When the Trust Factor Starts to Erode
When trust is gone, all of your doubts seem to snowball into a never-ending stream of questions and complaints:
- Does anyone at my MSP know how to follow up via phone or email?
- Isn’t this the tenth time I’ve submitted a ticket about recurring issues with OneDrive?
- Where is my contract? The service is supposed to be all you can eat, but I’m seeing extra charges on this month’s invoice.
- I’ve added twenty people, and it doesn’t look like I’m getting any kind of volume discount.
- I used to talk to the owner all the time. It seems like she’s disappeared since they sold out to that copier company from Cape Town.
Are you losing confidence? You’re entitled. I’ve met hundreds of people like you over the last 13 years.
MSP services are relatively new and getting them right is part art and part science. Especially finding ideal provider/client matches.
At Multi IT & Telephony Solutions, we may be an MSP, but our first objective is to help you figure out where you are having issues so you can research solutions with eyes wide open without salespeople stalking you through InMail on LinkedIn.
As your guide, we’ve assembled four simple sections highlighting significant areas of concern that ruin most IT support relationships.
1 – Major System Fails
According to Veritis, “45% of companies reported downtime from hardware failure.”
System disruption includes but is not limited to servers, workstations, and networking equipment like switches, firewalls, and data backup appliances.
Each node is similar to the patchwork in a figurative digital quilt.
Dynamic Technologies cites five more statistics for widely reported causes of total unplanned downtime:
- Loss of power (35%)
- Software failure (34%)
- Data corruption (24%)
- External security breaches (23%)
- Accidental user error (20%)
Are you exhausted yet? Up to 60% of all data backups are incomplete.
I’ve been advising SMBs on technology solutions since 2003 and don’t have any doubts about the validity of these figures.
Astonishingly, at least half of the new clients I’ve ever acquired didn’t make a move until they experienced a significant disaster.
Are you comfortable with the old saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’? No judgment if you are, you’re not alone.
2 – Slow Response Times
When you have a deadline and something isn’t working, five minutes seems like five hours.
And if tech support is slow to respond, you’re not only frustrated, your productivity is also taking a nosedive.
Slow response times have many root causes, and the reasons are related to every section in this article. The following questions will help you decide which considerations are most relevant to your company:
- Are your workstations standardised and up to date? (Make, Model, Year, etc.)
- What about the warranties, are they current?
- Can each member of your team open tickets with your MSP, or do you have one individual running point on behalf of everyone else?
- Are you running one file share on a traditional server and another in the cloud?
- What percentage of your team is working from home on personal computers shared by other members of their family?
- Does everybody have the correct M365 license, so it integrates with their specific line of business applications?
- Do you have any way of verifying if your users are storing data on unauthorized cloud services?
- Is your team using Multi-Factor Authentication?
- What percentage of your team is allowing automatic updates to take place? (Hint: a lot of people put this off because no one likes to reboot when there’s a deadline.)
- Is everyone prompted to log into the network with a user ID and a unique password?
- Does your MSP’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) have explicit language about response times and the specific conditions that make time-bound guarantees possible?
There are so many other valid questions. Hopefully, these widespread concerns will stimulate your curiosity to dig deeper.
Now for something fairly obvious but frequently tolerated.
Many companies are in a constant state of tug of war with their MSP. For instance, MSPs with higher levels of operating maturity will advise the client to have up to date, standardized equipment. This combination maximizes stability and is less prone to malfunction.
When an MSP is trying to serve a business with a lower level of operating maturity, the client may be reluctant to invest.
“Upgrade the WIFI network? My budget is all gone paying for you guys to support me!”
At the same time, it’s not uncommon for the business to expect the MSP to respond whenever there’s a problem.
Over time, the issues will grow in frequency, and the MSP will never be able to intervene rapidly enough to keep the client happy.
Or recover. This is commonly called “death by a thousand cuts.”
3 – Regulation & Compliance Gaps
The previous section is a perfect icebreaker for regulation and compliance. It’s doubtful, the company in my hypothetical example would be a good prospect for a compliance upgrade.
If they can’t make the budgetary justification to replace essential equipment, their MSP’s recommendations to consider a more formal commitment to any of the following popular frameworks would no doubt fall on deaf ears:
- PCI DSS
- NIST SP 800-53
- NIST Cybersecurity Framework
- ISO 27000 Series
- NERC 1300
- ANSI/ISA 62443
To add a little intrigue and cost to the discussion (Sorry!), your organization can be compliant with the latest regulatory guidelines, have dynamic, sustainable systems, and still not achieve 100% security. It’s not attainable.
No matter how advanced technology gets, over 95% of data breaches are caused by human error.
Is your provider promoting compliance initiatives you don’t embrace? Or can’t afford? That’s enough to inspire some businesses to find an MSP with lower standards.
I once worked with a real estate investment client who had merged with another company two years prior, and they were still operating on two separate file servers.
One had their domain on a bare metal server. The other had their domain in a private cloud running desktop as a service.
They were very successful but very set in their ways. The firm refused to merge their file shares or even attend training on desktop as a service (which they were adamant about keeping as a carryover from their previous provider).
It was an operational nightmare and a compliance mess. They didn’t care. Some things were never meant to be.
Are you ready to get more intentional about hardening your systems for better business performance and evolving compliance challenges?
Make sure your MSP is not only versed in your particular compliance requirements but also has documentation to show they are compliant as well.
It’s not enough to take care of your systems. You now have to worry about everybody else.
“Third-party vendors were responsible for two out of every three data breaches,” according to The Internal Auditors Research Foundation.
4 – The Absence of an IT Strategy
One, three, and five are very significant numbers to consider when thinking about your business goals and the value of strategic IT.
Has your MSP asked to review your business plan? Have you offered to share your one, three, and five-year targets with them?
A reactive provider is playing checkers with your digital estate. A proactive one is running a chess match and looks ahead to:
- Develop your technology framework
- Make a strong business case for supporting the foundation with a budget
- Ensure all endpoints are standardized, scalable, fault-tolerant, and moveable as more and more technology is shifted to the cloud
- Build a coalition with your Technology Planning Committee to reduce single points of failure and keep all relevant stakeholders in the know (and energised)
- Plan for changes like office expansions, hiring upswings, work from home initiatives, partnership changes, mergers & acquisitions, regulation, and compliance readiness, and more
- Review and revise the plans on a routine basis with supporting documentation
Documentation is conspicuously underdelivered in the MSP space. If your MSP has fallen behind on this detail, it’s tough to catch up.
Some providers even fall behind at the very beginning. We’re talking day one.
Learn More: The Truth About MSP Onboarding
The developers of IT Glue have somehow managed to make the dry topic of documentation engaging and funny.
Learn More: IT Glue YouTube Commercial
Do you ever read compelling articles about AWS and Azure and wonder why your IT provider hasn’t brought any of these innovations to your attention?
That’s a subtle warning sign you may need more strategic guidance.
Without a trusted advisor leading you with a strategy-first mindset, everything else in your IT environment will produce symptoms that sour the relationship.
Where To Go From Here?
Figuring out exactly why you need to make a move takes time, focus, and clarity.
- Are you willing to read multiple MSP service level agreements to fully understand what is included for a fixed fee and what isn’t?
- Do the MSPs have a clearly defined technical support request process?
- Is your team clear on the differences between a mom and pop provider, a boutique, and a large provider?
- If you are growing, are you willing to pay more? The standard economies of scale logic doesn’t apply to MSPs because they require more resources and time to serve companies with expanding headcounts.
I hope you are further along in your quest to develop the right criteria for finding an MSP you can trust.
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