There are a lot of IT service providers out there today. It can be difficult to distinguish between them and even more challenging to determine the best one for your small business. You should know that not every IT service provider is created equal. Some offer specialized services, while most are generalist with their service offerings. Many are newcomers to the industry, while some have been serving for a long time. Some are very affective with marketing and are therefore able to grab your attention but it’s difficult to know whether they will live up to their own hype or not.
With this short writeup, I’ll be attempting to help you cut through the confusion and some basic red flags with your IT Support provider. You’ll want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing and will handle your business the right way. To achieve this, there’s a couple of things to ask every IT expert before you decide to work with them to ensure you’re looking at the more important qualifiers for a healthy relationship.
1. What is Your Firm’s IT Experience?
Education, certifications and hands-on experience are all basic requirements today. It would be good to confirm that your “expert” is really an expert. It’s very simple for anyone to pass themselves off at being an expert once they have even a little experience. Therefore you shouldn’t hire a person or a company without vetting them first. In the end, this individual (or team) is going to be handling very sensitive data that is essential to the operation of your business. This isn’t the time to take risks or give someone the benefit of the doubt.
When you work with an IT services company, or MSP, It’s okay to have them confirm their qualifications including, how long they’ve been providing the type of services you’re in need of. In addition, its’ appropriate to ask just how familiar they are with your industry and it’s unique technological needs. And when you’re not sure what some of the terms they’re using mean, you can always ask follow-up questions. A seasoned professional would be more than happy to answer any and all questions to confirm their worth.
2. What’s Your Approach to IT Services?
Network Security requires many different strategies to be applied in order to be successful today. From a high level, you will find the old-fashioned break-fix approach and then there is the more modern proactive approach. The break-fix approach was once the standard for the IT Support industry. It was literally the business model of virtually every IT support firm in the 1990s and early 2000s. This method is fairly straightforward: something breaks, you hire someone to come in and fix it. Sort of like the experience for most home appliances today. While this model has stood the test of time for home appliances, it has proven less affective when more moving parts, like your business processes, are involved.
If something breaks, you could be looking at a pretty hefty bill in addition to the expenses associated with downtime, which is more difficult to calculate. Once you experience it once, you will most likely want to prevent that situation moving forward.
Today, most MSPs have a positive approach (and if they don’t, look elsewhere). They normally don’t look for something to break. They can typically anticipate this by monitoring your network 24/7, searching for outside threats or internal issues. Most of them will use advanced software that can identify the potential for trouble before it strikes. This way, they can go to work, proactively protecting your company so that you avoid unanticipated bills and, even more importantly, unexpected downtime.
3. What’s Your GUARANTEED Response Time?
This question is often overlooked, but it’s one that can make a huge impact on your organizations downtime. It could make or break your relationship all together with your IT services provider. You should be able to confirm that you simply won’t be left in the dark when something goes completely wrong with the technology that supports your business processes. If you are experiencing a cyber-attack, or perhaps a power surge has taken out a part of your network, the cost for your business could be catastrophic if your IT services provider hasn’t appropriately managed the ratio of support personnel to clients. In this situation, the longer you have to wait, the worse it can get.
I recommend working with an organization that can provide you with a guaranteed response time in writing. This guarantee should be included in anything they want you to sign whenever you hire their professional services. They must be doing everything they can to instill confidence that they’ll be there for you when you really need them. If you’re currently working with an IT provider that does not have your full confidence, you may want to reevaluate that relationship!