How Managed Service Providers Prioritize Service Requests

When a part of your IT environment goes down, depending on what’s not working, it can have a huge impact on your business.

prioritize IT support
When an MSP engineer receives an IT support request, he or she has to take several factors into account to prioritize it.

So, when you submit a service request to your managed IT services provider (MSP) including The KR Group, it’ll understand you expect a quick turnaround.

While we and reputable MSPs try our best to answer every request as quickly as possible, we can’t always get to every request right away.

First, the amount of time it takes us to address a request depends on how many requests we’re receiving. On a busy day or week, it’ll take longer to resolve your request.

On top of that, behind the scenes, there is a triage process to determine which requests are given priority. How your request is triaged and prioritized impacts how quickly it is addressed.

Generally, tickets are given a high-, medium-, or low-priority status. To determine a ticket’s status, an MSP engineer considers four things:

  1. What is the importance of the affected system(s)?
  2. How many users are affected by this problem?
  3. Are there possible workarounds for this issue?
  4. Does this problem pose a security risk?

If you don’t recognize this process, the variability in service times may cause some frustration.

While your MSP should always strive to resolve your IT issues promptly, variables in volume and types of requests make it difficult to provide an estimate on when your issue will be addressed.

By explaining what goes into determining the priority and triaging service requests, we hope you’ll have a better understanding of what is happening on your MSP’s end while it works to get to your request.

Importance of affected system(s)

The first thing an MSP engineer considers when triaging a service request is what is affected and how important it is.

Within your IT environment, an MSP is responsible for a variety of hardware and software. Some components of your IT environment are more critical than others.

When prioritizing service requests, your MSP will look for the requests with the biggest implications and give them the highest priority.

The goal is to keep your business running. If there is a business-critical hardware or software issue that prevents you from operating, that will receive the highest priority.

Problems that impede business operations but don’t completely halt them receive medium priority while low priority is for issues that don’t affect operations.

Number of affected users

Not only is an MSP looking for the depth of the issue (how critical the problem is), they are also looking at the width. When your MSP engineer receives a service request, he or she takes into consideration how many users are affected.

By assessing the magnitude of an issue, an MSP can make sure they prioritize their time to situations where the problem is having the largest negative impact.

It’s fairly straightforward how an MSP triages based on these criteria. The more users affected, the higher priority a service request receives.

Possible workarounds or redundancy

An MSP also considers if any workarounds are available for an issue and what redundancy you have in place. The ultimate goal is to find an alternate option that still delivers the same or a similar outcome.

If the issue affects the majority of the users, but they all have a way to temporarily workaround, an MSP will give this issue a lower priority and consider what other factors play a role in this request.

Likewise, if a critical component in your IT stack goes down, but you’ve planned for redundancy and have a back-up, your need isn’t as great as someone with no other options.

Security risk

Your MSP will also consider the security implications of an IT request – particularly when it comes to updates.

prioritizing IT requests
One factor MSPs consider when triaging IT requests is the security risk the problem poses.

All MSP customers are required to adhere to their provider’s standards for hardware and software, including firewalls and antivirus. This protects against bugs, viruses, ransomware and other types of malware.

No system is perfect, though, and if a problem includes a security risk, an MSP will consider that when triaging service requests.

When determining the level of the security risk, an MSP will consider what protection you have in place and what systems are vulnerable.

Examples of triaging IT requests

Each of these four standards is fairly straightforward on its own.

However, when an MSP engineer receives a ticket for IT support, they have to consider the different measures together and weigh them in the specific circumstance.

To better understand how service requests are triaged, we’ll give some examples where our MSP engineers have had to weigh multiple factors.

Google Chrome issue

A website all of your employees use won’t open on Google Chrome. However, one of your employees was able to open the website on Mozilla Firefox, and the workaround seems to work for all employees.

How does an MSP prioritize this request?

While having to use Mozilla Firefox instead of Chrome might be annoying for some of your users, in the grand scheme of things, the workaround means your employees are still able to access the website and continue doing their jobs.

Even though it affects everyone and is important to business functions, since there is a workaround everyone can use, your MSP will place this request as a lower priority. Rest assured, they’ll still work as quickly as possible to resolve the issue.

Down server with redundancy

Your physical server goes down which hosts your phone system and operating system. Thankfully, you have a back-up server to provide redundancy, so your business operations aren’t affected.

How does an MSP prioritize this request?

Having a server go down is a big deal. However, when you have redundancy, you have a bit of a cushion.

Since you’re still functioning, your MSP likely won’t drop everything to go service you. It’s unlikely you have another back-up server, though, so it’s still vitally important your MSP gets your primary server back up and running so you can have redundancy again.

When it comes to triaging this request, your MSP will likely give it a medium priority. (However, if you didn’t have redundancy and you found yourself in this situation, you would receive high priority.)

It’s important, but emergency service requests (such as scenarios without a back-up server) would still take precedence.

Non-functioning desktop

Today, virtually all office workers require a desktop or laptop to perform their job, so if it goes down, it can render them ineffective until it is back up and running.

How does an MSP prioritize this request?

An MSP engineer has to consider many different aspects of this request, such as if you have a back-up desktop or laptop for the affected user to temporarily use and how the down desktop affects business operations, which often translates into “what position does the affected user hold?”

There’s no doubt that all types of positions keep an organization running. However, some positions require more urgent attention than others. For example, if your human resources director’s computer goes down the day before payroll is due, it’ll receive a higher priority than if your marketing representative’s desktop stopped working.


Every so often, you’ll need to update your software, operation systems, etc. to fix bugs, enhance security, and sometimes add/improve features.

However, updates can also be issued on an emergency basis to solve critical vulnerabilities. These updates are more important and will receive higher priority.

How does an MSP prioritize this request?

Your MSP will incorporate regularly scheduled updates into existing service types or be able to schedule them in advance.

However, updates to address critical vulnerabilities are generally given a high priority. Although, an MSP will consider what type of malware detection and prevention you have when triaging critical update requests from multiple companies.

What you need to know about how MSPs prioritize IT requests

triage managed IT requests
Managed IT services engineers handle a multitude of requests, and triaging them allows them to prioritize critical requests over less important ones.

If you only take away one thing from this article, we hope that it’s that the time for an MSP to resolve an IT service request has many, many variables.

You can have a general idea of how the request will be triaged by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. How important is the affected system?
  2. How many users are affected?
  3. Are there possible workarounds or redundancy?
  4. Does this problem pose a security risk?

However, in the end, an MSP has to weigh the combination of at least those four measures as well as consider how urgent it is compared to other existing and incoming requests.

Even then, MSPs service multiple customers, so it depends on how busy or available they are.

If you make a low priority request during a slow time, they will be able to resolve the issue relatively quickly.

On the other hand, medium or some high priority requests might take longer than you expected if your MSP is having a particularly busy day.

Ultimately, you should remember that a reputable MSP is triaging requests. Some requests will take longer to get to, but your MSP will still keep your request on its radar and work toward getting the problem resolved as soon as possible.

For more information on what to expect with a managed IT services contract, check out our other articles:

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