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MSP Evaluation: Top 10 considerations for evaluating your MSP partner

How to find, evaluate, and switch to the right MSP for your SMB- Part 2


As discussed in the previous article, many SMBs are moving to the Managed Service Provider model for their IT needs, and demand is growing. Outsourcing IT functions enables organizations to leverage advanced technology, scale quickly, respond faster to market changes, and operationalize robust security measures to protect the organizations’ assets.

But how do you know which MSP is right for your business?

To help, we’ve compiled a list of best practices, tips, and insights explicitly curated to help SMBs wanting to leverage the benefits of a successful MSP partnership without common pitfalls endured by others.

Let’s dig in.

MSP Evaluation – Top 10 considerations for evaluating an MSP partner   

1)  Business model understanding and commitment to your business

Finding the right MSP is crucial for the long-term success of the partnership. For the MSP partner to provide maximum value, they must be capable and willing to learn your business inside and out. Without this critical knowledge, the MSP becomes a taskmaster rather than a partner providing guidance and expertise to empower growth and mitigate challenges.

  • Do they ask questions about your business model, competitive landscape, and goals?
  • Do they seem willing and eager to provide solutions that are best for you, or are they just looking to sell solutions or hardware in their current portfolio?
  • Are they open to a continued investment of time and effort to understand the dynamic nature of your business? Can they provide flexible solutions that help you grow over time? Avoid ‘order-taking’ MSPs who check the boxes initially but are unwilling to continue developing their knowledge of your business – including the evolving drivers and risks.

2)  Responsiveness

The lack of responsiveness from many MSPs is one of the most common frustrations noted by organizations looking to switch to a new managed service provider. The recent acquisitions in the market have further exacerbated this frustration. When another organization acquires a current MSP partner, clients often get left without their primary contact and are forced to become just another number when issues arise. For smaller MSPs, response times tend to suffer when the MSP doesn’t have the processes and infrastructure to handle the demand.

Whatever the reason for slow response times, your business can suffer. It’s essential to understand the managed service provider’s policies and capabilities upfront and ensure there is a way to hold them accountable.

  • Does the MSP have a written policy on ticket processes and expected response times to tickets?
  • What were the status code standards and promised response times for each? What are the promised response processes for each?
  • Do these written response standards match up with your business needs?
  • Does the MSP provide a dedicated technician or team of technicians? Is there someone who takes ownership of your tickets and works with your organization to resolve the issues? Without a dedicated team or lead, clients are treated as just another number –repeating the problem to the next technician is annoying and a big hit on your organization’s productivity.
  • Do you have the ability to escalate tickets via other forms of communication, such as phone calls to dedicated technicians?
  • Is there a written policy for ticket escalation?
  • Is the MSP proactive in following up on tickets, or is the onus of follow-up left up to you? It can be very frustrating for businesses when they feel like their issue was lost in a black hole, and the only way to get traction is to make repeated calls to the help desk.
  • Does the MSP have a portal where you can log in and see the status of your ticket? If so, is the status accurate or just a generic code such as ‘in process?’
  • Is there an established process for holding the MSP accountable for response times? What happens when expectations are not met? Is there a written SLA (service level agreement) that provides remediation for lost productivity?

3)  Communication and collaboration

While understanding your business model is the foundation for a successful partnership, collaboration and communication are integral components. This starts in the beginning, even before the contract is signed. When evaluating a potential MSP, look at how they communicate with you about your goals and challenges. Do they listen and provide practical solutions, or are they more interested in telling you how they operate?

The current business landscape and technological advances move very quickly. Even the best-laid plans will need optimizations based on unexpected changes in the marketplace. If your managed service provider can’t openly communicate with you and promptly pivot based on your dynamic needs, they are not a good fit for your future growth. When discussing your relationship with a prospective managed service partner, make sure you understand their stance on communication processes involving critical issues such as workflow optimizations, billing discrepancies, new projects, and delivery of expectations.

  • Is there a schedule or process for ongoing communication, such as weekly or monthly status calls?
  • Does the communication process fit in with your business culture and cadence?
  • What should day-to-day activities and communication look like?
  • Do you get a sense the MSP is being transparent – i.e., telling you everything versus what they want you to know?
  • Do you have confidence that they will be available and ready to support you, even during unexpected events?
  • Do you see invoices with detailed descriptions of work performed, so you have a good understanding and agreement on how your budget is utilized?
  • What happens when the utilized time doesn’t agree with your expectations? Is there a process for ongoing optimizations? An example might be laptop installs where, given the proper documentation, installation scripts, and task automation, the installation time should be reduced. If your MSP charges you the same rate no matter how many you have done, they are probably milking the budget and costing you money.
  • What reporting do you need weekly, monthly, or annually and does it match what the MSP is willing to provide?
  • Is the prospective managed service provider always looking for ways to optimize your budget and deliver greater value? If not, they are not a good prospect for a partnership.

4)  Service offering, expertise, and experience matched to your needs

There are many MSP evaluation checklists and articles about what to look for in a new MSP. For many of these, the target list is oddly slanted at the services the authoring MSP provides. What really matters is the match of these services and expertise to your organization’s needs.

