Changing your IT provider can often improve flexibility and save your business money, but how do you know whether your new IT firm is up to the job?
It can be easy to choose a supplier on the basis of price, or a quick chat with a salesman, but if you really want to get an IT solution that is right for your business, then you need to focus on the areas of support and service instead.
Before you sign a contract, it is worth asking these questions and see if they are able to meet your requirements.
Do they offer the right service level for your business?
Not all IT providers will be a good fit for your business. Think carefully about what you actually want from your IT provider. Some companies will try to encourage you to buy an existing ‘off the shelf’ plan which has features you are never going to use, others may not be as responsive as you need.
Particular issues of concern should be expertise and flexibility. You need to be assured that the company you choose has the knowledge, and scope to manage your IT and have experience dealing with the issues surrounding your specific industry. Do they have the skills in-house to support all your systems, if not what alternative arrangements are in place? Also, if you are a growing business, are they are able to cope with an increase in volume of work? If you suddenly need to expand your operations and make changes to your IT arrangements quickly how fast can they respond? You don’t want to be waiting weeks for something to happen, when your clients need a response from you today.
Consider how you will compare to the rest of their customer base too, are you likely to be one of their biggest customers, or one of the smallest? Being one of the biggest means you will get priority treatment,but they may struggle to cope with your demands. A larger provider shouldn’t have a skills shortage but if you are a small customer you may find your problems aren’t given priority.
Is their pricing structure fair and transparent?
Unexpected fees can be a problem. Make sure you understand from the start exactly what you will be getting from your IT support provider, and how much it is going to cost you. In any business situations can change fast and if you need additional services or options you must be able to get them at a reasonable price.
Do they take data security seriously?
Any IT firm working for you is likely to have access to sensitive commercial and private data. It is important both for your business and your clients that your IT firm takes the protection of this data seriously, particularly in the financial services industries, where your business relies on keeping financial and personal data secure. Are they aware of, and able to deal with, all the compliance regulations you are required to follow?
For a beneficial partnership, you need to be sure that your IT company has procedures in place to make sure only trusted individuals are allowed contact with your data and that you can be assured that your security is their top priority.
What happens when things go wrong?
Even with the best staff and equipment things will sometimes go wrong, and these problems often don’t follow a 9-5 schedule. It may be equipment failure or staff related issues, whatever the cause you need to know that you have an IT partner you can rely on to get your business up and running again as soon as possible. Does your chosen IT support provider offer 24×7 support? What happens if you have staff working outside normal office hours and they need IT support urgently?
You must be able to reach your IT support whenever you need them, and they must be able to respond to your needs rapidly and effectively. Having an effective recovery plan in place before disaster strikes is the safest way to ensure that you are well prepared for any emergency.
Are they committed to a long term relationship?
Many IT services providers will start well. Often there will be “a honeymoon period” where they pay new customers a lot of attention, and make them feel valued and appreciated. Sadly this often passes away and customers become just another income stream.
A quality IT company should never behave in this way. Look for an IT provider who genuinely wants to build a long-term relationship. Ask for case studies and testimonials from customers who have remained with then for a long time, and remain happy with the service they receive.
Choosing your IT provider is a big step, think carefully before you make any decision and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more you know about your IT support provider the more certain you can be that you are making the right choice for your business.