Selecting an IT managed services provider is a lot like buying a house. When you purchase a home, you take a leap of faith. While the home inspector covers the major stuff, it’s not until you move in that you find the front door sticks in humid weather, the hot water heater is inadequate to support three showers or the rushed tile job in the basement was done improperly and the tiles are all cracking. Enough small issues can add up to big problems down the road, severely impacting the value of your investment.
The situation is very similar when you sign up with a managed services provider. Most will perform a cursory review of your business, spending anywhere from 8 to 16 hours on the onboarding process. They put tools in place so they can see and monitor your IT environment but that isn’t an end to your problems.
STF Consulting typically spends a minimum of 80 to 100 hours onboarding a new client, sometimes as many as 300. This enables us to fully understand the system and find all those problems (and more) while the network gets stabilized. We believe that a thorough onboarding process is better for clients and in-turn, better for us as a provider. We are about long-term client relationships and this initial first step is crucial in setting off on the right foot.
Here are some red flag items we have seen while onboarding new client’s networks:
- No data backup and no recovery strategy
- Multiple users with administrative access to the entire network including confidential documents
- Endpoints with no security software installed
- Costly IT equipment that was powered on but not actually functioning
- Workstations & Servers with no recent patches or updates, some years out-of-date
- Shared accounts and passwords that have not been changed in multiple years
- The presence of unwanted software, such as a remote access applets from the previous IT provider from several years prior
We believe it’s impossible for a managed services provider to offer the security, reliability and peace of mind most business owners are looking for without a deep analysis of the network. The problems we find often don’t entail going out and buying anything new; it’s about identifying issues, making a plan in order of severity and then going in to untangling the messes.
We’ve learned a lot about what to look for and what to fix first in 16 years of onboarding new clients – including how to do all this while minimizing disruption to day-to-day business. Our clients don’t pay a big upfront fee for our thorough onboarding process – it’s rolled into the contracted, flat fee. But they do start benefitting right away with advantages such as:
- More uptime and shorter disruptions if they do occur
- Much more robust security
- Better performance and predictability from the network
- Improved scalability
- Fast response times due to thoroughly understanding the system
- Standardized products to help gain deep product knowledge and using what we learn from one client’s experience to strengthen the others we manage.
Most business owners outsource to a managed services provider because they know there are issues with their networks. They want outside experts to correct and maintain their system so they can attend to their businesses. But a managed services relationship that starts with a brief onboarding process is a tell-tale sign that business owners are not getting the peace of mind they are seeking. You can only reduce the risks you identify. We strongly recommend asking probing questions about the onboarding process when performing due diligence on your next IT managed services provider.