Most small and mid-size companies need outside tech help in order to be successful. Maintaining your own full-service IT staff is expense and often not practical. Still, in today’s business world, no company can function without professional, cutting-edge IT services. That means you must find the right IT services provider to keep your company competitive. You need to be cautious and well-informed before you sign on with a new company. Before entering into a contract, ask their representative the following essential questions.
1. Can I visit your facility?
The answer to this question should be an enthusiastic “Yes!” A professional, up-to-date IT service provider will be happy to introduce you to their staff and show you their facilities. You should view the servers and other tech hardware for yourself. While you may not understand how everything works, you will be able to judge how well the facility is maintained and how helpful the employees and management are. You will also gain insight into their work culture. You’ll want to join forces with a happy workplace.
2. Do you work with any other companies in my vertical?
When you work in a vertical market like banking, insurance, or educational software, you need an IT services company that knows your business. An IT company with no experience in your industry will be less effective in recommending the right software and in helping you comply with federal and state regulations.
3. What is the first thing you’ll do after taking over our account?
An IT company shouldn’t offer solutions until they understand your company’s needs and problems. In fact, they should offer you a free assessment before you even sign up with their company so that they can present you with an informed strategy. Once your sign on, the staff should address whichever issues you both agree is the most pressing.
4. Do you have any examples of how you document a network?
While all IT service providers will provide network documentation, some do it better than others. You should ask to see how they map the network, keep records of past problems, and maintain software information, etc. Without proper documentation, your IT provider will stumble when trying to address any network issues.
5. Who will I work with if we sign up with you?
Although you should be happy with the entire IT services team, you will need a solid connection with a specific point person who makes your business a priority and who works well with your staff. Don’t sign the agreement until you know who your representative will be and you’ve had a chance to interview them.
6. How will you report to me on our account?
Your IT company should employ a variety of communication methods, including video calls, IMs, formal reports, and in-person meetings when necessary. The best companies will modify their methods to suit your needs. Tell them how you wish to receive information and see if they are willing to adapt.
7. What does your response time and service level agreement (SLA) look like?
You should ask to see an example of their SLA so you will know what level of service you can expect. A detailed SLA explains how service will be measured and how violations of the SLA will be addressed. If it doesn’t look good on paper, the actual service will be lacking.
The SLA will spell out response time, which should be measured in minutes. No business can afford to wait long for service. Even a short period of downtime can cost companies millions of dollars every year. If the IT company won’t provide reasonable guarantees, their response time may hurt your company.
8. How long have you been around?
Startup companies can be excellent service providers, but their record of success is inevitably short. A company with years of experience should have a proven and lengthy track record and clients willing to offer good reviews. Don’t bet your company’s success on a company with little experience.
9. What are your core values?
IT providers should have and demonstrate core values just as any other business should. They must be proactive and make the customer’s needs their own. If an IT services company can’t quickly articulate their core values, look elsewhere.
10. What do you understand about my business?
An IT company should specialize in research, so they should be able to expertly discuss both your industry and your specific business. Before you sign an agreement, the company should do an assessment of your needs and explain how they will address them. If the IT company does not demonstrate this knowledge, they are not the team for you.
Finding the right IT services provider takes a little time and digging. Don’t hesitate to sit down with their team and go over these ten questions and more if you need additional answers. You need to understand their strategy, their services, and their values before you enter into a contract. In business today, nothing is more important to your success than expert tech help, so give your search the time and attention that it needs.