Who's looking after your systems?
Choosing the right IT company is a crucial decision for any business that uses technology - if you're reading this blog, that means you. IT Support are the people who'll be making sure that your business networks are safe, that you don't have to worry about losing data, that your staff can get up and running again in the event of an outage, and that your systems are secure, backed-up, and protected.
The question is how to find an IT Support provider that will match what you and your business need. Not everyone needs or uses the same type of hardware or software, which means there's no 'one size fits all' approach to picking out your support.
The right company for you will depend on the size of your company or, for example, the type of service you’re looking for. So, how do you choose from the array of companies who want to help you?
Talk to them
It's a pretty obvious first step, right? Take advantage of the ‘No Obligation’ appointment that pretty much everyone offers, and talk with a few different companies. This is your chance to discuss your ideas and business goals and see what they can offer to help you achieve them.
Make sure they understand what you want to get out of your IT, but also give them chance to let you know what they think. Many providers are extremely experienced, and will probably have some ideas to help you improve your services or reduce your costs. Just beware of the hard sell. If they suggest something that's different to what you were looking for, make sure they explain why, and why it would be beneficial to your business specifically, and how it aligns to your plans.
Assess your needs
You might want to do this before you speak to anyone, as your answers may make a difference to what they suggest. But no matter when you do this stage, you should make sure you know the answers to these questions:
- How big is your company now?
- Are you thinking of expanding? When?
- Does that expansion affect your systems? How many new people will you want to bring on?
- Are you ever planning to expand overseas?
- Do you have onsite equipment that you'll need support for?
- Are you planning to improve or upgrade any systems soon?
- How do your staff currently work and how would you like them to work in the future?
- Do you allow remote working? If not, is it due to need or a lack of the right tools?
Take stock of your existing hardware and software, and consider what you expect your business IT to look like 6 months and a year from now. You don't have to know the specifics - you'll be getting expert insight soon enough - but it will be helpful to have an idea. If you know you'll want to upgrade your hardware, or you're expecting to take on 10 new staff in the next 12 months, you should let your provider know, so they can make sure your support and services can accommodate without any issues.
Check out what services are on offer
IT Support covers a huge amount of different elements, so find out what the providers you're looking at actually offer. Obviously, if you know the answers to the questions above, you'll have a clearer idea of what you might need, but a quick look at what different companies do will also help.
If you have onsite equipment that needs supporting, you'll need to find a company that offers that. A local company will probably be a better bet - if you're in Bristol, you'll get someone onsite faster if your IT Support people are also in Bristol. If you're in London, the same applies.
If you're going to be migrating systems at some point in the not-too-distant future, a company that understands digital transformation (or even specialises in it, like we do) will be able to help you create and implement a plan that brings all the benefits with as little disruption as possible.
Do you need ultra-fast broadband? A comprehensive CRM system? Remote desktop? What kind of security do you need?
In an ideal world, you'll want a company that proactively helps you improve your systems, suggesting ways to get more out of what you have, or add features that will help your business achieve its goals.
Ask about communication and SLAs
If something goes wrong, you need your IT Support company to be easy to get hold of, and responsive to your needs. Are there multiple ways to get in touch? How quickly will they get back to you?
Pretty much every provider will have an SLA (or, Service Level Agreement) that sets out how quickly they do certain tasks, like answering the phone, responding to an email, or fixing specific issues defined in your contract with them. Make sure you understand what these are - if you need support for business critical systems, a one-week turnaround on fixes is not going to cut it. But be realistic about your needs, because the faster you expect things to happen, the more expensive your contract will likely be. So think critically about what is truly urgent so you can work with the IT Support people to create a contract that gets you what you need.
It's worth asking how many people are in the support team. If they only have a couple of people who'll be answering your calls, what happens if one's off sick and the other is on holiday? What contingency plans does the provider have for that kind of eventuality? Or do they have a larger team, who can rotate calls as necessary. Do they have multiple tiers - if you have a difficult challenge, will you be able to talk to second- or third-line support to find a resolution?
It’s also important to understand the terminology everyone is using. If you’re not an IT professional yourself, there are tonnes of terms that will probably be unfamiliar, so it’s important that the company is able to easily communicate in a way that makes sense to everyone - not 'dumbed down', but also not jargon-ridden sentences that seem to be more about bamboozling you than getting things sorted.
What are the emergency arrangements?
In the event of a major IT failure in the middle of the night, what happens? Does your support provider have anything in place to handle such an incident?
More importantly, do you need it? Generally, out-of-hours support will be more expensive than during the day. If your business runs 24/7, you might need support at any time of the day or night. If you're running during office hours only, perhaps you won't. Not every business needs IT support during the night - in fact, plenty don't need it.
What you really need to understand is if you need:
- all-hours support
- office hours access only, or
- office hours plus emergency call out abilities in case of an unexpected, dramatic, or revenue-affecting issue that occurs out of hours
Different companies offer different levels of support, so understand what you need (and what you'd like) so you can assess which company is suitable for you.
One thing you should also check is what 'office hours' mean to the companies you're talking to. For example, at SpiderGroup, our Bristol IT Support team are available from 8am to 5.30pm (we also offer emergency engineers, and onsite support, based on your needs), while other companies might be online 9am to 6pm, for example.
Take a look at tools and security
Talk to your chosen IT provider about what industry tools they use, and ask about how they remotely manage and connect to your devices. Ask them how they securely store your IT information and passwords. Do they track your assets?
Tools like SolarWinds monitoring, ConnectWise Control, LastPass and IT Glue represent an investment for any IT provider, but give you the peace of mind that they will be taking the management of your IT seriously and they are set up to support your business and keep your IT information organised and secure.
Ask about certifications
What certifications do the providers you're talking to hold? Certifications are a nice and easy way to find out that, not only does a company have the credibility to offer IT Support you can rely on, but that they're willing to continually train and improve their teams to keep up with changing technology.
If you’re looking for migration to Office 365 or implementation of Azure or Dynamics, for example, you'll want to find a company with a Microsoft certification. These types of certifications aren’t easy to get, so working with qualified engineers will give you some peace of mind that you’re working with someone you can trust. Silver Partners have to demonstrate consistent capability and expertise, while Microsoft Gold Partners are the most highly accredited technical support partners, and have demonstrated best-in-class capabilities (not to brag, but we're a Gold Partner).
If you’re looking for IT Support in Bristol or throughout the UK, SpiderGroup’s engineers can help you. We offer free business technology reviews, where we analyse your current IT systems and see what IT infrastructure would be beneficial for your business. Plus, we ensure your staff have all the tools they need too. Get in touch by calling us on 0117 933 0570. You can also fill in our contact form and we will get back to you.