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Outsourcing IT for the Small Business Owner: A Comprehensive Guide to Making the Right Call

If you're considering outsourcing your IT services to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or IT advisor, this guide can help. Making the right decision can be challenging, but with the correct information, you can confidently choose an MSP that best suits your unique needs. This guide provides all the details to help you make an informed decision and set your business up for success.

Take stock of your IT needs.

Every business is different, and while all companies need some IT infrastructure, knowing what you need help with is essential. Do you need to upgrade your computers? Do you need better security or a better backup solution? Do you need a network overhaul? Are you looking to have someone handle all of your IT support? Once you understand what you need, you can look for an IT advisor.

Do your research.

Once you know what you need, it's time to look for an IT advisor. Look for those with experience working with businesses in your industry and offering the services you need. Read reviews, check social media, and check references to make sure they have a good reputation. Do you want to work with the same person every time, or would you call a help desk instead?

Compare prices.

IT advisors and MSPs charge different rates, so shopping around before deciding is essential. Some MSPs charge a flat fee for their services, while others charge based on how much you use them. Ensure you understand their pricing model and how it will affect your budget. It is possible to customize a solution that works for your needs and the solutions they are willing to provide.

Get to know them.

Once you've narrowed your list of MSPs, it's time to get to know them better—schedule consultations with each MSP to discuss your IT needs and learn more about their services. Ask questions about their experience, certifications, and customer service. Find out their position on providing you with your administrative passwords. I have onboarded several clients without administrator passwords, and their IT provider was not forthcoming with that information. Suppose an MSP doesn't want to provide you with your passwords; heed that as a red flag and look for a new IT advisor. Your data should never be held hostage.

Find out if they maintain up-to-date documentation, which they will share. For example, I provide my clients with an "IT Overview" Document that I go through every six months or anytime a change occurs to their setup or Network. That way, we each have it to reference. I also take pictures of their network infrastructure and use my trusty label maker so that if I need to ask them to reboot something, I can send a picture of what it looks like and tell them how it's labeled, making troubleshooting much more straightforward.

If your business is required to comply with multiple regulatory requirements, will they assist you in maintaining compliance and provide support for IT audits? Also, are they capable of supporting your existing hardware? How do they handle software and vendor support?

Make a choice.

After you've evaluated your options, it's time to make a decision. You make The best decisions from your gut, and entrusting an IT advisor to ensure they have your best interest at heart is critical. Once you have made your choice, it's essential to clearly state what you will expect from them, ensuring that what they can provide aligns with your business IT needs.

Get them on board.

Once you have selected your IT advisor or MSP, it's time to start the onboarding process. Find out what they need from you. Most IT advisors will want to do an assessment, which can involve a one-time charge to go through your Network and computers. Will they deploy remote software to the devices? What does the onboarding timeline look like? How do they prefer to be contacted? How will you keep track of IT-related problems?

Keep an eye on them.

Monitoring their performance is essential after you've implemented the MSP's services. Ensure they meet your IT needs, and give them feedback if necessary.

Having an IT advisor who you trust is instrumental in running a successful business. When I have potential clients schedule calls, I always have a checklist of questions that I ask them. It allows me to understand their needs better and how I can best support their business.

Here is a checklist of questions you can ask an IT advisor during a consultation:

1. What experience do you have working with businesses in my industry?

2. What services do you offer, and which would be best for my business?

3. What certifications do you and your team hold?

4. Can you provide references from other companies you have worked with?

5. How do you handle IT support requests, and what is your typical response time?

6. How do you handle security and backups?

7. How will you handle any IT-related compliance issues my business faces?

8. What is your pricing model, and can you provide a detailed breakdown of costs?

9. How will you ensure my business's data is secure and protected?

10. How will you update me on the status of my IT systems and any issues that arise?

11. What happens if there is an IT emergency outside of regular business hours?

12. Will you provide me with my administrative passwords, and how will you ensure they are kept secure?

13. How do you stay current with IT trends and technologies?

14. What is your onboarding process, and what will you need from me to get started?

15. How often will we meet to discuss my IT needs and progress?

16. Do you have a contract I will sign? Can the contract start with a shorter term so we can ensure this is a good fit?

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