Outsourcing your IT to a managed service provider (MSP) is supposed to make your life easier. If it doesn’t, something has gone wrong. But improving your relationship with your MSP should be easy enough with one or more of these four tips.
1. Set the relationship up correctly from the beginning
Relationships are strongest when both parties know — and accept — each other’s expectations.
A good place to start is to ask the MSP to assess your environment. Are your hardware and software up to date? Are the individual components in harmony or conflict?
If you think your systems are current and will need minimal intervention but your MSP sees antiquated equipment and software conflicts, you’re setting yourself up for repeated misunderstandings. Being on the same page about these questions means you’ll have a good idea about how much work is required to maintain your systems.
2. Agree on what’s urgent (and stick to it even when everything feels urgent)
A frequent source of conflict with MSPs is urgency. When an employee can’t work because their computer is frozen, it feels fatal. But it’s not fair to accuse your MSP of being slow if its turnaround is within your service level agreement (SLA). That’s the service you agreed to and it’s the one you’re paying for. Just because your MSP was able to help you out faster last time doesn’t mean they’re doing a bad job by sticking to the SLA this time.
Everything is negotiable. If you think a type of issue should have the highest level of urgency, put that in the contract.
3. Sit down together
If you’re too busy to sit down monthly, sit down quarterly. Your MSP is learning valuable things about your business, so it’s worth the time.
The meeting is an opportunity to talk about the big issues, especially those that are recurring. Are your employees, for instance, repeatedly opening compromised email attachments? Timely training could save you from a costly breach.
The MSP can also flag rising issues like an ageing server or software that’s coming to end-of-life. Best to act before it fails or you’re running software that’s no longer supported.
4. Value honesty and transparency
A good MSP can do much of its work remotely, so don’t think you’re not getting value for money if you don’t see their technicians walking the floor. Your MSP should have a system that allows you to see what they’re working on. That’s how you should measure value, not on physical visibility.
Also, brace yourself for honesty. It’s your MSP’s job to tell you if your infrastructure is outdated and needs replacing. It doesn’t serve your interests if they feel they can’t speak up.
Ultimately, all the decisions are yours, but you’re employing experts. Taking the time to understand their perspective and to make sure they understand yours will increase your ROI.
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