Managed service providers (MSPs) can help business owners with myriad IT operations, such as server monitoring and alerts, hardware support, security administration and backup services, to name a few. These offerings can be especially beneficial for the small or middle market business with limited IT resources. But how do you know which MSP is right for your business? Here are two tips to get you started on the process of choosing a provider that will help your business run more smoothly.

Perform a Risk Assessment

Before seeking out an MSP, perform a risk assessment of your business. This will help you identify gaps in your IT operations and compile a list of tasks that are either not done well or are neglected altogether. For example, let's say your risk assessment reveals that a lack of IT resources makes it difficult for your business to keep up with IT tasks like network monitoring and patch management, resulting in inconsistent security measures. A provider that specializes in security may help in this instance; they can mitigate security-related risks like downtime and data breaches. A risk assessment of your business will help you pinpoint your IT weaknesses and start you off in right direction when looking for an MSP to fill in the gaps.

Exercise Due Diligence

Finding the right MSP requires doing your homework before making a decision — in other words, it requires due diligence. Once you know what services your business needs, you can start researching provider offerings on the market. There are many factors to consider when conducting your research, such as providers' financial health and certifications. For instance, if your business needs to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you'll want to select a provider that is HIPAA compliant. Ponemon Institute found "a 125 percent increase in criminal activity in health care organizations since 2010," reports MSPmentor. This highlights the importance of properly assessing prospective MSP capabilities to determine if their offerings will truly meet your business requirements.

A reputable provider should be able to demonstrate a certain methodology in providing solutions and evidence that their offerings can truly fill the gaps of your IT operations. Once you have a short list of candidates, request references from companies that are similar to yours to further aid in your decision-making.

Overall, MSP offerings can help small and middle market businesses with limited IT resources run more efficiently and effectively. By following these tips, you'll be better equipped to find a provider that will help your business head in the right direction.

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