How to Pick the Best Managed Service Provider (MSP)

If you search for Managed IT services in Seattle using the internet phone book, DexKnows, you come up with nearly 500 results.  One of these companies is the best managed service provider (MSP) for you… but which one?

With 500 MSP competitors in Seattle, not to mention Tacoma, Kent, Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, and all the other surrounding areas, it can seem like a daunting task to find the one best fit for your company’s needs. However, IT decisions like this are important. This is a decision you need to make sooner, rather than later.

To help you get started, here’s a step-by-step guide that’ll help speed up the selection process, so you can quickly find the best managed service provider for your needs.

Step 1: Focus on Customer References

This may seem like an odd place to start – but bear with us. If you’re looking for the best managed service provider, you don’t necessarily want the least expensive one or the one with the largest staff. Those would be “the least expensive MSP” or “the biggest MSP,” not “the best MSP.”

Think of it like finding a car mechanic or a dentist. If you were looking for the best of those professions, you’d start the process by asking opinions from people you know and trust, and you’d look online for reviews.

Of course, it’s easier to find the best mechanic or dentist in the Seattle area than it is to find the best MSP in the Seattle area, because everyone has a mechanic and a dentist that they’re happy to recommend. Only businesses of a certain size need an MSP.

The best managed service provider is going to be the one with the best customer service and the best customer outcomes, so if you don’t know anyone with an MSP, or you only get recommendations for a couple of MSPs, you can look online at the local MSP’s websites to check out client success stories and client testimonials.

Step 2: Identify Available Services

A company might be the best managed service provider in the entire Seattle area, but if they don’t offer services that fit your needs, they aren’t going to be the best managed service provider for you.

All good MSPs are likely to offer email hosting, network monitoring and security, and basic email spam blockers, but not all will offer:

This is just a small sampling of the available MSP services out there. Each MSP is going to offer a different package.

The key to finding the best managed service provider for your needs is to identify the provider with the right services as well as a tailored package that meets your exact needs without locking you in to add-on services you don’t need.

Which leads us to step 3…

Step 3: Find Out What’s Included

Just as your business has differentiators that set you apart from similar companies in your industry, each MSP will offer a slightly different mix of included features and benefits. The awesome thing about MSPs is that it’s extremely easy to find out what’s included with your services; just read the SLA.

An SLA, or “Service Level Agreement,” spells out, in detail, what your MSP is responsible for, what your company is responsible for, and what the penalties are if either party (but especially the MSP) doesn’t meet its end of the bargain.

Read this document carefully before entering into a contract with a provider and ask lots of questions. The best managed service providers will be happy to explain every part of their SLA because they’ll be proud to have such a rock-solid document. (It takes a lot of experience to come up with a comprehensive SLA!)

Finally, Step 4: Check the Pricing

(You thought we were going to skip this one, didn’t you?)

If you’ve found the best managed service provider here in Seattle for your needs, one that offers outstanding customer service, the right IT services, and a great SLA, you’ve done all the really hard work already. Price is the smallest portion of your selection process.

If you feel like the MSP you want has prices that are just slightly higher than you can afford with a reasonable IT budget, see what kinds of services and options you can negotiate to get those numbers in range.

If the numbers are still too high after negotiations, ask your MSP about your expected ROI. Many businesses begin their MSP contract paying a bit more than they expected to pay, but in less than a year they see their investment pay itself back big time and they realize what a deal those IT services were.

Typical gains include:

  • Increased office productivity and focus
  • Reduced administrative hassles (such as backup management or software licensing)
  • Peace of mind

If the ROI doesn’t add up and the negotiated prices are still way out of your league, you’ll probably want to continue your search for providers. Obviously, the best managed service provider for you isn’t the one that’s just too darn expensive.

However, even if you do have to go back and find a different, less expensive MSP, the steps in this process will have helped you to create a shortlist, so you know the next MSP to call.

Quick tip: Make sure to check the SLA again if you end up returning to your shortlist. Often, the “cheap” MSPs recoup their margins by offering significantly fewer included services (and therefore significantly lower value). You don’t want to find yourself reeled in by a lower-seeming cost initially only to end up being nickel-and-dimed by a bunch of “out of scope” a la carte charges later on.

Rest assured, you will definitely find the best managed service provider here in Seattle – and it won’t take nearly as much time and effort as you expect.

Now, Start on Step 1

Begin your search for the best managed service provider by checking out some customer references. To get a feel for what you’ll be looking for, check out the client testimonials and success stories from Interplay, an award-winning MSP and one of Seattle’s longest-standing providers.

Choose your industry on the Industries page, so you can see why other Seattle businesses in your field think Interplay is the best managed service provider.