The global information technology (IT) industry is expected to reach a staggering $5 trillion in 2021, with the US accounting for 33% of that size. The increasing adoption of IT by small businesses will play a huge part in that growth.
Information technology plays a massive role in the way modern business is done. And for businesses that keep up with new technology trends, the results are clear. New research shows that digitally advanced small businesses earn at least twice as much revenue per employee as those with low levels of digital engagement.
Choosing the right IT partner is one of the most critical parts of a well-crafted IT strategy. This is especially the case for small businesses without a large enough budget to maintain a fully-staffed IT department.
But with over 557,000 technology firms in America, how can you tell you’ve found the right IT services provider for you? Here are 13 questions to ask potential IT partners so you can make an informed decision.
1. Can You Give Me a List of Your References?
The reputation of an IT services provider is arguably the best indicator of what kind of experience you can expect working with them. You can verify a company’s reputation by talking to several clients that the company has worked with in the past. During your first interview, ask your potential IT partner for a list of references you can talk to.
Call at least three of the clients the IT company gives you as references. Some of the questions you can ask these references when you call them to include:
- Does the provider deliver what they promise?
- How well do they communicate?
- Do they stick to the project budget and timeline?
- Would you use their services again?
From the answers you receive for these questions, it’s easy to know whether to work with them or look elsewhere.
2. What’s the Size of Your Company?
As an IT company grows, its ability to provide a wider range of technology services increases. The company’s knowledge base also expands. So hiring an established IT firm is always a smart idea.
That said, don’t look only for the biggest IT firms in the country. Sometimes, extremely large firms may be faceless, lacking the personal touch you need. Just go for a company with sufficient resources and staff to meet your requirements.
3. Is Your Firm Adequately Insured?
Reputable IT consultants carry enough insurance to protect their clients. Remember that even with the best-laid plans, things can still go wrong. You want to be sure that your IT partner is prepared for any eventuality.
4. What Levels of Support Do You Offer?
Top IT firms provide various levels of support so clients can decide what works best for them. For instance, you can opt for pay-as-you-go support, where the company charges a fixed price or an hourly rate. Generally, this type of support is more expensive in the long run.
Another level of support is referred to as break-fix support, which can also be charged hourly. Some IT providers will provide this service on a fixed-price contract, paid either in advance or afterward.
Some providers offer managed IT service support, where the IT firm actively and continually manages your network systems. Managed IT support usually involves signing a yearly contract.
5. What Response Times Can I Expect?
Regardless of how competent your networking services provider is, issues with your IT network will still arise from time to time. You want your IT partner to be available when that happens. That’s where response time comes in.
Generally, the level of support you pay for will determine your provider’s response time.
Most providers will give you a guaranteed response time. That means they’ll start working on your issue when you report it. Beware of IT firms that guarantee a solution to your problem within a specific time frame, as issues sometimes may take longer to resolve.
6. Will You Provide a Dedicated Account Manager?
Having a single point of contact is important when you’re hiring an IT firm. You can get to establish a good relationship with the IT professional, and they get to know the ins and outs of your business. With this knowledge, your dedicated account manager will be able to offer networking solutions that suit your needs perfectly.
7. Do You Provide Direct Access to Technicians?
When you call your IT services provider, it helps to be able to talk to a computer services technician, as they can understand your issue better.
Unfortunately, many IT support firms have call centers to receive customer calls. In most cases, the people who man these call centers have little to no technical knowledge. All they can do is to note down the details of your problem and pass this information onto technicians, which takes more time to resolve your issue.
If a company can offer you direct access to their technicians when you call, that’s a huge plus.
8. What IT Systems Do You Use?
Before hiring an IT support firm, it’s essential that you know how they use technology. An IT services provider needs to have cutting-edge IT systems to provide great service.
Find out whether the provider has a modern CRM system. Do they have a top-notch email system?
9. Do You Supply IT Hardware in Addition to Support?
Sure, you may have purchased all your IT equipment from another supplier, but finding an IT support company that can replace parts whenever need be is great.
That’s because as the team that manages your IT infrastructure, they’re better positioned to know which replacement parts are best. Besides, it means you’re operating with a single point of contact for your IT needs.
10. When and How Do You Charge for Your Services?
There’s a variety of pricing models you can choose from. These include per incident, variable, and fixed.
Fixed pricing is generally the best of the three. Usually, you’ll get unlimited support, plus the model aligns your interests with those of your provider’s.
In variable pricing, you pay for the amount of time your IT services provider takes to fix IT issues. This model can lead to disputes and confusion. For instance, it may not be easy to know which issues were fixed in the past and thus shouldn’t be fixed today.
If fixed pricing appeals most to you, inquire about warranties and maintenance contracts. Check to make sure that your IT provider charges you transparently, and beware of hidden extras.
11. What Exactly Does Your Support Contract Cover?
Your IT provider may provide labor on incidents relating to specified hardware and software. Some will include travel time and mileage to and from your business premises. Many will exclude customer software that another company built for you.
Find out whether your potential IT services provider offers support for devices that connect your main network system, such as scanners, mobile phones, and printers. If they do, do they charge extra for the service?
12. Do You Offer Remote Management and Monitoring?
Some IT support providers provide most of their services on-site. These providers hardly offer any remote management and monitoring.
Look for an IT partner who can provide round-the-clock remote monitoring in addition to on-site support. These providers can spot potential problems and take proactive measures to tackle them.
Remote IT management also reduces the time taken for fixing issues. Moreover, it also drastically reduces travel costs to your premises.
13. Do You Partner With Other IT Firms?
Your IT service provider’s primary job is to provide support and maintenance for your IT systems. This is what they specialize in and will dedicate most of their attention to that.
But a top IT support company realizes that they need healthy professional relationships with other IT firms offering related services, including web design, cabling, and telecoms. Such a company has no problem subcontracting from such IT firms to ensure that you get the best service. And even if they don’t subcontract other firms, they’re still happy to refer you to the most reliable third parties in the industry.
An IT support company that relates well with other IT companies is also likely to nurture your existing relationships with other service providers. As soon as you’ve introduced them to these other ones, you can trust them to coordinate with them to provide you the best results.
Collaborate With the Right IT Partner for Business Growth
Given how central IT is in your business, it’s essential to get the right IT partner for your needs. Before committing yourself to a long-term relationship with any IT support firm, take the time to ask them the right questions. This way, you can separate the wheat from the chaff.
Would you like to learn more about managed IT services? Please keep reading our blog.