Cybersecurity, Your Business, and Partnering with Trusted Allies

During this National Cybersecurity Awareness month, I want to impress upon each of you the importance of proactive maintenance and monitoring. It is nearly impossible to stop all cybercriminals and, without vigilance and planning (like performing backups), an individual business owner can become overwhelmed – remember, you need to constantly avert every attempt and the bad guys only have to succeed once. Partnering with the right IT managed services provider (MSP) for your business is crucial.
There are IT support businesses offering managed services of all shapes and sizes in the Lake Norman area and, like choosing a bank, an accountant, a payroll service, a HR support company, or even a business coach, new business owners often find themselves overwhelmed by the process and are making crucial partnering decisions under demanding time constraints. Partnering with other organizations, establishing the trust factors involved, and putting in substantial work getting things aligned can be stressful – but having to change partners in an instant when you find you have chosen the wrong ones can be extremely disruptive and costly.
With the incredible growth in the Lake Norman area, the vast number of managed services providers can be staggering – some are very large corporate entities headquartered in another state, some are one person shops that outsource to other companies, some are small local businesses that do everything themselves, and some have no skin in the game at all as they are simply sales people of an international conglomerate based halfway around the world.
Verify what normal business hours are and how issues are handled outside of those hours. Know what their response times are for both on and off hours. Do they offer 24 x 7 service if you need it?
What exactly is included in your managed services? Are ‘in scope’ and ‘out of scope’ activities clearly defined in the Service Level Agreement (SLA)? If work is out of scope, how will you be charged and at what rate? Is there an option to include professional services in your monthly service fee to cover out of scope work in order to maintain the predictable expense benefit of the managed services?
Does the MSP offer on-site services and, if so, at what rate? Is the MSP local and have technical staff to assist at your location? Is the MSP going to tell you that it’s a hardware issue and you need to go and buy a new computer?
Is the MSP local, continental US based or overseas? If overseas, there are issues of time zones, response times, and often a language barrier. These challenges can make your situation even more stressful and can delay resolution.
Does the MSP make you truly proactive vs. reactive. What tools do they use to detect problems? What percentage of their tickets are proactively generated by their monitoring tools versus made by you? Like on your car, a check oil light may be too late but an oil pressure gauge would be invaluable protecting your car against possible damage caused by low oil.
Will the MSP document the work that is performed on your network and systems so you have accurate thorough records? Does the provider maintain past iterations of the network documentation for restore purposes? Documenting activities and storing past iterations of your network could prove to be a lifesaver when there is a problem.
Does the MSP adhere to industry standards and best practices? How do they stay up to date and follow what is going on in the industry? How do they keep their staff educated? How do they handle sensitive data?
Does the MSP have experience in your industry? Do they have experience with companies your size? Can they provide a list of references and case studies so you can ask about their experience with the MSP?
Last but not at all least, trust your gut! Really immerse yourself in the MSP’s culture. Visit their office (if they have one). Talk to their people; does it feel like a good place to work? What is the staff turnover? What is the mission of the company? Are they entrenched in the community? Are they philanthropic and supporting the community? Even if all of the answers above are positive, if you don’t get a good “gut feeling”, you may want to continue your search. The bottom line is to find the right MSP that is right for you and one that is dedicated to growing with you and helping you to succeed.