With apologies to Thomas Jefferson, not all IT support plans are created equal.
Selecting an IT services company can be daunting. To deliver on your mission and keep your company’s promises, it’s necessary to manage and protect the systems that you and your staff depend on each day. Let’s face it, when you arrive at work, one of the first things you do is boot up your computer and go online. Your network is an essential hub of information and connectivity that is necessary to complete your daily tasks.
Over the past several years, in response to the success that hackers have had in gaining access to our personal data and key information, we have all had to modify the way we approach our IT systems. If you’re using the same strategies that you employed five years ago, then you are vulnerable, and you need to change your security plan. For those of us in the IT support field, that change has come in the form of our service offerings: we now offer Managed Service Plans or MSP. An MSP is a comprehensive combination of services designed to prioritize security without negatively impacting productivity.
Most IT support firms have made the transition from providing ad hoc, on-demand IT services to being Managed Services Providers or MSP’s. Modern MSP’s have developed a suite of services that we know small and mid-sized businesses require in order to keep their systems functioning. However, it is important to be aware that there are significant differences between MSP’s.
For example, a good MSP will provide support for your firewall system. A firewall is a device that sits on your network between your Internet services and your internal systems. As the name implies, a firewall provides protection between you and the outside world. A firewall is a critical component in the list of services that an MSP provides; however, like every item on the list, the degree to which each provider delivers on those services can vary considerably. Some MSP’s simply apply the standard blacklist to firewalls to ensure that your network is protected from the known problem Internet locations. When evaluating your prospective vendor, you should understand the steps they take to “harden” your firewall. Proper configuration of the shield between your critical data and the outside world ensures that your internal security policies are supported by your network appliance.
Understanding your business needs first and then ensuring that your technology supports your mission and goals requires close collaboration and regular, effective communication with your IT provider. It is critical that you understand whether your MSP is delivering the custom, business-oriented solutions that enable your organization to meet its objectives.
Over the next several months, we will use this blog space to highlight each of the services provided by MSP’s to help you better evaluate Managed Service Providers and the components offered within their Managed Service Plans. Like so many other things in life, the devil is in the details.