This is where your initial homework plays a critical role. If your strategic initiatives call for big projects and flexible, scalable IT solutions, look for an MSP partner with the services, expertise, and experience to support your needs. The evaluation benchmarks are a little more straightforward if you are looking for helpdesk and monitoring.  Minimum standards for this level of service should include basics such as help desk and monitoring, efficient documentation and ticketing, malware and end-point detection, and backup and recovery.

Also, look for a prospective MSP partner with experience in your specific vertical market. They can provide the benefits of insider expertise, reduce the learning curve, and increase speed to market.

5)  Proactive culture & operational style

The last thing you need is lost productivity or surprises. When evaluating a prospective MSP partner, an essential quality is their written policies and proven record of being proactive. From ticket follow-up to proactive hardware & software maintenance, the MSP should be able to help you solve potential issues before they become more significant problems. The proactive mindset also applies to growing your business. Does your MSP proactively look for ways to optimize processes and budgets? Or do they have the thought leadership capabilities to provide proactive guidance when planning new initiatives? There are many ‘order-taker’ MSPs out there, don’t be fooled into cheaper contracts that don’t offer you the total value of a partnership. If following up on tickets or chasing reporting has become an expectation when dealing with your MSP, you have the wrong MSP.

6)  Thought leadership and innovative mindset

As previously mentioned, one of the most significant factors driving the growth of MSP partnerships is the complexity of the business landscape and the speed of advancing technology. This, combined with escalating security threats and constant regulatory changes, create a perfect scenario for a managed service provider partnership.

Look for prospective managed service providers offering strategic insight and thought leadership to help align your business objectives with technology solutions catering to your specific needs. Many MSPs report they have vCIO (virtual CIO) capabilities, but often their version is upselling equipment rather than a deep analysis and solution targeted at the client’s best interest. These smaller, less experienced MSPs don’t see value in recommending something they don’t sell, so they often stick to in-house capabilities and hardware.

Another way to look at this is to think of Wayne Gretzky, the Canadian hockey player and 4x Stanley Cup champion throughout the ’80s and ’90s. His famous quote, ‘skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been,’ is also very appropriate for the business landscape and aligning your technology assets in such a way that enables future growth. No one can really see the future, but successful MSPs with cVIO capabilities have the insight and expertise to help guide your decisions and empower your organization’s full technology potential.

7)  Reputation

Google ratings for products and services have become a standard because we’ve learned the hard way that you can’t necessarily trust what everyone tells you about their capabilities. We’re not saying to rely on Google ratings solely but go deeper and check references. Ask a few contacts for current and past clients, then take the time to make the call and ask the questions you really want to know. Look for unpaid directories and third-party evaluations if available. If an MSP has a history of hiccups revealed in ratings, reviews, and testimonials, this could indicate that expectations were not met then, and there may still be an issue.

8)  Infrastructure & documented operational process

When planning for growth, you want to ensure your partners can support your growth. This means having a flexible and scalable infrastructure that can flex with your needs. The documented operational processes are critical because they provide a road map and insights into their ability to fulfill the services promised.

9)  Licensing, certifications & compliance

Check to see if your MSP has any expertise in licensing and credentials necessary for your industry. Big-box vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, or HP provide software and hardware certifications to help validate knowledge and practices. Additionally, suppose you are in an industry with regulatory compliance, such as NIST, HIPAA, SOX, or CMMC, to name a few. In that case, your MSP partner of choice should have a vast knowledge of the specific compliance processes and procedures to ensure you remain compliant in all aspects of your IT systems. Even better, if the MSP has undergone the compliance process, they are in a much better position to help guide and protect you from risks.

10)  Third-part vendor management, vendor agnostic

The best MSP partner can provide insight and guidance on the best solutions for your organization. This means having the ability to recommend any hardware, software, or technology solution that best fits your needs – not theirs. MSPs that are a good fit for your business will have rock-solid relationships with key vendors in all technology segments relating to your industry.

Finding the right MSP and MSSP partner can exponentially benefit your organization. By taking the time to clarify your needs and fully vet prospective partners who can fulfill your needs, you’ll be setting yourself up to avoid some of the most common frustrations mentioned above. And, with the right partner, enable a mutually beneficial and long-term partnership that helps drive innovation, productivity, and growth.


Want to know if GlacisTech could be a good fit for your needs? We’re happy to have deep, insightful conversations with you any time. Give us a call – we’re ready when you are.

Miss Part 1 of the series? Catch it here.

Read: Looking for a new MSP in 2023?

About GlacisTech

GlacisTech is a managed service provider (MSP) and managed security solution provider (MSSP) for small to medium-size businesses in the Dallas and North Texas region. GlacisTech helps businesses grow by providing innovative, state-of-the-art IT solutions that allow its customers to reduce network downtime, increase operational efficiencies, and cost-effectively scale their IT to meet the demands of their growing businesses.

GlacisTech’s suite of Worry-Free IT services includes managed IT, cybersecurity, virtual CIO, managed compliance & remediation, and cloud services.

Glacis Technologies, Inc
1130 East Arapaho, Suite 184
Richardson, TX 75081

24/7 Customer Support 469-522-2022

GlacisTech | Managed IT Service Provider | Dallas TX