The Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a Managed Service Provider


Written by

David McBride

Published on

The rapid evolution of technology has put immense strain on businesses to upkeep IT. Add on additional pressure from the forced adoption of remote work and changing customer preferences, and businesses now face more IT stressors than ever before. 

*Insert Managed Service Providers*

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) provide businesses with the needed security, efficiency, updates, and helpdesk IT support, allowing teams to focus on other vital business functions that drive growth and customer satisfaction. MSPs oversee your IT systems’ updates, cybersecurity, and maintenance while proactively searching for vulnerabilities and inefficiencies and training employees on modern technology usage and cybersecurity precautions.

Whether you’re a small business just getting started with IT management or an established company with an IT staff, partnering with an MSP adds needed insurance and comfort that your business data is protected and operational systems are constantly monitored. Yet, not all MSPs are created equally. Some might lack expertise in your industry, and others might not offer the exact services you need. It’s important to know what to look for and choose the right partner to ensure that your IT systems are in good hands, leaving you to manage the rest of your company. 

Know where to start

Assess your business needs

Choosing the optimal managed service provider for your company requires intimate knowledge of your company’s needs. Knowing your needs will allow you to identify and target MSPs that provide the IT support you need to meet those needs and future goals.

Consider your current IT structure versus where you want to be in the future. Identify current pain points and make sure the MSP you choose can ease those while providing you with opportunities to meet your future goals.

List your industry-specific challenges

Knowing how and where your business struggles to succeed is paramount for clearly communicating your needs to your MSP. Take time to identify challenges specific to your business and industry. This could look like strict compliance requirements, odd working hours, maintaining critical infrastructure, or privacy requirements such as HIPAA. 

Presenting your challenges to an MSP will allow them to answer any concerns directly or promptly tell you what areas they can or can’t support. 

Learn a few key IT terms

There’s no need to go out and become an expert on provider-specific language. However, you and your team should be familiar enough with industry jargon to identify when an MSP is selling you gold or dirt. In fact, a good MSP won’t overwhelm you with technical language and will explain what they do in straightforward terms. 

Here are a few key terms to know:

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

A common component of contracts between MSPs and their customers that stipulates the exact services the MSP will provide in addition to performance and quality benchmarks the MSP is accountable for. 

Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)

These MSPs offer specialized, advanced cybersecurity knowledge than typical MSPs. Services may include security monitoring, vulnerability risk assessment, and intrusion detection and response. 

Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM)

Used most by IT MSPs who offer remote services as software that allows your IT partner to remotely maintain your servers and endpoint systems without visiting your office or employees onsite. 

Strategic Business Review (SBR)

Conducted regularly by your IT MSP to identify innovative business opportunities and room for growth through technology to provide guidelines for future technology investments and applications. 

Knowing a few key terms can help you understand exactly what an IT provider offers so you can make well-informed decisions.

Know what to look for in a Managed Service Provider

Selecting the best MSP to entrust the security and efficiency of your company’s IT is vital for success. Choosing a technology partner that’s not a good fit will cost you lost time and revenue, not to mention the overhead of disentangling and switching IT companies yet again. Before choosing a partner, you must understand what to look for in a successful MSP. Here are some criteria and identifiers for finding the best MSP for your business.

Proactive approach

Managed Service Providers must take a proactive approach to your IT infrastructure. Maintaining your current IT structure and fixing problems as they arise are no longer enough to succeed or defend against virtual threats. 

Today’s IT landscape requires consistent monitoring and evaluation for upgrades, all while maintaining consistent budgets and expectations. An MSP can save your business money by proactively identifying areas for improvement and implementing those changes. The best MSPs will provide a comprehensive plan covering how they will oversee and approach managing your IT systems.

Diverse skill set

Seek an MSP that can manage multiple aspects of your IT infrastructure, including cloud-based services, maintenance, cross-platform integrations, and more. The continuous improvement of technology requires an MSP to go above and beyond simple maintenance skills. 

Cloud capabilities

Experience working with cloud computing is a must. As technology continues to develop, the need for the cloud increases. Even if your business does not currently operate on the cloud, chances are that as your company grows, the cloud will become a necessity. Partnering with a managed service provider with in-depth knowledge and experience working with and managing cloud-based services and hybrid environments will benefit your company in the long run. 

Top-tier MSPs should provide you with guidance and assurance to migrate and operate efficiently in a cloud or hybrid IT environment. 

Continuous learning

IT management is always active. Find an MSP willing to continue learning about your industry and specific business to help align your IT systems with business goals. An MSP that doesn’t fully understand your company won’t be able to adapt and grow with your needs. 

Industry familiarity, but not exclusivity

On one hand, you want an MSP that understands the specific challenges and requirements of your industry. However, choosing an MSP that ONLY services businesses in your industry has its downsides. Single-industry IT companies can often have tunnel vision and miss opportunities and threats happening in other industries. Multi-industry managed service providers bring a broader level of awareness to the table that gives you the benefits of seizing new technology developments before your competitors, as well as protecting your company against cyberattacks that are new to circulation.


The ultimate goal of any business is to exceed customer expectations and be profitable. Identifying a managed service provider that not only sets your company up with opportunities to grow but can also grow with your business over time is vital. When choosing an MSP, ensure they have policies and experience providing scaling methods as your business grows and changes. 

