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When your business has a problem, you can’t afford to wait, right? It’s one of the reasons you engaged with a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) in the first place. You partnered with a Managed IT Service Provider to take care of technology issues in a timely fashion, and responsiveness matters. The expectation you have of them is to respond to issues and address them in a way that reduces downtime, keeps your business running and your staff productive.

Managed IT Service Providers should have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which defines the services provided to you, incident response times, support constraints, and customer responsibilities. And it’s this SLA that offers measurable timeframes that you should be holding the MSP accountable to. But, even an MSP with an SLA can leave their customer wondering when an issue will be addressed or resolved.

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There are several common reasons why Managed IT Service Providers fail to execute and deliver great responsiveness:

  1. Informal Processes – Mature MSPs have formalized processes to address common issues. MSPs with informal or insufficient processes are addressing each and every issue in a one-off fashion, leaving the “resolution” prone to human error, causing further downtime of your business.
  2. Not Proactive Enough – Many issues can be avoided altogether if your MSP is proactive.  A disruptive event, such as a ransomware attack that leaves part of your business crippled, could have been avoided if the MSP, say, proactively ensured that systems patching was current. Or the impact could have been mitigated via effective backup and disaster recovery execution (which could be used to recover encrypted files).
  3. Weak System Management Tools – The right management tool in the hands of an MSP is the difference between a fully monitored environment with automated issue remediation, and manually addressing each issue you have reactively resulting in unnecessary downtime.
  4. Too Dependent on Individual Heroics – If a problem in your environment always requires that “one” technician to fix it, there’s a problem. With limited exceptions, any service you contract from an MSP should be a core competency of theirs, with multiple staff able to tackle an issue. Think about what happens when that “one” technician is on vacation or serving another client.
  5. Not Enough Automation – The use of modern automation by an MSP to address problems should be a given. But not all automation is the same. Most MSPs see automation as a group of scripts that perform actions, requiring human intervention. The right use of automation should include an ability to identify exceptions in provided services (e.g., a failed backup) and self-heal the issue before a human is even notified. Automation should also be able to handle basic requests from your users.  In essence, both the Managed IT Service Provider and the customer should benefit from automation, with the result being less downtime and reduced operational risk.

Many MSPs suffer from one or more of the above issues, causing inconsistent service delivery, increases in downtime, and increased operational risk.

So, how can you tell if your MSP is responsive and effective or not?

Use the following questions to better understand whether you are getting good response and execution from your current IT Service Provider:


  • Do I have a Service Level Agreement (SLA)? Your MSP should have one and gone over it with you.
  • What services are covered by the SLA and what after-hour support available? MSPs should offer multiple levels of SLAs including nights and weekends.
  • Is my MSP’s response time for a given issue being handled within the timeframes set forth in the SLA? With rare exceptions, response times should always conform to the SLA.


  • Are problems being solved the first time? A competent MSP should strive to address issues quickly, getting you back up and running without further complications.
  • Do I need to wait on the one technician who can address the tougher issues? MSPs should maintain proper cross-trained staff to avoid issues where only one person can solve your problem.
  • Are issues being addressed automatically? MSPs using automation can fix problems more quickly and consistently. You should be seeing some reported issues not requiring tech visits or remote control to fix.

Questions to Ask Your Next IT Service Provider

If you are not satisfied with your current MSP and are considering looking for a new MSP to trust your business operations to, use the following questions to help identify one that has excellent responsiveness and proper execution:

  • Would you tell me what your average response time to an issue looks like? Your next MSP should answer the question by sharing their SLA with you along with metrics on actual response times.
  • How do you track your team’s responsiveness? Some form of monthly reporting should be offered so that you can review what the MSP has done for you and scrutinize the efficacy of their efforts.
  • How many technicians do you have and are they cross-trained? You’re looking for an answer that gives you confidence that multiple staff members can address any problem might experience.
  • What kind of automation do you have in place and how is it used to increase my businesses’ uptime? (Look for answers that offer more than just “we can run a script to fix the problem.”)

You should expect the addressing of problems by your MSP to have better responsiveness and proactiveness than if they were your own employees. Anything less than that, and you have yourself the wrong MSP.

In our next article, we’ll take a look at the need for Managed IT Service Providers to tailor solutions to meet your needs.

There's a difference between a managed service provider and the right MSP