For many small businesses, operating a dedicated IT department is inconvenient and cost-prohibitive. Seeking the support of a managed service provider can help businesses leverage their IT systems for a competitive advantage, reduce monthly overheads and provide access to a breadth of expertise that would be difficult to obtain with a small in-house team.
While outsourcing IT affords numerous benefits, the process of choosing a provider can be a stressful task. With countless options to choose from, selecting the best provider for your business can seem an overwhelming challenge, and making sense of overly-technical language can make the experience even tougher. So what should you consider, and what factors distinguish great IT providers from the mediocre? To help, here’s what we think are 7 of the most important things to consider when selecting the best IT support provider.
How flexible are they?
All businesses specialise in certain areas and offer a menu-like range of core services to choose from. However, in the field of IT flexibility is key: you need a provider that’s willing to tailor their service to accommodate the needs of your business, at least to some degree.
Consider whether you need certain services to supplement your existing team, or a more comprehensive service that combines support with strategic consultancy that will help steer the future direction of your IT. A provider should be able to mould their offering to fit around your existing team while also having the breadth of skills and capabilities to function as an external IT department. They should also be willing to adapt their pricing so that your business gets the best possible value from the agreement, ensuring you don’t have to pay for service components you don’t need.
Does their billing structure provide value for money?
It providers charge their customers in various ways, ranging from all-inclusive fixed-price services to pay-as-you-go pricing.
Most providers however, occupy the middle ground, offering their mainstay IT support services on a fixed contract basis, and charging for optional extras that not all businesses require. This approach offers the best value for money, as it ensures all the essentials are taken care of and gives businesses predictability in terms of what their monthly IT spend will be. The pay-as-you-go approach can seem attractive due to its low monthly commitment, but that nickel-and-diming will soon add up with every support call made and every ticket generated.
Do they have the skills and experience your business needs?
Businesses often outsource their IT to benefit from access to a wide range of technical expertise at a fraction of the cost of building a multi-skilled in-house IT team. It’s important to choose a provider with a reasonably broad range of specialist expertise so that they can get to the root of any problem and develop your infrastructure in a way that provides maximum business benefit.
Enquire about accreditations or personal qualifications they hold, especially those of particular relevance to your IT infrastructure. Then, enquire about any vendor partnership agreements they have in place. These can be useful for acquiring new hardware at a discounted rate and are a reasonably reliable indicator of a high-quality service. Indications of continuous staff development are also a good sign, as this suggests a commitment to continuous improvement and a willingness to keep up with current tech trends.
You should also seek out a provider that serves or has served businesses similar to yours both in scale in nature, especially if you work in a highly regulated field where data security is of heightened importance.
Will your business be assigned an account manager?
Customer service is often a factor when differentiating good IT providers form the exceptional. One of the ways the best providers guarantee a high-quality customer experience is by assigning dedicated account managers to each client. This individual is responsible for coordinating most aspects of service delivery, and it’s their job to ensure high levels of customer satisfaction are maintained.
In time, an account manager will get to know your team on first-name terms. Their detailed understanding of your infrastructure will enable them to prescribe the best options for improving your IT in a way that’s mindful of any regulatory constraints you’re under and sensitive to your budget. They’ll also be able to tweak your contract as your business evolves to ensure you’re always getting a great deal from the partnership.
Will they help you use technology strategically?
Businesses across all sectors are increasingly looking for ways to leverage their IT for commercial benefit. As a small business, being competitive, agile and productive is critical to your survival, so it’s vital that you have an IT partner who’s willing to help you deploy technology in a way that provides measurable returns.
When reviewing your options, ask candidate IT providers how they’ll ensure your technology will address your most pressing business issues and help you remain resilient and competitive. The best providers help their clients draw up a strategic IT plan at the outset of the relationship. This goes by various names, including “IT roadmap”, “IT transformation strategy” and “digital transformation strategy.” Such a plan should be combined with regular business reviews to ensure your setup is meeting the needs of your business on an ongoing basis. Proposed changes should always be framed in the context of commercial value, and should feature detailed costings to allow you to budget for future IT spending.
Business continuity and disaster recovery is another critical aspect of strategic IT planning. Serious disruption caused by the likes of a cyber-attack or natural disaster can decimate small businesses unless adequate safeguards are in place. Make sure a provider is willing to help you develop a business continuity and disaster recovery plan to ensure that your IT systems and data can be easily reinstated following any catastrophic event.
Are they committed to cyber security best practice?
Cybercrime is on the rise both nationwide and globally, and with the global cost of cyber breaches expected to rise to $10.5 trillion in 2025 the situation is only likely to get worse in the coming years. Choosing an IT partner that understands the severity and scale of the threat posed by cybercrime is therefore of vital importance.
Make sure they incorporate a range of online security measures as part of their core offering, including firewalls, endpoint anti-virus and secure email gateway protections. They should offer preventive maintenance as part of their It support offering, and be willing to establish secure remote access solutions for remote employees, such as VPNs and remote device management.
Personal cyber security accreditations can be useful for assessing a provider’s commitment to cyber security. These include the likes of CompTIA Security+, CISM (certified information security manager) and CISSP (certified information system security professional) among others.
Take a look at online reviews and customer testimonials
You should never base a decision solely on reviews and testimonials, but they can give some indication of service quality and professionalism. Testimonials or references from previous or existing clients can be particularly useful, and you should request these if they’re not made readily available. Online reviews can be helpful, but it’s important to remember that these can be written in bad faith.
With so much at stake, choosing a new IT provider can be an unnerving experience, and one that few businesses take lightly. However, by doing some prior research you can banish the uncertainty and select the provider that’s best suited to the needs of your business.
Computer Repair and strategic managed IT designed to help Ohio businesses thrive
Situated in Youngstown Ohio, our passionate team has been helping residential customers and small businesses with their computer troubles since 1998. Today, we offer a broad spectrum of IT services ranging from one-off laptop repairs to full-service IT management and everything in between. Flexible, friendly and committed to the highest service standards, we strive to help our clients gain maximum benefit from their technology, and we’d love to have you onboard too. Get in touch today for an informal, no-obligation chat, and discover how Cyber Express can solve your IT woes.