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How To Know Which IT Support Service Is Right For Your Business – 7 Great Questions To Ask


Choosing IT Support is often daunting.

So let’s go back to first principles, set aside processes and standards such as COBIT and ITIL and look at the basic business needs.

Most SMEs at this crossroad will have previously relied on someone in-house, a tech savvy staff member who would swing by your desk and switch a troublesome PC off and then back on. Others may have had their fingers burned by an IT Support provider whose areas of expertise didn’t match their organisation’s growing requirements.

However you have arrived at this fork in the road, in an ever increasingly IT dependent business landscape the path you choose is vital.

Frustrated staff, unhappy customers, missed deadlines and deliveries, unchased debts – IT downtime can be very costly to your business and your reputation but how to choose what level of IT support is right for you can be difficult – and it often comes down to balancing budget against your organisation’s dependency on IT.

Put the words “IT Support” into Google, Bing or Yahoo and see how many results you get ... About 4,170,000,000? So you see what you’re up against.

Crudely broken down, conventionally IT Support has fallen into three options.

1 – Pay As You Go.

Your IT breaks, they fix it. Either remotely, or in extreme events sending a guy in. This works if you’re on a tight budget or not quite so IT dependent. You could wait a couple of hours for your problem to be solved and if that’s OK this could be for you.

Beware becoming beholden to one support provider just because they fixed a previous problem well, your next IT issue may not be within their key skill set – just because the fire fighters put out your fire that doesn’t mean they’re the guys to call to take you to hospital or dust for prints if you get burgled. Shop around or multisource your support for the best match.

2 – Intuitive or Predictive Support

The health and stability of your IT network is monitored and any problems are flagged up, reported and dealt with or simply automatically corrected. The intuitive pro-active approach suits more IT dependent businesses. If an IT outage would cause serious damage to your operation you should consider this but it comes at a greater cost and you need to be sure that as your business expands so will the competency and support offer of your provider.

Choosing a vendor with experience in your field might be advantageous, or through a multisourcing partner your support can evolve with your needs guaranteeing best of breed support.

3 – Full Managed Service

The Rolls-Royce of IT Support, if you are heavily dependent on your IT estate always running at its potential best then this is the option for you. Leaving you to focus on your business – you effectively hand the running of the network to a third party and often changes to software and hardware are made with little input from you. Some feel a loss of control operating this way, others feel liberated. It costs more, of course, but again it comes down to that dependency/budget balance.

Keep an eye on the contracts and the Ts and Cs. Some businesses have thought they were covered only to read the small print, in one instance, for example, a organisation heavily into BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) discovered that an event triggered by an employee using their smart phone to access the company network was not covered by the service agreement. Conversely, others have discovered they were paying for support that they did not actually need.

Again, trusting a multisourcing partner who will take time to really understand your business and your IT maturity will pay dividends by matching your support to your actual requirements.

All three options have pros and cons and you will have noticed a fourth option emerging from each.

I would urge you to consider a multisourced approach to choosing IT support. It is the best way to build a support package “brick by brick” to suit your needs as they develop and as your business grows, matching those needs with best in class, best suited providers not only now but in the future.

In the meantime, if you are at the crossroads here are seven great questions you should ask yourself and your potential support provider.

1 – Will the support be flexible and develop and evolve with your business? Ask for examples and cases where this has been the case. Ask what additional services and solutions the IT support company provides, you may not need cloud now but in a year you may migrate that way – will they be able to support that and will that be easily included in your support package?

2 – What does the support actually cover? Will you get telephone, remote or onsite support and will it be unlimited? Will your network be monitored 24/7 as part of the package? Does the package support BYOD? Basically get a handle on any hidden extra charges.

3 – What is your guaranteed response time? Service level agreements should be in place from the outset so when you have an issue with your IT you know how quickly it will be repaired. Get a feel for the number of technicians the provider has, where they are located and what work is outsourced and to where. You can quickly sense whether the provider will be able to meet SLAs based on their available resources.

4 – Do you have a named dedicated touch-point or a call centre approach? Some people prefer having an Account Manager as a named contact others don’t mind talking to a different call handler each time with no single person with whom you can escalate an issue.

5 – What industry accreditations does your IT support company have? For instance, finding out whether they are a Microsoft Partner could matter to you if you’re running 365 – learning what competencies your potential provider has they gained will give you a clue about how well they will support you.

6 – Can you speak to an existing client of the support provider? Often just asking the question will give you an idea of how well the provider services a contract – if they shift uncomfortably in their chair and mumble something about data protection you might want to walk away. If they are happy to offer you a contact it might be worth your time making the call because first-hand experience speaks louder than glossy brochures and certificates on the wall!

7 – Do you get a sense that the IT support company has taken time to understand your business? Ask if they have other clients and experience in your sector.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. The fact that you’re reading this suggests that you’re ready to make a decision but with Google returning about 4,170,000,000 entries for a search for IT support it can be bewildering.

Find someone who knows where to find the best in breed from those 4,170,000,000 and crucially can match them to your specific business case and you’ll get the support that you need. Otherwise it can be a lottery.

Good luck.

Contact us to learn more about how Stoneseed's Service Delivery Management can help you to improve the quality and reduce the cost of your IT Service Delivery.

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