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Local vs. Non-Local Managed Service Providers – What Really Matters

Posted on February 14, 2017
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For companies who work with a managed service provider (MSP), or those who are looking for one, location typically plays a key role in the decision-making process. And it makes sense. There’s a level of comfort knowing that your IT provider is nearby…maybe a 20-minute drive away, especially if you have a lot of emergency issues or need someone to come onsite often.

However, with the state of the IT industry, remote support services continue to become increasingly common. Most of your users’ experiences with your MSP will be with the Help Desk. Another critical component of the managed services delivery model is Remote Monitoring and Management, or RMM, which includes installing software on all client devices, and monitoring and managing them remotely.

Reality is that a mature MSP should be able to resolve well over 99% of all issues without ever stepping foot inside your office. The (very) small portion that do require hands-on support is usually hardware issues that can be handled by the OEM's local techs. Remote capability also allows the MSP to avoid interrupting users’ work by performing patching and other proactive maintenance tasks after-hours or on weekends to minimize interruptions.

Many MSPs have a majority of local clients, but there are some who support non-local clients (some thousands of miles away). Success with either comes down to four things:

1.  Thoughtful Planning

For an MSP to serve a client (local or not), it must have all the technologies and capabilities in place to be able to support them adequately and efficiently. RMM tools enable technicians to control, troubleshoot, diagnose, and resolve a large majority of issues remotely while on the phone or communicating via email. It goes without saying that these tools must ensure security and privacy. Other remote services include monitoring, backup report monitoring, automated anti-virus and performance maintenance, patch management, system monitoring and alerting, and some types of prescheduled maintenance.  

2.  Experience

Clients considering a non-local MSP should make sure the MSP has experience working with clients located hours away or more -- ideally in your industry. Prospective clients should ask for references and discuss with those contacts how the MSP has performed for them. The MSP should be able to articulate to a prospective client the most challenging circumstances for remote management, and what measures the MSP and client can put in place beforehand to ensure that EVERY scenario can be resolved quickly and with minimal disruption to the client's business and users.

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3.  Communication

A common reason for wanting a local MSP is the fact that it assumes (but doesn’t guarantee) a deeper vendor-client relationship. It’s comforting to know they’re nearby when you need them, a tangible vendor in a world where the Cloud and the virtual marketplace reign. When you dig deeper, you realize the essence of that relationship stems not from proximity, but from effective communication.

Think about your personal life – your cell phone, computer issues, or an online retailer? Oftentimes you are on the phone with a customer service representative or a support technician. Most people would admit that what they care about most is the vendor’s ability to solve their problem efficiently and communicate well, and they can usually recall very good and bad customer support experiences that were the result of good or bad communication – regardless of proximity. Similarly, MSPs can leverage tools and technologies to keep the intimate client relationship, such as using GoTo meeting or Skype to hold face-to-face meetings.

4.  Client-Partner Fit

We recently blogged about finding the perfect managed service provider fit. One way we mentioned is philosophical/cultural fit. Reputable MSPs typically have a philosophy or Core Values that have driven their success. You might consider a small IT services company or a single IT resource over a more reputable and established MSP based on location, but it usually doesn't pay off in the end. It really depends on what you’re looking for and what you need. If your company has suffered in the past from a previous provider's struggles with processes, turnover, or lack of consistency, you might find a better-suited MSP located a few hours away.

At Apogee IT Services, we have offices in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Toronto, and we serve clients across the entire Northeast and beyond -- even out to Colorado! If you’re looking specifically for a managed services provider that has received national and international recognition – one that prides itself on standards, tools, processes, and client relationships – we encourage you to check out our website for more on our services and capabilities.

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