CEO Paul Cissel walks through the most important credentials for managed service providers
So in regards to certification, you want to absolutely make sure that your chosen managed service provider has a rigid certification program for all their techs; that the techs are at a minimum network certified, PC certified, and then certified on any of the software and hardware that they’re going to be working on on your site.
As to vendor partner levels, your chosen managed service provider is going to have relationships with various vendors. You should find out from them the relationships that they have and what vendors they have. Everybody picks vendors based upon different criteria. Understand the criteria and why they’re picking the vendor. Are they picking that vendor because it’s the cheapest offering? Are they picking that vendor because it is the best solution within that space? Are they picking that vendor because of kickbacks that they get for gross sales? All of these vendors have gross revenue commitments to their managed service providers, and then they have various discounting levels based upon revenue commitments, too. So you may be able to get certain discounts from one computer manufacturer because of their partner level, versus another set of discounts on another partner level.
Hardware discounts come right out of the partner levels that a varied managed service provider has, so make sure that when you choose a managed service provider you understand the hardware that they’re going to recommend you. They may be more inclined to recommend Dell, they might be more inclined to recommend HP or Lenovo. Then understand the reasons for that: are they recommending that because that’s the cheapest offering again, or are they recommending that because the more that they sell the better the discount they can get to you? And then find out also, of all their revenue, what percentage of it is hardware related, and what percentage of it is monthly recurring and project related? Because that gives you an idea of how much the company really focuses on the hardware level discounts that they can provide to you.
Another credential that you should look at in selecting a managed service provider is how much they track all the regulation that’s out there. We call it security compliance. There are—being based in Massachusetts—Massachusetts came up with regulation about four or five years ago that requires all companies to have a security document called a WISP. Do they understand what a WISP is? Can they help you write a WISP? Can they provide you a boilerplate for a WISP? Because the state of Massachusetts can come in and find you if you don’t have a WISP. There’s more and more federal regulation along the same lines that’s happening that you have to be aware of. And heck, you know, we run small businesses; we don’t have lobbyists on Capitol Hill trying to understand every regulation passing today that we’re going to have to abide by. So it’s great to have a partner who understands what regulations are being passed.
The number one thing when you choose a managed service provider really are the people that are there. Besides the level of training and best practices, really, do they have a level of curiosity on anything that they see? Because technology really is about being curious. The more curious you are, the more you stay on the forefront of technology that’s out there. The more curious you are, the more you look at a particular symptom that may get dialed in, and a lot of technicians just fix the symptom. You want somebody who’s curious enough to get to the root of the problem, so that it’s fixed across the board. As well as that, you want to found out how people bring people on board. What is the on-boarding process for new employees? What’s the training program like? Do they have a very specific training program? How many days, how many months is that before they let them loose on the customers calling in? What level of due diligence do they do about the employees before they bring them in? Do they do background checks? Do they have, say, a 90-day trial program with the people coming in? You know, the last thing in the world that you want is somebody who’s going to walk out the door of your managed service provider walking out the door, disgruntled, with all the passcodes to your server. So make sure that they have processes in place so that can’t happen, so the employees don’t really know the passwords that they’re using in customer systems as well.