Compliance and regulations

Choosing an MSP that knows the ins and outs of IT compliance standards is a must. The best MSP for your business will help you navigate governance and controls to ensure you meet all required compliances and regulations. 

Additionally, top-tier MSPs will have in-depth knowledge of best IT practices, implement them in your IT system, and help train your employees. 


Ultimately, the security of your IT systems and business data is one of the most important factors in finding the right MSP. When choosing the best MSP for your company, ensure that they not only provide top-tier security for your business but also follow best practices for their business and focus heavily on protecting themselves and you from cybercriminals. 

Essential cybersecurity implementations include endpoint monitoring, dark web scanning, antivirus and firewall implementation, threat detection and response, security update management, user access control, malware protection and more. 

References and portfolio

One way to ensure that your MSP partner accurately provides the services they promise is to ask to see a portfolio or request references of current or past clients. Search for a provider that has a strong track record and can provide testimonials and examples showing their expertise. Reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp, and Trustpilot are also good sources of feedback from other clients.

Asking references how their partnership has been will give your company valuable insight into how a potential partner would fit your company’s needs. 

Assess how the MSP communicates

When choosing an MSP, you must ensure they offer clear communication and customer support. Effective communication is the center of successful partnerships, helping ensure that your needs are heard and met. 

Ask if support is available 24/7 and what communication channels they offer (email, phone, ticket systems). Also, ask if those channels are different during weekends or evenings. Clear and effective communication channels allow you to report and resolve issues promptly.

Visibility and transparency 

MSPs should be open and direct with the changes and maintenance they provide for your IT system. Your company should have access to real-time information regarding the health and status of your IT environment and should know about any future plans or needs that the MSP sees. 

At the same time, your MSP should not make you feel like you have to be a technology expert. While you must make technology decisions, your MSP should be your partner along the way. If they simply defer every decision to you without showing any ownership, that’s an indicator they are more interested in covering themselves than helping you make effective decisions.

Know what to avoid in a Managed Service Provider

Sometimes, choosing a provider is easy because you know exactly what you want, and one option stands out above the rest. However, there are other times when providers offer the same levels of services, and making a choice takes time and effort. Here is a list of characteristics to avoid when choosing an MSP. 

Pay by the hour

A reputable and reliable MSP will not charge you by the hour for their services. Instead, they will provide a comprehensive pricing guide, including SLAs, one-off project fees, and any additional costs that might arise—ensuring that priorities are aligned between you and the MSP.

Pre-packaged pricing agreements

Delivering reliable services requires an intimate understanding of your business. If an MSP attempts to offer a pre-packaged price or agreement without conducting an in-depth discovery of your business, it’s probably best to go in another direction. 

Top-tier managed service providers will want to understand your company’s IT environment comprehensively before offering any agreement, pricing, or services. The better they know what you need, the more accurately they can price their offerings. 

Outsourced support

Most MSPs can support companies from outside of their geographic region. When choosing to work with an MSP outside of your geographic region, your direct support contacts and account managers should always be a part of the MSP’s internal team. While outsourcing some on-site services is normal, outsourcing other support such as point-of-contacts or other account related positions is not. 

No experience with remote or hybrid work environments

An MSP with no experience with remote or hybrid work indicates that they have not adapted to new technologies and lack forward thinking. 

Your MSP should have intimate knowledge of supporting remote and hybrid IT environments. Additionally, look for an MSP committed to innovation and keeping an eye out for the best available technology for your industry. 

Know what they offer and what they don’t

You don’t need an MSP that can do everything. You need an MSP who can do everything you need. This goes back to understanding what your business truly needs from a technology partner now and as you grow in the future.

Backups and data recovery

The security and safety of your business data is the most critical role of an MSP. Ensuring they offer automated daily backups on a remote server will keep your business safe in the long run. 

Cybersecurity protection

Cyber threats are at an all-time high. With various types of cyber attacks targeting businesses daily, ensuring that the MSP you choose is experienced in cybersecurity is necessary. 

Ask how proactive the MSP is towards cybersecurity and how they approach security breaches.  

Physical space management

Does the MSP provide security cameras, access control, or resource management? Do they assist with managing and organizing your physical space, or does that responsibility fall directly on your company?

Know the right questions to ask

While most research can be conducted online or by speaking to previous clients, you should still be looking to ask a few vital questions to any potential MSP. We go into more depth with more questions in our article about questions to ask when choosing a Managed Service Provider. Here are a few to get you started.

What services do you provide?

This question will ensure that you and the MSP align on your business needs. Additionally, you can identify what services they offer that you don’t need, which will help generate clarity around pricing. 

How do you respond to disaster situations?

With your business’ reputation and functionality at stake, you must trust your MSP to protect your and your customer’s data. Asking this question is essential to ensure they have practices in place in case of emergency for your business or theirs. 

Ask about budget planning

The best MSPs will walk alongside you as you plan for future technology needs. They should offer yearly planning and provide their expertise when looking for ways to save money and improve efficiencies in the future. 

How will you improve our company’s efficiency?

This question should cover how they will implement long-term improvements, free up employees’ time, and approach proactive maintenance of your system. 

Our Managed IT Services

Top-tier MSPs are more than just another provider, they are a true technology partner helping you leverage technology to grow and protect your company. We focus on helping your business achieve its goals by increasing efficiency and profitability.

We provide comprehensive IT services to ensure your business runs securely day in and day out. You’re always welcome to ask any questions regarding choosing the right MSP or our services.