In today’s economy, when you can buy almost anything you need on the internet and have it shipped to you, sometimes all from the same one or two websites. With increasing calls to buy local whenever you can, there are plenty of reasons to value local businesses in your buying decisions. It puts money back into the local economy, and since the death of a local economy means the death of a town, buying local contributes to the long-term preservation of the community.

Some things are especially good to buy locally, like food, which you can get with a minimum of processing and with potential health and environmental benefits. Other things you may want to get locally because you will need in-person service, like managed services for your businesses IT needs. Let’s talk more about that.

What is local anyway?

If we were talking about farm produce, I would say local means it was grown somewhere close enough that I could drive there in an afternoon. If it’s professional services like IT, I would say it was anyone who could respond to service calls quickly and be on site in about an hour.

The Northern Virginia area consists of many different cities that were once separated by open spaces but are now just one giant suburb: NoVa. A hundred years ago you’d want your milk delivered by someone in the same town, but today there is no reason why a business in Falls Church has to find an MSP in Falls Church. Every business in Northern Virginia serves every part of Northern Virginia.

Shaking hands in front of computer screenThe Limits of local.

Not only can a Northern Virginia business get IT services from literally anywhere in the area, but often having a provider in the same town might not bring the benefits you expect. An MSP across the street still has other clients and might not be able to get to you any faster than the one two towns over.

It turns out that there is a bigger factor to weigh than distance: it’s response time. An MSP that answers their phones live, responds in real time, and takes an hour to get to you is faster than one that takes 30 minutes to respond to your call and then 40 to arrive onsite. So if your business in Arlington considers an Arlington MSP more local, that might not address what’s best for your business.

To get that full picture you have to weigh numerous other considerations:

  • Does a live person answer the phone?
  • Do their technicians arrive when they say they will?
  • Do they explain things clearly in laypersons’ language?
  • Do they provide clear and detailed invoices?
  • Is off hours/weekend support included in the price?
  • Do they proactively monitor your network around the clock to solve small problems before they get bigger?
  • How do they notify you when a problem comes up?

There are others of course, and if you happen to have a provider in your town who checks out by all these criteria, then great! You’ve found a good thing! But the above questions have a lot more to do with how good an MSP will be for your business than the mere fact of being in the same town. Quality over proximity. Make sure that you meld well with whomever you choose to support you.