Advice For Buying IT Services

Adam Harling 05-May-2023 12:10:00
Business partnership meeting concept. Image businessmans handshake. Successful businessmen handshaking after good deal. Group support concept.

So, you’re looking for a new Managed IT Service Provider (MSP).

There are likely two reasons you’ve landed here, you either have an IT partner that you’re not happy with, or you need to move IT management from in-house to outsourced, and you are shopping for the first time.

The service procurement process can be daunting for many small and medium-sized businesses, even if you’ve been through it before.

Technology moves at an incredible pace, with more and more confusing acronyms, hidden costs for services you didn’t know you needed and some MSPs very keen to get you under a lengthy contract before upselling the earth to you. It’s a minefield!

Having worked in the IT Services industry for more than 20 years, I’ve seen the good, bad, and ugly when it comes to Managed IT Support packages. In this article, I’ll share my experience to provide you with a handy guide for navigating the buying process for Managed IT Services.

Starting Your Journey

If the prospective MSP is happy to price “blind” or over the phone, it’s a red flag. They either don’t know what they are doing or want to get you signed up to upsell you solutions and services.

The first step with any reputable MSP will be some kind of audit or systems assessment. Some will offer this for free, and others will charge for the service, but all will likely find issues you didn’t know you had.

Free audits may allow the MSP to price the contract, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to put in enough time and effort to get a complete picture of where your technology’s failing, unfit for purpose or out of alignment with best practice.

A paid audit affords the MSP time and resources to gather all the information needed. Then they’ll build a strategy to align your technology with best practices and fully cost any required remedial work. This way, you won’t be left with unexpected urgent projects once you’re under contract. You’ll also be fully aware of any risks that may be present so that you can assess them according to your own risk appetite.

With a paid audit, you can take the report to market with a full understanding of your current state from a neutral position.

What Netitude does: We charge for audits but do them at reduced hourly rates. A typical audit will take around 1-2 days onsite and about 3-4 days to write into a report with strategic guidance and project estimates. This will vary according to the size and complexity of the business.

Understand What the Service Includes

OK, you’ve had the audit, and the MSP has come back with a proposal. Before you sign a contract with an MSP, it's crucial to understand what services are included in the package.

Different MSPs offer different types of services; some standard services include network monitoring and maintenance, data backup and recovery, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and of course, helpdesk support. Make sure to review the details of the services offered, including the scope of the work, response times, and service level agreements.

What Netitude offer: Our standard service offering is one of the most comprehensive on the market; we even assign you a virtual IT Director for strategic guidance. We also know that every business needs specific components and delivery areas and include them in your initial price.

Be Aware of Hidden Costs

Hidden costs can add up quickly; identifying them is essential before signing any contract. For example, some MSPs may charge extra fees for onsite support, spam filtering, anti-virus, cloud backup, user awareness training and cyber incident response. Additionally, some MSPs may require you to purchase hardware or software from them, which can add to the overall cost of the service. Make sure to review the contract carefully and ask questions about any additional fees or charges.

What Netitude does: We Include all the critical software we know is required to ensure risk is minimised. In addition, our audit may bring to light areas that need addressing, such as hardware investment, before any contract is offered. This way, our clients have a complete picture of the costs involved.

Decipher Confusing Acronyms

The world of IT is filled with confusing acronyms that can make it challenging to understand what's included in a service. Some common acronyms you may encounter when buying MSP IT Services include:

  • SLA (Service Level Agreement)
  • RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management)
  • BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery)
  • EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response – the latest type of anti-virus)

Ask the MSP to explain any acronyms or technical jargon you don't understand, as this can help you make informed decisions about the services you're purchasing.

How Netitude help: While we try to keep the technical jargon to a minimum, some services require us to use these acronyms. But we’ll always make sure you understand the services you’re buying into.

Understand Length Commitments

Some MSPs may require you to sign a contract for a specific length of time, such as one, two, or three years.

Make sure to read the fine print carefully to understand the length of the commitment before signing. You may find that some MSPs offer discounts for longer commitments, while others charge an early termination fee for ending your contract. Ensure you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of a long-term commitment before signing any contract.

How Netitude works: We ask for a year commitment, so we can discuss renewal on the anniversary and ensure we can licence the required and included software, but we also have a three-month break clause, meaning if you aren’t happy or the relationship isn’t working there is an easy way to move on.

In Conclusion

Shopping for Managed IT Services can be a complex process, but with a bit of research and preparation, you can navigate the process successfully.

Understand what's included in the package, be aware of hidden costs, ensure you are fully aware of everything likely to be recommended, ask for clear explanations of any confusing acronyms, and understand contract length commitments.

By following these tips, you'll be able to choose an MSP that meets your business needs and helps you achieve your goals.