It’s not uncommon for small businesses to employ IT companies to manage their IT-related issues and functions to maintain operational efficiency. But not all IT companies are created alike. In fact, some may not even be doing what they are supposed to be doing to address the business’s needs. Here are five aspects small business owners should consider.
1. Providing Agile Customer Support
When problems arise, it’s vital for small businesses to have adequate support to resolve the issue as soon as possible. To do this, small businesses should have insanely fast customer support. Without adequate support, small businesses run the risk of significant downtime, which costs businesses $1.5 million each year.
Outages alone resulted in an annual loss of 545 work hours for businesses, and resolving these and other IT-related issues can take an average of 200 minutes per incident. Thus, it’s critical for small businesses to employ IT companies that can provide agile customer support.
This support can be provided by managed service providers or MSPs, thanks to their ability to leverage global resources and staff that work across different time zones to provide round-the-clock support on any day of the year. Small business owners should also consider MSPs that have clearly defined service-level agreements (SLAs) and responsiveness to requests. This helps clarify expectations when IT issues arise.
2. Providing a “Runbook”
If an IT company isn’t providing a “runbook,” it’s a red flag. This detailed documentation provides insight on the company’s entire network, and it’s crucial information for businesses that are considering hiring an IT company. A runbook should be part of the disaster recovery plan and should highlight critical servers, applications, networks and databases so that the business can know how to recreate its systems should a major disruption or disaster take place. Moreover, the runbook should be provided within a few months of taking over.
Studies show that collaboration is correlated to high performance within a work environment. But IT departments often don’t promote collaboration. A lack of collaborating with stakeholders can result in delays to resolving IT issues. Thus, it’s important for small businesses to take advantage of IT companies that collaborate and provide company goals. Additionally, they should establish budgets to drive resolution for IT issues.
4. Providing a vCIO
It’s vital to have a virtual chief information officer, or vCIO, who is dedicated to creating and executing the IT strategy. This person should not be the same person as the IT technician. That’s because this position provides high-level consulting. The vCIO will need to be able to direct a team that will be assigned to help the company grow. Small businesses can take advantage of vCIOs to proactively track, assess and maintain the IT security and health of the business when using a reputable MSP. VCIOs also provide specialized IT expertise that small businesses can leverage for establishing their short- and long-term IT goals and strategies.
5. Articulating the Disaster Recovery Plan
Putting off disaster recovery is a big risk thanks to data loss. Disasters give the opportunity for a significant amount of data to be lost — one of the primary reasons business failure happens within a year for 90 percent of small businesses that experience a huge data loss. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, can interrupt service, damage critical infrastructure and even destroy on-premise servers. Without understanding clearly how things should be run in the event of a disaster, it is hard for a company to efficiently operate. That’s why it’s crucial for companies to employ IT companies that clearly articulate their disaster recovery plan.
Beyond natural disasters, small business owners should take into account major disruptions that threaten to completely halt their business operations. This is especially crucial given that cyberattacks and ransomware incidents are increasingly becoming a huge issue for small businesses. Ransomware costs don’t just stop at the ransom, which can typically cost small businesses between $500 and $2,000 per request. It extends to costs associated with lost production time, data loss and, ultimately, revenue loss.
This can cost small businesses as much as 15 percent of revenue, according to a 2017 Osterman Research report. The report also revealed that the average downtime-related expense was $100,000 for each ransomware incident a small company experienced. What’s even more alarming is that small and medium-sized businesses paid $301 million in 2016 to ransomware hackers alone just to decrypt important files, according to a 2017 Datto State of the Channel Ransomware report.
These types of incidents are part of what caused the immediate demise of 22 percent of organizations with less than 1,000 employees between June 2016 and June 2017. Yet, a 2016 State of Disaster recovery report revealed that only 60 percent of small businesses organizations surveyed actually had a disaster recovery plan, and of those businesses, 40 percent tested this plan every year. So, it’s not only important to have a plan, but it must be articulated and tested frequently as well.
Hiring the right IT service provider requires considering important factors that can impact the operation and well-being of the company, such as the need to provide support to stakeholders quickly and being able to articulate the disaster recovery plan. But without assessing an IT company for these aspects, small businesses can easily fall short of getting the solid service they need to maintain operational efficiency. Many of these issues can be resolved with the help of a managed service provider or MSP.