Avoid MSP Traps and Mines

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By: Nancy Sabino

Has your brain ever start to literally hurt when you’re reading through a Managed Services Agreement? You get through the first five pages and then your eyes start to glaze over because you don’t fully understand all the industry jargon. You get to a point where you just skim over the rest of it looking for language that you know and are used to seeing in a standard contract and then you sign.

A few weeks later, you get a call from your IT company telling you that a problem was found during their monitoring and you’ll have to pay to get it fixed. You think, that should be covered shouldn’t it? You go back to your service agreement and lo and behold, it’s not. You kick yourself thinking you should have paid more attention before signing.

It’s NOT your fault though… The language used can be confusing and vague. While service agreements should be about serving you, the client, they tend to lean heavily on the side of protecting the IT company. Nothing wrong with that… It is just my opinion that there should be a healthy dose of both. It is an AGREEMENT after all. Service Agreements should be transparent and easy to read. You should be able to quickly understand what you are getting and what you are not.

There are many different types of Managed Services out there so to help you navigate through confusing contracts – I’ve put together some of the big items that you should look out for.

The Different Types of Services

Monitoring Only – it is exactly as it sounds. You pay for someone to monitor your network and alert you when there is a problem or a potential problem. This does not cover any work that needs to be done to perform repairs.

Monitoring and Scheduled Maintenance – Like the above with some proactiveness of maintenance. Usually the scope of this remains within a scheduled time. No repairs are covered and if something is needed outside of the scheduled maintenance it’s not covered either.

Monitoring, Maintenance, and Remote Assistance – All of the above but this usually adds in the repairs that can be done remotely. If something is needed at your location that is not going to be covered (unless your scheduled maintenance is on site). The remote assistance could be limited or unlimited depending on the provider as well as limited to the hours in which they are available.

“All You Can Eat” – all the above including onsite support. Again, these could be limited or unlimited depending on the provider.

What to Look For

Billable Items – typically things that are considered outside of your agreement. It could be projects, after regular business hours, or even anything new that is added to the network like new software, new computers, new printer etc. Basically, anything that is not considered a “repair” or need for “support”. Support for software that isn’t a Microsoft product can sometimes be outside of the scope of an agreement as well.

Service Levels – How quickly or not will your issue be taken care of. Some companies will charge a higher premium for a higher priority or slimmer time frames on items. This is important because it gives the IT companies bandwidth in their response.

Equipment vs. Users – This is tied directly to how you will be billed. Some agreements will be based on your equipment while others are based on the number of users you have. Some are also based on a mixed model. Knowing this will help you understand what exactly you get charged for and when you should expect your bill to fluctuate. This should also tell you what equipment is covered or outside of the scope of your agreement.

Scheduled Work vs. Ad-hoc – Some agreements spell out having specified times for maintenance or support and if it’s not within the agreed scheduled time, it could also be outside the scope of the agreement.

Client Responsibilities – This could include things like tools or equipment that you could be expected to provide or pay for so the IT company can service you. This could be either an extra cost to the service provider or to a third party.

Service Limitations – this is sort of like the billable items but is often separate because this is typically where a bit more detail goes into what is outside the scope of an agreement. For example, things like, your backup is included in the agreement but not recovering data.

We believe there’s a Managed Service Provider out there for everyone, you just need to find the right fit for you.

Interpreting a contract is generally confusing but it’s even more so when you aren’t familiar with the terminology or what those words even mean. Many people are still trying to understand what Managed Services even means. When all you want is to make sure that your company has what it needs to protect your data, and for you and your employees to be able to work efficiently, the last thing you need is to try and decipher service agreements with mumbo jumbo that may have mines and boobytraps along the way.     

Hope this helps and if you find yourself dozing off when reading through contract options, we’d be happy to help interpret the options for you! We believe that there’s a Managed Service Provider out there for everyone, you just need to find the right fit for you. That includes the right type of service agreement as well.

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