One of the first mistakes many organizations make in choosing an IT provider is to seek out options based on pricing alone. While affordable pricing plays an important role in any business decision, there are other overlooked--and often more important--factors to consider when choosing IT support.
Over the years we’ve worked with several clients who came to us after a poor experience somewhere else. Many of them had a list of things they wished they would have known before signing a contract. In order to help you make an informed decision about hiring an IT provider, here are 5 questions you should ask before choose a partner.
1. How long have they been in business?
While ‘years in business’ does not necessarily always equate to quality service (or vice versa), there is a deep experience that comes from being in the game for a certain length of time. This experience allows a seasoned IT partner to develop powerful processes and systems--systems that make it possible to serve you in ways that newer providers or solo consultants just can’t.
An established provider is more likely to sit down with you and ask you calculated questions designed to uncover your true business needs not just what technology you use. What technological pain points are causing problems with your employees' productivity? Where do your important systems currently live?
Such experienced providers are rarely ‘just hungry to get more work,’ but are more interested in aligning with your business which gives them a clarity and competence that can be harnessed to achieve lasting results for your organization.
2. How is their service delivered?
Not every IT or Managed Services Provider has an organized system in place for tracking and delivering your technological needs. It’s important to ask potential providers about their unique system for delivering service. Here are some examples:
- Is there a dedicated remote support team we can call to easily get in touch with a representative?
- Can I have an support engineer on-site if my company would prefer?
- How long does it take your organization to answer the phone or respond to request for support?
- Do you use an electronic ticketing system so I can stay up-to-date on the status of my request?
You can save yourself hours of time and frustration by determining if an IT partner has the kind of service and systems you expect before you ever sign a contract.
3. Are there things this provider can’t do?
You would be surprised at how many businesses get into contract with an IT provider before ensuring that said provider can handle the full scope of their IT needs. For instance, most companies need some form of basic IT support--and most providers offer that--but what if you also need database administration? Will your IT provider be able to handle that as well?
Determine upfront whether or not a potential IT partner can service any of your more specific needs, like:
- Database administration
- Compliance experience
- Hardware and software reselling
- Communication needs (in addition to traditional IT)
If you’re like most, you probably don’t relish the idea of writing a full RFP for every potential service provider, but having at least a bullet point list of things that are important for your company is vital.
4. How is their documentation system handled?
A good IT provider should have an outstanding documentation system. The documentation system tracks everything from network diagrams to passwords and procedures and plays an important role in your IT provider’s timeliness and efficiency.
Some providers use third-party software, while others (like us) use proprietary systems that have been built to perform specific streamlined functions. At a minimum, you should confirm that your IT provider’s documentation system tracks these items:
- Service providers
- Network details
- On-boarding/Off-boarding procedures
- Systems configurations
It helps to be as thorough as possible. For instance, the documentation system we use here at Data Evolution stores information such as pictures of each client’s server room (for visual reference) and diagrams of their network topology.
A final consideration around the documentation system is security. When seeking out an IT provider, be sure that your information lives on a platform that is securely accessed only by the relevant parties--rather than in simple text files on public computers or floating around in emails.
5. Will my network be monitored at all times?
A big reason for hiring an IT provider is peace of mind. Knowing that your vital systems are being monitored 24/7 allows you the freedom to focus on other important tasks. Ask potential IT partners about their network monitoring:
- Will you get an alert if one of our servers go down?
- Are the backup jobs running and succeeding?
- Will our hardware and software receive regularly schedule maintenance or updates?
- Will we get regular status reports?
By determining the level of regular support you can expect, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your IT needs are covered.
The five questions we covered in this post are a strong foundation for partnering with a dependable and effective IT provider. If you have more questions about outsourcing your IT support download our free guide: The Ultimate Small Business Guide to IT Outsourcing.