Choosing the right managed IT services provider (MSP) can be an easy process when you have all the information clearly laid out in front of you. But deciphering the contract options to make sure you’re getting what you expect can be challenging.
That’s why we put together this article. We’ve been in business for over 30 years and have seen too many businesses stuck in unfavorable IT contracts. We’re here to help you ask the right questions so you understand exactly what’s included (and what's not included) so you’re not surprised later.
Here are 10 questions to help you avoid surprises when reviewing managed IT services contracts:
- What is included in the scope of the agreement?
- What does “unlimited” mean?
- Are all of my business’s locations and remote staff included?
- What software or licensing is included in the price?
- What security tools and services do they offer that aren’t included?
- What is the process for updating pricing due to changes in covered devices or users?
- What constitutes a project?
- What is the process for responding to support requests?
- Are backup and disaster recovery included?
- What happens if I’m unhappy with the service?
Let’s take a look.
1. What is included in the scope of the agreement?
Details of the scope of services is often called a Service Level Agreement or SLA. Use the SLA to compare what you were told in your sales conversations with what the managed IT company promises to provide.
Instead of listing the specific services you’ll be getting, the SLA outlines the expected level of service. If you’re looking for IT management and support services, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting exceptional service – not just a collection of technology tools.
2. What does “unlimited” mean?
Make sure you clarify that “unlimited support” really means unlimited.
For example, some IT companies might say that you will get unlimited support, but what they really mean is that you’ll get unlimited remote support and a set number of hours of onsite support each month. Going over your set onsite hours would incur additional charges in this scenario.
3. Are all of my business’s locations and remote staff included?
If you have multiple locations and employees who work from home or satellite offices, make sure they're all included. With remote work becoming the new norm, it’s essential to be clear on who is covered so everyone gets the support they need.
4. What software or licensing is included in the price?
Some managed services providers include spam filtering, dark web monitoring, endpoint detection & response (EDR), and anti-virus in their pricing – some do not. Some IT companies also include monitoring and service tools in their pricing.
If there’s a big price difference between the companies you’re considering, this could be the reason.
Ask for a complete list of what’s included in the support plans you’re considering.
5. What security tools and services do they offer that aren’t included?
The baseline for cyber security essentials has shifted, so more “basic” security tools and services are included in managed IT services contracts these days. You’ll still have things like antivirus and antimalware, but you’ll also see things like EDR, vulnerability scanning, and multi-factor authentication are now included in support programs. They’re must-haves.
But there’s another level.
Even if you don’t need Fort Knox level security right now, it’s good to know what the IT company’s capabilities are, and that the services are there if want to improve your cyber security posture. That level of expertise will also be there to help guide you with cyber risk management, as well as help you quickly scale up your security if your cyber liability insurance carrier requires it for renewal.
A managed IT services provider (MSP) that’s also a managed security services provider (MSSP) with expertise in things like cyber forensics, vulnerability management, and penetration testing will be better equipped to handle any security events that may come up.
6. What’s the process for updating pricing due to changes in covered devices or users?
One of the benefits of using a managed IT services provider is that you can scale services up or down to meet your business’s needs.
Make sure you know about their billing cycle and when price changes will take effect. While you’re at it, ask how the IT company will help you onboard and offboard employees when you have changes in staffing.
🔎 Related: Can IT Support Contract Costs Be Reduced?
7. What constitutes a project?
Most IT companies charge extra for projects. Some include project labor in their agreement.
You’ll want to be clear on if they’re included or not – and what the line is that defines a “project” that comes with a separate scope and cost. Examples of projects that aren’t included in support agreements are things like email migrations, network infrastructure upgrades, cloud migration, and office relocation and setup, to name a few.
8. What is the process for responding to support requests?
Check for response times for user issues and different possible larger-scale scenarios, such as downtime events and after-hours availability.
Also, chat through their escalation process. This will give you an idea of what to expect for problems that go beyond basic support issues.
9. Are backup and disaster recovery included?
If your contract includes offsite backup, that doesn’t mean much without recovery procedures.
Be aware that backup and disaster recovery are customized processes that take some time to determine based on your business needs. You probably won’t get a firm price until you start working with the managed IT services provider, and they can take you through their process to create your solution.
10. What happens if I’m unhappy with the service?
No one wants to be a hostage in a situation that isn’t working. Learn about your options for leaving the relationship if you’re not happy.
Managed IT Services Contract Red Flags
Beware of blatantly one-sided managed IT services contracts that assign minimal rights to you as the client. You’re going to get the most value and have the best experience if the company views your relationship as a two-way street.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Please consult your attorney for interpretation and advice on any contract you’re considering.
Move Your Business Forward With the Right Southern California Managed IT Services Partner
Accent is a managed IT services provider serving businesses with 40 - 500 employees. We’ve been in business since 1987 and have seen a LOT of managed IT services contracts. We’d be happy to help you sort through the options. Call us today at 800-481-4369 for a free IT contract review.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2019. It has been revamped and updated with the latest information.