Are You Getting the Most From Your IT Support Provider?

IT support may not be the most glamorous part of business management, but IT support best practice should be an intrinsic part of every business, even if yours doesn’t necessarily utilise a model with a particular focus towards a strong presence online. But why should IT support be a priority for your business?

The ubiquity of computer technology in everyday life means that from file sharing to data collection, a developed IT infrastructure is at the heart of every business. An IT infrastructure is comprised of all the components that play a role in all IT or IT enabled functions, that composite, keep your business delivering core functions and services to your employees, partners and customers.

Designed to ensure that your IT infrastructure remains fully functional in the long, and short term, IT support is an inherent and invaluable part of creating a viable and sustainable business structure.

What is an IT Support Provider

Due to budget and time constraints, the size of your business, or for ease of operation, choosing to outsource your IT support is the most realistic and beneficial choice for the majority of small, and even some large businesses.

An IT support provider, or IT service provider, is there to support your business by building and implementing contingency plans and support strategies to both resolve, and protect your business from the micro and macro problems that can disrupt the smooth running of your IT, and your business. Proactively refining and testing your IT infrastructure, installing data collection procedures and disaster recovery plans, virus protection, building network support structures and resolving computer support problems all come under the wide umbrella of comprehensive IT support.

Essentially, an IT support provider is there to both fortify your business and encourage your business’ growth.

Choosing an IT support provider, however, is as much about finding a complimentary support structure, as it is the provider themselves.

How to Choose the Right IT Support Provider

When choosing an IT support provider, there are a few key questions you should be asking both yourself and your prospective providers, before making a final decision.

What Type of Support Do You Need?

IT support providers are not a homogenous group, and the type of provider you choose is heavily reliant on the needs and structure of your business. Your IT support provider must be in alignment with the core structure and requirements of your business, in order to provide successful and sustainable long term support.

Identifying exactly what you’re looking for from an IT support provider is essential to making the right decision. Dependent on the expected growth of your business, your budget and your internal IT expertise, you may only want your IT support to provide reactionary measures that target specific problems, or at the other end of the spectrum, a one stop shop that fixes all issues from hardware to software.

Primarily, there are three types of IT support you should consider.

  1. Time and Material
    This type of IT support is about reactively targeting specific problems, requiring you to pay for only the exact materials and time spent on resolving issues by a technician.
  2. Block Hour
    Block hour IT support allows you to work your IT as you do other outsourcing retainers, paying only for a specific amount of time to use at your disposal.
  3. Managed IT Support
    Managed IT support provides all round coverage, handing over the responsibility of your IT totally to the provider. Whilst this may seem daunting, for companies with little computer expertise or a lack of resources, this enables problems to be handled as and when they occur and implements a structure that can continually test and devise strategies and solutions to mitigate the risk of problems occurring in the first place, with little resource investment required from you.

Where are They Located?

Whilst the majority of your IT support issues will be fixed remotely, it’s important not to entirely discount location when making your decision, as there may also be times when it is necessary that an IT support technician attends to a problem on site.

IT support is all about reducing the negative impact downtime has on your revenue and functionality, and having a technician that’s travelling from 2 hours away isn’t necessarily the best way to do that.

Do They Have a Strong Internal Support Team?

Not only is the location an important factor in getting your business back online as quickly as possible, but so is the size of the provider. An IT support provider with a strong internal support team, as well as an adequate number of technicians, engineers and resources, can drastically expedite the time your business is waiting for a resolution.

Are They Reliable?

Reliability is an important factor in building a sustainable IT support structure. A key way to ensure that your IT support provider will always be actively working to minimise disruptions to your business is to establish and comply with contractual SLAs, or strict service agreements. You should always aim to build an SLA into your contract, and it should always be crafted around how you want the service to directly contribute to your business, rather than the technology, such as built in response times for incident resolution.

A provider should aim to resolve and manage problems on the first contact, and ensure that your service runs seamlessly through the implementation and continual testing of continuity procedures and disaster recovery plans. Be wary of larger providers that may hide behind their SLAs, meeting the minimum requirements in reaction time.

Make sure you communicate your expectations clearly from the start of your contract, alongside regular reviews of your IT support provider that should show whether your SLAs are being met.

An assessor of reliability can similarly be seen in a provider that builds their own systems and has heavily invested in their own support infrastructure. This not only demonstrates considerable expertise but that they are actively adjusting their business model to the latest technological developments, which bodes well with their service for you.

Are They Proactive?

A good IT support provider works to prevent problems before they even happen, keeping your business online and reducing the negative impacts of downtime. But a good IT provider shouldn't just be reactionary, but to stop problems happening ahead of time through risk management and mitigation procedures.

Look for support providers that remain in regular contact with their clients, assessing how they use their IT solutions and what changes can be made to streamline their processes, and protect their systems, in the future.

Have you outgrown your IT support provider?

If you've already got an IT support provider but you're reading articles like this, then chances are, you're not entirely happy with their service.

The IT support provider you chose when your business was establishing itself, may not scale up to the task as your business expands. And you may find your current arrangement isn't as suitable as it once was.

If reading the following seems like deja vu, it might be time to get a new IT support provider.

  • When you contact your IT support provider with an issue, the response is always late, or they take several days to get back to you
  • You’re hearing about the latest technical developments second hand
  • You have to pursue them about updating your systems, and when you do, you’re told there isn’t a need as the current system works ‘just fine.’
  • They’re not in regular contact with you to assess your utility of your IT support
  • You’ve had lingering computer problems that show no sign of being fixed
  • Your IT support provider shows no interest in the growth of your business

Ultimately, your IT support provider should work with you as a partnership, both with equal investment in the success of your business and both working actively towards achieving your business goals. Ensuring that your technology works is the bottom line of what a strong IT support provider should do.

Suggesting new ways of working, regularly updating your systems and maintaining regular contact are all signs of a support provider that is interested in not only your business in a financial sense but in a holistic one.

Whilst the thought of parting company with an IT support provider that’s been with you since the beginning of your company may be a difficulty you want to avoid. The safety of your business is essentially what is at stake. If an emergency happens, like the latest ransomware attacks, and you’re unable to contact them, it’s you and your business that will suffer.