If you need to upgrade your VMWare and Windows Server systems, it is important to select a provider who is an expert and can offer help at the right cost.

Outsourcing the management of your software and server upgrades can offer convenience, expertise and improve your budget. Small businesses can focus their hiring of staff for their core business, and hire a managed IT service company for their expertise and efficiency. However, even with the growth in IT management, there are several things you should consider before signing a contract to upgrade your VMWare and Windows Server systems.

It easy to fall prey to assumptions when looking for contractors to upgrade your software and servers. Packaged services don’t always include additional IT support, management, maintenance, and security needed for your company’s network during an upgrade. When you do agree to a contract, look carefully to make sure it contains everything you need and nothing extra. 

Matt Mercier, who offers managed IT services in NH shares some of the questions he is asked when potential new clients are interviewing his firm, Acapella Technologies as their new managed IT service company.

1. How do you support security compliance?

Often managed IT service providers support security compliance through their package bundles which include an array of features and components. On this list of features, you should see firewall configuration, vulnerability patching, incident response, intrusion detection systems (IDS), demilitarized zones (DMZs), intrusion prevention systems (IPS) and more. These features should be included by default to protect your data and hardware during a software and server upgrade.

Dependent on your industry and client list, you should have a good idea of the level of IT security necessary for your network to ensure compliance and proper security documentation. Discuss this with any managed IT service providers you talk to in order to match the level of security needed to protect your business.

2. Do you have references?

Having references is helpful only when you can compare your business to the referrers. The best references for you to see are from other companies that are small like yours is and in a similar industry. Talk to people about any security issues they’ve had and how they were resolved. Be specific when asking about best practices, and how they help small businesses.

3. What are your specialties?

Managed IT service providers train in specific systems and processes. They should have a list of certifications they have earned as well as an ongoing training plan to keep staff current with changes in the industry. Computer security issues are constantly in flux, and programs require frequent updates to block new ransomware, crypto-mining, and other malware. Find out whether they offer an inclusive price or flat rate for each upgrade to your VMWare and Windows Server systems.

4. Do you provide a service-level agreement (SLA)?

The service-level agreement (SLA) is one of the most important factors in outsourcing your VMWare and Windows Server upgrades. This agreement is where the managed IT service provider details the list of support actions they will provide including end-to-end program management and deliverables to your company.

The agreement should lay out how the provider will take on the project from your company, deploy a small remote or on-site team to coordinate and complete the work. Included in the agreement are delivery dates, the effectiveness of the work, surveys to ensuring the quality of service, and timeframes for the availability of services and service request response times.

6. What kind of experience do you have?

If you look at managed IT service providers by price alone, you may find that you don’t get the expertise you need. It’s better to outsource your software and server upgrade needs to an expert that’s completed hundreds of projects successfully. Extract the most value from an experienced partner to gain peace of mind over the quality of work completed. Included in the experience is the latest training and tools available to best protect your company’s data.

7. What is your reporting process?

Formal reporting should be listed in your SLA and include the standard set of reports provided and a timeline for delivery of those reports from the managed IT service provider. The frequency and scope of the formal reports between the provider and in-house manager should take place according to the schedule. However, many providers offer informal reports as work is completed.

8. What is your responsibility in the event of a disaster?

Disaster planning is crucial when it comes to business, and doubly so when discussing software and server upgrades. The disaster can be a natural one, a hurricane for example, or a criminal one such as theft. What is their plan if a natural disaster affects your business? And what if it hits their business? How quickly would you be able to recover your records and your hardware? And what is the protocol in case of theft or cybercrime?

9. Are you compliant with rules and regulations in our Industry?

Your small business is required to comply with industry standards and government regulations. It’s important for your vendors to be aware of the regulations and be a partner with your business. Does the managed IT service provider offer service-level agreements as to their compliance with rules and regulations to which you must comply and international standards such as GDPR or PCI?

10. How much do you use automation?

Technology has made it possible for routine IT tasks to become automated, making it quicker and easier for monitoring and upgrading networks. In fact, automation means that tasks don’t get missed and issues are evident much earlier. Most of the IT maintenance can be automated once established. That allows for more time to update security protocols and inform you of security challenges with the latest upgrade.