Today’s IT departments all struggle with similar pain points: limited budgets, and a lot of pressure to innovate. In looking for ways to reduce your infrastructure and operations costs, you’ve been considering remote managed services, along the lines of the iSeries cloud and other Cloud-based ERP alternatives.
Managed services are a great way to shift your energy from routine tasks to strategic projects. However, this article isn’t about why managed services are beneficial; it’s about helping you better understand the fine print once you get to signing the agreement.
It’s really important to carefully review the managed services agreement to ensure that key items that are crucial to your business goals are included.
This service agreement becomes the legal document that defines and solidifies the levels of service that you can expect from your MSP with respect to the plethora of IT assets that make up managed IT services today.
Every agreement made between a client and a MSP, should begin with basic contract information (agreement and support terms, termination clause, limitation of liability etc.) and define the processes the MSP has put in place within their organization to meet your corporate data security requirements and ensure proper accountability.
On a more granular level, the following items should also be clearly defined:
Service Level Agreement
A MSP’s service level agreement, or SLA, defines the MSP’s actual capabilities in providing service to a client and is an integral component of the managed services agreement. The SLA will contain the liability limits of the MSP, which in turn should be known by you.
That said, it’s very important to be aware of what constitutes an ‘out-of-scope’ request. Paul Barnett, the marketing director at Virtual Administrator, wrote a good little piece on MSPMentor, drawing caution over some items that are often unclearly defined in managed services contracts including:
- Installation and configuration of new equipment
- Major systems/hardware upgrades
- Moves to new locations
- Hardware replacement
- Legacy hardware support
Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions involved in the agreement to ensure they align with your specific needs and requirements before signing.
Network Management Terms
The contract should clearly define the activities, processes and tools that pertain to the operation and maintenance of your networked systems, including security.
An enterprise-grade security model should have clear policies and procedures regarding:
- ·System downtime/business interruptions
- Physical security of data centers
- Shared technology vulnerabilities
- Encryption of data
- Identification and authentication of users
- Network monitoring (with the types of support available, an escalation plan and off-hours technical support and contacts)
The MSP’s whole support structure, including first, second and third levels of support as well as help desk processes are an integral part of managed services. The MSP should have a prioritization processes in place, as well as standard and escalated response times that should be defined in the agreement. If the MSP has contract termination penalties, this should be spelled out in the agreement so there are no surprises.
Finally, the agreement should reflect the MSP’s labour rates or fees for requested services which fall outside of flat-fee support. If you request additional services, the cost needs to be known in advance.
Again, the more astute you are about your requirements and expectations, the better your potential MSP will be able to respond to them.