What Is an MSP and How Do I Choose One?

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Using a Managed Service Provider (MSP) isn’t the same as outsourcing your entire IT operation, but it’s essential you choose wisely.

Using a Managed Service Provider (MSP) isn’t the same as outsourcing your entire IT operation, but it’s essential you choose wisely.

What is an MSP?

A Managed Service Provider is a team of experts (in this case Linux systems management experts) who provide defined services to an enterprise whilst overall accountability of your service remains with the enterprise’s own team.

MSPs are often used to provide expertise in new technologies or when an enterprise needs to change its hardware, software or methods whilst maintaining business continuity.

Using an MSP is not the same as outsourcing your entire IT function, though the range of services they provide can be very wide.

How do I choose an MSP?

1. Define what you need

Choose a provider that matches your requirements the closest.

2. Ask the right questions

Make a check-list of questions for potential MSPs to answer, such as:

About the company and the business

  • What is the pricing structure?
  • What service level agreements are available?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • Does the MSP follow best practice methods such as those described by ITIL?
  • Does the MSP adhere to standards such as ISO/IEC_20000 and ISO 27001?
  • Is the MSP a UK governed business?

About the staff

  • Are managed services a large proportion of their business or a sideline?
  • How many employees work on it and how many will be devoted to your project?
  • What certifications do they hold?
  • What are their skill levels?
  • Will they be able to change your infrastructure provision in timely and reliable manner?
  • Is there round the clock support?

About the company’s ‘break/fix’ strategy

  • Some organisations simply provide the virtual infrastructure and leave it to the customer to manage it.
  • Some organisations expect the customer to raise a fault ticket when something goes wrong.
  • The best MSPs actively manage their customers’ systems so they see problems arising and fix them before the customer notices.
  • What management tools will be deployed and can you view what’s happening?

Where the database is housed?

  • Many EU-based organisations require that their data remains within the EU. Some UK bodies, especially government departments and Quangos require their data to remain on UK soil.
  • Check that the MSP can provide a guarantee that your data will remain in a permitted location.

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