimination tournaments. We’ve taken the occasion of this annual U.S. phenomenon to create a little of our own March Madness. Our subject is Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and we’ve heightened the fun with an MSP selection bracket. Basketball fans should feel right at home.
But why the focus on MSPs? Because their use is growing by leaps and bounds. Read on to learn more about the attraction of MSPs and get tips for filling out your very own MSP bracket!
The rise of MSPs
Demand for MSPs is surging as businesses of all sizes seek out the IT expertise, infrastructure, security, scalability and other operational efficiencies offered by quality IT MSPs. In fact, the global managed services market size was valued at $267.3 billion in US dollars in 2022 and is expected to grow 13.6% annually from 2023 to 2030, according to Grand View Research, a market research and consulting firm.
Many factors are driving the upward trend. Among these are growth in outsourced cloud hosting, the rise of remote working and a desire to cut IT capital spending, says experts. With MSPs providing so many important services, choosing the right partner for your organization is key. But selecting an MSP can be a challenging process.
In honor of March Madness, we’ve compiled our top 4 tips for helping you create the perfect MSP bracket designed to filter out the top choice for you!
Identify Your Company’s Unique IT Needs
The first step to selecting a stellar MSP is to identify your unique IT needs. By having a clear picture of what you need, it’s easier to determine if an MSP can address your required services. While MSP services may vary between businesses, MSPs often handle the complex and time-consuming work involved in the management of IT infrastructure or end-user systems. Some examples of MSP services include:
- Handling the management of IT infrastructure;
- Offering technical support to staff;
- Boosting and managing IT backup and security;
- Managing user access accounts;
- Providing IT compliance certifications;
- Providing payroll services
Identify Potential MSP Candidates
You’re off to a good start. Now that you’ve determined your MSP needs, you’re ready for step 2: Identify Potential MSP candidates. Choosing the right MSP candidates for consideration is vital and requires some upfront work. The following are a few tips as you start your search:
- Do Research. Begin exploring the websites of MSP providers to understand the services and solutions they offer. Ensure these match your needs. Part of your research may involve talking to an industry association or fellow business leaders to hear about respected MSPs in your area of business.
- Look at Experience – Consider whether the provider has the resources, experience and expertise to successfully manage your IT operations. Do they have experience in your industry and with businesses of your size and scope? Have they demonstrated excellence in streamlining processes and managing IT operations at other organizations? Look for a provider who has been around for a while and has a solid reputation.
- Develop a Budget – Before establishing a budget for MSP services, determine your organization’s tech service priorities. Work closely with your financial leaders to develop a budget to match your needs within your financial parameters.
- Get Quotes and Referrals– Ask each service provider for a quote on the services and features you need. Compare the costs. Also, as you winnow down your selection list, ask for customer referrals to gather first-hand information from people who have used the MSP’s services.
Establish Evaluation Criteria
The next step in your MSP selection journey is to establish evaluation criteria. The most objective way to compare providers across the board is to use the same criteria when evaluating their services. Here’s some ideas for establishing your selection criteria. These can also be found in the infographic (below)
- Service Level Agreements (SLAs) – Do they use SLAs? A service level agreement documents the types of services to be offered by the MSP and defines the service standards the provider is obligated to meet. This is a good way to ensure everyone is clear on expectations and holds the provider accountable to meet agreed upon performance levels.
- Certifications – Does the MSP hold current certifications in all the important areas for your company? Do they recertify annually? For most companies, housing their data in compliant environments is critically important to meet regulatory requirements. Some of the most popular compliance certifications include HIPAA, ISO 20000-1, ISO 27001, NIST, PCI DSS, SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3 and ISO 22301, which validates an organization’s ability to prevent and respond to a wide range of potential threats and disruptions.
- Security – Now more than ever, businesses need robust security measures to protect against cyberattacks. In considering an MSP, ensure they are security focused. How is your data stored? How is access controlled? Does the company provide data back up and do they have an impressive uptime record?
- Scalability – Scalability is of critical importance since it allows businesses to expand or reduce services as needed. Choosing a company that can scale solutions will enable your organization to avoid paying for services you don’t need.
- Approach – Does the provider use an Outcome-Driven Approach? Do they provide personalized service? In your initial conversations, are they asking questions about your needs, challenges and goals? The most effective MSPs will probe for more information, show genuine interest, and ask the right questions. To successfully oversee your technology and grow your business, an MSP needs to know where you are and where you want to go.
- Cost – Cost is, of course, an important factor in choosing the right MSP for your organization. But, in looking at overall cost, remember to keep in mind MSP benefits that might not be easily quantifiable – such as security. The truth is that all businesses face the risk of cyberattacks, and the resulting costs can be staggering. These costs can go far beyond the ransom payment (if one is involved). Among those cited by industry experts are damage and destruction of data, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, fraud, costs for forensic investigation, and restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems. And here’s a big one — reputational harm, which can ultimately translate to your bottom line through lost customers.
Now that you’ve evaluated your MSP candidates, it’s time to Fill in Your Bracket!
Much like the rounds of March madness, you will be ranking various MSPs against each other to find the right fit for you. We recommend taking an empty bracket (link to bracket above), filling in the first round using your initial list from step 2, and begin evaluating each bracket using the criteria from step 3 (keeping in mind your needs from step 1). Once you have all your round-one winners, repeat the process until you have a single winner at the end.
Congratulations! You’ve completed your MSP selection process. Hope you enjoyed our March Madness theme and guidelines for making a quality choice. Hopefully, LightEdge ended up on the top of your list. LightEdge is a leading provider of colocation, cloud, and managed service solutions and has been providing exceptional service to customers across the country for the last 25 years. If you’d like to learn more about how LightEdge can help you fulfill all your MSP needs, please contact us here.