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7 Essential Qualities of a Managed IT Provider

Thought Leadership piece with Robert Hogg, Managing Partner, Ancero

There was a time when a small-to-midsize business’s IT “infrastructure” could be neatly tucked into a closet. Network security was simple and maintenance was minimal. The role of IT was given to the most tech-savvy person in the office, whose main job was to tell employees to reboot their computer when something went wrong.

That scenario no longer exists. Infrastructure has moved to the cloud and networks are far more complex.

Today, business owners realize that designing, deploying, and maintaining a secure, compliant network that can support modern business applications isn’t something that can be handled in-house. Even organizations with an internal IT staff recognize that they need outside help with day-to-day tasks so they can focus on strategic initiatives.

What Is Managed IT Services?

To overcome the complexity of the modern network and a lack of in-house resources, many companies have turned to the managed IT services model for ongoing management and security of their network. Managed IT providers have the skills, certifications, staffing, and advanced tools to remotely manage and monitor your network. They can also leverage close relationships with top IT vendors to optimize service delivery

Of course, the first step is to choose the right managed IT provider. Here are seven characteristics that should be considered “must haves” when making that decision.

1. Right Industry, Right Size

The right managed IT solution for 25-person law firm with two offices will be very different from a 2500-person manufacturing company with a main headquarters, five satellite offices, and a global workforce.

Ideally, you’ll be able to find a managed IT provider with experience serving organizations of the same size in your industry. If not, look for a provider that has a proven track record of helping companies address similar concerns and overcome similar challenges.

2. Cloud Expertise

Almost every organization is using the cloud to some degree. Most rely on a combination of public and private clouds and premise-based technology. Your managed IT provider should have the expertise and tools to manage and monitor complex environments and consistently apply policies to all network assets, even if they reside in multiple cloud platforms.  Your managed IT provider should be a certified cloud expert who specializes in moving production workloads to the cloud.

3. Customization

There is no one-size-fits-all managed IT solution, even for a provider that specializes in your industry. Your managed IT provider should be willing to tailor their solution for your specific needs and adapt if necessary. If you feel like you have to change the way you operate to accommodate a managed IT provider’s solution, it’s probably time to look elsewhere.

4. Reliable Support

Support can mean different things to different providers. Get a clear definition of support from potential managed IT providers. Get under the hood and examine their support processes, their personnel and the systems they use to provide support. To minimize business disruption, make sure their support options and availability meet your business needs.

5. Compliance-Driven Organization

Regulatory compliance requirements continue to increase in number and complexity. More than an annual audit, compliance has become a day-to-day responsibility. The managed IT provider you choose should be able to demonstrate how they monitor your IT environment from a compliance perspective and proactively address potential issues.  The managed IT provider should itself should also be compliant and should be able to provide you with documentation supporting their compliance.

6. Favorable SLAs

Like most business contracts, service-level agreements (SLAs) are generally written in a way that favors the provider. This should not be the case with your managed IT service provider. Make sure SLA terms that define scope of services, roles and responsibilities, performance requirements, problem management, escalation process and even termination of the relationship do not put you at a disadvantage.

7. Partnership, Not Vendor-Customer

The right managed IT provider will show a genuine interest in your organization and its success. They should take the time to understand your goals and challenges and customize accordingly. They should be accessible when you need them. This happens when you’re viewed as a strategic partner, not a customer.

The long-term relationship you’ll have with your managed IT provider is too important to rely solely on marketing claims and price tags when making a decision. While the right provider can deliver real competitive advantages, the wrong provider can drag down your organization.

Think about the qualities mentioned above. Do your homework. Find the managed IT provider that’s best for your organization. This approach will undoubtedly serve you best in the long run.

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