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What to look for when selecting an MSP

The META group has identified 10 parameters as selection criteria for MSPs.

Category Description

Technology The technology an MSP uses to support its services must be identified. META believes it should be a mixture of off-the shelf capability combined with in-house developed integration.

Process MSPs must have well-defined, reusable operations processes. Although these processes should enable some customization on a site-by-site basis, more than 80 percent should remain constant across the entire customer base.

Infrastructure Coverage Most MSPs have identified key infrastructure they will manage (e.g. specific operating systems, databases, Internet). It should be clearly understood what infrastructure they support and how that maps to current/future customer needs.

Operational Characteristics All MSPs hinge on people to make the process and technology work. Organizations should identify how the MSP staff is trained and what qualifications its employees have (e.g. certifications). In addition, it should be determined how the staff is organized for example, can it cover 24x7, and are teams leveraged across clients.

Packaging The service package should be comprehensive and include process, technology, and personnel commitments. It should leave no question of exactly what would be performed by the MSP and what is left to the customer. If the product package is very thin (e.g. monitor availability and no definition below that), then that is more likely to mirror a custom consulting engagement and be more costly as well as not as efficient as a highly repeatable process.

Comprehensiveness Organizations should understand how comprehensive an MSP's capability is within a management process, as well as how far into the organization it pushes (e.g. behind the firewall).

For example, with performance management, one MSP may offer only the availability monitoring of a website; another might monitor the site availability, response time, device availability, and device performance; and a third might do all the previous items as well as respond to alarms (and possibly even try to fix the problem). The deeper the service, the less likely a customer is going to require additional tools and services, hence stronger the customer proposition.

Portal Each MSP provides a user access portal; organizations should identify how usable and understandable it is. They should also determine how much control over the technology is available, in case the organization needs to access it (e.g. can the threshold values be altered, can real-time data be graphed?)

Partnerships Identifies what channel partnerships are in place (who is reselling or passing leads to the MSP). Check whether important partnerships are in place because this is an indication of long-term viability. META Group expects 50 percent of an MSP's leads to come through channel partnerships.

Price or Value Users should evaluate the relative cost of the service and the service level agreements (SLAs) offered versus how fast an organization will see value.

Enterprises should also identify SLA violation penalties provided in the standard contract as well as what flexibility the MSP offers (e.g. payment terms). Most MSPs require an up-front "set-up fee" with services subsequently based on a monthly fee. Value from MSPs is generally seen within 60-90 days.

Additional Service Delivery Several MSPs offer additional services (e.g. hardware procurement, application maintenance,

Capabilities infrastructure architecture). Although these are extra-cost services, there are advantages to sourcing them from a single vendor, and that should be considered.

Source: META Group

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