IT support providers are unique in that, unlike other partners, they work alongside your team to help you achieve your business objectives, day in and day out. Unlike accountants or marketing consultants, they aren’t just there at certain times of the year or for a few weeks or months at a time. They are a constant. So it’s important to choose the right provider.
Selecting an IT support provider is often the first major commercial decision many businesses take.
Before selecting a provider it is super important to consult with your team and nail down exactly what you need in terms of support and ask yourself questions like:
What areas of your IT operation do you need help with the most?
- How much contact do you require with an Account Manager?
- What is your annual IT support budget?
- What security concerns do you have?
- How much day-to-day support do you need?
- When sifting through support proposals, relate each one to your business needs.
Here are the top 5 factors to consider when choosing an IT support provider.
1. Background checks of the IT support company
Given that an IT support provider will have daily access to your business-critical systems, data, and intellectual property over a 12-month or more contract, you need to ensure that they are a decent organisation who are fully up to speed on all things regulations and compliance even before conducting an initial meeting.
You need to do a background check and make sure they are who they say they are. From a compliance perspective, here are a few things you may want to consider.
- Registered company status
- Do a Google search
- Check reviews and testimonials
- Look for certifications
You need to make sure that the provider is a registered company and not just a sole trader. A sole trader can be a consultant, but they will not have the bandwidth or range of expertise to manage a full-time IT support operation for your business. Also consider using credit check resources such as Company Check.
You also need to make sure they’ve been operating for a good amount of time and have a trusted reputation.
This is a great time to make use of Google. If an IT support provider has a bad reputation or has operated suspiciously, the internet probably knows about it. Google is your friend. Research their name and company history to expose bad reviews or incidents of misconduct. And then run the other way.
It’s also important to check their certifications. While the industry has no official regulatory body, IT support companies should be compliant with a number of accepted global standards.
There’s the ISO, which is an internationally recognised series of operating standards, and Microsoft Partner status which companies are awarded either a silver or a gold partnership. And the ITIL: a globally accepted method of delivering IT services and handling asset management.
2. Staff delivering your IT support
After ensuring your prospective IT support company is legitimate, you should focus on the people who will be delivering the end product. Its staff. Ask for a video call or face-to-face meeting with the following key team members (before signing a contract):
- The Account Manager
- The Service Desk Manager
- The Tier 3 Engineers
- Senior Engineers
You need to know what kind of personalities you’re working with and how they articulate key IT concepts in plain English. If they’re going to provide a clear and useful service, being able to translate industry jargon is a must.
You also need to have a firm grasp of an IT support company’s underlying ability to offer a service. Make sure you ascertain how many people they employ, how many offices they work from, and what their staff retention levels are like. An IT support company that employs more than 50 people in multiple locations are unlikely to be able to provide personalised service.
3. Reviews and references
The internet provides many ways to check on the kind of services an IT support company provides to its clients. Google Reviews, Trustpilot, and feefo are all globally renowned review services that provide invaluable insight into how a prospective IT partner does business.
Rather than glossing over the number of stars provided, be sure to read individual reviews and anecdotal accounts of support. Ask the provider for a set of references that are relevant to your industry. If you’re a legal firm, ask for a letter of recommendation from another firm of solicitors. If you work in the public sector, make sure that you speak to other public sector organisations that the provider has worked with.
Ask questions about day-to-day support and industry-specific software that you use.
4. Inspect the contract carefully
Perhaps the most important part of the entire tendering process is being sure of what you’re signing. The IT support industry is awash with tales of unwitting businesses who have committed to a contract that ties them into unwanted services or extended contract lengths. Here are some things you may need to watch out for.
Firstly, you need to check the contract length. This should be no more than 12 months long. You should also check for:
- unwanted pre-packaged services
- unfair termination clauses
- unspecified account management procedures
- Vague or unspecified operating hours.
When it comes to service level agreements (SLAs), be sure to scrutinise the company’s published service SLAs that govern their accepted response and resolution times. The contract should clearly outline how the IT support company prioritises incoming support requests and deals with change management.
Most companies operate under a priority system for individual support tickets and adjust their response and resolution times accordingly.
5. The onboarding process
Whether you are switching between IT support providers or contracting one for the first time, it’s important to understand precisely how they’re going to integrate you onto their support and monitoring platform. And how they plan to deploy any software after the contract has been signed.
IT support companies should never charge for this service. Make sure you ask for a dedicated point of contact who can furnish you with an official onboarding schedule so that you can forward-plan for any disruption to your business.
An onboarding process should also include site visits to your company offices. This enables the support company to tag equipment with a unique asset number, take photographs of key pieces of hardware such as servers, firewalls, and switches, and introduce themselves to members of the management team.
It’s also worth considering specific location requirements for site visits on ongoing support. For example, we offer ongoing on-site IT support in London, as needed. And provide remote support elsewhere. We do though, of course, conduct site visits as part of our initial audit and proposal process, when needed.
So those are the top 5 things to consider when deciding which IT support provider to choose for your business.
Want to get started now? Get in touch with our experts to get the ball rolling and book a free audit.