4 Key Criteria for Choosing an IT Partner

managed IT security services

While some business leaders might feel apprehensive about selecting a managed service partner, not doing so may be worse: a daunting 60% of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack go out of business within six months.

Managed service providers don’t sound exciting or magical to most people. However, with the right IT partnership in place, you will feel like you have some sort of superhero on your side, a powerful protector of data and network up-time, when all the world sees is a boring Clark-Kent IT support team.

How do you reduce the risk of a cyber-attack to your business? One idea is to take your business completely offline, but in today’s world, that’s just not feasible. Your customers expect you to be online and efficient. All of the time. By hiring an expert managed services team, small business leaders such as CTOs or CIOs can continuously improve cybersecurity and protect themselves, their customers, and data from cyberattacks without hiring additional full-time staff. As a bonus, managed services often make businesses more efficient along the way by delivering a diverse skillset often beyond what a single organization can afford. Win, win. 

How do you know when your business needs to partner with a managed service provider? Sometimes businesses start to see their team having difficulty with network stability, managing device inventory, or even something as simple as patch management. Very quickly network up-time and data security become top priorities. The onsite IT team needs help or additional expertise, or a current IT partner’s solutions need improvement. As a leader, you must stay agile, reduce risk, and probably even become more efficient when you bring in a managed service partner.

Small businesses across all industries are targets of cyber-attacks. The following four criteria are helpful for founders, business owners, CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, and other decision makers when searching for and selecting their IT partner.

1. Expertise

You want someone qualified in managing the security of Personal identifiable information (PII) or sensitive data. Does the team carry certifications through their partners, like Fortinet and Microsoft, regulated through organizations like the FFIEC, or audited by 3rd party organizations to validate their practices against industry standards? Does the managed service provider that you’re considering come from a trusted referral or have a list of clients that you would trust with your own personal information? 

It is important that the provider(s) you are considering have expertise in supporting your industry, not just general technology experience. Have they provided a list of certifications, key staff resumes, and other important information as part of their proposal to you?

2. Responsiveness

Network security can be compared to how you need oxygen when you breathe. You probably don’t think about it, until it’s taken away. Cyber-attacks, data breaches, and network-related issues happen, and when they do you want a support team in place that knows the subtle nuances of your environment and will work quickly to resolve these stressful situations.

Your managed IT services partner should be available for you. While you are researching an IT partner, keep note on their responsiveness to your calls and emails while they learn about your business’ needs. Ask to see performance metrics, you should feel confident that when you need help, they will respond in a timely manner.

For example, StrataDefense developed our systems, like Avalon and Titan, to actively monitor, log, alert, and report on critical network system activity to provide a deeper insight for our team, and yours, to properly manage and secure your network. Your business’ managed IT solution should ensure resolution of issues to help avoid costly disruptions and prolonged downtime.

3. Organizational effectiveness 

In selecting a technology partner, you are entrusting sensitive data with potentially financially destructive outcomes to this organization. Does their team seem functional and effective? Do you feel that they could cohesively work with your team? Does their team have ways to identify the potential weaknesses in your network architecture to preempt a potential issue?

For example, one component of our managed service is to perform regular vulnerability scans of the network to not only validate our patching process, but also identify known vulnerabilities that may aid in compromising a network. Beyond vulnerability scans, performing regular scans for the location of sensitive information on the network ensures that data protection standards are being adhered to.

4. Customization

Your managed IT service should listen to the needs of your business, explain what they provide, and outline how their services meet your needs. Listen closely for templated or cookie-cutter solutions that may not be right for your business. Network management and security should be built with thoughtful systems, processes, and most importantly a layered security approach.

Whether your business is in a highly regulated industry, such as healthcare or finance, or a company that simply is concerned with the ever-present risks of ransomware where compliance requires certain documentation and reporting. Ask your managed security service provider if they can provide you with customized reports. 

Your network security solution should be hard to breach, routinely assessed or scanned, and built with a layered security approach. Your organization should have controls in place that ensure proactive and reactive action plans to keep your entire network functioning.


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