Choosing the right IT support provider is a big decision. Once you’ve worked out the best type of support you need i.e. Pay-as-you-go or an ongoing contract,you need compare the providers and the specific services they offer. The price will obviously play a big part, but the following questions will help you identify which companies will suit your business’ needs and day to day operations.
What does your support package include?
This sounds like an obvious question, but some companies will list the services which are included in a monthly support package while failing to mention the bits which will cost extra on top. For example, will they support software which was created by another company? Are travel expenses for onsite fixes included? Are all devices included such as printers or scanners?
Can they provide references?
One of the most reliable ways of assessing a provider’s quality of service is to see how they manage their existing client relationships. Many companies will display testimonials on their website but ideally you want the opportunity to contact some of their existing clients yourself.
By sourcing direct references from others who have used the service you are more likely to get an accurate, honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. You will want to ask questions around their communication, reliability, flexibility and cost. We’re not suggesting that you contact all of their clients – just enough to give you confidence in their service.
How big is the company?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question but it’s important you understand what level of resource they can offer. Large companies will have a larger pool of skills and expertise to draw from and may be able to offer more flexible support in terms of longer contact hours or short notice call outs. If your business is likely to grow and / or move to second location a larger provider may be the best option in terms of offering long term support.
However, some bigger companies can lose something when it comes to delivering a bespoke, personal service. For example, if you never speak to the same person twice or the provider supports lots of companies it can feel like you’re getting lost in a machine. And, while they not be able to compete with a large corporation in terms of depth of knowledge, many small providers will partner with others to fill in the gaps.
Is there a minimum contract?
You should avoid entering into long term contracts which insist on long cancellation notice periods or a minimum contract length. If you enter into a contract and the service is poor, you may be stuck with that provider for a long time. Luckily, many companies offer rolling, 30 day contracts which only require 30 days notice to cancel but it’s definitely worth confirming before you sign the dotted line.
How can you contact them?
The more contact options your provider can offer, the better. Email, dedicated telephone number, online chat and a direct line to your point of contact should mean you get the support you need as soon as possible. Some providers have a call centre as their first line of contact which may be operated by people with limited technical knowledge. This can be a real issue in times of emergency so make sure you’re aware what their escalation process is.
How quickly will they respond?
How quickly will the provider respond to a request for help? This isn’t a guarantee that your issue will be resolved in this time period, but they should specify the maximum time you will have to wait before someone starts to work on your incident or project. The timeframe may depend on the level of support you’re paying for.
Who will manage your account?
Will you be allocated a dedicated account manager or a couple of regular points of contact? This is a far better arrangement than being passed through multiple people as it means these contacts become familiar with your business and your IT systems which should result in a better service.
Unless the provider is particularly small it’s unlikely that you will be supported by the same engineer for every incident as they tend to focus their expertise in one area of IT support, so the company should always send the best person for the job.
Could they supply hardware alongside support?
Some providers can supply computer equipment as well as support which may be of interest. However, even if you’ve already sourced your hardware from another provider it can provide real peace of mind to know your IT support company can also replace faulty parts or devices in an emergency.
How will you be charged?
If it’s a Pay-as-you-go arrangement you will generally need to pay their fee in full within 30 days, although this can vary. For month to month support you could be required to pay on a monthly, quarterly or even annual basis if the contract is long enough. Make sure you’ve clarified what’s needed and it suits your company’s cash flow.
Do they offer remote IT support?
Some providers will only offer onsite services while others can remotely monitor and manage your system or even proactively identify issues before they occur.
Partnerships & Collaboration
IT support companies tend to focus their expertise within a few areas of IT rather than attempting to spread themselves too thin. This is why many establish partnerships with other companies which they can call on when a job falls outside their areas of expertise. It’s worth clarifying which services they deliver directly and which they would refer to another company.
Are they adequately insured?
Your IT support provider should have professional indemnity insurance of at least £1,000,000. This means that should the provider make an error or provide inadequate services which result in a court case they have the means to compensate you.
The best way to ensure you find the best provider for your needs is to source and compare multiple quotes. We recommend finding at least 3 quotes so you can assess the quality of service balanced with value for money.